With buzzwords like ‘credit crunch’ and ‘recession’ being thrown around in recent times, the travel industry has waited with bated breath for much of the last year, uncertain of the impact that the global economic downturn would have. In light of this, Wanderlust magazine, the UK’s leading travel magazine, and AITO teamed up to conduct a consumer and trade survey to find out what was really happening. During May 2009, over 2,000 consumers and 50 tour operators gave their views.
The results were encouraging and in stark contrast to the UN World Tourism Organisation’s predictions of last November that consumers were likely to travel less often, to holiday in closer destinations, to shorten the length of their trips and to spend less money while abroad in 2009.
· However, 77% of consumers that completed the survey said that they are planning to travel at least as much as they did last year, with 72% expecting to spend at least as much money.
· According to tour operators, bookings are down by an average of 12% on last year (Jan-Mar). This has not destroyed expectations for the second quarter, however, as 44% of tour operators believe their bookings will recover to at least the same levels as April to June of last year.
· 60% of tour operators reported that their lead period had shortened, confirming – as one tour operator said – that consumers are “still cautious” about booking holidays but have “growing confidence.”
· Consumers consider destination to be a more important factor than price when booking trips abroad, suggesting that price-led offers are not the main influence on where consumers decide to travel.
· Suggestions that the British public will holiday domestically in 2009 seem erroneous; only 50% of consumers were planning a one-week or two-week holiday in the UK, compared with over 70% that were planning to travel to Europe.
· Longer holidays in the UK were also less popular; less than 10% of consumers were planning a domestic holiday that lasted more than two weeks, compared with more than 60% for the Rest of the World.
There was more good news for AITO, as consumers also reported that Responsible Tourism – a key requirement for all AITO operators under the AITO Quality Charter – was high on their list of priorities when booking a holiday, ahead even of customer service.
Overall, the message is very encouraging and highlights the importance for everyone in the travel industry to ensure they continue promoting their services to consumers who are still looking to travel as much as ever in 2009.