Rise in consumers using travel agencies for first time, says Google head

Over 80% of travel advisors are hearing from travellers who have never used an advisor before, according to data from Google’s travel industry leader.

Finnbar Cornwall also said 59% of travellers want to use a travel agent to help plan and customise their next trip and 76% of advisors are seeing an increase in customers compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Sharing his insights during an Aspire session at the inaugural Global Travel Week in London this week, Cornwall said: “With all the uncertainty around travel, we are seeing [more] people getting help from travel agents and seeking advice compared to the pre-pandemic period.

“I can definitely see through the next year people wanting that bespoke, luxury experience. I think the opportunity then sits within the brands, when people come to them, to make that sustained behaviour.”

Cornwall said there was “clear pent-up demand” for travel among UK consumers. 

In a recent Google customer survey, 55% of respondents earmarked ‘travel, lodging and vacation’ as the leisure category they expect to splurge or treat themselves on in 2021.

Every demographic apart from Baby Boomers said they wanted to spend money on travel, but Generation Z had the highest incidence of splurge, with 82% of those in high-income households saying they plan to splurge in 2021. 

Cornwall said travellers are now more open to making a purchase from a new travel company, with 40% of consumers saying they had chosen to buy from a new brand when travelling.

Key reasons for purchasing from a new company were led by cost, with 39% of consumers saying they had been enticed by price, value, deals and rewards, while 23% said it had been the ability to get it quickly and a further 23% driven by reviews and recommendations. 

“What we’re seeing is people aren’t sticking to the existing parameters that they used to go by,” Cornwall said.

“The challenge for us as businesses is that the historical data you [once] had about how people look for you, how they came to you, who they stayed with – all of that doesn’t exist anymore, you can’t draw on that data.

“What does your consumer look like? We’ve seen this change in the market over the last couple of years in terms of demand. You’ve got Generation Z, who have got a lot of money, want to spend it on travel and are willing to try new brands.

“You can’t rely on customer loyalty. These are some of the things to be thinking about [when looking at] how you come back.”

 

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