How Europeans Expect to Travel—and How Transportation Providers Can Respond - rectangle

Related Expertise: Travel and Tourism Industry, Industrial Goods

How Europeans Expect to Travel—and How Transportation Providers Can Respond

By Felix ReszewskiDirk-Maarten MolenaarPeter Ullrich, and Ben Vermeer

BCG conducted a survey of 8,000 individuals across 14 European countries to get a better understanding of consumers’ travel preferences through 2025. Our analysis offers airlines, railway operators, and car manufacturers insights for how they can plan to accommodate customers as lockdowns ease around the world.

  • Transportation providers should take stock of consumers’ and governments’ growing commitment to sustainability, the evolving world of work, and the rise of disruptive business models—three powerful forces that are likely to change the travel landscape.
  • The full effects of the pandemic on travel remain to be seen. Four scenarios are likely to emerge, albeit on a country-by-country basis. Whether or not consumers are likely to return to their prepandemic habits will be a large determining factor, as will government regulation. 
  • Regardless, the survey suggests a short-term decline in demand of about 10% across the board—for all means of transportation and all types of travel.

Transportation providers can take critical steps immediately to strengthen their business models and respond to consumers’ needs. Those that do will be ready for the future. See the slideshow here.

The world has changed. Trends in transportation and mobility will too.

As vaccines roll out and lockdowns ease, European consumers are rethinking the way they get to local business meetings, leisure destinations, far-off vacation spots, and even work.

To help transportation providers better understand this changing landscape, and to offer specific insights into what’s on travelers’ minds, we asked approximately 8,000 individuals across 14 European countries about their prepandemic consumer-mobility habits and their anticipated postpandemic plans (when the effects of the coronavirus have been fully mitigated). Specifically, we focused on travel by air, rail, car, and bike and scooter to offer companies in those industries a longer-term view.

In the wake of the crisis, many companies have had to make assumptions about its impact and which consumer patterns are most likely to accelerate. So we looked at how some broader mobility trends are likely to affect travel, such as changes in the number of trips that will be taken and the means of transportation used. All analyses and forecasts are based on consumers’ responses to our survey.

  • A Growing Commitment to Sustainability. Governments are doubling down on their regulatory efforts, levying carbon taxes and instituting short-haul-flight bans to fight climate change. Businesses are declaring ambitious targets to reduce environmental impact, just as consumers are finding ways to travel less and looking to adopt more sustainable means for getting around.
  • Changing Work Habits. Many of the pandemic’s new ways of working are likely to persist, at least to some degree. Many employees expect to continue working from home, and they expect to work remotely more often in the future than they did prior to the pandemic, supported by virtual meetings and remote-conferencing formats.
  • The Rise of Disruptive Business Models. Mobility as a service—offered by companies that facilitate ridesharing, scooter and bicycle sharing, and carpooling—will continue to challenge legacy means of transportation and appeal to new customer demands.

A country-by-country analysis suggests variability in consumers’ travel expectations and the means of transportation that they plan to use. Apart from the country lens, our analysis predicts differences between business and leisure travel. The growing commitment to sustainable means of transportation, for example, is most likely to challenge airline-based business travel, while new business models, including car-sharing services, pose the greatest threat to car manufacturers.

A closer look at the survey results suggests a decline in demand of about 10% across the board—for all means of transportation and all types of travel. Companies should get prepared.

Four scenarios—based on consumers’ travel expectations and the popularity of different means of transportation—emerged for how the European travel landscape will look in the next few years. If the growth in passenger kilometers traveled continues on its prepandemic trajectory, 2019’s levels will be exceeded by 2025. If the emerging consumer trends take root and solidify, volume will take longer to recover.

Airlines, rail operators, and car manufacturers must be ready for all scenarios. Anticipating new demands and responding to what matters most to consumers will be essential to their survival and continued success. Transportation providers should get started immediately.

Learn more about what consumers have to say about their travel plans and how transportation providers can respond in the slideshow below.

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