Open minds, Open wallets: The changing habits of the holidaymaker

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make confident decisions in the world of travel – both as a business and a consumer. A wide array of factors have been jostling to destabilise the travel industry over the last two years, and expectations have started to shift. Booking behaviours have changed and holidays themselves are no longer what they used to be.

Without understanding these changes, how will travel companies accurately predict and leverage consumer behaviour patterns in 2023?

Holidaymakers hate uncertainty. Unfortunately, uncertainty hasn’t exactly been in short supply in the last couple of years, with society being endlessly hit with one hugely disruptive international event after another. At the same time, we’ve seen a significant level of industry turmoil, with strikes, folding airlines, delays and cancellations reeking havoc upon businesses and holidaymakers alike. The consequences are clear – only those truly in the know when it comes to consumer behaviour patterns will come out on top this year.

So, what are they?

We are currently in a period of intense economic uncertainty, and with the cost of living crisis squeezing wallets to the max, budgeting for a long weekend in Paris in several months’ time may not be at the top of most people’s priorities. However, when money is tight, it’s not always moments of luxury that are cut from the budget. Holidays and travel have actually been a leading portion of overall spending for non-essentials by UK consumers, despite 70% of UK consumers reportedly stating concern around their finances. Less money doesn’t necessarily correlate to no holidays, but travel companies should be mindful of the fact that holidaymakers may now have shifting priorities. For example, while people may once have planned for two short breaks and then a longer summer week away, budgeting for one longer summer holiday may be the preferred option for cash strapped families this year.

Finances aside, there has also been huge situational uncertainty. The pandemic has really left its mark on holidaymakers who are now very much aware that future plans can be thwarted in an instant. It’s therefore likely that we might see people leaving it later to begin their booking process in order to claw back as much certainty as they can before putting any money towards it. This could also impact the weighting of holiday spend towards package holidays, with single, all-encompassing payments becoming increasingly attractive.

Since the pandemic, holidaymakers haven’t slipped back into their convenient demographic slots. Instead, habits have changed, and new ideas are on the up – the rise of the post-pandemic ‘staycation’, in which people are favouring holiday experiences within the UK to save money, is just one example of this.

Sources of inspiration are also changing. Travel brochures have been replaced with social media, which is promoting a focus upon experiences rather than destinations. Video content from influencers on rising platforms like TikTok are giving holidaymakers a unique window into potential experiences in a way they’ve never seen before, exposing holiday makers to an endless stream of ideas. Because of this, people seem to be more open to the concept of getting away, but less concerned with where. There has been a 19% rise in general travel searching, but specific destination searches have dropped, which shows that people’s minds are very much open to new experiences – perhaps due to a ‘bucket list’ attitude generated by the sobering impact of the pandemic year.

Brand confidence is currently at a low. With major airlines going bust and experiencing strikes and shortages, the travel industry is in a precarious position. As a result, travel businesses – from cruise and package providers to insurers and hotels – need all the insight they can get in order to accurately predict and leverage consumer behaviour.

If you want to gain a solid basis upon which to formulate your approach to marketing this year, contact Trinity McQueen today.