Which cities will recover the fastest from Covid-19
and which ones might not
recover at all?

Barcelona, Amsterdam, London and Lisbon are all cities in flux when it comes to the changing world of travel. With lockdowns, new regulations and industries being disrupted, many portfolio managers are wondering what comes next.

We have researched three primary travel metrics that can help predict the post-pandemic travel industry. By looking at the metrics for Business, International and European travel, we can start to see which cities will emerge the fastest and which cities might take years to recover.

Below, we’ve created an interactive map that shows three key travel indicators that can help to predict how prime travel cities will recover. Please hover over the category to view the statistics, or click on them to keep the statistic in place. By hovering over the city you will see travel statistics for each type of travel: Business vs Leisure, International vs Domestic and European vs Non-European.

This map depicts the three most critical metrics for post-pandemic investment: International, Business and European travel. These percentages can help determine which cities will recover the fastest from the pandemic for smarter more profitable real estate investments.

Megatrends and the unexpected benefits of Covid-19

Trends shifting the way we travel have evolved into megatrends as only the strongest survive during Covid-19. We take a look at some of the pre-covid travel numbers for Business, International and European travel and compare them with their current status along with emerging trends in travel. In the article, we pick out some of the more interesting shifts that are happening in certain cities and provide a potential outlook on the future of tourism in that city.

Business vs Leisure Travel

Business travel is set to change with lockdown measures forcing companies to digitalise meetings fundamentally. This metric shows us which cities will be affected the most by the loss of business travellers. Cities like Brussels and Oslo whose business travellers compose about half of their tourism industry could be impacted permanently by new hybrid working culture. This change will transform this demographic of business travellers into remote workers that use their time to mix work with leisure.


Helsinki business travellers make up 47% of all trips, and the restrictions have resulted in some creative ventures from the businesses that once depended on these travellers. Finnair announced that their business class meals will now be available in local grocery stores as they attempt to find their lost customer base.


Business travellers looking to go to England have been surprised to find regulations that change quickly with little notice period. The barrier to enter England is getting more complicated, too as lockdown measures become stricter, forcing many into home office situations. The situation promotes a move towards virtual meetings. As companies move their main headquarters to Europe, it’s likely that business travel will decrease even more than just through digitised meeting rooms.


Companies like Thalys have also been hit hard as they cut down on a third of operations. Thalys has its main operations in Brussels (51% business travel) and Paris (49% business travel) which could mean post-covid implications for its business model. Judging from market trends, these travellers might use the opportunity to work from home or even other cities pushing them into the category of emerging “digital nomads”.


Oslo, also known as a top destination for business travellers, has implemented strict rules for entering the country. These regulations make it hard for business travellers to predict when to go because of the stringent quarantine measures. Suppose their country has been put onto Norway’s risk area. In this case, it might affect their ability to travel on short notice. For many, remote meetings started to replace traditional business trips making it less expensive and less complicated to work together from long distances.

Most % Business Travel
Frankfurt 70%
Brussels 51%
Oslo* 49%
Paris 49%
Helsinki 47%
Hamburg 36%
Berlin 34%
Amsterdam 33%
Zurich** 33%
Milan 30%
Vilnius* 28%
Barcelona 27%
Talinn 23%
Stockholm 21%
Glasgow 20%
Porto 20%
*country level
**arrivals at airport
Most % Leisure Travel
Reykjavik 99-83%
Cracow 94%
Rome* 93%
Budapest 93%
Ljubljana 93%
Warsaw 92%
Prague 90%
Vienna 88%
London 88%
Edinburgh 87%
Lisbon* 85%
Dublin 83%
Copenhagen* 81%
Madrid 81%
Athens n.a.%
Munich n.a.%
*country level
**arrivals at airport

Frankfurt and Brussels rank at the top for business travel while Reykjavik and Cracow rank at the top for leisure travel.

International vs Domestic Travel

The change in the affordability of travel, lockdown measures and new regulations make it difficult to plan trips. So, It comes as no surprise that international travel will be the metric most impacted by the pandemic. However, many travellers have a desire to travel abroad. What these numbers tell us is which Lockdown measures will hit cities that are dependent on international travellers the hardest while lockdown measures on a global scale persist.


Barcelona is one of the cities most dependent on international tourists at 88%. The tourism sector generates 8.6% of employment . The lockdown has had a major impact on the livelihood of the people who live there. Still, things are changing as Barcelona switches its marketing strategy to digital and contactless travel options, making it one of the safest cities to travel to during the pandemic. Judging from this change, we can predict that Barcelona will be one of the cities to recover faster as lockdown restrictions begin to end.


Amsterdam is a unique city when it comes to handling lockdown measures as well as a tourism industry. The city has taken a different approach, using the lockdown to implement new rules that combat over tourism as citizens call for permanent change after experiencing the city’s empty streets. The government responded quickly to this demand and created new regulations for where tourists are allowed to book accommodation as well as which souvenir stores are allowed to sell. The impact of these regulations sets the city in an interesting position as these regulations intentionally seek to lower the number of tourists who go to the city each year.


Other cities, however, are having a harder time with the loss of international tourists. Reykjavik depends almost exclusively on international travel, with only 5% of domestic travel. When Covid-19 hit, the damage to the travel industry resulted in the loss of ISK 260 billion for the tourism industry in Iceland or almost 17% of the country’s total foreign income.


