UK booking times for tourism companies to be further impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

In 2020, booking lead times for tourism companies for both domestic and international travel were dramatically reduced due to mass uncertainty caused by COVID-19. As the impact of the pandemic continues into 2021, last-minute bookings could become the temporary norm, creating a headache for many companies involved in UK tourism, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

According to GlobalData’s most recent COVID-19 Recovery Survey*, 46% of UK respondents are ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ concerned regarding international travel restrictions and this figure climbs to 54% for restrictions on domestic or local travel. This concern has led to a surge in last-minute bookings, where the chances of cancellation or a change in restrictions is decreased as a result. This change in booking behavior has been experienced by IHG. In October 2020, IHG revealed that 69% of bookings were happening within seven days of the stay, compared to 46% during the same period in 2019.

Ralph Hollister, Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “This trend of booking last minute creates notable ramifications for tourism companies involved in UK travel flows. Companies now have a much smaller window of opportunity to market, engage with the customer and inspire a booking. This could result in companies tearing down traditional marketing strategies and forecasting methods to become more proactive, which will cost time and money – two commodities which are now of paramount importance for travel companies.

“The tourism sector is set to be continually challenged with the ever-changing restrictions on travel, causing booking lead times to remain significantly shorter than before the pandemic hit. In result, flexibility becomes of increased importance and so does cloud computing. Cloud’s scalability allows companies to quickly decrease or increase IT resources to meet quick changes in demand, while saving costs in the process. When dealing with sudden increases in demand for last-minute bookings, caused by external factors such as the opening of a travel corridor, it is vital that travel companies have the ability to increase IT capabilities quickly in order to take full advantage.”

*Fieldwork undertaken 2-6 December 2020

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