With household budgets stretched and an increasingly volatile world, a customer’s decision about where they holiday is so much more complicated than it used to be.
But I do have to question how the industry is meeting these changing demands. Holidaymakers no longer simply go through a process of choosing a destination on the map. Personal finances are the first consideration.
Whole sectors have been waiting to see what will happen with the UK government cuts, eurozone bailouts and the rest of the global economy. In many ways, people’s work, budgets and spending have been put on hold.
So people haven’t been able to plan and book their holidays ahead of time. After all, no one wants to commit to a holiday only to find out that they’ve been made redundant or, for the self-employed, that their business has lost a key client.
And more recently, personal safety and security have become just as important as price.
So we see a return to traditional holiday destinations. But how do we as a trade help and support our customers through these tough decisions? Do we understand enough about changing buying patterns? Do we react quickly enough with ‘real’ value offers for the destinations and dates our customers are really after?
Have we already given up on the second May bank holiday, or are the prices so expensive that we are forcing our customers to wait, or look at alternatives?
This wait-and-see approach has resulted in many more people booking at the last minute than ever before. It means that we all need to be able to respond to the challenge of spontaneity.
This requires savvy marketing to keep up to date with the best late availability, making sure that deals are presented to tempt holidaymakers, and staying calm about this change in the market rather than worrying that early bookings are down.
During the first decade of the new millennium, people who were cash rich or, it turns out, credit rich and time poor, got into the habit of booking last-minute breaks, and this helped fuel the extraordinary rise of the low-cost airlines.
These trips were often done on a whim and in addition to a main holiday. What we’re finding now is that people used to booking at short notice are bringing that approach to their main holidays – and travel agents have to respond.
Late offers have been a part of agents’ working life for years. But we all need to realise that this is not only an age of austerity: when it comes to holidays it’s also an age of spontaneity.
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