For painfully obvious, worldwide reasons, I was supposed to be elsewhere this week.
Specifically, sunning myself in a very nice region of Portugal and indulging in sangria and authentic peri-peri chicken.
It’s not to be.
Of course, I’m not the only one missing out on a holiday. Something as big as Covid-19 has had a catastrophic impact on the whole of the travel sector, let alone one specific and popular British holiday destination.
But, given this some more consideration, how does that impact look with context, on Google?
To give my thinking some scope, I’ve set the boundaries as 1 January to 30 June in each comparative year. January is peak holiday booking season as we’re creatures of habit – as soon as midnight hits on New Year’s Eve, Brits IMMEDIATELY book holidays.
A Covid world
Covid-19 destroyed search volumes across travel. That’s abundantly clear.
The impact on ‘Portugal holidays’ during this time was no different.
Searches from Google UK plummeted when travel restrictions and the lockdown were implemented. That unprecedented decline is eye-watering – especially when you factor in the loss of customers, revenues and jobs faced by countless companies.
But it needs context.
How does this decline compare to the terminology and rhetoric we’ve heard consistently since the Covid crisis began?
- We didn’t seem to know how to wash our hands:
- ‘Lockdown’ was no longer exclusive to The Thick of It:
- The potential word of the year (sadly), ‘furlough’, became a daily mantra for many:
These charts reveal the gulf in searches for the ‘popular’ words of Covid versus holiday searches. The Portugal terms barely register, especially when compared to the incredible volume of Googling for lockdown and furlough.
When things are ‘normal’
Ah, normality? *flashback music* Remember that?
Aside from a major spike for searches for ‘lockdown’ on 23 March 2019, due to a Disneyland Paris lockdown because of a malfunctioning escalator, (yes, really – and it wasn’t Olly Murs’ fault this time), the difference is staggering:
2019’s search results clearly show how one event can torpedo something as consistent has holiday habits and our desire for a break.
Our patterns as humans are wonderfully similar year-on-year, until something seismic changes our routine.
Where do we stand now?
Portugal specifically – there’s currently no air bridge. A huge blow to its travel specialists and my need for a holiday.
The former of course is far more concerning than the latter.
You can see the search patterns for regions where the government has announced measures and how, for Greece at least, the end of June saw record results in 2020 – so far.
It’s clear lots of locations will see short-term spikes as we all look to scratch that holiday itch, but long-term survival is paramount for most travel businesses.
I sincerely wish them luck.
We want them to survive. We need them to.
After all, I know where I want to be this time next year.
Please note, while holidays are now getting going again as a result of the ‘air bridges’, we postponed our trip some time ago. I am aware we can travel a bit more now, but sadly the air bridge with Portugal has not yet been resolved.