Where is the traveller placing their bets for their post COVID holiday?

With such an extraordinary desire and the pent-up demand for travel, even hints from the government on when and where holidays may be possible are being met with excitement and consequently a change in customer behaviour. Initially it was thought that holidays would be wide open from the 17thMay and whilst this may not be the case it is becoming clear that the early green shoots for travel will be coming from destinations that are ahead in the vaccination game, and not necessarily the usual holiday favourites.

ATCORE, the provider of the leading reservation and distribution platform ATCOM, is responsible for holiday bookings of over $18bn of travel per annum and over 120m room nights, here Mike Croucher, CTO, discusses where the traveller is looking to book this year.

The impact of COVID on the travel and hospitality sector has been unprecedented, early in 2020 holiday cancellations became headline news. The brands that looked after their customers, offered refunds and protection will now see the customer’s loyalty as travel returns.

However, the customer is not only looking for that booking confidence, but also at the likelihood of travel taking place this summer. In addition, considerations regarding quarantine, either at home or worst case in a hotel, are complicating the booking process. 

When thinking of a holiday the first question is often where, and as we emerge from COVID this is even more important. As travellers seek out the “safe” sunshine spots for 2021, some more unusual names are gathering momentum. Destinations such as Gibraltar, Malta and Israel are emerging with the early lead. For example, average booking value to Israel for 2021 haS increased 79% vs 2020. 

Surprisingly, Asia is recovering well in the early months of 2021. In 2020, in the first quarter, there was over a 60% drop in bookings to Asia and at that time travel later in the year was still the expectation. This year, 2021, the early season bookings to Asia are up 72% above 2020 and running at 68% of 2019. Is the traveller betting on some sunshine further afield? And shifting to an Autumn break?

As expected, the levels of booking versus a normal year (2019) are still relatively low, but in comparison with the first three months of last year, as we were entering the first lockdown, there are green shoots emerging for the Industry.

However, its nots just the “where” that has seen changes in consumer behaviour, the “when” is also showing some interesting flex. Whilst the traditional “summer” holiday period of July and August is still strong, the industry is seeing an increase in bookings for October. Possibly due to travel restrictions still largely being in place for the May half term, travellers are looking to later in the year in bid to secure some sunshine. For bookings made between January and April 2021 October bookings made up 13% of all bookings vs just 5% in the same period for 2019.

With the government’s latest announcements of a Red/Amber/Green destination list, varying quarantine rules and the possibility of ‘COVID passports’, it will be interesting to see how the booking patterns develop this year. 

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