In the latest of an analytical series, Sojern examines the impact of the ongoing outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus strain upon the global travel industry.
With more than 345,767 confirmed cases and over 14,927 deaths from COVID-19 globally, we are undoubtedly seeing significant impact across all industries around the world, including the travel industry.
With our access to real-time traveller audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the data in order to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. They can use these trends to inform their marketing strategies during this period and be prepared for the recovery once the situation stabilises.
Whilst no-one can anticipate the full impact of these exceptional circumstances, our data can provide some insight into how travellers are responding to the current situation, the more long-term impact that COVID-19 will have on destinations, and when the first signs of recovery start to appear.
These insights are based on data collected on the 23rd March, 2020. The data will be reviewed on a weekly basis in order to provide a regular view of trends and patterns in consumer behaviour.
As expected, global flight bookings to Europe are drastically down
Analysing consumers’ travel plans gives some sense of the gravity of the situation and it will come as no surprise that global flight bookings to Europe have declined drastically with Italy seeing almost an 94% year-over-year decline in flight bookings last week. This is to be expected given the travel restrictions currently in place as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The UK showed a 63% decline in year-over-year flight bookings last week, down from 37% the previous week. This is significantly down but less so than other countries in Europe. We expect we may see this downward trend increasing given the government updates and expected heightened restrictions in the UK.
Global flight searches to Europe have followed a similar downward trend with France and Germany showing a less pessimistic view than countries such as Italy and Spain.
Travellers showing signs of confidence for January 2021
Whilst travel bookings are clearly down year-over-year, we are seeing a very early spike in global travellers opting for longer lead times and booking flights in the last 14 days to the UK and Spain for January 2021 with booking levels even above the levels from last year. In fact, we are seeing a significant 229% increase in global flight bookings made in the last 14 days to the UK for January 2021. We are seeing a similarly high booking level for Spain with a 171% increase in global flight bookings made in the last 14 days for trips to the UK with departure dates in January 2021. Even Italy, although still below average year-over-year levels, is showing an upward trend for January of next year. This could be a result of some airlines announcing their winter timetables early and also releasing a more flexible cancellation and booking policy increasing consumer confidence in booking trips for a date when they feel that this pandemic could be in the recovery phase.
When we look at flight searches made in the last 14 days, we can see that the Middle Eastern, Western and Eastern European and North American travellers appear keener to reinstate their travel plans as soon as they can and are showing interest in travelling to the UK towards the end of the year. Both Eastern and Western Europe show a very early increase in year-over-year travel intent for January 2021 with an above average year-over-year increase of 144% and 85% (up from 8% and 9% last week) respectively compared to the same time last year. Given that the departure date is extremely far out these numbers are only indicative at this time. Travellers from Asia appear more pessimistic about their future travel plans to the UK.
We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation. Whilst the implications for many industries look potentially bleak right now, eventually some kind of normality will be restored. Although it’s not yet known when, these insights will hopefully help shape strategies in rebuilding the travel industry after one of its most catastrophic events.