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European destinations surge in popularity as Canadians show renewed confidence in travel

May 17, 2022
6 mins
Woman packing suitcases into the trunk of a black car

Most Canadians took a hiatus from travel during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the government advised against travelling abroad and closed land borders. A few false starts left many people feeling cautiously optimistic about any vacation plans; however, the recent easing of border measures has people eager to travel again.

According to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), more than 113,000 people passed through the country’s eight largest airports on May 8. While this number is shy of the more than 146,000 travellers who did so on the same day in 2019, the federal data show a significant uptick in passenger traffic compared with last year.

But where are people going, exactly, and which generation is eyeing travel the most?

European travel destinations grow in popularity compared to 2021

We examined data from the RATESDOTCA travel insurance quoter from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022 to determine if the most popular destinations changed throughout the pandemic, and whether there were any other noteworthy trends among Canadians shopping for travel insurance.

Despite the potential health risks still lingering, many Canadians are dreaming big and seeking travel insurance for international destinations, perhaps highlighting a renewed sense of confidence in travel. Overall, Europe is the second most popular continental destination for Canadians next to North America. Many European countries dropped travel restrictions for non-EU travellers in March, which might explain its allure.

These are the top 10 European destinations Canadians are choosing in 2022, according to our data:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Portugal
  3. France
  4. Italy
  5. Spain
  6. Germany
  7. Ireland
  8. Greece
  9. Turkey
  10. Switzerland

The U.K. remained a popular travel destination throughout the pandemic, possibly due to expatriates visiting home. Still, the country saw a 1,832% increase in travel insurance quotes in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 the year before. Italy saw the most drastic surge in interest, with a 2,933% increase in quotes year over year.

“Some places have suffered based on the lack of tourism over the last two years,” says Tanisha Kishan, RATESDOTCA expert and chartered insurance professional. “As things open back up, you’ll find a lot of travel deals.”

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Since discretionary spending dropped sharply during the pandemic, the average Canadian saved more than $5,000. Extra spending money and possible promotions on flights or vacation packages might be motivating cross-Atlantic travel beyond the all-inclusive resort-style trips that are typically more budget-friendly. Canadians may also be starting to feel more confident about travelling farther from home as we exit what are hopefully the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel interest up among all generations but least of all millennials

According to our data, travel interest is up across all age groups, particularly generation Z. Whereas millennials, or those currently between the ages of 26 and 41, are still displaying an increased interest in travel but the lowest out of all generations.

Generation* Percentage increase year over year
(Q1 2021 to Q1 2022)
Silent generation (born 1928-1945) +932%
Baby boomer (born 1946-1964) +1,062%
Generation X (born 1965-1980) +1,199%
Millennial (born 1981-1996) +722%
Generation Z (born 1997-2012) +1,608%

*Generations as defined by the Pew Research Center.

But it may not be travel intent that is holding this segment back. Millennials were one of the generations that were the hardest hit financially by COVID-19. For some, travel may simply not be an expense they’re willing to incur.

“Depending on whether individuals were working during the pandemic or not could also play a role in their decision,” Kishan says.

Many people who were fortunate to avoid major financial hardships saw the alternative: an economic boost. Unspent money pushed many millennials into homeownership — a significant investment that may be hindering any big travel plans.

Of course, young families would also face challenges regarding travel due to health risks.

“There are a lot of young adults with young children who may not be vaccinated to travel,” says Louiselle Landry, business development manager for TuGo, a Canadian-owned travel insurance company.

For those who might be ready to travel now, they'll face additional hurdles as the travel industry adjusts to the pent-up demand. Due to labour shortages and screening lines, travellers are getting stuck in hours-long wait times at passport offices and airports and many face flight delays.

Interest in all travel insurance plan types up year over year

While travel intent may be up, the COVID-19 virus remains active. And many Canadians have the foresight to consider travel insurance to mitigate risks.

Our data show a significant year-over-year increase in quotes across all travel insurance plan types.

Plan type Percentage increase year over year (Q1
2021 to Q1 2022)
All-inclusive +1,032%
Annual +1,229%
Single +994%
Trip cancellation +1,175%

As Canadians plot their next getaway or travel to see family overseas, they’ll want to ensure they protect themselves financially if there are cancellations or travel guidelines change.

“Travellers have more knowledge of what to look for and what insurance needs they may have,” Landry says. “I think we will continue to see people wanting to get more than just medical insurance as they might have done previously.”

There are a lot of options available to suit various needs. Travellers can choose between a single trip plan, which provides emergency medical coverage for a single trip (as the name implies) of up to 365 days in duration. An annual plan offers coverage for all trips throughout the year, whether one, five, or more than a dozen. This plan type is more expensive; however, it can equal savings for some.

An all-inclusive travel insurance policy, the most comprehensive plan type, provides emergency medical coverage, as well as trip cancellation and trip interruption. Suppose you need to reschedule your vacation for a reason beyond your control. In that case, trip cancellation covers the cost of your trip, including eligible non-refundable excursions.

“Before [COVID], the focus was often on premium,” says Landry. “But we’re starting to see that people have a bit more awareness that travel insurance goes beyond that. People are now looking into what they are purchasing, and making sure they have the proper coverage to have that peace of mind when they’re travelling.”

Travel is getting more expensive — all the more reason to insure it

This is especially important as fuel prices rise, pushing the cost of flights even higher as airlines try to recuperate costs. Air Canada is one such carrier using this tactic to boost its recovery. In fact, air transportation prices rose 8.3% month over month in March, according to Statistics Canada.

“Though we hope we’re in the tail end of the pandemic and coming out of it now, you never really know what could potentially happen,” says Kishan.

If you don’t purchase travel insurance and a government travel advisory changes, or you get sick, you may not qualify for particular products or reimbursement for your trip.

“There are a lot of riders now that are available relating to COVID,” says Kishan. “Consumers purchasing travel insurance should always ask because it varies from company to company.”

As travel prices increase, it will be more expensive to get to the international destinations you’ve been dreaming about — unless you score a great deal. Safeguard your trip(s) with the right travel insurance coverage to protect your finances and get peace of mind. A travel insurance broker can help you get the best COVID-19 travel insurance in Canada.

Methodology

We analyzed data from the RATESDOTCA travel insurance quoter from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022 to determine the most popular destinations and travel insurance choices for Canadian travellers.

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Hayley Vesh

Hayley Vesh is an editor and writer at RATESDOTCA, where she uses her eight years of media and marketing experience to bring content to life. She specializes in money products, including mortgages, home and auto insurance, and credit cards. Hayley holds a Broadcast Journalism diploma from Sheridan College and was awarded the Shaw Media Journalism and Media Award for graduating at the top of her class. Her work has appeared in Global News and diverse digital corporate training materials behind the scenes.

Hayley is passionate about making complex subjects, such as home buying and financial literacy, concise and intriguing. Her personal finance work has garnered media coverage from The Globe and Mail, blogTO, Yahoo! News, and CityNews 680 and has been syndicated across other publications. Before joining RATESDOTCA, Hayley was the digital media manager at ManchesterCF in the financial crime risk management space.

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