How Skyscanner’s data shaped Tourism Australia’s Escape to the City campaign

Australian holidaymakers are spending less, taking shorter trips, and forking out for flexible flights as they live in fear of lockdowns derailing their plans, new data shows.

Skyscanner analysed searches and trip bookings through its website this year compared to 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic upended travel, and surveyed customers.

Travel Insight data gleaned from this analysis was provided to Tourism Australia to help create its ‘Escape to the City’ campaign to get travellers into hard-hit urban areas.

The data revealed international travellers trapped at home chose similar destinations in Australia, while old domestic favourites like the Gold Coast remained popular.

Traveller priorities also drastically changed as they feared snap lockdowns and restrictions could ruin everything at a moment’s notice.

Survey data found 37% of holidaymakers were still motivated by price, but on average customers were buying fares 23% more costly than the cheapest available.

A quarter said they planned to upgrade their flights, and 32% said they would pay more for flexible travel.

Tourism Australia imagery

Travellers also prioritised direct routes that avoided layovers – as even a one-hour transit can fall afoul of travel restrictions – and flexible fares they can cancel and re-use if an outbreak affects their plans.

Overall, Australians are spending 35% less on travel, both due to the pandemic affecting their incomes and domestic holidays being cheaper than overseas ones.

The average trip length is also down to 16 days from 21, as domestic travel is less time consuming and shorter trips are less risky for lockdowns.

Bookings are also made with far less notice so that consumers have a better idea of what the situation will be when they take off.

Overall, Skyscanner searches were up 36% since 2019 with the predictable destinations getting a huge influx of attention with overseas travel banned.

Broome was up 67%, Sunshine Coast 54%, Launceston 49%, Cairns 44% and the Gold Coast 38% compared to before the pandemic.

Tourism Australia said Skyscanner’s data gave it the scope, depth and granularity it never had in-house before: forward-looking, delivered daily, showing every search and redirect from consumers across Australia

Tourism Australia said Skyscanner’s data gave it the scope, depth and granularity it never had in-house before: forward-looking, delivered daily, showing every search and redirect from consumers across Australia.

The data allowed it to monitor where demand was originating, and going to; detailed traveller search patterns, and search demand benchmarked against 2019.

“As travel emerges from a really tough period, Skyscanner’s data helps us benchmark searches, along with bookings and visitor numbers, against previous years so we know exactly how we’re performing,” a Tourism Australia spokesperson said.

Skyscanner also broke down the most popular destinations for families, couples, and groups of mates to see where they went with international holidays off the board.

Exotic and tropical destinations like Phuket, Fiji, New Delhi and Koh Samui, Thailand, were replaced with Cairns, Hamilton Island, the Sunshine Coast, and Port Douglas in Queensland.

The Gold Coast was number two in both 2019 and 2021.

Romantic escapes for couples moved from famous Italians cities of love – Rome, Milan, Santorini, and Venice, along with Las Vegas, to Cairns, Darwin, Hobart, Broome, and Hamilton Island.

Group trips switched from Bali and the islands of Greece and Croatia to Darwin, the Whitsundays, and Townsville. Gold Coast held on to third place and Cairns jumped from fourth to first.

Tourism Australia used the data for its campaign to drive visitors back in to the country’s cities.

“Travel Insight data helped power this domestic campaign to encourage Australians back into their big urban areas, shining a spotlight on their world-class dining, entertainment, retail and culture,” Skyscanner said.

“Travel Insight is complemented with other sources like Tourism Research Australia and forward-looking industry booking data.

“With the addition of sentiment and consumer confidence data and accommodation performance data, Tourism Australia can form a complete picture of what’s changing over time and what the future looks like.”

Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky said the tourism industry had a major shift in the past year and a half, and he believes three travel trends will continue long after the coronavirus ends.

People will travel less for business and more for pleasure, more travellers will look outside top destinations and consider smaller communities, and they’ll be more interested in ‘meaningful travel’ rather than just the usual tourist spots.


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