What’s the message 18+ months into COVID-19?
For youth and student travel organisations, uncertainty on the economic and political fronts seems as certain as their propensity to modify terms & conditions and cancellation policies during the pandemic. Both have been holding steady in the minds and actions of businesses trying to make it through yet another difficult year for international travel.
This article reports on changes to the top short- and long-term business concerns for the youth and student travel industry, along with the actions that are being taken to manage these concerns. We also check in on the main messages being directed to young travellers. Insights are based on the ninth edition of the WYSE Travel Confederation’s COVID-19 Travel Business Impact Survey.
Have we mentioned our quality lately?
The priority messages to consumers have remained somewhat stable over the last year. Health & safety protocols, flexible booking and travel later messaging being the top three priorities for youth and student travel businesses.
As of September 2021, there seems to be a shift towards communicating quality to consumers. Opportunities to learn was also messaging reportedly being used by more organisations. Online provision and sustainability, reported among the less important messages to consumers throughout the pandemic, saw even further drops in importance.
Get the bookings
Between February and September of 2021, youth and student travel organisations have shifted more of their marketing strategy towards acquiring bookings and away from maintaining customer loyalty. This seems logical for some parts of the world where travel restrictions have loosened. Maintaining brand awareness continues to be an important objective for youth travel and tourism marketing.
Increase the marketing
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations have reported the modification of cancellation policies and/or terms & conditions as the most important action they’ve taken in the previous month. To this day, it still remains the most important action travel and tourism businesses are taking related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, increased marketing has moved into the top 3 actions for the first time since the survey was launched back in March 2020. Given the shift in focus to acquire bookings noted above, an increase in marketing seems logical. Between March and May 2020, the action of increased marketing ranked only 6th among the 12 most important actions taken by businesses in the previous month.
Reduced capacity moved out of the top three most important actions sometime after September 2020. By February 2021, it was ranked 7th among the most important actions being taken by travel and tourism businesses.
Other actions to tackle COVID-19 business challenges as of September 2021 included administrative restructuring and investing in technology to improve procedures, operations & communications. Deep cleaning and/or physical restructuring of properties and spaces continue to be done. Requesting financial assistance was an action being taken by fewer reporting organisations in September 2020, which might be related to government’s beginning to wind down financial assistance schemes.
The top long-term and short-term business concerns have remained the same between September 2020 and September 2021, with economic uncertainty and travel restrictions ranking in the top two.
As noted above, travel restrictions and economic uncertainty remain are the top long-term business concerns for travel and tourism businesses working in the youth and student travel marketplace right now.
When asked about long-term business concerns, political uncertainty ranked third, just as it did in September 2020. This is not surprising given that Brexit has had an impact on international study and au pairing inbound to the UK. At the time of data collection for this survey, former US President Trump’s travel, which halted arrivals from some of the most important source markets for the United States, were still in effect. On September 20, 2021, the US announced that it would be drop the international (inbound) travel bans and implement new rules for arrivals. The new rules will apply to air travel and make it possible for fully vaccinated people to enter the United States. Whether the move to open the US borders to international arrivals by air will change business concerns about political uncertainty and policies of the Biden administration remains to be seen.
Data for this report were collected between 6 and 15 September 2021 by WYSE Travel Confederation, the global association for youth, student and educational travel organisations, via a web-based questionnaire in English.
The September 2021 survey was the ninth in the series, which began in March 2020. The ninth edition of the survey attracted 213 responses from 48 countries. Respondents included organisations specialised in youth travel products as well as those representing mainstream travel products. About seventy percent of respondents reported that 50% or more of their business in the youth and student travel marketplace. Respondents were both members and non-members of the association. The profile of respondents has remained similar over the course of the series, however, the number of responses has slowly decreased. In September 2020, the survey attracted 338 responses and 600 responses in March 2020.
WYSE Travel Confederation
If your business would benefit from unique business insights on the youth travel market, industry representation for common business interests and new trading opportunities with international partners, we invite you to discover the resources of the global trade association for businesses serving young travellers, WYSE Travel Confederation.
Join WYSE Travel Confederation
If you’d like to join WYSE Travel Confederation and benefit from new connections, free access to industry research, informative webinar sessions, discounts on industry events and brand exposure within the youth and student travel industry, click below to view our membership options and find out more.