#12DaysofStrategy: The Impact Christmas has on the Travel Industry

Most online retailers will be running sales from now until the end of New Year to make the most of the influx of consumer shopping and trying to hit year-end targets.

But what about the travel industry?

Air Travel search interest drops in October, November and December by 11%, 18% and 14% respectively compared to the yearly average. This lull is driven by the consumers’ shift in focus towards Christmas. For many consumers, it is not the time to be thinking about travelling when there are so many things to do and money is tight.

Thus, whilst most of the eCommerce world are running wild over the festive period, the air travel industry bides its time for a rush of their own. In January consumers begin looking for the next big event, namely the summer holidays. It is at this point right the way through to March where we see peaks in interest and ticket sales for international travel, particularly air travel.

However, this is only half the story!

Does domestic travel industry undergo the same post-Christmas metamorphosis?

According to Google, the search interest for train related keywords only differentiates by at most 18% above and below the yearly average compared to the 45% seen in airplanes, indicating that trains are far less seasonal than their winged cousins. Trains also don’t see a dramatic dip in the last quarter of the year as planes do.

From our internal data we are able to analyse the spikes of a specific train company. They see an onsite conversion rate of 5% in October and 7% in November above the average. Total site visitors were 8% higher during the final quarter compared to the average. Customer site visits to the website peak in the final quarter, with conversion rates correlating in October and November, but diverging in December.

Highlighting how site visits and conversion rate varies over the year compared to the average for one major train company.

There are two questions to pull from this:

Firstly, why do conversion rates peak in October and November for train travel?

The first thing to note is that train tickets can be bought online 12 Weeks prior to travel, which means that tickets for Christmas Eve become available on the 2nd of October. Anyone looking to plan their journey to see loved ones over the festive period is likely to carry out their booking in the two months before December when prices are increased.

Secondly, why is there a drop off in onsite conversion rate in December despite user numbers remaining elevated?

Booking within three weeks of your journey online does not give you the same monetary benefits as it does for those of us who are more frugal and book earlier. Thus, people tend to research online for train times but have less incentive to go through the online checkout process. According to the train company, this results in higher traffic but a drop off in conversions as more people purchase on the day at the stations.

What can we learn from these trends to help us optimise digital marketing for travel clients?

For those in the international travel market, the time to act is from January to March immediately after the holiday period. Push messages relating to getting away for the summer. Increasing digital ad spend during this time of year will be necessary if you want to stay competitive.

However, in the domestic travel market, consider focusing advertising spend in the months leading up to December when people are looking to plan their holiday trips back home. Christmas related messaging, and more aggressive bidding would enable you to take advantage of the pre-festive period.

Whilst the travel industry is affected in a wholly different way than much of the retail industry, it is certainly impacted dramatically. Digital advertisers need to understand the influence of Christmas on consumers’ mindsets towards different industries and act accordingly.

If you found these tips useful check out other posts including, Effective Messaging Timelines in the Run Up to Christmas or check in on Tuesday for our fourth post in our ‘12 Days of Christmas Strategy’ blog series, “How to Maximise Audience Use.” We will be covering more topics throughout the series so stay tuned, and follow our progress on Twitter with #12DayofStrat!