BBC hears how Holidu facilitate safe travel during the Corona crisis
Munich, 31 August 2020 – Travel booking site Holidu.com’s ability to provide travellers with safe holidays in the midst of a global pandemic has been brought to a 319 million strong global radio audience by the BBC World Service.
“We know that the travel industry has suffered during the pandemic and with every bad news story, it feels like another blow to the industry and the confidence of the travelling public to book up a holiday again,” the presenter of the BBC’s World Business Report observed, referring to an unprecedented fall in demand for flights and hotels since Covid-19 started spreading around the world.
At the same time, Holidu saw a sharp rise in bookings. The BBC was keen to discover why.
Holidu was hit like everyone else back in February when some governments responded to the spread of the virus by imposing lockdowns. Johannes Siebers, CEO of Holidu, which he co-founded with his brother back in 2014, told the BBC.
“We saw bookings for the north of Italy going down by 95 per cent. We were of course worried that within three weeks all of Europe would look like the north of Italy. That’s exactly what happened so by the end of March our bookings were down 98 per cent year on year,” he said.
“That was terrifying, but we had to go back to the belief that people and humans will always want to travel if they can, though at this moment they just couldn’t, but we were sure that it would come back.”
Johannes Siebers, CEO of Holidu
Holidu decided to carry on with marketing activities and stay open for business. The strategy soon yielded results.
“In every single country and region, as soon as travel was allowed, people started to book. Covid had been bad for many people who had been restricted and locked down in their apartments for a long time, so we saw that once they were able to leave the house, people just wanted to travel,” said Siebers.
But they did not want just any kind of holiday. Many preferred to avoid airports and flights, or crowded hotels, beaches and cities. As a consequence, there was a sharp increase in demand for safer alternatives.
“Against this backdrop, staycations or holidays a little bit closer to home have soared as people are perhaps staying in their own country or going to neighbouring countries that they can drive to rather than, say, packing up on mass and flying from northern Europe to a beach in southern Europe,” the BBC presenter pointed out.
Domestic travel increased from 50 per cent of the bookings to 70-80 per cent and in July bookings via Holidu, which specialises in the letting of privately owned holiday homes, rose 160 per cent when compared with the same period last year.
“We’ve been almost overwhelmed by the demand for holiday homes,” said Siebers. “That’s where Holidu has been able to help.”
Changed travel patterns
Holidu also noticed that travellers had changed their habits. Increasingly, people would delay their holiday decisions, so the average time between booking and travel fell from almost two months, to little more than a month in July. “People are a little bit more careful,” said Siebers.
This is partly because the travel and quarantine rules keep changing. “We hear a lot in the UK about so-called travel corridors where those being opened and closed, countries going on the list off the list. That is happening, of course, across Europe, with different countries and different regulations. How hard is that to keep across as a business?” the BBC presenter asked.
Siebers said this was something Holidu has had to “monitor extremely closely”. From Norway to Germany, for example, there’s a travel corridor that closed just a couple of ago. “We then had to react accordingly and define policies in our customer services to help our customers deal with it and basically guide them also through these uncertain times,” he said.
Times remain uncertain for Holidu too, not least because nobody knows what it will take to restore people’s confidence to levels where we can return to normal. A Covid-19 vaccine might eventually convince people that it is safe to travel again, said Siebers, but he expects private holiday homes to remain popular even when the Corona crisis is behind us. “Many people have discovered new ways of travelling,” he said. “This trend will last.”