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Brits ‘are most resilient in Europe for travel bookings’

In study of winter holiday bookings, Brits keen to travel abroad despite lockdown uncertainty, with 81% of UK bookings for trips abroad, according to new data.

Over two-thirds (69%) of The Times, The Sunday Times & The Sun readers’ holiday budgets have not been impacted by the pandemic, according to new research.

In a study of bookings, departures and searches from 10th November 2020 extending until early 2021, the data also shows that across Europe, travellers are either booking at the very last minute or far in advance as Covid-19 continues to create uncertainty.

This study reveals key insights into UK travellers’ booking and searching behaviours. The second lockdown announcement had a huge impact, as the UK took advantage of the period pre-lockdown to get where they wanted to be. From when lockdown was announced on 31st October until it commenced on 5th November, Brits departed on trips at four times the level prior to the 31st, driven by a 50% increase in bookings during those few days as people rushed to get home or to family members.

Adara also identified booking spikes after announcements around efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, with Brits showing a one-day booking surge of 19% after the Pfizer announcement, 10% related to Moderna’s and 28% after AstraZeneca’s. The latter also led to a 154% week-on-week increase in searches for international holidays from hopeful Brits.

In fact, the UK is still raring to go abroad, with Brits making up 23% of all international bookings from EMEA, while France comes in second at almost half that level – 12%. Germany and Portugal each account for 8%, Spain 6% and Italy 5%. The UK is also booking vastly more international holidays than domestic – i.e. within the UK – with 81% of breaks by UK travellers international and just 19% domestic. Compare this to France, whose holiday goers are choosing staycations: over half (53%) are booking domestic (within France) trips rather than international. On the flipside, just 9% of travellers in both Switzerland and the Netherlands are booking domestically while 91% book internationally – showing that in these countries, the appetite for abroad is still very healthy.

In terms of destinations, bookings to the US from the EMEA area have fallen from 9% to 5% of outbound trips, as increasing infections combined with recent political uncertainty discourages travellers. France receives 12% of EMEA bookings, Spain 8%, Portugal and Saudi Arabia 6%, while the UK receives 6%. Central European countries receive about 18% of bookings within the top 10 destinations – up from 17% in 2019. It is interesting to note that within the EU, 56% of bookings from the UK are to non-travel corridor countries with high Covid infection rates.

However, Covid uncertainty is still having a huge impact on booking behaviours. Customers are either booking and departing almost immediately or are looking at dates in the future when they perhaps believe there will be normality around travel. Booking-travel windows remain much shorter than in previous years with the 0-14 day window taking 30% share of the bookings for winter. On the other extreme, bookings over 90 days in advance are also accounting for 30% of bookings as people hope that vaccines or effective lockdowns mean they can plan for later down the line. Pre-Covid (1 Jan – 15 Mar) the last minute booking window accounted for just 18% of bookings. As we approach Christmas and rules are relaxed for the festive period, we can expect to see a last minute spike in booking activity as people travel home.

Carlyn Corda, CMO of ADARA, said: “What was historically a period dominated by short haul trips to European cities or long haul trips to escape to the sun has changed to become short breaks planned quickly. Consumers have adapted the way they purchase travel to reflect ongoing uncertainties. However, the appetite for booking holidays is still there. We know that the desire to explore is a fundamental human drive, and that travel is set for a big bounceback as vaccines roll out and people feel more comfortable.

“For the travel industry, it’s clear that in the meantime there is still opportunity – as long as brands can convey their ability to deliver on a safe and responsible experience for customers. We are at the beginning of the end of the pandemic restrictions, but while we wait for the impact of global vaccine programmes, travel-loving Brits will find ways to scratch their holiday itch – if they can do so safely and securely.”


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