Traveller sentiment: Demand is robust but loyalty can help boost confidence and re-engage customers

31 August, 2022

As the travel industry ramps up following the pandemic, new research from Collinson of Priority Pass members sheds light on the way frequent flyers see travel now and in the future, especially as the industry looks to reshape and recover after running with limited services during the pandemic.

The research also provides insight into the unique relationships people have with travel, why they want to get away, and just how critical it is for rest and relaxation as well as nurturing relationships. But ultimately, it shows that, in spite of tighter wallets worldwide, travel will continue to be robust given the many other things they would rather give up in order to preserve their travel budgets.

The study of over 3,700 frequent flyer members of the Priority Pass programme worldwide identifies sentiments towards air travel, travel recovery, and how habits, preferences, loyalties and intentions are changing, identifying some trends by comparing similar surveys from Jul-2020 and May-2021.

The indication that people are keen to keep travelling is a positive sign to the industry to keep on investing in recovery. Be it in recruitment and training of additional workforce, core travel industry infrastructure, or travel benefits and rewards – there’s a need for continued investment to keep supply chains moving and to help ensure travel gets back to pre-pandemic levels of both delivery and customer experience.

Travel is easing back to pre-pandemic levels with more trips are planned

As the travel industry recovers, Priority Pass Members are already making an average of six return journeys per year, according to the report. But what’s really promising from the research is that they’re planning even more trips in the coming months, expecting to make an average of eight return trips between Jul-2022 and Jul-2023. That is close to the pre-pandemic level of ten return trips recorded in 2019.

Consumers stay loyal to travel, despite smaller consumer wallets

The results are very promising for an industry that has had a bumpy ride over the past few years – and hopefully provides some light when companies might otherwise be wary of the cost of living crisis and its impact on travel budgets.

Instead, the research not only reinforces a passion and a desire for travel but shows just how determined people are to protect their travel budgets at this time. In fact, the research revealed frequent flyers are so keen to keep travelling that, when faced with the global cost of living crisis, they’d rather make cutbacks in other areas instead.

Almost two thirds (62%) said they would rather cut-back on non-essential retail purchases than stop travelling; nearly a third (30%) would cut restaurant visits; over a quarter (26%) were prepared to cancel gym memberships; a further quarter said they would forego home improvements; while around a fifth (21%) said they would be willing to cancel a streaming service.

Traveller confidence is key to the recovery

Of course, an increase in travel frequency couldn’t happen without travellers feeling more confident. So, what’s boosting their confidence at this time? As we emerge from the pandemic, the research supported a view that people are finding confidence through more premium travel experiences.

In fact, people are very likely to pay to get these experiences. Upgraded seats (43%) and direct flights (39%) are very popular options in this regard. But still, the airport lounge is the favourite premium service, with 47% saying they’d pay for lounge access.

Going a step further, lounge access is so important at this time that it comes second only to vaccination requirements as a confidence booster for travellers. Over a fifth (21%) said it was their top reason for feeling confident travelling again, while nearly half (47%) put it in their top three reasons.

Vaccination and removal of quarantines remain main driver of travel return

Vaccination (68%) and removal of quarantines on arrival (58%) and in their own (56%) countries were given as the reasons why people felt they could be more prolific with their travels. This makes sense, given 72% of members in Collinson’s survey last year said quarantines were discouraging them from travelling.

Understandably, faceless, contactless and self-services are becoming an increasingly popular way to help travellers feel more confident again. Nearly half (47%) of members said they’re more likely now than before the pandemic to either pay for contactless services or use a self-service bag drop in order to avoid lengthy queues.

Travellers are feeling enthusiastic about getting away

Encouragingly, nearly two thirds (64%) of Priority Pass members are feeling positive about flying in the next 12 months. In fact, when asked how they felt about taking to the skies right now, enthusiasm was the most common feeling.

Members in Spain were extremely eager to travel in the next 12 months, with 77% saying they were enthusiastic about jetting off. In Germany that level was (76%), in the USA (60%), slipping to 58% in the United Kingdom and 57% in Canada.

People are also far less cautious about travelling now than they were a year ago. In last year’s survey, over a third (35%) of members said they felt cautious about travelling in the future. This has more than halved to 16% this year.

Business travel behind pleasure, relationships and R&R in travel reason

When it came to reasons for travel, Priority Pass members were more likely to travel for leisure (45%) than for business (35%). This is actually a big shift towards leisure travel, and one that’s happened as a result of the pandemic, given the split was even when asked the same question about travel in 2020 (39% vs 39%). 

But it’s not just leisure that people are travelling for. Relationships and bonding are another big reason for travelling right now. Nearly a third (30%) of respondents said they were travelling at the moment to make memories with their families, while 18% said they wanted to get away with someone special.

Ultimately, however, things are getting back to normal – people still can’t beat a holiday to get away from it all, and the most popular motivation for travel is the same as it always has been: to take some time out in order to rest and relax.  Over half (55%) listed this in their top three reasons for making a journey. In fact, escapism was far more important to travellers right now than trips that involved sight-seeing, tours and cultural experiences.