March 8, 2021

The Return of International Travel

At Plexus we have been waiting in anticipation for the UK Government to announce an update on International Travel. The PM’s recent roadmap in which he announced an initial date of 17th May for travel to resume marked the first real shift change in sentiment in many months.

The aviation industry has undoubtedly been one of the industries most affected by Covid-19, and as the UK begins to reopen and International travel prepares to return, we consider what this means for consumers and advertisers alike.

There is no doubt that with the return of International travel, new trends will also emerge. In stark contrast to the first lockdown where consumers were often having to wait months for a refund from airlines and travel companies, many operators are now offering consumers complete flexibility, providing a boost to consumer confidence and in turn, actual bookings. Within hours of the PM’s road announcement, easyJet reported that flight bookings by UK customers for the summer season were up 337% and holidays up 630% compared to the previous week. Although it is no surprise to see that bookings to beach destinations in Europe have surged, new destinations are also on the rise with consumers seeking out what they consider to be quieter and safer options. In addition to flexible booking conditions, many operators are offering additional incentives such as Covid insurance cover for further reassurance.

Prior to the announcement, GWI’s (Global Web Index) latest Coronavirus multi-market study revealed that those in the UK were 108% more likely to take a foreign vacation in the next year, a figure sure to only increase following the government’s announcement, alongside the rapid roll-out of the vaccine. This sentiment is echoed by markets also on a similar path to recovery, with those in Australia 24% more likely to take a foreign vacation in the next year and those in Singapore 135% more likely.

Further research from Trading Economics showed that consumer confidence in the UK in February 2021 was the highest it has been since March 2020, and it is currently above the average of all markets combined. Key factors driving this include an improvement in how consumers feel about their personal finances, as well as the economic situation as a whole. In the UK, 61% say that the pandemic has had little or no impact on their personal finances and this is echoed by JCDecaux’s sentiment tracker which revealed that 12 million people are planning to spend some of their lockdown savings on a holiday.

Although there has been a huge surge in summer holiday bookings, we expect two key trends to emerge as recovery continues: an increase in short-term bookings as consumers react to the latest news and the continued roll-out of the vaccine, as well as an extension to the usual summer period with many setting their sights on an Autumn escape. Thomas Cook recently stated that 40% of their recent holiday bookings are for October onwards, suggesting that whilst consumer sentiment is high already, many will extend their usual holiday period into the Autumn.

With consumer confidence and intent so strong in the UK, Global standardisation is going to be key. The roll-out of the vaccine globally is almost certainly going to be a major factor to the success of international travel returning to pre-Covid levels but with the news of International travel returning, the potential for the Euros to be solely held in the UK and the majority of restrictions planning to be lifted by March, we’re optimistic for our advertisers.

Sources: ITV, GWI, Trading Economics, LHR 2021 Passenger Forecast, The Telegraph, JCDecaux Consumer Sentiment Tracker 2021, JCDecaux Perceived Value in partnership with ResearchBods

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