Sight Lines

Reset, recover, rise

Plexus has produced a fascinating new report – ‘Reset, Recover, Rise, The Post-Pandemic Travel Transformation’ – on the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry. The international out-of-home advertising (OOH) specialist delves deep into data from various high level sources to provide a holistic view on global travel, the road to recovery and the shift in the traveller psyche. It also analyses how the changing nature of travel will affect advertisers and brands which traditionally aim to engage with the global traveller. Here, we set the scene for the wider report, which is linked below.

2021 is likely to be a significant reset point for airlines, airports and their passengers, with expectations changing both from a consumer experience and operational basis. That’s according to Plexus, a division of leading OOH company The Talon Group, which has produced a new report on the future of travel and advertising, titled ‘Reset, Recover, Rise, The Post-Pandemic Travel Transformation’.

Plexus Client Services Director Tom Perrett says there will be a fundamental change in the airport experience. He explains: “COVID procedures will lead to longer dwell times. Even pre-COVID, airports were moving towards a frictionless experience. Now that’s a touchless experience.

“Change represents opportunity; maximising use of increased dwell time, taking advantage of increased awareness, and offering tangible value to consumers.

“AI (artificial intelligence) will become more influential in delivering end-to-end travel solutions and adjusting them in real time to take changes into account. This generates huge opportunities for aligned, automated, intelligent use of data.

“We are already able to understand global passenger movements and behaviours in some detail. Across multiple markets, it’s now easier than ever to consistently deliver the right message at the right time, to the right audience.”

Global travel trends – the impact of COVID-19

Trying to comprehend the full impact of the pandemic and the extent to which it has affected people globally, is no easy task, Plexus notes in its assessment of global travel trends. Industries from all around the world have attempted to analyse and interpret an evolving situation.

The difficulty is that insight and data tends to be obsolete within weeks, if not days, as the impact of COVID-19 continues to unfold across the globe. Throughout all this change though, Plexus observes, there have been fundamental trends that have emerged in the way that people behave.

The travel, tourism and aviation industries are among the most negatively impacted sectors as a result of the outbreak. Nevertheless, the travel industry is hugely important in terms of the global economy and humans have an inherent desire to travel and explore. Therefore, there is hope that the industry will make a full recovery in the near future, Plexus says. As part of the behavioural trends that have developed over the last few months, the company has seen adjustments in how people plan, book and perceive travel.

Its report illustrates people’s attitudes to travel during and after the pandemic across 12 countries, using a survey conducted by Inmarsat.

Key findings include:

  • Travellers in the UK and Hungary are the most confident and would be comfortable to ‘travel today’ with scores of 16% and 26% respectively.
  • The majority of respondents in the UAE and India stated that they will travel within the next six months.
  • South Korean travellers appear to be the most cautious, with 35% stating that they will not travel until COVID-19 disappears.

Plexus concludes from this research that we must recognise that travel confidence can vary drastically across markets and, as a result, recovery will be staggered.

The Plexus report says that, as expected in a global pandemic, international travel will have a slower recovery than domestic travel. This, it points out, is already apparent in China, where domestic capacity has actually surpassed that of 2019. The latest data from OAG shows that China has a domestic capacity of +13% versus 2019 figures, demonstrating a huge appetite for travel.

The trend of favouring domestic travel has been echoed on a global level. Plexus notes that from June there has been a dramatic dip in the number of international searches and a practically mirrored trajectory for domestic searches. This was at a time when air travel and international borders were about to reopen.

Another trend is a rise in last-minute holiday searches. Plexus cites Skyscanner Travel Insight, which enables the tracking of the increase in searches for holidays within a 7-30 day period from the date of search. There has been a global increase in short term searches since Q1 and this trend has continued over the course of the pandemic (see charts).

This pattern reflects the global response to COVID-19 as a whole, as protocols and procedures change regularly. Safety regulations for travel were (and still are) repeatedly updated which, consequently, means that passengers only have a short window of time to plan and book their holidays, or the opportunity might be missed.

Plexus suggests that brands need to keep this front of mind when advertising as there is a clear appetite for travel in the short term. Unlike previous years, passengers do not necessarily have the confidence to book trips that are far into the future, so considering the timing of campaigns is vital.

The second graph above separates the global trend so that we can see how this has changed over time. So far, the Summer months saw the biggest uplift when non-essential travel first began to reopen. Plexus says it will be interesting to see if this trend is a temporary response to COVID-19, or one that will continue into the future.

Plexus notes a greater consumer attention on sustainability, and believes that brands, individuals and industries are undergoing increased public scrutiny and pressure to reduce their negative environmental impact.

Research on sustainability shows that:

  • 58% of consumers say they are thinking more about the environment since COVID-19.
  • 42% agree that sustainability has become a more important factor when choosing which airline to fly with.
  • 39% of respondents agree that companies behaving in more sustainable/eco-friendly ways has become a lot more important because of coronavirus.
  • 56% of all travellers would consider switching their preferred airline if there was a more environmentally-friendly option available.
  • 60% of Millennials said they would be willing to pay more for a flight that had lower environmental impact compared to similar flight options.

Summarising global trends, Plexus highlights the following:

  • The desire and willingness to travel varies across markets, therefore brands need to be mindful about who they are speaking to and how they are speaking to them.
  • Unsurprisingly, domestic travel has been the preferred type of travel during the pandemic and is likely to continue to be in the immediate wake of COVID-19. However, international travel still has its place and will see a recovery in the future.
  • The impending lockdowns and uncertainty around travel restrictions resulted in a spike in one way searches. With the flexibility of working virtually, people are able to work from anywhere.
  • With no clear view on travel restrictions in the future, consumers have favoured last-minute holidays and searches for holidays within 7-30 days have risen. Passengers want to take advantage of being able to travel before the opportunity passes.
  • As travel, businesses and people were forced into a global standstill, the impact we have on the environment was brought further to light. As a theme, sustainability has increased in importance for consumers, as noted above.
  • Offering the opportunity to socially distance while travelling, private aviation has become among the preferred methods of travel for businesses and HNWIs. Brands which appeal to an affluent audience should consider this environment as a key touchpoint.

To receive a copy of the full version of the report please send your request to the Plexus at The extended version of the report includes detailed data and insights on topics including how the traveller mindset has changed, perspectives on the new consumer journey and a look at the future of travel in the post-COVID world.

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 289 | 21 December 2020

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd).

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