The possibility of demand outstripping supply will be an important sales pitch going into peaks.
The three panellists taking part in the online TTG Debate, “Has Covid Cancelled Peaks?”, agreed one message may convince consumers to commit to booking during peaks – that they may soon struggle to get exactly the holiday they want due to tighter supply after so many people moved their planned 2020 trips to next year.
“There’s an availability message for next year,” said Strawberry Holidays director Kate Holroyd. “Demand will outstrip supply, and that’s a really strong sales pitch.
“Clients are so keen to travel; they really want to get out there. They are asking ‘when can we go?’ We have to manage expectations by trying to be as transparent as possible.”
Claire Dutton, trade sales manager for JG Travel Group, which owns domestic operator National Holidays, agreed demand outstripping supply in 2021 was “an important message” for agents to use to encourage customers to book.
“Things are going to fill up; our most popular tours are getting booked up – particularly around events like the Chelsea Flower Show or Edinburgh Tattoo,” she added. “You don’t want customers to be disappointed and miss out on what they want.”
All the panellists agreed there was significant “pent-up” demand for holidays that could help boost peaks bookings figures.
EasyJet Holidays’ commercial director Paul Bixby said this demand was illustrated by “overnight” surges in online searches for both Portugal and the Canary Islands when these destinations were granted short-lived travel corridors by the UK government in the summer.
“There’s fundamental pent-up demand,” he added. “It’s about confidence, flexibility and how they [holidaymakers] are protected.”
The panellists also agreed government must more clearly communicate key travel issues such as travel corridors, quarantines and testing to give consumers enough confidence to book holidays during the traditional post-Christmas peaks booking period.
They said “clarity of message” from the UK government would help to restore confidence in the next few weeks.
Holroyd said: “The government has responsibility to help us in clarifying the message on quarantine, air corridors, vaccinations, and accessibility and cost of testing.
“There’s a huge amount of work to do jointly with the industry and government to help clients with that.”
Bixby agreed: “The government needs to be messaging to stop the confusion around testing and travel corridors.
Hopefully that will develop.” Bixby also stressed the importance of offering flexibility on bookings and ensuring consumers know they can cancel or rebook their holiday at short notice.
“We have to convince customers that it’s OK to book now and they won’t lose out down the line,” he added.
Dutton also said “confidence and clarity of message” would be crucial for the peaks period.
“We saw with the Canaries that they [the government] can give with one hand and then take away with the other,” she said.
Agents were also urged to take advantage of the increased interest from UK holidaymakers in domestic trips that is set to continue into 2021.
Dutton said bookings for its UK tours in March and April 2021 have been “buoyant”, after enjoying a summer 2020 season when there was “massive demand” for its trips, particularly for August and September departures.
“It’s a real opportunity now, and it’s incremental revenue for agents,” she added. “But they won’t know [you sell UK holidays] unless it’s promoted in windows or on the brochure shelves.”
Holroyd agreed UK holidays were “on people’s radar”, with demand for cruises around the British Isles, as well as domestic packages featuring “unique experiences” – such as The Making of Harry Potter and Legoland theme parks – becoming popular.