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Returning to travel — research from Audley Travel

Published: 09/03/2021   /   Updated: 09/03/2021

- peer to peer recommendations are now far less important for trip research

- booking by speaking to a person is key

- places not previously visited are top of the list for the majority for their return to travel

Tailor-made tour operator Audley Travel has conducted research into how people want to return to travel. Responses are from three points during 2020 (before the pandemic (February), July and December) to see how sentiment and future travel plans have moved on.

Booking travel

Audley’s research saw a shift in the way people intend to research, plan and book their trip, with an increase in people wanting to speak to an expert (this was important1 to 71 per cent in February and rose to 76 per cent in December). There was a significant drop in the proportion of people relying on ‘referral’ resources such as review websites (41 per cent down to 23 per cent), suggestions from friends (36 per cent to 18 per cent) and testimonials (21 per cent to 12 per cent) in the same period. The importance of guidebooks fell from 44 per cent to 38 per cent.

Audley also saw increasing emphasis on clients wanting to have flexible cancellation terms as the year progressed (70 per cent cited it as very important2 in December compared to 64 per cent in July). Financial security remains the key consideration for people wanting to book a trip, with 88 per cent citing it as very important in December (87 per cent in July).3

Where to travel

As the pandemic continued and increasing numbers of trips were unable to depart, Audley saw a shift in where clients plan to visit on their first trip once restrictions lift. In July, 57 per cent said they would travel to somewhere they had not been before, rising to 65 per cent by December. A wish to visit somewhere familiar remained constant at around a quarter of people (25 per cent in July and 26 per cent in December). Confidence in travel has increased with the proportion saying they aren’t planning to travel in the foreseeable future halving from 18 per cent in July to nine per cent in December.3

Motivations to travel

When asked about their motivations for their next trip, a third of people asked in December said it related to the lack of travel in 2020 (this is made up of 21 per cent of total respondents who said to enjoy being able to travel again and 13 per cent said to take a postponed trip (planned, not necessarily booked)). Both have risen slightly from July (19 per cent and 11 per cent respectively). Pre-pandemic the main reasons were to visit particular sites/places or experiences, cited by 27 per cent in February (this fell to 19 per cent in December) and to experience different cultures (18 per cent in February falling to 10 per cent in December).

How to travel

Modes of transport that allow clients to socially distance from others are understandably most popular with 84 per cent of respondents saying in December that they are very or somewhat likely4 to choose a trip with a private driver and guide. Similarly, 76 per cent said they are very or somewhat likely to consider a self-drive itinerary.

Notes to editors

Audley surveyed 4,128 people in February, 7,779 in July and 4,092 in December. The respondents included people who have travelled, booked or enquired about trips with Audley as well as those who had expressed an interest in information from Audley.

1 Respondents were asked if the options were important, useful or not important to them.

2 Respondents were asked if the options were very important, moderately important or not important to them.

3 This question was first asked in July, so figures for February are not available.

4 Respondents were asked if they were very likely, somewhat likely or not likely to choose the options suggested.