After 2 years of lockdowns and changing restrictions, the travel sector is experiencing a boom in sales as consumers are eager to head off on adventures once more.
We know that Covid-19 drastically transformed the way we plan, book and enjoy travel, and despite the rise in sales, the pandemic is set to have lasting effects on the sector.
A recent study by Skift identified the new booking patterns that will affect travel companies this year.
Want to know what the new challenges and opportunities are going into 2022?
Read on to find out.
The impact of covid-19 on travel bookings patterns
Travel is currently experiencing a surge in sales that is set to continue into the rest of 2022. The industry bounced back last year, and the future looks promising.
UNWTO reported a 130% increase in global international tourist arrivals in January of this year compared with 2021. Although these numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels, they are encouraging for businesses in the sector.
The European Travel Commission also projected that the demand for European travel this year will be just 20% below pre-pandemic levels, while domestic travel may even exceed pre-pandemic levels.
And, some destinations are beginning to eliminate entry restrictions such as testing and vaccine certificates, contributing to the unleashing of pent-up demand for travel.
While international travel will take longer to recover, data is positive as travellers are starting to plan and book bucket list trips to far-flung destinations.
New trends in booking patterns
The pandemic upended traditional travel. Here are some of the new trends in booking patterns that have emerged:
- Short booking windows
Hospitality Net explains that although most destinations have reopened for travellers, the uncertainty caused by Covid could drag on.
Travellers are now accustomed to these uncertainties and have changed their booking habits accordingly. Many consumers now choose to wait until the last minute to make travel reservations due to fears over cancellations or changes in restrictions.
This has resulted in a shortening of booking windows. Skift reported that the current booking window for international flights is between 30-60 days, compared with around 90 days pre-pandemic.
While this trend may be short-lived, it is important for travel companies to continuously monitor and adjust their rates and track their competitors to ensure they are always one step ahead.
Flexibility remains a priority for many travellers: nearly one in three say that an accommodation provider’s cancellation policy is one of the top three factors that influence their booking.
Although consumer confidence is increasing, flexible policies are still key, especially when looking at international travel. Today’s traveller wants to feel safe and protected in case of any problems such as cancellations or illness.
- Mixed trips
As we discussed in The Rise of the Workation, remote work has made working while travelling a reality.
And although many employees are now returning to the office, hybrid work models are becoming the new normal. Numerous companies are now offering a mixture of home and office days, and this year we are going to see more ‘mixed trips’, with travellers heading to a destination and working remotely on a Thursday and Friday before enjoying leisure time at the weekend.
Employees are looking to make better use of their vacation time, and combine work with travel. A recent report by Expedia found that more than half of those who often work remotely plan to take this type of trip, that is, extending a work trip for leisure, or vice versa.
- Dynamic demand
One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic is the unpredictability of travel demand. A recent report by Cloudbeds found that even factors such as location and seasonality are no longer as reliable as they once were, and this unpredictability has been driven by quarantines, changes in restrictions and new Covid variants.
Although many restrictions are being lifted, consumer behaviour is still shifting, and single announcements can drive huge spikes in demand. It is difficult to predict how the situation will evolve in the upcoming months.
For example, Expedia reported that travel searches from EMEA to the United States increased 95% week-over-week on their website after the White House announced it would soon lift travel restrictions for international visitors who are vaccinated in September of last year.
- Longer stays
Before the pandemic, weekend getaways were one of the most popular travel modes, but that trend has since reversed. A GlobalData survey has revealed that 44% of users prefer leisure trips of at least seven nights, while 26% prefer more than 10 nights.
Longer stays are also growing in popularity. A report by Airbnb found that stays of 28 days or longer grew the most for the company, accounting for 20% of nights booked in the third quarter of 2021, up from 14% a year earlier.
The new uncertainty
Volatile restrictions, short booking windows and unpredictability mean that travel businesses have to be agile and adapt in order to keep up with the demands and changes in the sector.
And, as consumer behaviour changes, data also changes. Skift explains that algorithms used in the past to accurately forecast booking patterns and behaviour may no longer be valid, and must be updated in order to reflect the new booking environment.
Economic and political uncertainties are also facing the industry. UNWTO states that the current war in Ukraine poses new challenges to the global economic environment, and risks hindering the return of confidence in international travel. The current situation has also meant an increase in cost of flights, which may put some off travel.
The new opportunities and booking patterns
Consumer confidence is increasing, people are prioritising travel and are now more willing to spend more money and time on the trip of their dreams.
Research by Expedia found that nearly 3 in 5 workers are more likely to take a two-week vacation in 2022, and more than a third would trade a salary increase for more time off to travel.
There is also a growing demand for meaningful, authentic and unique travel experiences, with many travellers looking to go out of their comfort zones and head to off the beaten track destinations.
And, consumers have become more flexible, and are now more likely to search for trips without a specific destination in mind. Airbnb found that 40% of people who search on their platform look for places to stay without specific locations or dates in mind. 500 million people tried the company’s flexible destination search feature in the 7 months since it debuted, which allowed them to suggest accommodation options in less-travelled areas.
How to stay ahead of the curve and prepare your travel brand
To keep up with the changes in booking patterns and travel demand, companies should focus on technology and research.
Here at Nezasa, we are passionate about technology, and we believe that it is crucial for the future of the industry. As we have seen over the past two years, AI and automation have become key for both travellers and travel companies, with businesses realising the importance of technology in order to survive and thrive in our current climate.
Our TripBuilder software allows travel brands to create, plan and book flexible and personalised itineraries for their customers in real-time, using automation to offer a more simple, secure and efficient booking process.
It is also crucial to research and adapt your marketing plan accordingly. More info on marketing strategies for tour operators here.
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