Following this week’s UK government and devolved nations announcements of plans for cautious, staged releases of lockdown restrictions, there is now, more than at any time since the start of the pandemic, several strong reasons for destinations and DMOs to start reconnecting with their audiences through consumer facing campaign activities.
A full year of pent up travel demand, starting to release
For travel operators, OTAs and airlines, travel bookings and online holiday searches saw their biggest single spike today, as pent up demand for travel experiences in 2021 exploded following news of travel restrictions potentially easing by mid-May. BBC News reported this morning that some larger tour operators including TUI, Thomas Cook and Cottages.com all experienced triple digit growth in web traffic as well as international and domestic holiday searches yesterday.
According to some leading OTAs, search activity for international travel for 2021 surged by up to 500% yesterday and easyJet recorded a 630% increase in holiday bookings to some key European destinations.
This level of activity is unsurprising and serves as real evidence of what we believe is the start of a dramatic increase in travel demand for 2021. DMOs that act early in terms of riding this wave of optimism through coherent consumer campaign activity will reap the rewards as lock down restrictions continue to release.
The Bank of England’s Chief Economist, Andy Haldane is bullish about the prospect of a steep recovery.
“The UK economy is like a coiled spring ready to release large amounts of pent-up financial energy” – Chief Economist, Bank of England
He was referring to fact that government interventions including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and other wide ranging financial support, coupled with restrictions on consumer spending have meant that people in many demographic segments are sitting on cash reserves that they will be all too willing to spend on experiences including travel as soon as they possibly can in 2021.
For DMOs, now is the time to get ahead of the game by presenting consumers with the reasons why their destination should be among the first experiences consumers should enjoy.
Data is power
The manifest increase in travel search activity brings with it a golden opportunity for forward thinking DMOs to invite audiences to browse destination content through persuasive consumer campaigns and to capture engaged audience data. These engaged data pools, consisting of audiences emerging from lockdown restrictions and ready for travel, will place DMOs who have collected them at a significant advantage over competitors who have not. Access to these data will enable DMOs to deliver targeted tactical messaging in conjunction with trade partners, as well as build profiles of audience segments who are likely to travel in 2021. Both of which will be crucial in properly capitalizing on travel recovery this year.
A captive audience
Audiences are now in-market to receive engaging and inspirational travel content/messaging that represents the antidote (or should I say vaccine) to the past year of restrictions, lockdowns and general gloom. This presents DMOs with a unique opportunity to curate and deliver beautifully presented content and imagery to audiences who will not only gratefully receive it, but will be much more likely act upon it in 2021. Conversely, DMOs that decide to take a more cautious, “wait-and-see” approach risk missing out on what is a unique and unprecedented set of circumstances, and may well lose market share in 2021 as a result.