The tourism industry is said to have lost $1.3 trillion in export revenue in 2020 and travel experts are very cautious in their outlook with most not expecting a return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023.
However, with the lockdown easing announcement this week holiday firms and airlines have reported a surge in bookings. Despite there being big question marks over international travel we are either all very optimistic or are just sick of our Ground Hog Day existence and are craving something to look forward too....even it could be taken away from us at the last minute.
TUI, the UK's biggest holiday firm have reported that bookings for foreign trips jumped 500% and tour operator Jet2 reporting a 1,000% increase in bookings over night. Whilst this looks impressive we need to keep in mind that this is starting from near zero prior to the announcement.
After a year of working from home, furlough, not seeing friends and family, no social life, no pubs, no restaurants, no live events....who can blame us for wanting to dream about getting out of our homes and having a change of scenery? It shows there is a clear desire that we NEED A HOLIDAY and are prepared to book a holiday even with the uncertainty around international travel so we don't miss out on availability in 2021.
The Prime Minister has said a global travel taskforce will be putting forward a report by 12th April on how to return to international travel, with the hope that restrictions be removed, but not before 17th May at the earliest.
It's time for travel companies to start planning their return to the market and tempting us with dreams of getting away from it all and now feels like a good time to build their brand saliency to be front of mind when the time comes.
As consumer confidence rises for a second straight month, unless travel companies have some "skin in the game" the big travel businesses are going to steal the pot and control the SOV.
Whilst it has been a hugely uncertain time over the last twelve months, there appears to be a glimmer of hope and a clear interest from consumers to get away, so what is the best plan of action?"We have consistently seen that there is pent up demand for travel and this surge in bookings shows that this signal from the government that it plans to reopen travel has been what UK consumers have been waiting for," Johan Lundgren, Easy Jet Chief Executive
Consumers are looking for reassurance and flexibility should the landscape change again, so this needs to be evident in your messaging. Consumers are looking for guarantees that their money will be safe, that the travel company will be there to help should things change and that refunds are available. If travel companies offer these reassurances they will build the confidence in their brand and the consumer to safely book their holiday with them.
There is nothing to stop travel companies getting themselves in front of consumers at the moment! In fact there's never been a better time to act than right now, as there are lots of deals and media that is uncontested with other travel companies. However, as with all marketing during the pandemic, the messaging has to be right and not down the Ryan Air "Jab & Go" route.
This uncontested space will not last forever, so it is going to be very interesting to see which travel companies have the confidence to make the first move and capitalise on gaining SOV which will offer competitive advantage, customer engagement and campaign effectiveness. SOV has been proven to directly contribute to a brands potential to grow market share, so the benefits could be substantial for long term growth and recovery.
At Connections we have a strategy ready to help travel companies return to the market and are offering that reassurance and flexibility that they need to offer to consumers, to the advertisers should things change.
As marketeers we are in the amazing position to support multiple industry sectors, whether it be helping eCommerce brands to continue to thrive or as in the case of the travel sector be part of the recovery.