Article | by Matt Hemmings
Spontaneous escapes: lessons from the last minute travel trend
This article is part of The Great British Staycation
Remember how good it felt to book a holiday 8-12 months in advance, fully confident that nothing’s going to stop you from rooting yourself to a sunbed for 7-14 days? After all, your preparedness would surely save you worry, stress and, a lot of the time, probably money too. Pop that bad boy on a credit card and count down the money and the months left until you’re on the beach, piña colada, no pouring rain.
The reality is that this just hasn’t been happening as much recently. Confidence has been shaken over the last 2 years with countless changes to travel restrictions, vaccine passports and more traffic light systems than the entire UK road network. With that in mind, it’s not that surprising that we’ve seen a shift in how & when people are booking their holidays, especially when it’s powered by Brits taking a no-risk approach in feeding their insatiable need to get some (at least moderate) sunshine.
Data from the likes of Kayak, Booking.com & Expedia show us that spontaneously booking holidays was sharply on the rise during the last 2 years. The booking window for searches & bookings became smaller and there was a trend in travellers looking for last-minute deals. Look even further past 2020 and you’ll find Google data showing travel related searches including ‘tonight’ and ‘today’ increasing by 519% over a 5 year period.
Being a travel business you can’t can’t hide from trends shifting into 2022 and beyond. As confidence grows so will a lot of people’s willingness to book further in advance to get their holiday fix. But that doesn’t mean we should stop improving your last minute offering. According to Bookster, there is a lower percentage of bookings made between January and April 2022 so far, that are for the following year when compared to previous years, whereas 53% of bookings are for the first 4 months of the year.
There are lessons to be learned (and yes, money to be made) from offering last-minute bookers the same flexibility & security as people booking in advance, and vice versa too. Making these experiences both easy and helpful will inevitably result in more bookings.
So we have to ask ourselves: What are the blockers customers face when trying to be spontaneous? And how might we aim to remove these blockers and as a result provide a stress-free experience?
It’s safe to say that we all know at least one person who has taken a stay-at-home and work-from-home couple of years as an opportunity to own a furry friend. Actually, 44% of Brits did. That’s almost half. Half!
Until it comes to booking a last-minute pet-friendly break that is. We sit shouting at our mobile phones frantically trying to find somewhere that will accommodate our new “doggo”. (Don’t even get me started on trying to book a holiday with your cat). Hello stress, my old friend.
So businesses should then ask themselves…
By the way, we’ve taken an in-depth look at how the pet-friendly travel trend is changing the way we do holidays too. Check out our other article here.
“Want to go away this weekend? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are 1000 destinations for your 3-day break in Devon. All you’ve got to do is pick your preference and book.” Easy, right?
Whether it’s the deal or the destination, there always seems to be a never-ending stream of choice. Your spontaneity diminishes as you endlessly scroll through option after option, very reminiscent of your latest attempt to find a binge-worthy Netflix show.
Apps like Lucky Trip try to combat this paralysing amount of choice by giving users an entirely different experience when searching for a break. You can either select from a series of holiday suggestions based on location & budget, or opt for a completely ‘lucky dip’ (ah, now I get it).
Shots from LuckyTrip.co.uk
Anyone who has lived in the UK for a prolonged period of time knows that these aren’t just words. It’s a prefix to the inevitable question “...shall we go somewhere?!” A rallying cry, if you will.
Well, that’s just great for your last-minute escapes. They practically sell themselves. Meaning you can sit back with your feet in the paddling pool. But what about your ‘book-in-advance’ cohort? How do they book a “Staycation” which depends on something so unpredictable?
As time moves on it’s becoming more apparent that there is no one-size-fits-all for how and when people book their travel. For most, holiday booking has been on a 2-year hiatus to Thailand, grown its hair, partied hard & found itself. When it’s finally returned in 2022 it’s facing an evolved and changed landscape. A new world to navigate.
A critical step for travel businesses to capitalise on this difference is that they must consider last minute bookings just as much as those who book further in advance and learn from each trend that comes our way. Answering these questions can be a great starting point to overcoming the barriers faced when booking: