By Magith Noohukhan, Customer Engagement Evangelist at Braze
Travel has been one of the hardest hit sectors by the pandemic, with destinations continually moved on and off government approved lists, leaving the public wondering if, when and where it is safe to travel. While attitudes toward travel in the UK are beginning to improve, there’s still more work ahead for travel brands when it comes to ensuring that consumers feel confident about booking their next trip.
New research from Braze, Skyscanner and Apptopia, sheds light on consumer attitudes towards travel this summer, including new preferences and deal breakers that are changing the way people book travel. A new emphasis is being placed on health and safety, becoming even more of a priority than price. In addition, the report outlines the need for travel brands and operators to be transparent in their marketing campaigns and customer communications, to align with the ever-evolving travel landscape, and reassure and build the confidence of holidaymakers.
Strong NHS app adoption suggests rising appetite for travel
When the UK government announced on 28 April that the NHS app would serve as a COVID-19 passport for UK residents seeking to travel internationally, the resulting demand led downloads to hit an all-time high two days later, increasing 76% year-on-year. In May, that adoption continued to grow, according to Apptopia, with an average of 62.6k daily downloads (446% higher than May 2020). Nine out of ten (85%) vaccinated UK residents say they’d be happy to share their vaccination status with brands in order to travel, suggesting that consumers are happy to share personal data and comply with travel regulations if it means they can secure a holiday.
Brits are still feeling confusion and concern over safety and travel rules
Despite an eagerness to travel again, the research found that safety concerns and confusion about the rules are clouding bookings, with 52% of UK consumers stating that not enforcing COVID-19 safety measures would be a dealbreaker for them when using a company. Over half (53%) said safety measures are their number one consideration when choosing a travel brand.
The research found that 55% of UK consumers find rules – including COVID vaccine certificates (“vaccine passports”), testing requirements, and the traffic light system – confusing, and over half (56%) wish they had better clarification and communications to help explain them. The youngest bracket of travellers expressed confusion about how their unvaccinated status will affect their travel plans this summer (18-24 62%, and 25-34 54%). Many respondents aged 18 to 34 still don’t know enough about quarantine rules or testing requirements to feel comfortable moving ahead with travel plans. And as a result, almost half (44%) of consumers have admitted to postponing their international summer holiday.
Cost matters when it comes to COVID testing and travel
In terms of COVID testing and its impact on travel, cost does play a factor. 47% of survey respondents say the cost of testing would impact their travel plans. Additionally, 52% believe that the rules for quarantine and testing should be the same for everyone, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not.
Whilst many European countries require travellers to take an expensive PCR test to enter, others like Portugal (in a bid to entice tourists back) have now announced that they will instead accept cheaper but less accurate antigen tests, including lateral flow tests. While this can be seen as a positive step, the constant back and forth of changing rules for different destinations leaves holidaymakers confused and mistrusting.
UK consumers are increasingly ready to travel – but need further reassurance
Over half (52%) of UK consumers haven’t travelled anywhere since the start of the pandemic (the highest percentage in Europe). However, the majority of our respondents (nearly 60%) stated that they are becoming more comfortable with the prospect of returning to travel as lockdown restrictions across the country ease and as the vaccine rollout continues. Data from Braze and Skyscanner shows that bookings are currently 43% higher than in April 2020.
The opportunity for travel brands now is to seize the chance to rebuild relationships and trust with consumers by delivering insightful and personalised information that cuts through the noise and confusion to help them feel confident booking travel and accommodation once more. Although travel brands are facing a challenging time with changing Green List rules and ongoing uncertainty, these challenges come paired with opportunities for strong customer engagement and audience growth. It’s now up to brands and travel operators to ensure that customer communications are clear and transparent, in order to reassure people about the rules and safety measures in place, as well as giving consumers confidence to book a trip this summer.