Brits swap staycations for Euro breaks as searches for airlines soar in summer travel peak

Package holiday firms also enjoy a rise in search, while in the fashion sector Shein continues to rise in growth and Next search volumes slump.

Travel abroad and the information requirements that continue to go with it are fuelling search demands as we approach the peak holiday season – but at the expense of the staycation as people revert to the ambitions for overseas sunshine harboured for two years or more.

But surging searches for cheap flights and holidays – as well as would-be travellers flocking to flight price comparison site Skyscanner are perhaps a sign of the times as the cost of living crisis bites UK consumers, as well as the budget airlines seeing some of the highest demand. Package holidays enjoy a resurgence after two years of back and forth, as the heightened consumer protections and attractive deals tempt holidaymakers.

And as we have seen regularly through our analysis of search demand, the market for travel, fashion and beauty remains in growth compared to 2021, though it’s clear that some brands in the fashion sector in particular have seen a tail-off, including some of the UK’s most well-known high street names against a backdrop of heightened demand for digital fashion. 

Your regular digital demand update from Performance Marketing World – powered by MediaVision’s Digital Demand Tracker – tracks online search trends to determine what’s in demand.

Here’s what the demand data for various sectors shows for 19 June to 2 July 2022, compared to the same time in 2021.

Brand demand within sectors

Airlines searches flying high - but hotel sites lose out to Airbnb

All of the major airlines flying out of UK airports continue to see a surge in demand in June/July 2022 compared to 2021, including Easyjet, which rose in search volumes by 200%, Ryanair (127%) and British Airways (95%).

This is almost certainly unsurprising on some level given the uncertainty of travel this time last year – but part of the demand could be uncertainty reining in a different form. 

Gatwick has been limiting passenger numbers and Heathrow last week telling airlines to stop selling tickets for summer flights to try and alleviate chaos owing to the surge in demand  and staff shortages airside. So would-be passengers are possibly checking as much for information on flights they have already booked as well as the options that are available over the summer months. Indeed, there is evidence of consumer concern that flights they have tickets for are no longer showing on airline schedules. 

Evidence of demand for flight price comparisons – both for availability and to match up holiday aspirations with cost of living concerns – is clear, with searches for Skyscanner up 174%. But while there has been an uptick in searches for known hotel comparison sites and, it has not been as significant as searches for Airbnb, which grew by 38% in the fortnight compared to 2021. 

A rise in demand for package holiday giants TUI and Jet2, which saw searches up by 182% and 157% respectively, signals that package holidays are in favour, possibly because of the appeal of elements of the all-inclusive holiday, but also in the wake of cancellations and muted capacity, consumers are better protected than on the online marketplaces that serve individual hotels should they need to make last minute changes to their plans.

Fashion’s winners and losers this fortnight

Fashion designer Stella Mccartney saw searches rise by 123% in June/July – potentially largely propelled by the launch of a new handbag from the brand made of an alternative leather derived from mushroom roots which has hit the headlines over the last few weeks.

At the opposite end of the scale, Shein continues to dominate in search growth terms within the fashion sector. The fast fashion brand saw searches climb 114% in the period compared to 2021. Other brands enjoying growth in 2022 were New Balance (68%), lingerie retailer Pour Moi (66% - ahead of Ann Summers which saw 25% growth and Agent Provocateur which dropped 24% in volumes). Birkenstock (64%) as the comfort summer sandal season turns well and truly on us.

Conversely, search growth for Next downturned by 17%, while UK sport retailer stalwarts JD Sports and Sports Direct were down 21% and 17% respectively.

Market demand - by sector

Staycation travellers not in it for the long haul

The staycation may well have been an appealing alternative – if not the only option for Brits at points over the past two years, as holidaymakers grappled not just with UK travel restrictions, but those in Europe and beyond. However search terms for popular UK destinations such as Devon and Cornwall have seen double digit declines, while searches for ‘camping’ fell by 20% compared to 2021 and ‘holiday cottages’ were down 21%. Other UK destinations also saw falls but with relatively small volumes.

Searches for ‘Turkey holidays’ and ‘Greece holidays’ on the other hand were up 487% and 211% respectively. Cyprus, Italy, Croatia and Spain also enjoyed triple-digits jumps in search growth compared to 2021, and collectively, searches for ‘package holidays’ soared by 243%.

Flights are not coming cheap even for nearer-shore destinations and consumers know it, so it’s not a surprise to see searches for ‘cheap flights’, cheapest flights’ and ‘cheap holidays’ growing by between 295% and 478%.

Airpods and summer fashion volumes grow

Across tech, airpods and associated accessories like cases saw demand climb in June/July 2022, with ‘airpods’ themselves searched 21% more than in 2021. And within the fashion sector, swimwear and holiday clothes for both men and women remained on an upward trajectory. 

Denim searches indicate a change in trend – with ‘straight legged jeans’ seeing a 722% growth, and ‘boot-legged jeans’ up a third,  but conversely searches for ‘ripped jeans’ were down 30%, ‘high waisted jeans’ fell by 29% and ‘boyfriend jeans’ fell by 32%. And parents are thinking ahead for back to school season even before the kids break up for summer holidays, with ‘girls school shoes’ searches up 23% compared to the same time in 2021, and those for boys up 25%.

All data is sourced by MediaVision’s Digital Demand Tracker