The pandemic rocked every industry, but none more so than the travel sector. As we emerge from the pandemic, the industry is still adjusting to changed travel habits. These habits are influenced by rapidly changing travel guidance from governments, which can change with little warning.
Adara is one company that provides intelligence on consumer engagement, particularly related to the travel sector. Carolyn Corda is chief marketing officer at Adara, she says the company is able to “close the loop on who is buying and how they’re buying”.
The snowglobe has been shaken
When the pandemic hit, travel suppliers rushed to introduce social distancing and hygiene measures such as virtual check-ins. But the industry also had to face the reality that their traditional ways of predicting travel trends had been essentially rendered redundant.
“For all of the travel suppliers, their snow globe has been shaken, and what that means is they have realised that all the pricing actions and decisions have relied very heavily on historical performance. The foundation of what you pay for an airline ticket or for a room is based upon what happened the year before,” she said.
These vendors still need something upon which to base their prices, but with state-imposed quarantines as well as rising and falling levels of Covid-infection in each country, the trends from previous years simply aren’t relevant.
Prior to the pandemic, Adara didn’t necessarily organise their data in terms of trends, but the company stepped in to “fill the void” left by the historical data.
“Over the course of about two weeks, around a year and a half ago now, we reformatted the data and automatically changed it up,” Carolyn Corda said, “We reorganised it so that we can begin to look at trends, and we could help our travel clients understand who was still travelling, where was the demand, and which destinations were still going to be popular.”
A look at post-pandemic trends
A year and a half ago, travel practically ground to a halt. With the roll-out of vaccines and a loosening of travel restrictions in most countries, international travel is now returning. But what are the new post-pandemic trends?
Drew Watson, executive business lead at Mediahub, an IPG-owned media agency, says distinct dynamics are beginning to emerge post-pandemic.
“Pandemic-related travel guidance and changing local and global regulations have made medium-term travel planning difficult for many,” said Watson. “As a result, we’re seeing two related dynamics emerge with those who are choosing to travel: those booking major, experience-driven trips internationally in the next 6-12 months, for longer periods of time; and those who are looking to travel imminently (often within one-two weeks) to closer domestic destinations for a short break.”
Carolyn Corda similarly describes two groups of travellers that Adara bundles together.
“One group is what we call the ‘road warriors’ or the high travellers. These are the consumers with the platinum elite travel memberships who are signed onto various loyalty programmes. This group travel maybe three or four times a month. These are very sophisticated travellers, who have expectations of what the experience should look like and what the processes are around travel,” Corda said.
“Then, there’s what we call the novice travellers, who maybe travel once or twice a year. Generally, when we see these people travelling they’re super price sensitive. We’ve been able to see what we call novice travellers, people that only travel once or twice a year. They’ll often book through an intermediary like an online travel agency. This group are generally looking for deals,” she added.
Corda says that beginning back in April, trends that they had expected in relation to these groups prior to the pandemic were reversed.
“What we saw was that the novice traveller group is actually spending, particularly on a hotel per night basis, more than what we’re seeing the veteran road warriors spending. And you can kind of understand the psychology behind it, we’ve been cooped up, saved some money. I haven’t been commuting, I haven’t had to buy clothes as much, and so I’m going to take the money I didn’t spend, and splurge on a vacation,” she said.
Mediahub’s Drew Watson too says that they have noticed some distinct new trends since the pandemic.
“Whereas pre-pandemic we would see a high level of search for a specific hotel brand or airline, for example, now we’re seeing longer, more general searches around locations and experiences, as “travel dreamers” spend time researching a major trip in the next year when the pandemic will hopefully subside globally,” he said.
Adapting to country restrictions
Pandemic travel trends are influenced not just by people’s personal financial situations but by rapidly changing country restrictions.
Each country sets their own travel rules. In the UK the travel rules have changed numerous times. At one stage, most international travel required the traveller to quarantine on return to the UK. Currently, there is much more international travel for fully vaccinated British nationals.
However, with travel, it is very much a bilateral relationship. British people’s ability to travel depends as much on the rules of their destination as of the UK.
Adara’s data reflects how quickly a change in rules can affect the travel industry. The company shared data from the 20th September, which shows that the US had shot to the top of the flight and hotel bookings list for end of year travel.
Just that week it was reported that the US was lifting their travel ban for fully vaccinated travellers, causing a clear uptick in bookings.
For travel advertisers, responding to these changes as quickly as consumers can be vital.