Comment: We need to talk more positively about how simple it is to travel

Signs of unparalleled demand when green light given, says If Only general manager Gordon McCreadie

In 2019, here in the United Kingdom, we had the best travel industry in the world. Sadly, we have now been brought to our knees.

For so long, the whole industry has been consumed with thinking about how we get through the next few days, never mind the next month, with a constant feeling of no end in sight.

But with some stability beginning to show in the market, it’s now time to look forward. We need to showcase to customers the benefits of travelling, rather than the negatives constantly being portrayed by the media and government.

It has been proven that overseas travel is safer than a holiday in the UK, but yet we are still being held back by the government. It’s time to put behind us the failing traffic light system, travel restrictions and expensive testing, and restore some normality.

People are desperate to get away for a well‑earned break after a challenging 18 months. We can see consumer confidence beginning to grow with the rise in calls we’re receiving.

There are now signs that, when we are eventually given the green light, we are going to see an unprecedented level of demand.

At If Only, we are putting the work in now to ensure we are ready to fulfil all our agent partners’ needs.

We expect a change in what travellers will look for and a whole host of new accommodations and experiences at the forefront of the customers’ minds.

Overseas ease

Like many, at the beginning of the year I wasn’t sure if my family and I would be able to travel or if it was going to be another year of ‘staycations’.

The cost and complexity of testing, fear of quarantine and ever-changing restrictions of the traffic light system made even me have doubts. However, I booked to go abroad and it couldn’t have been easier. It was that straightforward that I’ve booked to go away again in October!

As an industry, we need to encourage and talk more positively to customers about the simplicity of travelling. They listen and trust us as travel specialists. There are many benefits to travelling, including to our mental health. Taking time away from work to see new places or relax by the pool with a beer in hand releases the tension and stress of day-to-day life and lets your mind relax and heal. It’s key that we communicate this effectively.

Testing and restrictions are going to be with us for a while, so we need to work together to encourage customers to travel safely. We must be hopeful that, as an industry, the only way is up.

Luxury restart

At If Only, we are here to help you get those much‑needed bookings confirmed.

Research is telling us the luxury market will be the first to return, with customers looking to experience once-in-a-lifetime trips. In the cruise sector it seems luxury ships and itineraries are fuelling demand. Average booking values on 2022 departures are up by 40% and in the luxury long‑haul market this can be lucrative. We’ve also seen the average length of stay for luxury travellers increase by 25%.

Given so many weddings have been cancelled in the last 18 months, we are seeing a huge demand for wedding packages for 2022 and 2023. This is a great way to attract larger group bookings and push added value. Providing a high standard of service for wedding parties also helps secure the customer to come back for holidays every year.

It has been shown that customers will start to look for different experiences so, if your customer is still apprehensive about travelling to a busy destination or crowded hotel, smaller Caribbean islands like Anguilla and Barbuda are ideal. Private villas, boutique hotels and off-the-beaten-track holidays are ideal to provide privacy and personal space.

We all need to be ready to offer customers these new unique experiences. Like everyone in travel, we hope the road to recovery has finally begun and that customers can once again travel safely.

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