London has also suffered as the government struggles to protect jobs in the tourism industry as foreign travel dropped by 77% and domestic by 48% compared to 2019. This economic loss has decimated travel companies in London with fast changes making it hard for the government and business to adapt. As of now, London has not been able to adjust to the changes by setting new safety standards, but with vaccines coming to the market, it’s likely that this will change.

Most % International Tourism
Reykjavik 95%
Ljubljana 95%
Prague 89%
Barcelona 88%
Budapest 87%
Tallinn 85%
Amsterdam 83%
Vienna 82%
London 81%
Dublin 80%
Lisbon 79%
Brussels 79%
Athens 77%
Rome 68%
Edinburgh 66%
Milan 65%
Most % Domestic Travel
Cracow 76%
Hamburg 75%
Warsaw 71%
Zurich 71%
Olso 65%
Stockholm 62%
Berlin 55%
Frankfurt 53%
Vilnius 51%
Munich 46%
Helsinki 45%
Glasgow 45%
Porto 42%
Paris 41%
Madrid 37%
Copenhagen 37%

Reykjavik and Ljubljana rank at the top for international travel while Cracow and Hamburg rank at the top for domestic travel.

European vs Non-European Travel

On the one hand, European travel provides information about how dependent cities are on European travellers vs. Non-European travellers. By looking at how dependent a city is on Non-European travel, the metric helps us determine which cities might be impacted the most by travel restrictions. A McKinsey study found that European countries like Germany and France are likely to recover the quickest because of their beautiful locations, robust healthcare infrastructures and land-based travel options. These factors hold true for many European destinations as land-based travel options like rail link many touristic cities together.


Budapest is in a difficult situation as the country enters the second lockdown. As a popular tourist destination for European travellers at 83%, the local lockdown has a major impact on the travel industry. However, as Covid-19 numbers hit record highs, many do not see another choice. The good news is that tourism numbers within popular European cities face the potential to grow even past pre-pandemic levels as people utilise the chance to work-from-anywhere.


The Netherlands is one of the most popular destinations for European travellers. However, as the country considers going into the second full lockdown, things have been changing dramatically as the citizens of Amsterdam use this time to reshape their tourism industry. For investors, this means creating a new type of travel to accommodate for this change.


Lisbon is known for its beautiful architecture, colourful buildings and friendly people. During the first wave of the pandemic, the Portuguese government looked to developments in Spain to react to the crisis creating some of the earliest measures to create safe environments for travellers as well as citizens. By responding quickly to the pandemic, the impact on Lisbon’s travel industry was not as bad as it potentially could have been. As travel picks up again for 2021, Lisbon already has the mentality and infrastructure to support the season.


The party city of Europe has seen the pandemic close clubs, turn Christopher Street Day into a remote event and concerts have followed suit. What used to be a central clubbing destination has been paused for the pandemic. Still, that has not stopped some start-ups looking towards the future. As short-term accommodations turn into mid-stay, they wait for lockdown measures to ease and pent up European travellers to come back and enjoy Berlin’s vibrant art scene.

Most % European Travellers
Cracow 90%
Amsterdam* 85%
Budapest** 83%
Lisbon 82%
Tallinn 79%
Hamburg 77%
Dublin 76%
Brussels 76%
Edinburgh 74%
Copenhagen 73%
Berlin 72%
Porto 71%
Vienna 70%
Athens 69%
Prague 68%
Milan 67%
*for largest 10 countries
**country level
Most % Non-European travelers
Warsaw 60%
Ljubljana 58%
Helsinki 58%
Reykjavik 55%
Paris 54%
Frankfurt 54%
Rome 49%
Olso 49%
Madrid 49%
Barcelona 48%
Zurich 46%
Munich 45%
Stockholm 45%
Vilnius** 44%
London 40%
Glasgow 40%
*for largest 10 countries
**country level

Cracow and Amsterdam rank at the top for European travel while Warsaw and Ljubljana rank at the top for Non-European travel.

The Long Road to Recovery

It is going to take a long time to stabilise the market. It is also becoming more and more clear which travel categories will recover the quickest and which could take years to return to pre-pandemic rates.

Business Travel

Business travel is set to change as companies innovate around lockdown restrictions. Virtual meetings, home offices and changing mentalities when it comes to the way we work all impact the rate at which business travel recovers. McKinsey published a study on historical statistics for business travel stating that this category of travellers is slower to recover from significant events like 9/11 or the recession in 2008. A slower recovery means a hard road ahead for companies who depend on these travellers.

International Travel

International travel will grow the slowest as inconsistent lockdown measures, regional pandemic outbreaks and access to a vaccine are regulated by various governments around the world. A consequence of this might be that tourists from Australia and Europe are on different lockdown and tourist seasons due to seasonal differences in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. It may take years for the pandemic to be brought under control around the world. The “new normal” means a slower recovery for international travel until people feel safe that governments will not cancel the trips they book unexpectedly.

European Travel

European travel is the sub-category of international travel. Still, with the slight difference that the barriers European travellers face are considerably less when it comes to travelling within the Schengen zone. Lockdown measures are more predictable within the European Union as countries follow trends in neighbouring countries to combat the virus. As lockdown measures ease across Europe in the summer, travellers are more likely to pick destinations within the European Union as a travel destination.

The future of travel is changing -- that much is clear. The question remains: how will investors meet the changing demands of travellers during this time? And, what does it mean for cities catering to demographics that are set to transform like the business sector radically?