Safety fears driving holiday uncertainty in 2016

By Jon Young

Britons will take fewer holidays and are considering fewer destinations in 2016 according to our Holiday Trends 2016 survey.

An unstable world appears to be driving this decline, two in five of our respondents saying that safety will be a strong consideration in their 2016 holiday planning.  Tellingly, of the selected cities we measured, Paris is considered less safe than all but Istanbul (chart below).

Industry data lends weight to our assumptions.  Traffic from Dover to Calais (Britain’s busiest sea route) was down by 9% in 2015.  In February the leading tour operator Mark Warner pulled out of Turkey.  ABTA reports that January overseas bookings were highest in traditional ‘safe-spots’ such as Spain and Portugal.

Safest Cities - Holiday Trends

Communicating safety is set to be the key challenge for holiday-providers in 2016.

Drawing on our research and experience, we have identified five ways holiday companies can convey safety in their communications:

1) Strength in numbers: In his paper ‘Fear and Loving in Las Vegas’ Vladas Griskevicius demonstrated that when we are fearful, we tend to be influenced by marketing that conveys ‘social proof’ i.e. that other people are doing it.  It reassures us and reduces the risk factor. In the current climate, destinations can communicate ‘social proof’ in their imagery or by citing high bookings.

2) Lead with safety (if you have to): If you are less well-known, or you are associated with lack of safety, you may want to follow the example of the Czech Republic by leading with safety. This should probably be avoided if safety is unlikely to be an issue.  You may be priming people to think about safety when they otherwise wouldn’t have!

3) Be positive and familiar: Destinations should communicate the positive welcome and atmosphere they provide.  Behavioural research demonstrates that we respond more positively to things we have seen before (a key way branding works), so familiarity is also important.  This can include familiar imagery, brands and faces.

4) Make it easy. Our work in behavioural economics shows that when feeling fearful we will default to easy, trusted options. Complicated choices will create uncertainty and add to underlying feelings of fear.  Holiday providers should make the decision as simple as possible.  Hand-holding ‘from landing to leaving’ and information aids such as itineraries can aid the decision.   Travel agents, tour operators and tourist boards have a clear role to play here.

5) Use trusted sources. In Holiday Trends 2016 four of the top five influences on holiday choice are friends and family or travel agents.  At times of uncertainty the most influential sources are those we trust.   Credible travel agents and tour operators can get involved here.   Destinations should also encourage visitors to share and recommend their experiences on social media.

So that’s our five recommendations.  We hope they will help providers in a very challenging year ahead.  There’s a lot more data in upcoming in Holiday Trends 2017, available to pre-order now.

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