As travel industry experts, some of the most experienced organisations have been consistently tracking the challenging landscape since the emergence of Covid at the beginning of 2020.
Now, as the government gradually lifts restrictions, we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. ‘Is travel taking off again?’ ask Travel Trade Gazette, whilst Travel Weekly are reporting on the ‘Roadmap to recovery’, and many others including ABTA and Travolution also keep us up to date with all the latest news.
With the release of the initial results and reactions from the travel trade as their peak ‘Turn of Year’ campaigns 2021/2022 have drawn to a close, it’s time to reflect on the current situation and revisit strategies and marketing plans for the remainder of 2022.
Initial results and reactions from the UK travel trade
First, our top take outs from TTG Live which were shared at the beginning of February offering early performance indicators of the industry peak campaign period.
Key highlights about how the all-important booking period has played out for the trade were covered by Katie McAlister (Chief Marketing Officer, TUI, UK & Ireland), Brad Bennetts (Head of Distribution, Easyjet Holidays), and Lakh Hayer (Director, Pure Destinations) and included the following:
- January was a month of incredibly important regulatory change for the industry, with two Government announcements made just in time for the peak booking period
- Easing restrictions has changed the travel landscape for much of January and the month ahead, and using 2019 as a barometer, trading is moving to ‘normal’ levels again
- Travel is still a confidence game, and positive news in the media drives an instant increase in of bookings
- Over the last half of 2021, booking windows became shorter month-over-month, although as restrictions ease there is some return to longer advanced booking term levels
- Some of the trade started their peak campaigns early (towards the end of December) in anticipation of demand
- Demand is outstripping supply, especially in key travel times (Spring half term, Easter and Summer)
- Consumers are upgrading and lengthening their holidays; and the trade predict this trend will continue as customers place significantly more value in the experience of their holiday
- Flexibility of booking terms & conditions remains essential, and confidence is key. Consumers need to be completely reassured that by booking through their agent, they will receive all the support they need
- Unsurprisingly, countries within Asia, Australasia and Africa are still experiencing low booking volumes as complicated restrictions remain in place
- Ski bookings quickly recovered for the remainder of the 2022 season (possibly the most determined market around to make their annual trip!)
- Popular winter sun destinations such as Turkey, Dubai and the Canaries are heavily in demand, with very low inventory remaining during key travel times of the year, at a higher cost for travellers
The travel ‘Road to recovery’
Throughout the pandemic, Lucy Huxley, Editor-in-chief at the Travel Weekly group has been running a series of video interviews with industry experts sharing their experiences, insights and advice.
In her most recent video, Lucy discusses the current landscape with Steve Heapy from Jet2.com who gives his reaction to the news that travel testing requirements were to be reduced, and agreed that ‘people now have more confidence to book a holiday’.
You can watch the entire video here!
Travolution also shared a report from renowned tour operator ‘On The Beach’ who has confirmed “a significant strengthening of traffic and booking volumes” since the lifting of UK travel restrictions on February 11.
In a trading update in advance of its annual general meeting on Friday (February 25), the online retailer said it has seen sales up 50% against 2019 levels in the four weeks to February 23.
Before the emergence of the Omicron variant in November, the group’s sales in September and October exceeded 2019 levels – the last full financial year not affected by Covid.
On the Beach explained:
"the restrictions brought in to tackle the Omicron variant “heavily impacted” sales in November, December and early January – but sales returned to 2019 levels on January 13"
Getting your digital marketing strategy right!
As an agency who specialise in travel marketing it’s imperative that we stay abreast of the ever changing landscape in order to offer clients and partners support to deliver effective campaigns and maximise resources.
PWC shares lots of invaluable insights in TTG’s report which can help to shape how you revisit any ongoing marketing plans in 2022. The report offers a huge amount of insight to draw upon such as the following.
Demand is heating up and there is a growing consumer excitement for travel.
Consumers are expected to change their spend by category over the next 12 months. Make sure you secure a slice of that pie with a strong visibility of your offering. And keep tracking consumer behaviour including booking window, destination, length of stay and type of trip etc. to understand where the sales opportunities are presenting themselves.
This chart highlights that there is still an opportunity to secure international holiday bookings in 2022, plus an additional 20% of those asked are still unsure and could potentially be persuaded with the right offer at the right time.
For international bookings there may still be restrictions remaining in destination country, but keep an eye out for changes, have your campaigns messages and communication channels ready to go so that you can jump on any opportunities first.
Enhance your travel marketing in 2022
Back in 2018 we wrote about the challenges of manipulating and smoothing your booking curve. In light of some of the facts that we are seeing post-TOY, supply is low in peak season and the shorter booking window trend remains. So, as booking curves are transforming naturally, and consumer behaviour and attitudes are changing, these trends may present opportunities to solve this ongoing challenge.
As TOY 2022 is over, and Spring is around the corner, it’s essential to review all areas of your digital marketing to maintain relevance in the current climate. Towards the end 2021 we were delighted to partner with ABTA to run a one day virtual event focusing on digital marketing for the travel industry in 2022. We summarised the key learnings from the event which are worth a read covering:
- 'Consumer habits & online behaviour'
- 'The fundamentals of organic & paid search'
- 'Optimising your website, and what to do to achieve better SEO results in 2022'
Also, if you haven’t already, consider a website audit (there have been a number of algorithm updates recently which could effect your visibility including the important Core Web Vitals update).
Alongside this, whether your Paid Media and Search experts are in-house or work for an external agency, make sure their efforts and resources are complimenting each other to achieve the most successful results possible.
With experience in all these channels, don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat with one the team if we can help with any advice.