We Brits love our holidays. According to ABTA, a whopping 86% of us took some sort of holiday in the 12 months to August 2018, with 60% of us enjoying some time abroad. But how we holiday, and how we plan and book our holidays, has changed immeasurably in the last 20 years.

ONS data shows that 20 years ago we took 29.1 million holiday visits abroad, generally for two weeks and probably booked at the local travel agent after poring over a stack of holiday brochures.  In 2017 this had risen to 46.6 million holidays abroad, favouring more one-week breaks than two-week ones.

Online research dominates

How we plan our holidays has also changed massively, with everything from planning to booking to sharing your holiday snaps and videos being carried out online, all from the comfort of our own homes.

Comscore reports that 94% of the UK’s digital population visited travel websites last year, with an average of 13 visits per person per month. But even online, the way we search for and consume travel-related content is evolving.

Google Trends data shows that the number of web searches for ‘travel’ has decreased significantly in the last decade. This demonstrates a change in media consumption rather than a loss of interest in the subject: researchers tend now to favour visual content, with YouTube searches for ‘travel’ on the increase. In fact, research by Google found that three in five travellers who watch online videos use it to narrow down their brand, destination or activity choices.

An opportunity to disrupt the consideration phase

Factor into this the fact that only 14% of travel vlogs on YouTube are created by brands and there’s an incredible opportunity for advertisers to reach travel planners before they’ve even picked where they’re going or how they’re getting there. Google’s research suggests that when first thinking of a trip, 78% of leisure travellers haven’t decided what airline they’re travelling with and 82% haven’t chosen the accommodation provider they’ll ultimately book with.

The influence of user-generated content in the travel sector cannot be underestimated. Research by Parsons into the impact of social media on travel inspiration found that 52% of Facebook users dream about going on vacation, even when they aren’t planning a specific trip. According to Google 84% of Millennials and Gen Z say their friends’ posts on Facebook influenced them to change their travel plans. Between travel brands and our friends’ holiday posts, we are almost constantly exposed to a deluge of travel-related content on social media.

Social plays an instrumental role in travel research

Just in case you’re still in any doubt, ‘travel’ gets 1.7 times more mentions on social media than Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift combined (according to Adobe Digital Insight). Of all the social media platforms, Instagram’s intrinsically visual nature has turned it into the new holiday postcard, with Khlat reporting 47% of Instagram users have been to a place based on a photo published by one of their friends. We’ve discussed previously how Instagram is the hub for influencers and how brands can benefit from using them in their marketing.

Will Brexit influence how we holiday?

ONS data shows that the number of holiday visits abroad has finally recovered to almost pre-recession levels, but how much of a spanner in our holiday plans will Brexit be? If the 2008 credit crunch taught us one thing about travel, it’s that we Brits won’t sacrifice our holidays and would rather downsize our plans than cut them out altogether. Following the recession, we took fewer long trips abroad and supplemented them with holidays at home, creating a staycation boom.

Will we see something similar once we finally leave the EU, or will we go back to taking fewer short breaks to invest instead in longer holidays, especially if we will have to go beyond the EU to get the most for our money?

Whichever way the Brexit wind blows, the importance of getting your travel brand noticed and included on the consideration list will be more important than ever. Speak to our specialist teams to help plan your next campaign.

Fiona Booth, Research Director