Along with the real world travel ban there was a sort of virtual travel ban that happened at about the same time. Travelers who knew they couldn’t go anywhere stopped visiting travel content sites and travel provider’s sites. But as another sign that travel is coming back, it looks like traffic to travel sites is beginning to return as people start to think about being able to travel once again.
According to data from Comscore Media Metrix, visits to travel sites during the five-week period between March 23, 2020 and April 26, 2020 were down as much as 70 percent versus early February 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic altered the global travel landscape. However, May 2020 data has begun to trend in a more positive direction, at least for Airline, Hotel & Vacation Rental, and Online Travel Agent sites.
If interest in traveling again is returning, it’s starting at the bottom of the price scale.
The week of April 27, 2020 highlighted positive movement in visitation to the Hotel & Vacation Rental category, while visits to Online Travel Agencies and Airline sites ticked up later in May 2020. As consumers start showing a renewed interest in traveling, it is the vacation rental and budget hotel sites that are driving the increase in traffic to the Hotel & Vacation Rental category, not the major hotel chains.
When comparing average weekly visits in May 2020 to April 2020(indexed against the week of February 3, 2020), vacation rental and budget hotel site indices improved by 40 points and 18 points, respectively. Meanwhile, the major hotel chains have collectively only improved three points.
These increases in visitation for certain travel categories correlate with spikes in on-site engagement (minutes per visitor), and in some cases even preceded the positive visitation trends. Looking at Airline sites, time spent has surpassed 13 minutes per visitor, which is an increase from prior to the pandemic during the week of Feb 3, 2020. Although we’re sure that’s only because consumers are searching for which routes are actually available and then trying to familiarize themselves with travel restrictions and the current travel rules and limitations of service onboard.
While consumer engagement may indeed be a leading indicator of travel site visitation, Comscore data shows some recovery in May 2020 for hotel and vacation rental bookings. There is still a long way to go before booking volumes get back to pre-pandemic levels, but recent data are trending in the right direction.
Some travel brands have said that this pandemic has been worse for their business than were 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined, as the sales numbers reflect this terrible time for the travel industry. According to data from Comscore Digital Commerce Measurement, overall desktop spending in the travel category in April 2020 was down 77 percent versus April 2019.
While we all know how devastating this pandemic has been to physical travel companies, it’s interesting to note that virtual ones, or travel content sites, have also fared vey badly. Now that traffic to travel providers appears to show another sign that travel is coming back, perhaps travel content sites will soon follow suit. We are hearing that most are still actually losing numbers versus March and April, so they may lag providers.