Latest European Webinar Recap and Travel Insights - January

Rethink your success metrics and partnering for success in 2021.

January 20, 2021

These insights are based on data collected on the 18th January, 2021. We will be reviewing our data on a regular basis in order to provide a view of trends and patterns in consumer behaviour. Sojern's insights are based on over 350 million traveller profiles and billions of travel intent signals, however it does not capture one hundred percent of the travel market.

Webinar Recap: A Sustainable Future for European Travel - What We Learned in 2020

Last week Sojern’s Managing Director for Europe, Celine Chaussegros, was joined by Eduardo Santander, CEO of the European Travel Commission, and Alessandra Priante, Director of Europe at UNWTO, to discuss a sustainable future for European travel. They discussed the latest European travel trends data, the impact of the vaccine, and forward looking 2021 insights. As many travel brands continue to be impacted by limited budgets, uncertainty around regional lockdowns, and ever-changing traveller behaviour, versatility is key when it comes to planning and this webinar will give you plenty of tips on how to adjust your success metrics to the current situation, and create the right partnerships to drive sustainable demand.

Travel Insights and Vaccine Developments

Global travel confidence for inbound travel to Europe has plateaued over the last few weeks. In the midst of another wave of increased cases across the region, it is positive to see that search and booking levels have not dropped as low as they did back in April 2020 when we saw the first signs of impact from the pandemic. Travellers and travel brands alike seem to be more prepared coming into 2021, and more versatile in relation to the ongoing changes in restrictions.

During this second or third wave (country dependant) advertisers have mostly shifted their focus to always-on campaigns in order to keep a branding presence in the market, compared to previous activity which was more focussed around seasonal bursts or promotions. This always-on approach allows for travel marketers to reach relevant audiences that are looking to travel into or within the region, at the correct time, on the right channels. This strategy has proved successful for many travel brands, allowing them to adapt to ever-changing consumer needs and respond to the latest travel data and trends including staycations, and increased interest in domestic travel.

Find out how Sojern helped Accor drive a 20% increase in direct booking revenue during the pandemic.With uncertainty around how long local restrictions across the region and lockdowns will remain, it is likely that traveller intent and confidence will waiver for another few weeks if not months. But with travellers and travel brands growing more resilient and adaptable, it is unlikely volumes will drop to the levels we saw back in April of 2020.  

Year-to-Date Global Flight Bookings to Key European Markets - Indexed to w/c 5th April 2020

In fact, both global and local travellers are already showing interest in planning trips to Europe and the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) towards the second half of the year, including the summer months for Europe. Flight searches made in January highlight that interest is growing for departure dates of April onwards.    

Global Flight Search Volumes to EMEA by Search and Departure Month

The first ‘milestone’ vaccine announcement came on 9th November where Pfizer and BioNTech presented their vaccine. The news had a positive impact on travel intent around the globe. The second announcement by Oxford-AstraZeneca happened on Nov 22nd, also resulting in a notable increase in search volumes as visible on the graph.

Year-to-Date Global Flight Searches - Indexed to w/c 4th October 2020

During the webinar mentioned above Eduardo said “We have to go back to the basics and act responsibly. We need to coordinate strategies and harmonise protocols when it comes to travel.” He also discussed the idea that it is not so much the act of travel itself that is causing the virus to spread, but how travellers act once they are at their destination.

Travel is Resilient

What we have seen through travel data and insights throughout the pandemic is that travellers are always dreaming of their next trip. At Sojern we’re excited for the future of safe and sustainable travel. What we learnt from COVID-19, along with previous crises that have impacted global travel, is that the travel is resilient. Sojern’s job is to help the industry prepare and plan for this recovery.

Rethinking Success Metrics and Partnering for Success in 2021

Although travel is resilient, the pandemic has reshaped its future in terms of budgets, policies, procedures, and traveller confidence, and travel brands must adapt to the new and ever-changing demands of the consumer. There is no single approach that suits everyone, but being versatile, and adapting success metrics is a great place to start. It is especially important for destinations to rethink how they assess success in 2021. This means that tourism boards need to search for new, efficient ways to deliver results within limited budgets. One of the biggest threats to destination marketing success in 2021 is operating with outdated metrics as travel is always changing, and this change has been excelled as a result of COVID-19.

Data evolves by the second so measuring success based on insights solely from pre-pandemic times, does not account for the shift in behaviour that has occurred over the past nine to ten months. Most tourism boards are used to allocating digital spend to direct response campaigns to drive metrics including website visits, click-through rates, and impressions. However, as budgets continue to feel the impact of the pandemic, destinations will likely need to consider a focus on digital branding campaigns.

Digital branding campaigns are less expensive, more flexible, and easier to track. They also require different metrics such as customer lifetime value and incremental searches made by travellers across various websites. To make it possible for destinations to measure the impact of these campaigns it will be important to work with partners like hotels and attractions in the area, and track the change in traveller behaviour.

A Co-op strategy allows a destination to partner with local attractions and hotels to highlight reasons to visit to travellers, and combine outreach efforts to help stretch small marketing budgets further. During the ‘Sustainable Future for European Travel’ webinar Alessandra commented “Never before has there been such a united front. Work goes on. We can never think we have achieved enough. We really need to continue to come together with practical and pragmatic solutions to restart as soon as possible.”

Find out more about Sojern’s solutions for destinations.

Leveraging 2020 Learnings

What we learnt in 2020 was that travel is resilient. Travellers never stop dreaming and adapt their travel plans to the current situation. It is also important to focus on sustainable travel from a consumer point of view, and as a travel marketer. Allowing insights and local partnerships to help guide and influence marketing strategies will lead to a brighter and more sustainable future for the industry. It is also important to be willing to adapt success metrics and goals in line with the ever-changing demands of the traveller.

For the rest of the COVID-19 insights series click here.

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