There then comes a point, once the Government has announced a date for relaxation of restrictions - two to three weeks before lockdown ends - when consumer confidence increases and people start to actually spend money and book. 
Nick Cooper, Commercial Partnerships Supervisor
Nick Cooper, Commercial Partnerships Supervisor, UK and US, HolidayPirates

Timing is everything in travel marketing at the moment. Trying to keep a step ahead of restrictions, guidelines and lockdowns, plus matching that with consumer sentiment and confidence in booking holidays is proving an incredible challenge for all of us in marketing in the travel industry. 

HolidayPirates has been working with destinations and private sector partners throughout the pandemic and we’ve turned online and social media campaigns around incredibly quickly in order to catch the crest of the wave when consumers switch from browsing and inspiration to booking.

Now that we’re in the third lockdown, we have identified patterns of behaviour and we can work with what we know has happened previously. 

Whilst in lockdown people have enjoyed browsing and looking at inspiring ideas for the future. There then comes a point, once the Government has announced a date for relaxation of restrictions - two to three weeks before lockdown ends - when consumer confidence increases and people start to actually spend money and book. 

Despite Government announcements strengthening border controls and introducing mandatory quarantines on returning to the UK, Cooper is anticipating a flurry of activity after 22 February when the Government’s “Route Map” starts to make the situation a bit clearer. 

It’s capturing this type of sweet spot that we are talking to tourist board partners about. The issue is that a campaign launched too early or too late won’t deliver the results expected by the destination. 

Travel marketing is no longer about implementing a beautifully laid out plan for the year ahead working with the traditional peaks and troughs. It’s now about sticking to the strategy but having the agility to adapt quickly to a change in circumstance. Today we can reach and implement a destination campaign in our platform very quickly. We’ve turned around quite a few destination campaigns, from the first phone call to being in front of 10 million people in under two weeks.

Year-round destinations performing the best

Year-round sunshine destinations have been performing the best on the site, as consumers are not so worried about missing the summer window. These destinations have kept a high profile throughout the seasons and have been able to take advantage of new periodic booking peaks during the past year. 

The Caribbean, Egypt, the Canaries and the Indian Ocean have all continued to attract a degree of business throughout the last year with the Maldives, Malta, Dubai and the Seychelles being particularly proactive in keeping a high profile throughout the pandemic, with the likelihood that they will benefit most when the upturn comes.

From direct communication with our consumers, we know there is a high degree of pent-up demand. We know the landscape can change dramatically and very quickly but British consumers don’t have any clarity about when they will be allowed to travel at the moment, with this caution people are only committing to overseas holidays further in the future. When restrictions do ease, the floodgates will open and it might be difficult and expensive to secure a last minute summer holiday in the UK. 

Unpredictable Lates Market for Summer 2021

With no current clarity on Summer holiday travel, the industry could see a highly polarising Lates market subject to quarantine restrictions being lifted and holidays (plus testing) being affordable. Despite capacity being reduced deals will be prolific, with destinations first off the grid to welcome UK travellers, scooping up the majority of bookings. 

When it came to when the best time is to book a bargain, it is probably.. about now! As I type this, there are loads of empty planes and empty hotels out there so companies are extremely keen to get any business they can to keep their cashflow going. As a result, there are some amazing deals to be had. I would expect once restrictions start to loosen… or even before that, people will rush to book holidays in the UK or abroad and we will inevitably see prices go up. The key factor for the consumer therefore, is one of risk. They could grab an amazing bargain now but on the flip side, not know whether that holiday they have booked might be cancelled. We have seen consumers try to mitigate that risk by booking travel dates far in advance and companies are trying to provide reassurance in the form of low deposit options and flexible cancellation policies.

Building trust is key

Building a sense of community has been at the heart of the HolidayPirates strategy during the pandemic. As well as providing inspiration for travellers, the travel editorial on the site has focussed on advice, covering everything from Government guidelines and the issue of vaccine passports to refunds. Cooper believes this is a fundamental aspect of building trust, in an informal way, within the community, giving people what they want to read and encouraging engagement. “Our engagement on social media is phenomenal – it means we are constantly listening to our users and giving them what they want at that point in time. Having real people, with an identity, editing the site and scrutinising the deals also helps build a personal relationship with our customers. Some destinations have run fantastic campaigns in the last year, keeping their visitors engaged with them on an emotional level. I think that’ll really count when it comes to people choosing their first overseas holiday after the pandemic.”