As UK consumers eagerly await the latest updates from the government on travel restrictions, Comscore has analysed how consumers have been interacting with travel sites. Having been heavily impacted by restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it is positive to see that the audience of the travel category is making a comeback in terms of its absolute size. Although the category is yet to reach its pre-pandemic levels of traffic, with 37 million unique visitors in March 2021, 10% less than March 2020, these levels are much higher than those of the peak of the pandemic.
A key date for the recovery of the travel category was 22 February 2021, when PM Boris Johnson announced plans to end all restrictions in England by 21 June 2021. On the day of the announcement, booking.com one of the biggest players in the industry had a peak in activity, with a 177% increase on the number of visits on desktop, shown below and compared to other popular travel sites Expedia Group sites and Airbnb.co.uk:
Next, Comscore analysed how the increase in visits to travel sites translated into conversions and how this compared to the end of 2020 when the outlook for the ending of restrictions wasn’t as positive. Comscore found that the optimism of UK consumers visiting travel sites on desktop had a direct effect on hotel bookings. From December 2020 to March 2021 there was an average increase of 21% across travel sites on hotel bookings on desktop, a significant and much needed boost for the travel category.
What about destinations? Although the easing of restrictions in on the horizon for the UK, there remains certain levels of uncertainty around where consumers will be able to travel to. Comscore looked at Expedia.co.uk to understand the most popular destinations people were looking at on desktop in March 2021, and whether staycations are viewed as the safer option. The analysis found that UK consumers are remaining cautious in their travel plans with a large amount of them planning to stay local, as hotels in England represent 44% of pages viewed on desktop and a massive 70% on mobile:
This research has found that the outlook is positive for the travel category. UK consumers appear to be optimistic for the future as restrictions continue to ease. After three lockdowns and many cancelled travel plans there is hope on the horizon for UK consumers, even if this means staying local for the time being until the rest of the world opens up.
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