By: Ann Ruppenstein
After surveying close to 6,000 of its past customers to better understand the relationship between vaccination levels and future demand to book travel, Hamilton, Ontario-based tripcentral.ca found that more than 60% of respondents will book vacations after being vaccinated.
“We are looking to understand how business may return in light of the vaccine rollout. We wanted to see if by perhaps late May or June when the vulnerable population was vaccinated, if people would start advance booking more,” Richard Vanderlubbe, president of tripcentral.ca tells Travel Courier. “There seems to be a large contingent that says today at least, that they would wait until they were vaccinated or at least confident they would be vaccinated… So, it could mean a small amount of rising advance activity in the spring and summer, and a larger surge in the fall.”
Of those who think they will travel in the fall and winter, when asked what type of trip they intend to book first all inclusive sun vacations topped the list at 60%, beating out visits to see family and friends. Meanwhile, cruising was the first choice of 12% of respondents, with city stays in Canada or USA and trips to Europe rounding out the top of the list.
“In November and December we saw very last minute bookings for sun destinations. It slowed to almost nothing right after the 72 hour PCR test [requirement] was announced. It stopped after the hotel quarantines were announced,” Vanderlubbe says. “Now, we’re seeing a trickle of activity in fall and early winter, but we are also limited by the lack of product in sun packages beyond one year.”
A rising concern among respondents was also not just being vaccinated themselves, but also about people in the destinations they intend to visit not being vaccinated yet.
“Concern about vaccination at destinations would indicate that even if Canada is mostly vaccinated by fall, demand for travel will still not fully recover,” he says.
For this reason Vanderlubbe believes the Canadian government should consider donating vaccines to countries where Canadians travel such as Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.
“I think we should consider asking our Government to donate vaccines to countries within our own hemisphere once our supply is sufficient,” he says. “We bought much more than we need, and it makes a ton of sense to donate this to places Canadians visit – not only as a way to give back to those destinations, but to also stimulate our travel industry and reduce the amount off potential virus/variants coming from Canadians returning home. We need to think ahead and not always looking back or forward with the two-week window that has been the way so far. Giving back to countries that Canadians visit most and reducing the risk of Canadians returning home carrying variants from unvaccinated destinations is a win-win all around.”
Interestingly, a significant portion of respondents (17.42%) said they were not interested in getting vaccinated at all, citing restrictions and quarantine measures as their reasons for not travelling.
“I was happy to see the strength of the desire to book, and I’m more reflective of the just under 20% that is not interested in being vaccinated and would book now if it weren’t for restrictions, polar opposite to the 20% that wants to see destinations vaccinated,” he says. “They are the most vocal groups in social media, and marketing efforts have to consider both ends of the spectrum. We’ve seen a lot of resistance to marketing.”
Over the past year, Vanderlubbe says selling travel has become even more demanding.
“Making a booking now takes three times as long with all the disclosures and considerations. People used to not even want to listen about cancellation penalties and terms and conditions. They are all into it now. The restrictions change and change again. Offering more than the lowest price is critical, including all waiver and insurance offers including gaps in coverage. It’s so complicated. And beyond this, you need to be prepared to identify change and follow them all the way to travel and returning to Canada. No longer just country entry requirements. State and provincial restrictions, entry requirements for cruises and tours, and re-entry to Canada… Those that provide all this will flourish. Those that don’t will find it tough.”
More survey results can be found at https://www.tripcentral.ca/blog/survey-leisure-travel-bookings-vaccine/.