The UK Travel Industry Continues on the Road to Recovery

With the news that the British traffic light system for foreign travel has been simplified to “on the red list or not,” the travel industry is looking forward to a flurry of booking activity in the coming weeks, as consumers see a clearer and much less confusing picture of what (and what not) is required for foreign travel and reentry to the UK.

The travel ad category has undoubtably been one of the hardest hit sectors throughout the pandemic, and after many months of COVID-19 restrictions that grounded this industry, there is now a growing confidence of a real upturn, and this is being reflected in increased marketing activity, including TV advertising. Yes, the messaging still focuses on COVID safety, with many companies providing cancelation or re-booking assurances, but the increase in advertising is a marked indication of an industry in recovery.

Since January 2020, TVSquared has monitored 120 UK travel brands, across 75 channels, totalling over 30,000 spots. Unsurprisingly, March and April 2020 saw the lowest number of spots, almost 100% lower than the average over the total time measured, and the fewest brands active on TV; at this lowest point, only four brands continued to advertise on just seven channels!

The situation improved slightly over the summer of 2020, but we didn’t see any impactful recovery until June 2021, which was the first month to see anything like “normality,” with 46 different brands airing across 60 channels. This upturn coincided with the reopening of all non-essential retail, pubs, restaurants, zoos and theme parks, as well as the deployment and success of the double vaccination program. The “stay at home” rule ended at the end of March 2021, which gave the public the opportunity to plan “staycations,” even if they didn’t want to risk going abroad quite yet.

Over the period monitored, Afternoon has shown to be the most popular daypart for the travel brands, with Drama, Entertainment and Factual, being the favoured genres. The least popular is noted to be the News channels. After all, who would want to advertise tourism alongside the daily reports of restrictions and lockdown?

With winter fast approaching, and thoughts turning to 2022 spring and summer vacations, the recent changes to the traffic light system and COVID-19 testing requirements should enable more people to travel for leisure or conduct business across the globe to provide a much-needed boost to the travel industry.