The past couple of years certainly has not been short of drastic changes: major lows, eventual, and in some cases, short-lived highs. But one thing remains true: life goes on. Travel goes on. It may not be the way it was done pre-pandemic, but it goes on.
One of the major changes in the way people travel since the pandemic started is deciding when to travel. In the US, a survey by Booking.com showed that more than 58% of Americans are more likely to travel during off-peak season to avoid crowds.
Across the Atlantic, the sentiment seems to be more or less the same in Europe. In October 2021, a survey was conducted by global market research firm Ipsos to discover the attitudes of Europeans toward tourism since the pandemic started.
The survey, which was requested by the European Commission, showed that 42 percent of Europeans consider taking holidays outside of the high tourist season. A closer look at the survey shows that within Europe, respondents from Romania are more open about the idea of travelling during off-peak season (74%), whilst respondents from Italy (27%) and Bulgaria (21%) considered it the least.
But what does this outlook actually look like? What key lessons can travel and tourism companies take away with this knowledge?
The time is now: Be prepared
For Dan Chitila, founder of Outdoor Activities in Romania, a company that offers private and customised tours around Romania, early booking seems to now be a thing of the past.
Apart from people choosing to travel off-peak season to avoid crowds, people also seem to book travels on short notice.
“People book whenever they can get good tickets, good deals, and when they are certain that they can travel safely,” Chitila said of his market, which is composed mainly of travellers from the US, UK, and Australia.
With lockdowns and travel restrictions coming and going at any given time in any part of the world, it’s not hard to see why booking travels early doesn’t seem like a good idea at this time.
As reported by Reuters, online hotel search company Trivago said that in December 2021, hotel cancellation rates were as high as 35% due to the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
With the limitations and uncertainty of lockdowns and travel restrictions, it makes sense for people to book their travels immediately as soon as they are able to. Pre-COVID-19, “able to” is a much simpler term, often referring to schedule and budget. These days, it means vaccination status, RT-PCR test results, lockdown status, travel restrictions in one’s country of departure and arrival.
So as soon as a window of opportunity presents itself, people are quick to make that booking, and get confirmation soon.
Keep it balanced
A balanced market, that is. For Shumaes Rasheed, senior manager of PR and marketing at Villa Resorts in the Maldives, having a good mix of markets proved helpful during the pandemic.
“We have had constant demand throughout the year due to the market mix hence there hasn’t been a major change in travellers booking patterns,” Rasheed said.
Different markets mean different peak and off-peak periods
“Europe and the UK have different peak travel periods compared to Asia/Middle East and the rest of the markets, hence the reason for demand being constant throughout the year, although the traditional peak season still continues to have a stronger demand,” Rasheed adds.
Private group bookings
The sudden change in day to day lifestyle brought by the pandemic made people’s travel habits follow suit.
In Sri Lanka, where the top tourist traffic sources come from India, Russia, and the UK, an emerging trend has been observed when booking accommodation. Druvi Gunasekara, managing director of Boutiques in Sri Lanka, a firm that provides marketing services to small, luxury boutique hotels in Sri Lanka, shares that entire villas and boutique hotels end up being booked by one party. This one party could be made up of families or groups of friends / relatives.
Lockdowns worldwide meant that families and friends who normally see each other regularly, have not done so in months or years. There’s been a rise in family (or friends) reunion travel and booking the entire villa or boutique hotel for the entire group makes up for lost time, not to mention that it is safer for everybody.
“The properties and the travel agents give hygiene a lot of attention and guests’ health & safety was always a priority but more so now. The Sri Lankan Tourist Board has introduced a medical insurance policy for guests arriving into Sri Lanka,” Gunasekara said.
Gunasekara also shared that she still sees their peak season fully booked despite the outlook that travellers are opting to travel in off-peak season.
Have you observed any other new preferences in travel? We’d love to hear from you!