The challenge of predicting crowds in 2021

Predicting crowds is close to impossible this year. Normally, we adjust our crowd prediction models in autumn based on the latest tourism trends. This year, travel patterns shift almost each month and predicting tourism feels more like looking into a crystal ball.

COVID-19 is constantly changing our travel patterns and it is unclear what tourism will look like next year. Our standard datasets, such as occupancy rates for hotels, cruise ship schedules and other long-term travel data are all useless. We now face the challenge that we have to adjust our crowd predictions for 2021 while so much about traveling next year is unknown.

Fortunately, there are a few things that we learned this year. First of all, people will continue to travel and will do so in great numbers when and if we can freely move across borders without the fear of contracting the coronavirus. The surge in travel between the first and second wave in Europe, proved that we still want to travel. Another challenge is the absence of cruise ships and large scale events. Normally our models are heavily adjusted for short-term influxes of massive crowds. Those two factors cannot be modelled for as we don’t know when cruise ships will sail again and what events will take place next year.

What we can continue to model for is ‘standard travel patterns’. People can only travel when their work or their children’s schools allow them to do so. The pandemic hasn’t changed that. Although we plan and book our vacations more last minute, we only travel when we are able to travel. As a result, the core of our data model remains unchanged: school vacations & public holidays from around the world. In fact, school vacations will play an even bigger role as domestic tourism has become very popular due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine rules. Below you can find an overview of the biggest changes in our dataset as we started predicting crowds for 2021.

Domestic tourism

Domestic tourism has surged in 2020. With possible quarantine and border restrictions, people are less willing to go on an international vacation as they decide to stay within the borders of their country. Our model, which already took domestic tourism into consideration, will now be heavily adjusted for tourists staying in their own country. For example, for Italians opting for a holiday in Tuscany rather than traveling to other countries.

Empty streets in Prague, 2020

Cruise ships & crowds

We will add cruise ship itineraries into our data model for 2021. Because we don’t know what ships will sail again and when, we will downwards adjust the impact of big ships arriving in a city. This for example means that a ship scheduled to arrive in Dubrovnik, might not arrive. Our data will display the planned stop of the cruise ship but its arrival will not be heavily reflected in the Avoid Crowds’ score. In case the situation changes, and cruise ships start sailing again, we will adjust our data model upwards again for cruise ships.

Events

Large scale events will not take place and at major sports events no public is allowed. We will not model for large sale events as a result. That means that our crowd predictions for 2021 will not include major football games, marathons and other mass gatherings. We will add those back into our model when the situation changes.

School vacations

School vacations will be the main factor in our data model for 2021. That was the case already before but now we will rely on these vacations more than before. Especially national school vacations will be the main factor for our crowds score.

Public Holidays

During the year, we noticed that cities and beaches got extremely busy during public holidays. We have always modelled for these public holidays but the pandemic seemingly made these days more important than before.

Flexibility

We will continuously review our data model. The pandemic has caused major disruptions in travel and this requires us to be more flexible. We will review our data model after every major change. Hopefully, we can adjust our model positively when a vaccine ends the global coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, our data model is now adjusted for the ongoing situation.

Our crowd predictions for 2021 will become available one by one. We start with the most used and most popular destinations followed with the more isolated destinations or those destinations that are not frequently used on our website.

When you travel during the pandemic, please follow all local rules and regulations as well as those from your home country. Wear a face mask, keep your distance from others and wash your hands!

Leave a Reply