General observations from the industry in recent weeks have indicated that the first two quarters of 2008 have been surprisingly good, but the expectations for the latter half of 2008 and for 2009 are pessimistic to say the least.
My view is that the family overseas summer holiday, particularly given the weather in the UK these past few summers, remains sacrosanct as far as the UK consumer is concerned – an escape from the credit crunch.
However, I do expect to see a shift in booking patterns due to the current economic outlook, with the consumer looking to stabilise their holiday costs by adapting and
saving wherever they can.
I believe a lot of consumers will move to booking mid-haul destinations. Long-haul destinations are not attractive due to the increase in fuel prices and the eurozone less popular due to the exchange rate. This is highlighted by Egypt and Turkey being popular options this year.
I also predict families moving their holiday from a ‘normal’ 14-day duration to 10 or 11 days, perhaps departing mid-week; or seven-night stays running mid-week to mid-week as opposed to weekend to weekend to reduce cost.
I anticipate many families will trade down and perhaps look for the self-catering option or the cheaper end of the fully inclusive market (editor’s note: see our feature on new all-inclusive options for 2009).
Despite the tightening up of the law, some families will start taking holidays outside the school holiday periods or perhaps overlapping the school holiday periods, obviously driven by cost.
The travel industry is resilient and alert enough to discern the likely changes in booking trends and will review capacity, and adapt and cater accordingly.
In the last few months, many factors have turned against the industry, but one thing holding up well in its favour is the appalling weather that has engulfed the UK in recent weeks.
As I have indicated in my column before, I believe this to be the biggest single factor in boosting or reducing overseas holiday sales.
The message is clear to all travel businesses: carefully monitor consumer demand and adapt to the changing requirements of your customer.
They still want their holiday but will cut back on cost as best they can by fewer fringe extras, shorter durations, self-catering and eating out less and travelling at a time they perceive is cheaper.