According to a recent TravelMole article, British travel agents are reporting ‘exceptional’ days of trading so far this month. Some say forward bookings are up as much as ‘30-50 percent’ over the same period last year and that a third of summer holidays currently being offered in 2015 will be sold during January and February.
Based on early indications the most popular long haul destinations are within the Caribbean and in particular – Costa Rica, Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Others far flung choices include Mauritius and the Maldives.
On the downside, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) reported that short haul holidays are being boosted by the low value of the Euro against Sterling, making the Mediterranean much more affordable.
But conversely, the abolition of the dreaded Air Passenger Tax (APD) for children below 12 years is driving demand for destinations further afield. There is also a continuing trend for travellers booking further in advance. As a former tour operator for 12 years, I can tell you just how helpful that is in the overall scheme of things.
And especially, bearing in mind the new Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) quoted intent to attract a higher percentage of younger people to our shores, this early booking trend is being led by them – with 51 per cent of 15-24 years and 44 per cent 25-34 year olds choosing their holiday earlier in 2014. There is every indication these percentages will rise this year.
If we are ever going to maximise the use of marketing dollars, researched information like this is critical to achieving best results. Each year ABTA publishes a consumer report that reflects any trends that will help its members exactly how they are going to drive additional business and hopefully retain existing clientele. Bearing in mind it is based on a representative UK sample and in the particular case of the 2014 report, 2008 consumers took part.
Among some of the findings were: Package holidays continue to grow in popularity with just over half (51 per cent) of the population booking an overseas package holiday last year.
Of all overseas holidays offered in the UK, 20 percent were booked with a ‘High Street’ travel agent, 25 per cent with a travel agent online, 21 per cent directly with a tour operator and by far the single largest percentage 34 per cent, directly with the service providers (airline and/or hotel).
While fully understanding the desire or even need to attract a younger demographic, our tourism policy planners might like to read another conclusion in this report.
‘Younger holidaymakers are the most eager to try new destinations with almost half (49 per cent) saying this is quite likely. ‘Meanwhile older consumers are more conservative – over half (56 per cent) of over 65 years and (51 per cent) of 55-64 year olds said they would definitely not or would be unlikely to visit a country they had never been to’.
It’s a very fine balancing act.