In 2020, booking lead times for tourism companies were dramatically reduced due to mass uncertainty caused by Covid-19. As the impact of the pandemic continues in to 2021, last-minute bookings could become the temporary norm, creating a headache for many companies involved in UK tourism.

Covid-19 has caused travelers to change their booking habits

The lead time between searching, booking and traveling has been drastically reduced as a result of Covid-19. Caused by constant uncertainty around rapid changes in quarantine rules, travel restrictions, cancellations and personal circumstances, a sharp reduction in booking lead times for many companies has created a new and unwanted headache.

In October 2020, IHG revealed that 69% of bookings were happening within 7 days of the stay, compared to 46% during the same period in 2019. In September 2020, TravelSupermarket also reiterated this claim, stating: ‘In the last week or so, we are seeing people looking at coronavirus rates, booking and going within a few days’. According to GlobalData’s most recent COVID-19 Recovery Survey (fieldwork undertaken 2-6 December 2020), 46% of UK respondents are ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ concerned regarding international travel restrictions and this figure climbs to 54% for restrictions on domestic or local travel. This concern has led to a surge in last-minute bookings, where the chances of cancellation or a change in restrictions is decreased as a result.

Another headache for travel companies to deal with

This trend of booking last minute creates notable ramifications for tourism companies involved in UK travel flows. Companies now have a much smaller window of opportunity to market, engage with the customer and inspire a booking, this could result in companies tearing down traditional marketing strategies and forecasting methods to become more proactive, which will cost time and money – two commodities which are now of paramount importance for travel companies.

Cloud Computing becomes of even greater importance

Looking forward, a range of industries in the tourism sector are set to be continually challenged with the ever-changing restrictions on travel, causing booking lead times to remain significantly shorter than before the pandemic hit. Because of this, flexibility becomes of increased importance and so does cloud computing. Cloud’s scalability allows companies to quickly decrease or increase IT resources to meet quick changes in demand, whilst saving costs in the process. When dealing with sudden increases in demand for last-minute bookings, caused by external factors such as the opening of a travel corridor, it is vital that travel companies have the ability to increase IT capabilities quickly in order to take full advantage.

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