A glimpse into how the UK Adventure Travel community is preparing for its 2022 comeback!
by Pru Goudie
Last week Chris Haslam, Chief writer at the The Times & Sunday Times, shared an article he’d published which outlined Government’s brutal and catastrophic mishandling of Britain’s brilliant travel industry. Despite being possibly the best and most accurate summary highlighting the dismal plight of travel, ever written to date, it made for hard reading and more resembled a heartfelt obituary to our beloved travel industry.
You can read the full article below ⬇️
Anyone reading this blog will be well aware that the last 18 months has been one of the most challenging times the travel industry has ever known, as it endeavours to navigate its way through seemingly impossible barriers. Whilst much of Europe and other countries appear to be starting their recovery process already the UK continues to lag behind with many mid/long haul destinations still not accessible to the UK travel market.
The only paragraph in the whole article that was bearable to read was the final one;
“But the British travel industry is driven as much by passion as by expertise, and such passion is difficult to crush. So while there may be tough times and less choice for a short while, you can rest assured that whether you want to ride horses over the Himalayas; bicycles through the Basque country or an inflatable banana off Punta Cana, there’ll always be a British specialist who can not only plan your trip, but provide too the protection and the peace of mind you’ll never get when trying to book it by yourself.”
I wholeheartedly agree with these closing remarks and knowing that the pent up travel demand from Brits shows no signs of abating anytime soon I contacted some of the Adventure Travel Networking community to gain further insight as to how this was transferring into enquiry/bookings.
Speaking with PR & Partnerships Manager, James Mundy from Inside Travel Group I learned that there are still some reasons to be cheerful. Inside Travel Group has two recognised brands; InsideJapan specialists in travel to Japan and InsideAsia travel specialists to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Borneo and South Korea.
"June was a bumper month for Inside Travel Group, people seem to want to make the next long-haul trip a big one, and they are not afraid to pay for it" says Mundy.
"Japan is very much the strongest destination with solo travel and repeat customers keen to book InsideJapan’s Self-Guided Adventures and tailor their travel to suit".
"Although clients have had to reschedule their travel dates they seem intent on keeping that trip in the diary whatever it takes! With some people having booked way back in 2018/19 for trips in 2020, 70% of those people rebooked their trip for 2021 and around 70% again have re-rebooked for 2022. This is positive as it shows confidence not only in us as a travel company, but confidence in those destinations and travel in general."
"Whilst the spring cherry blossom tour dates are as popular as ever, the demand to get off the beaten track is notably high with clients opting to head north from Tokyo to the relatively untouched Tohoku region in search of traditional ryokan stays, temples, hot spring towns and more" Mundy adds.
Established in 1981, adventure travel experts Explore offer a range of small group tours to over 120 destinations worldwide and I caught up with Deputy Managing Director, John Telfer to hear what insights he could share.
"Europe and UK are showing the most interest with a gradual increase in demand for mid and long haul" confirmed Telfer.
"The overall mix is not significantly different compared with pre-Covid, although there has been an increase in demand for walking trips"
"I predict that winter and spring 2021/22 will largely, but not exclusively, be driven by Europe and UK trips, with gradually increasing confidence in mid/long haul destinations from April 2022 onwards" concludes Telfer.
B Corp certified Intrepid Travel, with over 30 years of offering adventures to seven continents confirmed walking and trekking to be a real growth area for them.
"Iceland has been incredibly popular thanks to its consistent green list status" said Managing Director EMEA, Zina Bencheikh. "Likewise, Greece, Croatia and Italy are also booking well for the autumn".
"For those booking further ahead, our Antarctica expeditions on board the Ocean Endeavor have attracted a lot of bookings. Antarctica is the ultimate bucket list destination; people have had time to save up and are deciding now is the time to go for it"
I spoke with Jim Eite, Commercial Director of Travelopia Adventures (Exodus Travels & Headwater) who reported that whilst most of the summer has been skewered towards selling Europe they will now look to increase capacity for winter sun destinations such as Malta, Croatia, Southern Italy, Spain and Portugal including Madeira. Outdoor activities have proved the order of the day with an uplift in walking and cycling tours being the most popular.
