For the past few years, schoolteacher Laura Bradford and her husband have spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s in the United Kingdom, visiting their nieces and nephews. This year, with borders closed and strict quarantine policies, Laura says her usual overseas getaway is off.
“With the uncertainty and restrictions surrounding COVID-19, an overseas trip doesn’t seem possible. We don’t want to give up our holiday, so we’re staying in NSW and driving to Jervis Bay instead.”
Laura is far from alone when it comes to those cherished long-haul vacations and trips back home during the December and January holiday period. Between December 2018 and January 2019, more than 2.12 million Australian residents returned from short-term overseas trips. New Zealand was the favourite, followed by Indonesia with the USA, India and Japan rounding out the top five.
The number of New Zealand residents returning from an overseas trip in December 2019 was up 20,200 from December 2018, to 194,500, with residents arriving from Australia, India and Japan. Webjet also recorded a 71% increase in total December bookings from 2013 to 2018, with trans-Tasman trips a clear favourite for Kiwis looking to reconnect with friends and relatives and bring in the New Year.
As the timeline for the trans-Tasman bubble remains unclear, with Kiwis returning from Australia still required to quarantine, the festive season will look a little different this year. However, according to data from Amadeus, the majority of ANZ travellers remain steadfast in their commitment to resume leisure travel by the end of the year. The question remains when, where and how they can best do so.
In Destination X: Where to Next survey of 350+ CheckMyTrip users across Australia and New Zealand, 76.4% have a strong desire to travel domestically when restrictions lift, with more than half of travelers seeking a trip duration of 14 days or more and 68.4% seeking at least 1-3 trips over the next year.
Visiting family and friends is the main reason to plan and book travel in the coming months for two thirds (67%) of ANZ travellers. Interestingly, 38% of ANZ travellers are booking travel to ‘break out of confinement’,with many cities in Australia and New Zealand confined to tough lockdown restrictions for several months. Further, 35% of ANZ travellers want to satisfy their pent-up wanderlust by exploring ‘unfamiliar destinations’ and 27% of travellers are looking to ‘celebrate an occasion’ on their next trip.
Andrew Gay, Managing Director, Retail in Travel Channels, Pacific, Amadeus said: “The desire to travel is strong in Australia and New Zealand. Despite border restrictions, travellers are energised and ready to holiday within their own shores this holiday season, to reunite with their family and friends or explore new destinations that offer a sense of mystery and adventure. However, their behaviours have changed; travellers are not willing to commit to holiday plans without guaranteed flexibility and refunds, and COVID-19 factors like testing measures and onsite cleanliness now weigh in when evaluating destination, accommodation and transport options. Travel sellers and providers will need to get creative with deals and packages to provide the experience domestic tourists are seeking.”
Customised leisure travel experiences win out over pre-packaged leisure travel options, with 54% of ANZ travellers preferring to curate their own holidays and/or with the help of a travel agent. Group and guided tour packages have dramatically declined in popularity, with only 12% of travellers saying they would consider a holiday package cruise of more than 50 people for their next trip. Interestingly, 77% of travellers said that they would stay in a hotel for their next domestic trip.
Travel spontaneity might also be a thing of the past, with ANZ travellers spending more time researching before booking their next getaway. 60% of travellers said that ‘recovery from COVID-19 health crisis’ is the top influencing factor when choosing a destination, followed by ‘a price that fits by budget’ (58%). 88% of travellers also believe that ‘refundable flights’ are ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’.
Convincing ANZ travellers that it is safe to travel via airlines will be a priority for travel sellers, with 31% of travellers saying that they are ‘less than comfortable with flying but will continue to do so’. More than two third (67%) of travellers said that is was ‘very important’ to understand airline and airport COVID-19 prevention handling measures prior to booking and throughout their entire journey.
When asked about how and where travel agents can best assist in their travel experience, 24% of ANZ travellers are expecting more recommendations for their travel than before COVID-19, with 25% planning to use travel agents for flexibility or to make changes. 39% of travellers expect contact with travel agents prior to booking and at all phases of their trip. While ANZ travellers believe travel agent assistance is required for international travel, only 15% plan to use travel agents for domestic trips.
Shayne Howell, Manager at North Shore Business Travel said, “Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we have assisted customers with refunds and cancellations on their trips. Many customers have realised that value of a travel agent, to assist with their personal travel needs and improve the overall travel experience. For the upcoming festive season, we are helping customers design and plan domestic trips and providing recommendations on how they can make the most of their holiday at home.”
In interviews conducted by Amadeus with travel agency executives across Australia and New Zealand, 37% believe the way they sell will change in 2021/22, with 78% expecting leisure travel demand from international students, repatriation flights and packages for upcoming school holidays. 28% believe that health will impact booking and travel, while 22% believe that transportation capacity will.
Gina Norman, General Manager at RAA (Royal Automobile Association of South Australia) commented,’ We’ve accelerated our digital transformation strategy to empower our staff to work remotely and respond quickly to customer queries and requests for information around COVID-19. As travellers navigate state restrictions, quarantine policies and health and safety measures this holiday season, we are looking at ways to help them feel less concerned and move forward with their leisure travel plans.”