'Catch-up consumers' will turn to agents in 2022, says ABTA

by Steve Hartridge

Next year will be the year of the 'catch-up consumer' with holidaymakers taking more extravagant trips and placing a higher premium on booking with a travel expert, ABTA's Travel in 2022 report suggests. 

Released this week during the organisation's Travel Trends Conference, the data reveals that 61% of people say they plan to go abroad within the next year, up 4% on 2020, and 49% say holidays will be more important than before the pandemic, specially for families with children over five. 

Winter sun and winter sports breaks are both selling well, and ABTA members report they are also taking bookings for 2022 and into 2023, as more stability and certainty surrounding overseas travel returns. 

ABTA’s data shows that from February 2020 to July 2021 only around 16% of people went on a foreign holiday, down from te 64% who travelled abroad in 2019. 

Booking trends from ABTA Members such as Jet2holidays, TUI, Travelbag and Barrhead Travel suggest clients are not just stating holidays are important but want to make sure their next holiday is really special by upgrading: 46% claim they will spend more on the holiday they plan to take over the next 12 months, up from 29% in 2020, with many extending the length of their trip, moving from three- to four-star hotels and looking at more expensive destinations.  

And wanderlust is returning too, with 37% saying they plan to visit a "bucket list" country they have not visited before, like Maldives or Caribbean, or take a "once in a lifetime trip" to the Arctic or Galapagos. 

All of which is good news for travel agents, with ABTA predicting the dawning of a new "Age of the Expert" that sees more consumers valuing the importance of travel experts during what will remain an uncertain time for travel. 

Thirty per cent of respondents said they are "more likely" to book with a travel agent than before the pandemic, up from 20% last year. 

Nearly half (47%) cite the guidance agents offer on Coronavirus travel requirements as the main reason. 

Hays Travel claim that since April 2021 more than half of its business has come from new customers, while more than 60% of Inghams’ customers are booking with the operator for the first time. 

Those in the age bracket 18-24 are increasingly turning towards travel agents, with two-thirds saying they are "more likely" to book with an expert than before pandemic and 34% of the view they will have a "better holiday" if they do. 

This is also the age of the package holiday, with 78% of people responding that knowing the holiday is a regulated package holiday was either "essential or important"with 27% "more likely" to book a package holiday now than before the pandemic. 

There is also a growing recognition that package holidays are more than inflexible off-the-shelf options but can instead be tailor-made, with 29% saying they have opted for a personalised package, up from 22% in 2020.  

The cruise sector benefitted from offering one of the only travel options available this year and by introducing many new-to-cruise clients through a series of UK 'seacation' sailings.  


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