Coronavirus: Tracking search behaviour in the travel market

We are monitoring how UK search users’ behaviour is changing in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak. We have used Google Trends to investigate search behaviour across various sectors.

Travel Summary w/e 17th May 2020:

Key things that happened this week in travel:

  • Beaches have started to open in Greece, France and Italy as european countries start to relax their lockdown rules. Despite the relaxing of rules, social distancing rules were still in place. Possilbly a sign for the future.
  • Tourist Corridors have been suggested as a possible solution to opening up summer 2020 tourism for some EU countries. Those countries least affected by Covid 19, such as Croatia, Slovakia and Czech Republic are considering implementing safe corridors between different countries. However, countries with wider outbreaks, such as the UK, Italy and Spain are unlikely to be included in these plans.
  • Air fares between the EU and Asia this is a potential further sign of things to come as airlines need to pass on increased costs to customers despite increasing demand.

Three stories in the last few days that show some confidence that the demand is increasing and offer some hope that some summer holidays will be possible in 2020 but as expected any return will be selective and slow as restrictions on who is able to go on holiday will be in place as well as the financial restrictions of increased costs.

Key search demand trends in the last week:

General travel demand has remained flat for the last few weeks. Demand for ‘holidays’ is on a slow upward trend but shifts up and down each week but the constant flatline from Tripadvisor continues to suggest very little change in behaviour beyond early research.

Destination Demand:

With France, Greece and Italy opening up their beaches and some countries opening borders. Demand is starting to move for some destinations.

Suggestions that the UK’s quarantine restrictions would not apply to visitors from France appear to have driven an increase in demand for France Holidays as the potential that UK residents may be able to holiday in France this year.

More travel destination charts are available on the live dashboards:

Domestic Travel:

Demand for UK holiday destinations is recovering rapidly as consumers start to look towards alternatives for their summer holidays. Popular destinations such as Cornwall, The Lake District and brands such as Center Parcs are seeing rapid increases in demand in the last week.

Travel Summary w/e 10th May 2020:

Key things that happened this week in travel:

  • The Prime Minister has announced that some of the UK lockdown restrictions will be eased from Wednesday 13th May. This will allow people in England to travel by car to exercise. This is likely to result in a high amount of weekend traffic to parks, beauty spots and beaches.
  • The UK has mirrored many other countries by announcing plans to quarantine anyone arriving in the UK from foreign countries for 14 days after their arrival. However, France is reported to be exempt from this policy.
  • Royal Caribbean has revealed that just under half of its customers have requested refunds as they’ve suspended all operations until at least June 11th.
  • In a sign of things to come, Turkey has outlined a ‘healthy tourism certification’ which will outline precautions to be taken by travellers and employees in the travel industry. This includes compulsory face masks and thermal scanning at airports as well as social distancing measures and hygiene training for employees. It is an attempt to start receiving passengers as early as late summer 2020.

These stories show some steps forwards in terms of easing of restrictions in the UK and some clues as to how popular tourist destinations might be moving towards being able to reopen this summer. However, the scale of cancellation and refund requests seen from Royal Caribbean and the move to quarantine taken in the UK show that there’s still considerable economic and practical difficulties to overcome.

Key search demand trends in the last week:

With no new news in terms of easing of travel restrictions, and immediate travel becoming more difficult in the short term many of the main travel trends have remained flat in the last week.

Demand for ‘holidays’ queries is showing some signs of growth, possibly suggesting some early research activity is going ahead. However, the flattening nature of ‘Tripadvisor’ searches suggests that serious booking demand is still very low.

Additional Resources:

We have just launched our Industry Trends dashboard. That uses Google Trends data to show how each industry has been impacted by the Covid19 crisis.

We have also launched our first sector report. A deep dive into the first 6 weeks of lockdown and it’s impact on the travel industry

Destination Demand:

Search demand for some destinations is showing growth after bottoming out in March. European destinations dropped by the largest amount versus last year. Asian and American destinations have started to return to similar levels compared to 2019 volumes.

More travel destination charts are available on the live dashboards:

Additional Resources:

We have just launched our Industry Trends dashboard. That uses Google Trends data to show how each industry has been impacted by the Covid19 crisis.

Travel Summary w/e 3rd May 2020:

Key things that happened this week in Travel:

Tourism ministers from some of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations put out warnings about how things may change once the pandemic is over. The Italian Tourism Secretary said “This might be the time to move away from mass tourism, towards one more respectful of the environment” and declared that “2020 might as well be written off”

– UK Transport minister Grant Shapps has said that the UK needs to be realistic about the shape of the tourism industry after the Covid 19 crisis. He was interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday 3rd May.

– TUI Group boss Fritz Joussen has stated that “we must make 2020 holidays possible” and has called for EU member states to develop a roadmap for travel within Europe to facilitate the opening up of air travel and tourism to appropriate countries.

These three stories all suggest that there is a clear desire from the travel industry to get people moving again. However, the industry will meet stiff challenges from governments looking to balance the economic and health impacts of the pandemic.

Key Search Demand Trends in the last week:

Consumer demand continues to flatten in the last week with demand for holidays, hotels and flights remaining consistent after bottoming out around the 22nd March.

The following charts are static – automatically updating dashboards are available here:

Data displayed below is for 2020 YTD (blue) versus 2019 (red) between January to December:

Searches for 2021 holidays are still tracking slightly below normal expectations based on 2020 holidays searches in 2019. TUI Have suggested that 2021 is at a favourable level. Adding further weight to suggestions that demand is being deferred to next year.

“Should I Pay Holiday Balance” worked its way into the top 10 Google Suggestions for Should I queries this week as customers with previously booked trips for later in the year demonstrate uncertainty around their trips moving forward.

Demand for holiday queries with a specified month continue to track well below previous years as customers continue to have low confidence that we’ll see a return to normal holiday patterns in 2020.

All the charts above are static – automatically updating dashboards for general trends are available here:

Destination Specific Charts are here: