Comment: What travel brands can learn from the first lockdown

Maria Payne, chief client officer at Accord Marketing shares some learnings to help firms plan their strategy for lockdown 2.0

Yes, the highly anticipated second nationwide lockdown is here, back with an extra seasoning of Christmas spirit and winter weather.

Of course, we’ve done this before, and know the socially-distanced drill, but what does 2.0 mean for the traditional Q4 landscape?

Are consumers thinking ahead? And what should brands be doing when so many people are guaranteed to be inside this festive season?

We’ve taken a look back at the learnings from round one and applied our expertise to round two, as we consider whether opportunity might actually be knocking for travel brands during our most out-of-sync Christmas countdown to date.

Unsurprisingly, one of the most significant repercussions of a national lockdown is increased time online. According to Ofcom’s communication report this year, adults were spending a daily average of four hours online in April, a 37-minute increase since January (for the over 55s, this uplift increased to 42 minutes).

This means that those who used the first lockdown as a crash course in digital savviness are no longer such novices. With all age groups now more comfortable and available online, can your brand have a more dominating social presence?

Do your emailers take readers away to the places they have been dreaming about since spring? Do your blogs do the same? With more time alone and at home, people will be making a note of the brands that kept their spirits up and attention engaged, ready to connect when great escapes recommence.

And that’s the thing, with December on the horizon, people have had a long time to dream about travel. We can only assume that once the second lockdown eases and some green lights are given, they will accelerate their paths to purchase – arriving swiftly at the booking stage with a strong idea of where they want to go and how they want to feel. The question is, which names will be front of mind for your audience?

If we take a look back at recent months pre-lockdown 2.0, this growing sense of urgency is apparent. According to data released by travel comparison site Trivago, booking share for trips in ‘0-1 days’ in October rose to 36%, from around 30% in September. Then there’s the Canary Islands UK travel corridor announcement on October 22. According to, searches to Tenerife increased by 630% overnight, 535% for Gran Canaria.

Evidently, people are ready to activate their pent-up demand as soon as a new destination becomes accessible, with Jet2holidays reporting that they sold over 5,500 Canaries holidays “within hours” of the announcement. This second lockdown obviously puts a halt on those that booked for November, but the sentiment to escape wherever and whenever it is safe to do so will likely remain the same.

On the other side of the coin, many people found inspiration offline in lockdown, affording new-found opportunities to direct mail, door drops and brochure deliveries in 2.0. Given the homebound nature of lockdown, postal deliveries have become quite the mood-boosting novelty. According to research by Royal Mail, 53% of people agreed that receiving parcels had become more important to them within lockdown, a third saying it was “the highlight of their day”. Being a physical presence in people’s lockdown households will likely add emotional and positive weight to your brand name. Opening an envelope that has the idea of a holiday inside is escapism in tangible form – something we are all craving during this time of limitation and separation.

Talking of opportunity, with the void of retail in lockdown 2.0, it is likely that all forms of media will be offering deals that would otherwise be unattainable for this time of year. According to our friends over at Nielsen, retailers usually represent around 15% of the total ad market in November and December (around £360 million). With the high street temporarily closed, retailers cannot advertise in the same way anymore. Inevitably, with these businesses having to quickly adapt and shift sales online, there will be a big space (and savings) for those whose product is not physically constrained in the same way.

If we look at TV and video consumption in lockdown, Christmas came early. Research by IPSOS and IPA showed that 87% of people were consuming live TV daily. This is the same reach pre-lockdown, but daily time spent increased by on average 13% (an extra 20 minutes a day). Other video formats like YouTube saw an uplift across both reach and frequency, with 27% of people consuming online video in lockdown compared to 21% pre-lockdown, and a 27% increase in daily time spent there.

It is a similar story for radio listening too, with insights from Radio Experts showing that people were consuming 26 hours of radio a week during lockdown (compared to 14 hours pre-crisis). Clearly audio formats play a key role in keeping people comforted and distracted during a time when we wish we could silence the uncertain noise. And let’s not forget that TV, video and radio present huge opportunities for brand awareness and memorability. As shown in IPSOS and IPA’s research, people turned to television in lockdown to lift spirits and to feel part of a shared event (much like going on holiday with loved ones). With rates like never before, this might be a risk worth taking – especially if your competition is holding out for January and beyond.

Will we ever see a December like this again? The challenge that brands face right now is getting the right balance between empathy and inspiration, between realism and reassurance, between holding back and coming forward. How do people feel now and how are people going to feel when the switch flicks and the tunnels open again?

Whatever the weather, so many of us are simply longing for a new set of four walls. Being there, being seen, and dialling up your share-of-voice before the end of the year, might just open more windows than you think.

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