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Published June 22nd 2020

Europe Data: What the Tourism Industry Needs to Know About Changing Consumers

Recent travel restrictions mean holidays have been off the menu for most citizens worldwide. Without the usual poolside piña coladas and street market serenades, how are consumers approaching holidays this year?

Unsurprisingly, the tourism sector has taken one of the biggest hits among businesses globally, but as restrictions begin to lift and summer sweeps across Europe, companies must now plan for recovery in a new context.

Will holidaymakers be as eager as ever to pack a suitcase and jet off abroad? How will they choose to recover from the stresses of lockdown life? And what will consumers expect from travel companies now?

To explore travel preferences across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, we used Brandwatch Qriously to survey 5,000 people via their smartphones and tablets. We asked them how the pandemic has affected their holiday intentions for post-lockdown.

The insights are part of a broader study into behavioural change across Europe over the past few months. You can explore the full reports on consumer lifestyle and attitudinal shifts for each country we studied here:

So let’s dive in.

Are consumers ready for a holiday?

Across Europe people have faced a whole range of personal challenges during lockdown, not least the worries about their own health and the wellbeing of loved ones.

Lockdown has affected the lives of our respondents in many ways, with a lack of personal freedom, postponement or cancellation of plans, and mental health issues cited as the top disruptors – especially in the UK.

But as travel restrictions ease, is it presumptuous to expect an immediate surge in demand for holidays? Do people still want to travel, or has the perceived risk to health put them off?

Key insights and considerations:

  • People in Germany and France are most likely to continue to holiday as normal.
  • It may be tougher for destination marketers to attract and convert their usual “buyer personas” in Spain and Italy. Respondents in these countries are most likely to stray from their normal travel choices after Covid-19, highlighting the need for businesses to continually challenge assumptions and stay close to consumer mindsets.
  • Many consumers across Europe envisage changing the way they normally travel. Businesses must stay agile and take the time to understand the reasons behind this. What are consumers’ specific fears? Are there financial barriers as well as health concerns? Do people feel more compelled to explore new places rather than do what they normally do? Robust market research will be essential for businesses to listen, adapt, and thrive again.

Given that the world will most likely have to learn to live with the ongoing presence of Covid-19 (at least in the short- to medium-term), it’s worth pointing out that our use of the phrase “after the pandemic” in this question may have been prematurely optimistic.

However, the division of opinion on whether people intend to change the way they travel going forwards does provide some encouragement for the tourism sector.

Lots of people still want to travel.

The question is where and how they’ll choose to do it, and in what ways businesses should adapt to alleviate consumers’ safety concerns to rebuild customer trust and loyalty.

Domestic or international: How do people intend to travel post-lockdown?

Key insights and considerations:

  • 49% of respondents in Spain and 42% of respondents in Italy indicated that they would prefer to travel in their country rather than go abroad. This could present new opportunities for businesses to re-evaluate their marketing spend, and refocus their efforts to attract more customers on home soil.
  • People in the UK and Germany are more likely to want to travel internationally after the pandemic than they are to stay local. 70% of respondents in the UK and 69% in Germany said they’d prefer to travel abroad or both abroad and domestically.
  • Businesses will need to understand why many consumers are reluctant to travel abroad and address these concerns in their operations, transformation, and marketing strategies. For example, by exploring online conversations around travel and safety (including the key drivers and influencers within the conversation), businesses will uncover valuable insights to inform myth-busting campaigns and messaging to reassure and recruit customers.

Staycation or package holiday abroad: Which holidays are top priority?

Travel businesses designing marketing campaigns will need to understand the impact of Covid-19 on public trust and buyer intent. Unfortunately the whole industry is the victim of a customer trust crisis through no fault of its own.

Which groups of people are going to be receptive to destination marketing messages now? Which products will need the marketing dialled up or down?

To help gauge what kind of travel people will prioritise next, we asked consumers what style of holiday they’d prefer.

Key insights and considerations:

  • Although UK respondents are among those most likely to want to go abroad, their first priority is a staycation, indicating that consumer confidence in flying is low and needs rebuilding. For now, consumers are interested in “safer” options close to home. Globally Google search interest in “staycation” is at a five-year high, and from March to May 2020 mentions of staycations online were up 11% compared to the average mentions for the same period in the three years prior.
  • People in Spain are most interested in beach breaks, nature retreats, and adventure trips, while people in Germany are more inclined to choose beach and city breaks. A beach holiday is top of the list for people in Italy.
  • Very few respondents are ready for a party destination or cruise, indicating that travel companies in these categories must first rebuild customer trust before they can hope to win back market share.

It is clear that, as expected, the travel and tourism industry is facing an uphill struggle. In a separate Brandwatch Qriously survey of consumers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the US, just 21% of respondents said they feel safe going to a hotel, and only 15% said the same about getting on a plane.

Consumer reactions differ depending on age, gender, and geography, indicating varying perceptions of risk associated with Covid-19, travel, and holidays.

To be able to adapt your business operations, products, and marketing in line with consumers’ priorities, concerns, and needs, it’s vital you have the means to take a regular and accurate pulse-check on consumer preferences.

An easy-to-use, fast digital survey tool like Brandwatch Qriously gives businesses the candid, voluntary feedback they need to stay agile and desirable in an ever-changing global context.

Watch this short video to see how Brandwatch Qriously can bring valuable insights into your business decisions:

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