Dutch travel market update

Are you ready to re-open?

No one can predict what the world will look like a few months from now, but it is certain that we will begin to travel once more. Over the past year, we have watched the Dutch (travel) market closely. We saw a rising trend of people travelling “while they can”, learned a new word (“travel shaming”) and currently face a travel industry that has come to a complete stop.

What has changed over the past year in terms of communication, what are people’s travel plans for 2021 and how can you prepare an appropriate campaign for when your target group is once again ready to pack its bags?

How is the Dutch market doing?

It has been almost a year since the coronavirus first crossed the Dutch border. Although brick-and-mortar stores are struggling, people continue to spend heavily (online) and many businesses have managed to stay afloat with support from the government. The repeated lockdowns have hit the leisure sector particularly hard and the government-imposed measures have resulted in lower online sales of airplane tickets and package tours. Many Dutch people are tired of having to work from home and feel a growing desire to escape from the literal and figurative confines of their own home.

Luckily, we can begin to see some light at the end of this tunnel! The first vaccines have already been administered in the Netherlands and people can hardly wait to start spending the money they have saved up. Although people are worried about the pandemic, it has thus far had a relatively minor impact on the average person in this country. As a result, the Dutch economy is expected to recover significantly over the course of 2021.

Dutch travellers are dreaming and looking ahead!

Being forced to stay at home for so long has been hard on many Dutch travel enthusiasts. Nevertheless, people’s interest in travel is as strong as ever. We continue to make plans and display the same online search behaviour as before the pandemic. In fact, search traffic for holiday-related terms has increased by circa 30% in January, compared to previous months. It would seem as if little has changed – until it is time to actually book our trip. At the moment, the number of holiday bookings is less than 5% of last year’s figure. We expect people to gradually start making more (last-minute) trips to foreign destinations from the spring holiday in late April.

At first, car holidays and easily accessible sunny destinations will be most popular. Meanwhile, some people are already making bigger plans and many of us hope to realise our dreams in 2021. Trade association ANVR and some major tour operators are working together to save the holidays this spring and summer. Goal is to be able to fly the Dutch again to a number of destinations within the corona restrictions from this spring. They also want to create opportunities for car holidays to nearby countries. Travel organizations are also taking steps themselves at various locations. Test sites, quarantine hotels and protocols will create corona-free corridors.

Rising interest in travel.

Hot topics and lasting changes in 2021

Although most of us can hardly wait to start exploring the world’s most beautiful destinations once more, some things have irrevocably changed. Dutch people are looking for assurance. Flexible rebooking options and lenient cancellation terms have become extremely important and many people make use of the unique benefits offered by package tours and travel agents. It has even become mandatory to have travel insurance when visiting certain countries and people want to stay up to date in real time about the latest information regarding the health and safety standards that apply in their destination country.

This year, the time between booking and departure will be shorter than before. Once the travel restrictions are lifted, there will likely be a wave of last-minute bookings. After living with strict measures and restrictions for so long, many Dutch people will continue to display corona-related behaviour for quite some time. This means holiday destinations with a focus on nature, lots of space and peace and quiet will probably become more popular. People want their trips to have impact. Being temporarily unable to travel due to the pandemic has given travellers some time to critically re-evaluate how they want to travel. We will no longer take our holiday trips for granted. In the future, more and more people will seek out experiences and destinations that they will remember for years to come.

How should you communicate as a holiday destination?

Many marketers and destinations have slipped into a holding pattern that they struggle to break free from. Since there is no travel, there is no communication either – yet now is the perfect time to take action and start getting ready! Due to the lack of competition, a campaign will have a stronger impact and give your destination the edge it needs. Now is the time to get on people’s shortlists and set yourself apart from everyone else.

Make sure you have a complete campaign with communications ready to go to ensure you can respond to changes in the government’s travel advice on the fly. Now is the time to invest in the reinvention of your positioning. Among the steps you can and should be taking right now are a reassessment of your target group, making sure it ties into what people want and what you have to offer.

Look for new USPs, such as space and natural beauty. After all, consumers are no longer interested in popular tourist destinations with enormous crowds and they are ready to discover something new. Make sure to always provide clear and up-to-date information on the safety guidelines and show online visitors where they can find more (general) information about your destination. During these difficult times, it is also a good idea to find partners and add them to a dedicated partner page on your website. This allows you to create a complete information package to make consumers feel well-informed and safe. Now is the time to start preparing, inspire people and get them excited about your unique destination. Once the borders open up again, you can begin reaping what you have sown!

Put your destination in the spotlight!