13 May 2021 Business Insights

How Can the Online Travel Industry Recover From Covid?

Online travel plays a key role in holidaymakers arranging and booking their vacations, but it suffered in 2020 as pandemic took over. Now, as we head out of this Covid nightmare, travel booking looks to be on the rise again. But will the online travel industry recover and begin to see its impressive post-pandemic numbers?

The online travel industry: the stats 🔢

No industry was hit quite as hard as the travel sector when the pandemic struck. The online component of the travel industry especially felt Covid’s raft. In 2019, online travel reached nearly £540bn at an annual growth rate of 7.9 per cent since 2015.

Around 82 per cent of travellers book online using a website or mobile app, and 0.27 per cent of the world’s online spending was on travel. Therefore, you can imagine the impact Covid had. In 2020, online travel spend was £425bn, down a whopping £115bn from the previous year.

That’s a 20 per cent contraction brought on by countries shutting their doors to international travel. As a result, airlines, hotels, hospitality and tourism all lost significant business. And yet, the market is still expected to grow and reach £645bn by 2023 – if the pandemic can be controlled and economies recover.

How can the online travel industry recover post-Covid, according to the experts? 👓

Travel can reach its 2019 heady heights and beyond, but it needs innovation in the space, with owners, entrepreneurs and CEOs having a robust strategy in place. There need to be technological advancements for travellers, making the digital holiday-booking process even more seamless.

A recent report from McKinsey & Company and Skift Research highlights the industry’s plight but suggests ways to respond to the pandemic. It states, “We see signs of latent demand for travel. Customers are interested in and willing to travel again when they are allowed to do so, even before a vaccine is available at scale”.

The report also cites the need to identify opportunities for a “complementary collaborative ecosystem that helps get the industry back on track”. This includes actions like making it easier to book rapid testing, providing heightened safety standards and creating a clear pathway for health passports.

What can online travel brands do? 💁

While health and safety is the key to unlocking pent-up demand for travel, there are other actions online travel brands can take. One of these involves streamlining the customer journey and providing a seamless way to book travel.

Pre and post-Covid, basket abandonment has been one of the largest barriers to entry for holidaymakers. And buy now, pay later options can help remove friction and give customers more flexibility when it comes to paying for their vacations.

Buy now, pay later has thrived in the Covid economy, and the travel industry, in particular, can benefit. People will be more inclined to spend booking travel if they know they can spread the costs and alleviate the financial burden often associated with travel. The result will be increased confidence in the sector and consumers feeling empowered to book their holidays.

Keeping up appearances 💬

Now more than ever is the time for online travel companies to increase their online presence. That means utilising social media to keep a consistent line of communication and boost the customer experience online.

Consumers want travel advice and to better understand the complex landscape post-Covid. That includes better understanding the countries added to travel lists, making sense of green and amber lists, and if there are still rules around quarantine.

They will look to professionals to provide this advice and make their travel experience a better one from the minute they decide to book a holiday. Communication was always an important factor for any brand, but it has increased in importance while the online travel industry tries to recover from Covid.

Understanding the need for a different type of holiday 🏖️

The initial boom post-Covid will see travellers resuming normal habits, booking their favourite all-inclusive holidays to Spain, Portugal and Greece. Over time, however, we could see other aspects of travel initially popular during Covid remain in a post-pandemic world.

Increased remote working will give people more flexibility with their time and where they spend it. That could very well see a greater number of vacationers booking longer getaways with the aim of working abroad for four to six months.

Domestic holidays will also continue to impress. Staycations have helped the travel industry during Covid, contributing to more than £7bn to the economy. While the hunger for all-inclusive trips to destinations like Spain, Greece and Portugal will remain, online travel brands will likely see more demand for longer trips and increased bookings for staycations.

A bright future for online travel

There is every sign that the travel industry – both online and offline – will recover over the next few years. As long as brands adapt and prepare themselves for a different post-Covid world, offering customers a fluid online experience in the process, there’s every reason to be confident in the sector’s ability to recover.