ANTOR has found a positive outlook for the outbound travel industry in their research commissioned with BVA-BDRC. Bookings in early February were found to be higher than at any point since the start of the pandemic with an increase of 3 million since September 2021. The association has estimated that 9.2 million future international trips are currently booked, involving 26.1 million individual visits from British travellers, spread evenly throughout the first three quarters of 2022. This represents an increase of 8.7 million traveller visits since September with an increase of 3 million trips. The key findings can be split into five main points which include insights from the UK public surrounding COVID sentiment, travel comfort levels, which demographic is driving growth, and the main barriers to travel. 17 of the association’s members are in the top 20 destinations the UK will be travelling to in the next 12 months.
Firstly, the research revealed that the U.K. public is more positive about the situation in relation to COVID than at any point since the start of the pandemic (with the exception of May 2021). This translates to the highest comfort levels with overseas travel and travel by plane since this was first measured in November 2020 and represents good news for the overseas travel sector. 56% of all overseas travel will be by plane in 2022.
Secondly, ANTOR found that strong comfort levels are converting to overseas bookings that are higher than at any point since the start of the pandemic and have jumped by 3 million since September. The positive indicator is driven by a spike in bookings in January 2021, following restrictions around overseas travel being lifted by the UK government and continuing through February. Most world destinations have benefitted from the increased confidence, in particular Spain where bookings have almost doubled since September.
Additionally, it was discovered that younger, less risk-averse life stages such as pre-nesters and families are driving the growth in bookings, with almost half being made by families. Older Independents and retirees, the most risk-averse around COVID, continue to be under-represented amongst trip bookers. For overseas growth to return to pre-pandemic levels, these older life stages’ confidence needs to increase.
Finally, the leading barriers to travel are personal finances, the threat of quarantine and the hassle of testing/COVID paperwork and not the fear of catching COVID. A number of these barriers can potentially be tackled by destinations or agents. Personal finances clearly underline the importance of good value trips and staggered payments. The fear of quarantine can be overcome by destinations with limited restrictions in place and/or options for free cancellation. Similarly, destinations with limited paperwork can overcome the perceived hassle of travel. Travel agents can play a key role here in making the booking process as ‘pain-free’ as possible
The research also found that Spain, France and Germany are marked as among the top four destinations for 2022. Spain is by far the leading destination for overseas trips with bookings doubling since September 2021. ANTOR destinations amongst the top 20 also include Ireland, the USA, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Belgium, The Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Sri Lanka, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, Sweden and Cyprus.
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