In this session, Eva Stewart, from YouGov, and Stephanie Boyle, from Skyscanner, provided us with an overview of emerging traveller behaviour.
Eva said that sustainability has now been discussed for about three decades, gaining more relevance in the latest years. She explained that it has taken some time for people to understand the meaning of travelling responsibly, but emphasised that the pandemic has caused this vision to shift. She mentioned that travellers do not only hold governments responsible for it but that they also expect themselves to travel sustainably.
In this session, Eva Stewart, from YouGov, and Stephanie Boyle, from Skyscanner, provided us with an overview of some of the emerging traveller behaviours we can observe coming out of the pandemic.
Eva said that sustainability has now been discussed for about three decades, gaining more relevance in the latest years. She explained that it has taken some time for people to understand the meaning of travelling responsibly, but emphasised that the pandemic has caused this vision to shift. She mentioned that travellers do not only hold governments responsible for it but that they also expect themselves to travel sustainably. She expressed that the look for authentic experiences has boomed since the pandemic hit, with consumers seeking more sustainable options than ever before, which at the same time calls for easier and more accessible sustainable options.
What is the short-to mid-term outlook looking like at the moment?
Stephanie explained that this period was the first time throughout the entire pandemic in which they have been able to provide a mid-term outlook.
She highlighted that one of the most important things Skyscanner has done during the pandemic has been to keep a pulse on traveller sentiment, by understanding how they were feeling about travel and the global situation. This provided them with the ability to respond to the changes in consumer behaviours, allowing them to observe that anxiety raised in America and that Asia has remained quite pessimistic throughout the pandemic.
Nonetheless, Stephanie explained that in October 2021, there was a very strong global positive sentiment, which they can see reflected in their data. She mentioned that with the US borders reopening and restrictions around the world being lifted, they have observed that booking horizons are extending. She also emphasised that flight projections are still showing seasonality, with a peak during the Easter holidays and summer.
Stephanie highlighted the key role that the industry is playing by offering flexibility and refunding options for bookings, as this is helping reduce the anxiety from travellers in light of new restrictions coming into place. She explained that Skyscanner's role throughout all of this situation has been to help travellers discover open destinations.
We need to build a more sustainable industry. How do you see this topic as we move into the post-pandemic era? Are customers demanding more sustainable options?
Stephanie expressed that in Skyscanner they have been very encouraged to offer greener options. As this growing consciousness is becoming crucial during the decision-making process, Skyscanner has developed a larger selection of green features, which allows them to easily compare the choices, creating an easy user journey.
The greener choice, as explained by Stephanie, marks the choice which emits the lowest emissions and offers a comparison of the average emissions on-route, considering direct/indirect travel, airports, etc.
We have observed a shift from major cities and destinations to rural and secondary destinations, is this trend expected to remain?
Eva identified that there are two different opinion groups within the industry: those who believe that travel will never be the same again, and those who believe we'll see most of the previous trends continue post-pandemic. She expressed that her belief is that the future of the industry, and of travel, lies somewhere in-between.
Eva believes people will still avoid visiting busy destinations, although this will only hold true if the supply continues to fuel the demand. She explained this would positively impact the industry, as it has resulted in more balanced travel behaviours. Nonetheless, we must remember that the risk factor is still in people's minds, which results in travellers going on more extended stays, but fewer times per year.
Which major shifts have Skyscanner experienced in relation to YouGov's research findings?
Stephanie started by highlighting that it’s down to destinations and their infrastructures to meet the needs of travellers, more so in these changing times. She explained that they have observed an increase in one-way flights, as with remote working people have been travelling to get a sense of a new place. She also pointed out that she believes that the flexibility in travel booking will remain, as this provides travellers with a great sense of security.
What do you think destinations can do to seize the opportunity and respond with the right solutions to improve their competitive advantage?
Stephanie highlighted the importance of recognising your strengths as a destination and rising the awareness of those aspects for which you have not been known for before. She justified this by means of 50% of Skyscanner's users not knowing where they want to go initially, which provides an opportunity for destinations to bring their offerings forward and attract more travellers. She also explained that destinations should make it easy for travellers to choose them based on sustainability and other attractive criteria, so showcasing these features is key.
Eva then mentioned that they expect MICE travel to come back first and foremost, with events being an anchor for the restart of the sector. She also explained that, globally, business sentiment hasn't really changed, as human interactions are deemed as necessary. She highlighted that DMOs should focus more on sport demands, as they are part of the popular culture and there are many big events that bring together immense numbers of people, as well as e-sports and gaming.
From a marketing perspective, what do you think is key for destinations' messaging?
Stephanie explained that at Skyscanner they have vast amounts of forward-looking data, which allows them to understand where the intent is coming from and where traveller interests are at. She emphasised that campaigns should be based on a try-and-fail basis, and that destinations should shape their massage depending on the targeted audiences.
She also highlighted that due to people having been travelling domestically for almost two years now, they are looking for new and authentic experiences, which presents the perfect opportunity to target new groups. To finish, she remarked that destinations should remain optimistic and maintain a reality-driven perspective for their strategies.
1. Consumers are prioritising sustainability when booking post-pandemic, with trip bookings also becoming longer.
2. Business travel is expected to come back, with the MICE sector bringing incredible profits.
3. Destinations need to target their message to appropriate audiences and communicate their offerings in accordance with what travellers want and need.
Eva Stewart is the Global Sector Head for Travel & Tourism at YouGov, a global public opinion and data group, where she is leading product innovation, international partnerships and business growth.
Based in London, Stephanie Boyle heads up global industry and partner communications at Skyscanner. She and her team are responsible for building relationships with key associations and stakeholders within the travel and tourism sectors and spearheading our partner PR and comms strategy.