Thanking travel agents on Travel Agent Day "for all that you do," from "helping someone plan their dream vacation or navigating the complexities of post-pandemic travel," TICO released the results of its annual survey into the travel trends and sentiments among Ontario's travel consumers.
The survey polled 1,209 Ontario residents in JAN this year - the first TICO survey following a full return to travel post-pandemic, with an eye to post-pandemic changes in traveller concerns and behaviours.
TICO’s CEO Richard Smart explained that, “By having additional data on the issues that are top-of-mind for consumers, there may be new opportunities for TICO registrants to tailor their services to address consumer concerns.”
Changes in attitudes towards travel in the past 5 years:
53 per cent of survey respondents said they are more likely to travel within Ontario, and 44 per cent within Canada, while 26 per cent say they are less likely to travel internationally than previously.
Between the height of the pandemic in 2021 and now, destination and price remained the two top factors in a consumer's decision to travel with little change in their priority rating.
However, deciding to travel based on factors like travel restrictions have halved, from being as high a priority in 2021 to only a third of respondents saying they are now a consideration.
Mode of travel as a factor has also dropped as Canadians get back to more communal transportation like airplanes and trains.
Booking Channel and Consumer Confidence
In 2023, 71 per cent of Ontarians say they would consider booking travel with an OTA, and nearly half say they'd book direct.
That's not great new for travel advisors, but the survey also showed that a combined 45 per cent of respondents say they'd also consider booking in-person or over the phone with a travel advisor.
Booking in-person with a travel advisor is on par with booking direct in providing travellers the most confidence in ensuring they have accurate and up-to-date information about their travel arrangements.
17 per cent say they are more likely to book with a travel agent post-pandemic, with 55 per cent of respondents saying the services of a travel agent post-pandemic are valuable or extremely valuable, up 5 per cent from how they valued travel agents pre-pandemic.
2 out of 3 respondents told the TICO survey that they are “always” or “often” concerned about protecting the financial investment they make in travel.
When they're making travel plans, respondents say 3 top concerns run neck-to-neck in priority, with almost a third of respondents citing worries about:
- travel being cancelled/ delayed for reasons outside pax' control;
- getting stranded or stuck away from home; and
- not having the proper medical care if needed.
Additionally, the pandemic may have permanently changed what consumers look for when booking travel. Asked how COVID has had an effect on their current travel preferences:
- fully half said that, as a result of COVID, they now expect to be fully refunded, or offered other similar travel, if travel is cancelled for any reason other than their own;
- 36 per cent said they were more likely to book travel with flexible change/cancellation policies today;
- nearly a third replied they feel travel is more complex now than prior to the pandemic; and
- 33 per cent say they are more likely to purchase travel insurance today.
About the same numbers - a third in each case - of respondents say they have travel insurance included in their credit card or workplace benefits. But 4 per cent more - 21 per cent - now say they actually do purchase travel insurance on their own post-COVID. 4 per cent fewer Ontarians say they have no travel insurance at all today.
TICO found little change in trust in the travel industry or consumers' evaluations of the importance of a regulated travel agency community, and the perceived value of a public compensation fund even dropped a little, from 40 per cent in 2021 saying it was very valuable to 36 per cent today.