It's summer again, and COVID-19 is still here. So, many have decided to skip their traditional flights and hotel stays and do something else instead. Some segments of the tourism industry suffer due to our changed travel behavior, while others thrive.
At M3 Consultancy, we had a close look at how our summer travel behavior changed in the first COVID summer, which led us to identify four trends.
Since March 2020, many of us have had to deal with canceled flights, complicated COVID-19 testing requirements, and other issues when trying to fly from A to B. Last summer, most Dutch vacationers opted to get behind the steering wheel and drive to their destinations to avoid these problems. The aviation industry will need to work hard to attract vacation traffic in 2021. Meanwhile, most car travelers will likely be stuck in a traffic jam somewhere in Europe.
Figure 1: Number of summer vacations Dutch people went on (millions), 2020
2. We went from combined bookings to a more liberal travel approach
In the pre-pandemic era, one in four vacations was a package deal or a combined booking that included at least accommodation and transportation. These types of bookings have largely disappeared — likely due to uncertainty around cancelations caused by sudden outbreaks of COVID-19. In the meantime, a fast-growing number of travelers only book accommodation. That poses a challenge to vacation package providers such as TUI and Corendon. They try to provide customers with the security they crave by allowing them to postpone or change trips at no additional cost.
Figure 2: Booking type — % of all vacation trips
3. Hotels and B&Bs suffer due to a change in accommodation preferences
Before the pandemic hit, the most popular accommodation types among summer travelers were hotels, pensions, and B&Bs. There has been a dramatic shift in that regard — many have opted for more private and isolated accommodation types. These days, a vacation home or chalet rental is the go-to choice. As camping sites are also relatively popular, local camping sites in the Netherlands are preparing for a busy summer.
Figure 3: Number of summer vacations Dutch people went on (millions)
4. Vacationing solo or with friends has become relatively unpopular compared to pre-pandemic summers
Many consider solo travel as the perfect way to meet new people and explore other cultures. These merits have all but vanished with the introduction of the term 'social distancing.' There has also been a rapid decline in trips taken with friends (generally popular among younger generations). Party vacation providers specializing in organizing flight, hotel, and barcrawl packages try to make the most of this second COVID-19 summer: they help book COVID-19 tests and promise free cashback when a country turns orange or red. Unfortunately, reports of COVID-19 infections in popular vacation destinations pose an even bigger challenge to these businesses.
Figure 4: % of vacations in 2020 compared to 2019, displayed by the composition of the group of travelers
Let's hope this is the last COVID-19 summer!
In all segments of the tourism industry, businesses work hard to reduce the impact of COVID-19 disruptions by providing vacations that are as normal as they can be in this unprecedented time. Yet, our travel behavior has changed substantially over the past year. We mostly opt to stay in private accommodations, preferably with the family. And we tend to take the car.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. But we're hoping the underlying reason will disappear soon, so we can return to our favorite vacation types next summer. For now, enjoy this summer as much as you can!