The year has been so horrible for the travel sector that it can be easy to forget about consumers' pent-up demand to explore the world. This survey is a helpful reminder.
The world’s leisure travelers are planning trips again, and their responses to a survey released Wednesday show an eagerness to book vacations as soon circumstances allow. Consumers broadly expressed confidence that they had the budgets to spend on leisure travel once they freely can.
Amadeus, the Madrid-based travel technology giant, sought in May the opinions of more than 8,500 users worldwide of its trip-itinerary management app CheckMyTrip, most of whom had travel plans between July and December. The company released the results of the poll in a research report, “Destination X: Where to Next.”
“I was actually quite surprised and encouraged that people were more optimistic about their financial outlook and their confidence to spend on travel,” said Michelle Batten, global head of marketing, prime division of retail travel at Amadeus.
The leisure traveler’s appetite for resuming travel in the survey matched their financial means to do so. In northern and western Europe, about 55 percent to 58 percent of survey respondents said they expected to have the same budget for travel before the pandemic began.
The numbers were similar in North and South America, where about another quarter of travelers expected to have a bigger travel budget than before the crisis.
“Perhaps these folks are saying, ‘Well, I’m in an industry that isn’t dramatically volatile, and I’m not going out to concerts or buying clothes, and I will shift that spend into travel,'” Batten said.
The age group reporting the most massive budget is the baby boomers. Yet this group is also the most likely age group to say ‘no’ to nearly every traditional leisure travel option. Among the surveyed baby boomers, 68 percent said they would consider a custom package they or their travel agent create, but they commonly shunned all-inclusive resorts, package tours, and cruises. The surveyed travelers also expressed a lot of confusion and concern about travel insurance and whether policies are worthwhile over the next year.
The survey painted a picture of consumers being mindful of risks, such as shunning transcontinental air travel and spending on driving and Airbnb bookings instead. But leisure travelers showed signs of needing help from travel agents to make their choices and navigate the risks and trade-offs of planning vacations during an unpredictable pandemic.
After the crisis struck, many industry observers wondered whether people would seek new experiences or comforting old favorite destinations when they got breaks from home confinement. The Amadeus survey of leisure travelers across age groups suggested a provisional answer, with an average of 40 percent seeking unfamiliar destinations (with baby boomers skewing a bit more cautious than millennials). In contrast, about a third of all age groups would seek familiar places.
Advice to Travel Agencies
Amadeus provides technological services to many travel agencies, including many major retailers.
The crisis has prompted many agencies to seek more efficient ways of responding to customer needs and reassuring leisure travelers. But that work can be a challenge, given the complexity of their operations.
“We’ve observed the major retailers and well-known brands that mix online and offline points of sale,” Batten said. “They’re in different markets, in different channels, and sometimes have different models. At the same time, they’re becoming tech-savvy, and they’re largely interested in the holy grail of becoming omnichannel.”
Agencies should anticipate consumer concerns, creating “cheat sheets” addressing common questions, Batten suggested, half-metaphorically. Agencies could distribute these encapsulated notes, like a list of answers to frequently asked questions, to representatives handling online chats or working in call centers and high street stores.
“With a bit of forethought, maybe an agency can get ahead of 60 percent of common questions from travelers during this crisis, and then use a good active listening ear for the other 40 percent that’s unique to the traveler,” Batten said.
For more context, Skift Research will unveil for subscribers on Thursday the latest results of the Skift Recovery Index, which covers travel’s performance from December 29, 2019 to August 29, 2020. In a positive sign, travel activity in actual volume terms in several destinations in August saw an increase over the past few months, with China an outlier showing a very promising recovery.
The Skift Research results complement what Amadeus’s survey found.
“In the qualitative components of our survey, we did see many people say, ‘Travel is life, man,'” Batten said. “Travel’s value is just so important to them intrinsically.”
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Photo credit: The Upper House Hotel in Hong Kong. The world's leisure travelers are planning trips again, but their responses to a survey released by Amadeus on Wednesday show a thirst for vacations. Swire Hotels