In making its determination, ForwardKeys looked at the growth in airline seat capacity and the growth in long-haul flight bookings to 30 major European cities included in the ECM-ForwardKeys Air Travellers’ Traffic Barometer.
Olivier Ponti, ForwardKeys, VP Insights, said: “Seat capacity is a very strong predictor of visitor arrivals because once airlines have decided to lay on flights, they set out to fill their planes and, as part of their promotional strategy, they can always flex the price to help them do so. Long-haul bookings are another useful indicator because long-haul travellers tend to book earlier, to stay longer and to spend more money. When we looked at both metrics, Istanbul stood out on both counts.”
The total number of seats on sale to Europe in the third quarter of the year is more than 262 million, 3.8% up on Q3 2018. Istanbul, with a 5.5% share of the market, is showing a 10.0% growth in capacity and, as of June 2nd, it is showing forward bookings 11.2% ahead thanks to its new mega-hub Istanbul Airport and decreasing concerns about security. Other destinations set to perform impressively include Budapest, which is also showing a 10.0% increase in capacity and forward bookings 5.9% ahead, Valencia, with 8.5% increase in capacity and forward bookings 15.6% ahead and Dubrovnik, with 8.4% increase in capacity and forward bookings 16.2% ahead.
If one focuses exclusively on capacity growth, Seville and Vienna, which are 16.7% and 12.6% up respectively, outstrip Istanbul for percentage growth but they do not handle such a large volume of traffic – Seville has a 0.4% share of total seats, whereas Vienna has 3.9%. Other major airports showing impressive capacity growth are Munich, with a 4.3% share of seats, which is seeing a 6.0% increase in capacity and Lisbon, with a 2.7% share, which is looking at a 7.8% capacity increase.
Looking only at long-haul forward bookings, Dubrovnik and Valencia are currently top of the list, ahead 16.2% and 15.6% respectively. However, Barcelona, with an 8.1% market share, looks likely to be the standout performer, as third-quarter bookings are currently 13.8% ahead. Spain’s capital, Madrid, also looks set to do very well; it has a 7.4% share of capacity and bookings are 7.0% ahead.
Olivier Ponti concluded: “Before we undertook this study, we had expected much of the growth to be driven by young low-cost airlines increasing capacity – and that is what we have seen in Vienna and Budapest. However, the opposite is true for other destinations, such as Lisbon, Munich and Prague, where capacity growth was predominantly fuelled by legacy carriers. It’s not a simple picture.”
Petra Stušek, European Cities Marketing President added: “We really value our partnership with ForwardKeys as it helps us, DMOs, predict what will happen next in our destination. All ECM members have exclusive access to 4 editions/year of the ECM-ForwardKeys Air Travellers’ Traffic Barometer with all the graphs and analysis of long-haul air arrivals in the previous quarter, booking situation for the coming quarter and air capacity data; all this data is key to ECM members’ success in anticipating and therefore managing their destination.”