Destinations and products which offer a perception of isolation and minimal interaction are trending for both long-haul and short-haul specialists.
Kuoni said the Indian Ocean was performing well for forward bookings alongside villa holidays and safaris, while easyJet Holidays said Croatia, the Algarve and self-catering properties were strong sellers.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Derek Jones, chief executive of Kuoni parent Der Touristik UK, said there was “definitely a pattern coming through”
“The three areas that we are seeing most sales from are all sort of tied back into that need for isolation and remoteness, and that ability to not interact so much,” he said.
“First, the Indian Ocean, particularly the Maldives, where the islands are secluded with lots of water around them and space, so people see that as a double degree of separation from any potential risk. That’s making up about 70% of our new bookings currently, and it would normally be just short of 50%.
“Second, CV Villas, which are part of our portfolio, have sold really well. And particularly the isolated villas, the ones that are off the beaten track. It is perfect – the idea that you can just go away and drive straight to your villa.
“Finally, and interestingly, safaris are selling really well for us. I guess there is an element of tented camps, so you’re out to savannah and you’re going off and doing small private touring, so again, there’s an element of social isolation about that.”
In the short-haul market, easyJet Holidays commercial director Alex Loftus said established favourites such as mainland Spain, Majorca and Turkey remained popular.
But he said: “I think we see a similar theme – people are very much wanting to escape and see something different.
“Croatia is very popular. There’s lots of little islands to visit. You can take boats out to different places. There’s lots of secluded beaches, and you know, some great, great view sunsets. So that’s the destination that’s actually taking us by surprise for summer 21.
“The other area we’re seeing is beachfront hotels, so for example in the Algarve, we’ve got a hotel that is literally a kilometre of sands and a big family hotel, with lots of space, and people are very much wanting that kind of thing.”
Loftus said all-inclusive was still popular but added that easyJet Holidays was seeing more people booking apartments and with slightly larger party size.
“People haven’t seen their family for seven, eight weeks and are thinking ‘let’s go on holiday in a larger group’,” he said.
“I think apartments and self-catering, and areas that are more undiscovered, will definitely be coming more into our portfolio as a result of all this. We will absolutely be adapting [our portfolio] to the trends we see.”
Loftus said easyJet’s new bookings were largely from families looking at securing peak season times, including May half term, Easter and July and August 2021.
“We’re seeing families booking for next summer for the holidays they may not have gone on this summer. And I think that is off the back of some incredible deals. People are thinking I’ll book that school holiday time at a price which is extremely competitive,” he said.
“But interestingly enough, cities are still doing well. We’re seeing a return to demand for city breaks in the winter and we’re seeing a slightly younger, more flexible customer book. Destinations such as Amsterdam and Krakow are still doing well, and we are also seeing that Iceland and the Northern Lights are more popular.”
Jones said multi-generational group bookings were an emerging trend.
“It’s not huge numbers, but of the new bookings that we’re taking, more than what you would expect are three generation bookings,” he said.
“That is people who have been isolated from grandchildren who are who are the more adventurous and they’re saying ‘sod it, when this is all done, we’re having the big family holiday, we’re going away with the grandkids; we want to rebond; we want to reconnect and spend some quality time together’.”
Jones added: “That’s not just a long-haul opportunity. I’m very confident that at the earliest point that people feel they can be confident about international travel, they will come back into the market in healthy numbers. There will be pent up demand and people are becoming more desperate to get away.
“And if they can combine that with a reconnection and with fixing some of the other challenges that they’ve had during knocked down, then it’s a perfect way of ticking two boxes at the same time.”
Podcast: Summer dreams ripped at the seams?