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Published on Thursday, February 4, 2021

How to prepare for a post-pandemic travel surge



Carolyn Corda, Chief Marketing Officer at data consortium ADARA, looks at how travellers' sentiment has changed during the pandemic and what challenges brands face as we emerge from Covid.




 


"Industry leaders have frequently spoken about pent-up demand in the travel sector, caused by the various lockdowns restricting global movement. However, despite the world slowly returning to normal, there is still some way to go before brands can look forward to a 'normal' holiday year. In the meantime, understanding what appetite there is right now is key for travel brands.

At ADARA, we track consumer and travel data, and we've found that Brits have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to booking trips away, with insights showing that they are still keen to travel, despite lockdown uncertainty.

We were able to identify spikes in bookings following the announcement of Covid-19 vaccines, with Brits showing a one-day booking surge of 19% after the Pfizer announcement, 10% related to Moderna's and 28% after AstraZeneca's. Unsurprisingly, after a year of being locked inside, people are keen to escape abroad as soon as possible.

Our Travel Trends Tracker has also found that late last year, short-term bookings grew to over 40% of total bookings, with consumers showing less confidence in booking for the longer term. Recently, however, we've seen advanced bookings start to regain strength, as bookings made over 91 days prior to the date of travel have risen.

Despite this growth, travel brands must remain wary of the fact that the pandemic has caused a considerable change in our usual behaviours, affecting the way we socialise, travel and work as well as our concerns and priorities. These changes will not disappear overnight, much as vaccine rollouts won't cause the world to open back up overnight, either. Therefore, travel providers must reflect this change, by proactively realigning the way they communicate with, target and reassure their customers.


 


Nervousness sparks demand for higher-end hotels

For example, in higher-end categories of hotel brands, we are seeing consistent increases in booking activity year-on-year. However, there is a clear contrast with economy and mid-scale hotels which continue to see more sluggish growth. This shows consumers are perhaps willing to splurge out on holidays to make up for lost holidays in 2020, but also that there is some nervousness around travelling unless it is to 'high-end' brands. These may be regarded as more likely to take safety very seriously. It is worth noting that midscale and economy brands do represent the bulk of hotel brands, with luxury comprising a much smaller proportion. The shift to the higher end does not represent a lift across the industry, but it is a useful indicator of consumer sentiment.

If we look specifically at midscale hotels, percentage change of year-on-year booking volume has remained between around -25 to -30% for early winter and late winter/early spring which suggests that either regular customers are upgrading, or are more likely to wait for a more definite 'end' to Covid restrictions.


 


Flexibility is key

This outlines how, despite the vaccine rollout, there remains a considerable amount of uncertainty when it comes to travel. Adopting a flexible approach is the best way to tackle this for brands, as making sure messaging is consistently appropriate during a sensitive period is essential. Assuring customers that you are able to offer them a safe and positive experience is a vital step to alleviate the uncertainty revolving around booking long-term travel and will ultimately benefit both parties.

Travel brands must consider how to keep those short-term bookers interested, making up a greater percentage of bookers than pre-Covid, while also attracting more confident consumers to advance bookings for a post-Covid environment.

Data shows that people are keen to travel again so if brands can prepare properly now, it will pay off later in 2021."

 

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