A couple of days ago we looked at Skyscanner’s Horizons report into the state of travel booking in 2021, and extracted our key takeaways. In Part 2 of this blog, we present our tips for making sure your travel business is capitalising on this year’s booking trends, as our industry begins to reawaken from its COVID-induced coma…
Start Promoting Autumn/Winter
As the report indicates, booking horizons (the gap between booking and travelling) are starting to get back to pre-pandemic levels – as long as 113 days in the UK, for example. The heaviest numbers are for Q4 2021 with travellers already dreaming of autumn & winter escapes, so in terms of capacity, start planning for your business to be operationally busy from October onwards, and start pushing those winter trips now!
Flexible Cancellation & Change Policies
As we’ve previously mentioned in this blog, one of the key post-COVID travel trends is an increased demand from travellers for greater flexibility when it comes to changing or cancelling bookings, due to the continuing uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the ever-changing virus situation in various destinations. One of the big travel stories of 2020 was the sheer difficulty of changing trip dates or getting refunds for cancelled trips, and bookers are now ultra-wary when it comes to clicking the BOOK button.
You can increase your booking conversion rates by offering flexible change/cancellation policies and making these very clear on your website and in your terms & conditions, as well as making it easy for online bookers to also change and cancel bookings online, rather than having to make phone calls or send emails. And don’t forget to add convenience and increase revenues by offering travel insurance to bookers.
Focus on Short-Medium Haul Destinations
Skyscanner’s report reveals that average flight times have dropped by an hour since 2019, with ultra long-haul seeing negative growth, and the biggest growth being in the medium & short haul sectors (ie 6 hours & under). Travellers aren’t too keen on spending hours in a crowded plane at the moment, for obvious reasons, and after being stuck indoors for months they want to maximise their holiday time, rather than spending it in the air. So whilst you’ll still be getting some longer haul bookings, your main focus should be on destinations a little closer to home.
We’ve been saying this for almost a year now, but domestic travel is – for obvious reasons – booming at the moment, with itchy-footed travellers being forced to rediscover the charms of their own countries rather than travelling abroad. As we also reported recently, McKinsey predict that the domestic sector will recover as soon as 2022, a good year or two before international.
To help you surf the domestic travel wave, here’s a blog post we published a few months ago:
Push Beaches & the Great Outdoors
One of the key findings of Skyscanner’s report was that, whilst traditionally popular city destinations are declining in popularity (based on search volume), beach destinations are surging in popularity, with the likes of Mykonos, Cancun, Maldives and Santorini all seeing huge growth in online searches. Busy, densely populated cities are out, and fresh air & the great outdoors are in this year, so make sure you include beaches & outdoorsy destinations in your offerings.
Don’t Just Focus on Price
As we said in Part 1 of this blog post, flight tickets in some markets are as much as 15% cheaper than in 2019, as the industry tries to price its way out of a crisis. And whilst price has always been and will always be a booking driver to many, it isn’t the only consideration, and in fact the gap between the cheapest price and the average spend has actually increased this year, from 25% in 2020 to 28% in 2021. There are several reasons for this, notably the fact that travellers are taking fewer trips and thus are willing to spend a bit more when they do travel, as well as an increased desire for flexibility & cancellation over traditional cheap non-refundable deals.
So whilst you’ll still be offering deals, you also need to be pushing flexibility and also premium economy/business options for those travellers who haven’t set foot on a plane in months and are willing to splurge!
With concrete evidence that optimism is returning and bookings being made, there is at last some light at the end of the tunnel for beleaguered travel businesses, and by exploiting current booking trends you can help make sure that your company will get back on the road to recovery in 2021. eRoam’s cutting edge inventory management, quoting, booking, e-commerce and travel marketplace solution is there to help you every step of the way, so please contact us for a demo!