Comment: Surge in 2025 bookings gives hope to industry

If Only’s Gordon McCreadie says there are reasons to be optimistic for next year

As we reflect on another crazy peaks period and look forward to another year in the ever-evolving world of travel, it’s crucial to acknowledge the profound impact that global events can have on our industry, especially in such turbulent times.

Our industry may be resilient, but it is delicate and highly sensitive to global events, as we’ve witnessed first-hand on countless occasions in the past. From natural disasters, geopolitical tensions and economic fluctuations to public health crises, such as coronavirus, and major sporting events, external factors out of our control can have a deep impact on our sector and shape the landscape in which we operate.

With the cost-of-living crisis playing havoc with people’s finances for the year ahead, could this perhaps explain why we are seeing a surge in bookings for 2025 holidays at If Only.

Perhaps your company is seeing this too? The rising cost of living has unsurprisingly emerged as a primary concern for travellers and industry professionals alike for the year ahead. Inflationary pressures, stagnant wages and increasing costs across a range of unavoidable outgoings, including transportation, mortgage prices and the weekly food shop, have all contributed to a squeeze on disposable income.

As individuals grapple with financial constraints, the affordability of travel becomes a pressing issue, influencing consumers’ booking decisions and travel plans.

Tougher market

Against this backdrop of mounting challenges, the differing trends between 2024 and 2025 become increasingly apparent. The current landscape of 2024 – marked by rising prices across the sector including airlines and hotels, in addition to economic uncertainties – has led to a tougher market, as many of us saw in February when a growing number of individuals seemed to grapple with budget constraints.

Even within the luxury market, which is traditionally less affected than the more budget-conscious end of the market, a need for longer saving periods is becoming apparent.

The impact of the cost-of-living crisis is evident: travellers are weighing up their options and prioritising financial stability over immediate travel plans, making them more reluctant to commit now.

However, this does mean that with more time to plan and budget, they may wait until later in the year to book their major holiday, in turn altering the traditional peak booking period and creating a more consistent flow of bookings throughout the year.

Reasons for optimism

In addition, optimism surrounding 2025 offers further hope for the industry. Despite the challenges and reluctance of customers to confirm their bookings at present, sales for 2025 have surged – with 8% of reservations made in January and a remarkable jump to 24% in February alone.

This uptick in demand for 2025 signals a renewed sense of confidence and enthusiasm among travellers, as they look to book ahead to give them a longer period to finance their dream holiday, rather than forgoing their trip completely.

Geopolitical tensions and conflicts, such as ongoing wars and territorial disputes we are sadly reading about in the news on a daily basis, directly affect travel patterns, with certain destinations becoming less accessible or deemed unsafe for tourism.

Combine this with other events out of our control, such as the volcanic eruptions in Iceland and wildfires in Greece, and it is clear that our industry really is at the mercy of natural disasters. As travel agents, it’s essential to navigate the complexities of global events with resilience, adaptability and foresight.

By staying aware of emerging trends, leveraging data insights and offering tailored solutions to meet the evolving needs of travellers, we can chart a course towards a brighter future for the industry. Despite the challenges we face in the year to come, the surge in 2025 bookings offers a beacon of hope, reminding us how the power of travel gives consumers something to look forward to in trying times.

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