With 45 years experience of taking people on extraordinary adventures Exodus & Headwater are committed to supporting their valued ground suppliers and are bringing their team back in October when furlough ends to concentrate on mid/long haul travel for winter 2021/22 onwards.
"Group touring is back in demand" Eite confirms "with passengers seeking comfort that they are travelling with like-minded individuals. There was some initial concern around how that might be affected due to Covid-19, however with the vaccination rollout it seems group travel is here to stay, with a strong future."
"Higher-spend trips such as Japan’s Cherry Blossom season, Galapagos, Antarctica and the Migration are being booked by the older demographic. They have the time and disposable income, they are in the advanced vaccinated category and just waiting for the 'starting gun' to fire so they can begin travelling long haul again".
Eite concluded "we expect a stronger finish to the end of the year than we've had in a while. We expect mid-haul destinations such as Egypt, Jordan and Morocco to be in operation over winter with long haul opening up around Easter '22. The future is positive and we hope to see a return to normality by mid 22/23”.
Ashley Toft, is the CEO of KE Adventure Travel and Mickledore Travel. KE offer worldwide adventures, trekking, climbing, cycling and family holidays and Mickledore Travel is a UK Walking Holiday Specialist.
"We are seeing a slow but consistent increase in bookings for KE and a noticeable improvement since there has been more consistency with the traffic lights system with less chopping & changing" confirmed Toft.
"Greece, Spain, Canaries and Morocco have been popular with KE clients during 2021 with our usual mix of best-selling destinations popular for 2022 such as Nepal, Bhutan, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tanzania. Sadly we are seeing less enquiries for South America at present".
"Mickledore Travel, a company that usually relies heavily on the US and some European markets has had a very strong year with UK walkers, and this trend is continuing into 2022."
"I expect it to be a long and gradual recovery for overseas travel, certainly for specialist operators who rely on destinations where vaccination levels are low".
"The pandemic has created a new market of walkers, trekkers and cyclists, and longer term the active adventure travel market will come back strongly. It will be 2023 before we get back to any kind of normality, whatever that will look like" Toft concluded.
Much Better Adventures specialise in small group adventure holidays for like-minded outdoorsy people. They target young professionals and offer a brilliant portfolio of quick weekend trips and longer tours both in the UK and worldwide.
Sam Bruce, co-Founder explains "what we're seeing at the moment is really rather positive, both in terms of future and last minute bookings - often *very* last minute. This is aided by increased market confidence, thanks to the vaccination roll-out and super flexible booking terms on offer".
"We're seeing that our collection of 'Epic Weekends' in Europe are making up a growing share of those last minute bookings, particularly in destinations like France, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Greece, and Spain. We've started to see a good number of winter bookings in Europe too, as people look to make up for lost time" Bruce adds.
"With Inside Travel Group offering flexible travel terms, allowing clients to change their travel dates and with short-haul travel now underway, it seems that people are building up confidence again in travel" Mundy explains.
In a recent Inside Travel Group client survey 79% of respondents stated that they were very likely to plan a trip to Japan in 2021/22.
56% said that they were very likely to book their next long haul trip with a tour operator quoting flexibility of booking/cancellation, financial protection, customer support on the ground and tour operator flexibility with bookings as their reasons for doing so.
42% of respondents in the latest survey, compared to 31% back in July 2020, stated that they would budget much more or slightly more than usual on their next trip.
And finally; with multiple hurdles still in sight such as furlough ending, ATOL renewals looming, vaccination inequality and so many mid/long haul destinations still Govt. Red listed, just to name a few, we know the coming months will be crucial for all travel companies. At Adventure Travel Networking we stand side by side with the travel industry, all sectors, and we will continue to do all we can to support our community.
Pru Goudie, Founder
Chris Haslam | The Times
The big travel inquest: 8 cataclysmic decisions that killed off post-pandemic travel
Read the full article here ➡️ https://bit.ly/3h5wM10