How tour operator booking patterns have shifted in 2016

The travel industry is constantly evolving with the times, responding to new developments that occur in the face of changing consumer demand. Often these developments, such as the digitalisation of the industry, occur over long periods of time. But sometimes we see a fairly seismic shift in consumer behaviour strike without warning - serving as just another reminder that savvy travel operators need to stay on top of the trends so they can act fast in response or risk being left behind by the competition.

One such shift is the unexpected transformation in tour operator booking patterns - a change that only become apparent this year but has swiftly succeeded in shaking up the industry and changing the way that tour operators chose to sell their products and services.

For many years now, standard booking patterns have paved the way for travellers en route to their favourite global destinations. The average holiday was generally booked around four to six months in advance and when it came to destinations, a catalogue of the usual suspects such as beautiful Italy and France could be counted on to dominate bookings each holiday season as if by clockwork.

Not so, this year. Booking patterns during 2016 are telling a rather different tale, according to a recent article by Skift - one which involves exotic and unique destinations as well as bookings made much closer to the date of departure. The trend for authentic experiences has led to a surge in interest for off-the-beaten-path activities and destinations whilst traditional tours in classic city hotspots such as Paris and Rome have fallen by the wayside. Skift reported that travel agency Trafalgar has seen a double-digit growth in sales for Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Croatia and Scandinavian countries whilst tour sales in Central Europe have tailed off.

The article further reported on the unexpected nature of this shift in booking patterns with a comment from Gavin Tollman, CEO of Trafalgar: "It's almost as though consumers got together, distributed a memo, and they just forgot to copy us in... Without a doubt the biggest change that we're seeing this year has been the shift in booking patterns. Our average booking period used to be 120 to 150 days... now it's 60 to 90 days... It's maintained that trend throughout the year."

The combined efforts of these two new trends mean that tours in top destinations which would normally be fully booked months in advance are taking much longer to fill. Forward-thinking tour operators might want to consider how best to entice those late-summer bookings over the coming months.

Ensuring your website offers a seamless and integrated booking experience for customers is just one step towards turning those late-deal browsers into bookers. Our award-winning technology can give your business the tools it needs to provide fast quotations and a simple, streamlined booking platform that your customers will appreciate no end.