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Five trends UK travel companies need to respond to this winter

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Vertical Leap looks at UK travel trends and provides tips for marketers to implement into their advertising

With UK travel restrictions relaxing at the start of October, international travel is easier and cheaper for people dreaming of that next trip abroad. While the road to recovery is long for the travel industry, the latest opening up is a big step for companies that have suffered 18+ months of uncertainty.

In this article, we look at five key trends for the UK travel industry heading into winter 2021 – and how companies can respond with their advertising.

Trend #1: the UK domestic travel boom continues

With the UK easing almost all Covid-19 restrictions by the end of June 2021, domestic travel was the surest way to guarantee a summer holiday without any last-minute disruption. According to several travel authorities, the so-called “staycation boom” is set to continue through the winter months and well into 2022, despite the easing of international travel restrictions.

How to respond: High demand and soaring prices force domestic travelers to book early, so companies in the UK should keep a heavy emphasis on domestic travel. Exploit some of the uncertainty around availability and prices to create a sense of urgency in your ads and encourage travelers to book now while emphasizing the fact that domestic travel remains the most reliable choice in the meantime.

Trend #2: international travel on the rise too

With the traffic light system being replaced in October 2021, travelers from the UK can book international trips with greater confidence. Airlines and other travel companies have reported a “sharp rise” in bookings this month, but they’re rising from a low base, so travel companies are competing for a relatively small market of international travelers.

How to respond: Announce the return of international travel in your ads, provide detailed information about the latest travel guidelines and reinforce paid ads with organic content to help people make informed booking decisions. Pay attention to travelers’ concerns and address them. Target long-tail keywords (eg “winter 2021 holiday flexible booking no quarantine”) if you’re struggling to rank/show for more competitive terms.

Trend #3: last-minute bookings

Earlier this year, travel group Jet2 said its customers were booking “significantly closer” to departure for summer holidays amid the ongoing uncertainty around travel lists and restrictions. Despite most restrictions being lifted for returning travelers, the UK is heading into winter with some of the highest infection rates in the world, and the bigger risk now is that other countries could place the UK on their travel lists.

With the government once again facing pressure to reintroduce Covid measures, the uncertainty isn’t over yet, and travelers could be forgiven for continuing to book trips at the last moment.

How to respond: Offer flexible booking and emphasize this in your ad messages. Provide clear information about your refund policy and use simple, easy-to-understand language so people feel confident they can book without worrying about any nasty surprises if things suddenly change.

Trend #4: demand is high – for some kind of getaway

Whether it’s domestic or international, the demand for getaways is high among UK travelers, and there’s a clear appetite for getting back to ‘normal’ for many in the country. We’re also heading into the least restrictive winter of the pandemic (subject to change, of course) and confidence is gradually increasing.

According to data compiled by VisitBritain, 80% of travelers asked in August 2021 would consider an international leisure trip in the next 12 months, with 50% saying they would “definitely” consider traveling.

Even if travelers don’t commit to making the booking this year, interest is growing and this presents opportunities for travel companies to capture leads and put their brand at the center of people’s minds.

How to respond: Address the urge of people to get away two years into the pandemic. Many people are desperate for a holiday with minimal disruption and the more ease/reassurance you can offer, the more tempting bookings become. Also, allocate some budget for brand awareness and lead generation campaigns for travelers who aren’t ready to commit now.

Trend #5: competition is rising

Travel confidence and bookings are on the rise, but we’re still looking at a slow recovery when you compare figures to pre-Covid levels. So we’ve got a lot of travel companies competing for a smaller market.

How to respond: Address traveler concerns, provide flexibility and be ready to play the long game with travelers who are more likely to book next year – or even later. If you can beat your rivals to winning short-term bookings now, that’s great. If you can’t, put strategies in place to capture leads and position your brand as the one to book from as the market continues to grow and, eventually, returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Also, go the extra mile to win positive reviews from customers during these difficult times. Positive feedback could be your biggest asset in winning new bookings over your rivals, especially with the number of negative reviews at an all-time high.

For more details about PPC strategies travel companies should adopt, check out Seven PPC strategies for travel companies.

James Faulkner, head of PPC at Vertical Leap.

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