//ABTA travel trends conference begins with GWI report
Future travel

ABTA travel trends conference begins with GWI report

ABTA’s travel trends conference kicked off today (November 24) with travel trends research from audience insight company GWI.

Stuart Baker, business director of travel, leisure and hospitality at GWI, kickstarted ABTA’s travel trends conference with a report outlining travel trend predictions for 2022.

Baker began by noting that consumer confidence has recently dipped for the first time since Q1 2021, in line with concerns about the rising cost of living among British would-be holidaymakers.

However, GWI cites 10.7 million travellers hoping to go away in 2022, presenting an opportunity for travel agents and operators to step in and ease concerns with their wealth of experience.

“Consumers want flexibility, information, useful guidance,” said Baker. “That’s something the industry can really leverage and push.”

The research showed that Europe is the most popular region for British holidaymakers going into 2022, with Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Portugal coming out on top. Outside of Europe, the US, Thailand and UAE rank among the most popular – and 50 per cent of people want a beach holiday.

The destinations highlighted align with bookings for Carrier, as noted by managing director Mark Duguid – who mentioned the popularity of the Caribbean this year in a panel discussion that followed Baker’s presentation. “The Indian Ocean and Caribbean are now ahead in revenue terms for 2022 next year.”

Baker went on to highlight five consumer trends to watch out for in 2022.

The first is a trend for bigger groups going on holiday, and spending more. “The vast majority will take a holiday for a week,” said Baker, but bookings for up to 14 days, plus bucket list adventures, are also on the up. In addition, 34 per cent of consumers questioned plan to go on holiday with a group of five people or more, and 51 per cent plan to travel with family.

This lines up with bookings at Barrhead Travel, according to sales and marketing director Nikki Tempest-Mitchell who said in the following panel talk that she’s seeing 20 per cent more spend per customer. “The demand is there and they’re willing to spend more on the right holiday,” she said.

Secondly, consumers are increasingly aware of their impact on the environment and the destination they’re travelling to. “Being green and sustainable is different for everyone,” said Baker – whether that’s hybrid car hire, carbon offsetting, or the impact of tourism on the society they’re visiting.

“It’s almost an expectation now that operators and brands are environmentally friendly,” he added, speaking about environmental sustainability. What can travel agents and operators do? “Consider your communication. What is your sustainability programme?” said Baker.

Next, Baker pointed out that before and during the pandemic, consumers had got used to researching and booking their experiences online. However, there’s an opportunity for agents and operators to get around that. “They value reliability and trust, and are prepared to pay more for it,” he said. The most important influence on where international travellers book their holiday, is a recommendation from a travel agent. “Understand what they’re looking for, and communicate.”

Fourth came the attention recession. “People are burnt out and tired of looking at screens,” said Baker. To cut through the noise, travel companies must use ‘distinctive assets’ and ‘exclusive content’ online, to add meaning to the holiday search experience.

GWI’s final travel trend for 2022 is the pursuit of purpose. 23.9 per cent of people want to go abroad to immerse themselves in a different culture. “The pandemic has been a catalyst for self-reflection,” said Baker. “Consumers are feeling more brave, bold and adventurous. Travel brands can connect with these travellers now. Think: YOLO.”