Last minute leisure

The time lapse from dreaming to booking to escaping just got even shorter – and it’s Gen C Travellers who are driving this new trend.

‘The early bird catches the worm’ has bLast minute leisureeen the mantra of the travel and tourism industry for many years now, driven by the rise of online booking that encouraged early bookers to take advantage of the lowest fares or cheapest hotel rooms. As a result, travel companies such as airlines take last minute bookings – whether online or at the airport sales desk as a sign that desperate travellers are willing to pay a premium to get to where they want to go. But what if a new trend in traveller behaviour was to challenge the approach of penalising the last-minute traveller?

Recent research on traveller spontaneity has revealed that in the UK 19% of travellers (6 million people in total) use their mobile phone to book getaway breaks on the day of travel and over half (59%) are booking getaway breaks in the same week they depart. (which commissioned the research) also reported that more and more customers book hotels between 6pm and midnight for stays that very night, taking last minute living to a whole new level. Just in the last quarter of 2014 the company reported that mobile traffic and bookings had ‘increased significantly’.

Research by a company like Lastminute whose model is built on spontaneous bookings is hardly likely to show that customers prefer to book earlier, however these figures do highlight some wider issues for the travel industry driven by increased use of mobile devices in planning and booking travel:

Make no mistake – Gen C Travellers, the connected generation, is driving this trend in spontaneous booking.

  • Connectedness is at the heart of this trend: constant connectedness while on the move makes it possible for Gen C to book with confidence at the last minute
  • Real-time updates and wider experience in shopping online and receiving goods on the same day gives consumers increased confidence in booking big-ticket items with shorter lead times
  • Price comparison websites show thousands of results at a time from a whole host of providers. It used to be that trips required huge amounts of planning but unless there’s a major event on, a basic web search is pretty much guaranteed to bring up somewhere to stay, and if flights, hotels, and activities are packaged and presented to make one-touch mobile bookings easier, this further increases convenience and thus consumers’ confidence in booking in this way.
  • Shorter lead times make planning more difficult for hotels and airlines. However, those who are agile enough could stand to win as they offer spare capacity and sell off perishable stock (ie. hotel rooms that can only be sold once before they go out of date.

With January upon us, it’s hard to miss the usual splurge of online, TV and newspaper adverts aiming to encourage January holiday bookings for the summer season. But what about the increasing numbers of travellers who make their booking just six hours before departure, rather than six months?

Reaching these travellers will mean that the game of catching these consumers’ imagination and encouraging them to book just got much much shorter. Rather than carry out a drip-drip process of inspiration and enticement over a period of months, the key will be to work with those companies that offer last-minute deals to make the journey from inspiration to booking occur within a matter of hours.

And where are spontaneous bookers (often bored, desperate 9-5 office workers) likely to be trawling in the crucial few hours before booking? On social media of course. Thus round-the clock social media management has just taken on even greater importance in the world of destination promotion. Loyalty schemes will also have to adapt to this trend because if they don’t then a more nimble provider will get in there with an offer first.

A few more interesting facts from Lastminute’s research:

  • A third of British travel and leisure spend is spontaneous: of the 5.62 annual holidays and short breaks they take, 2.13 were booked less than three weeks before departure. And out of every £3 spent last year by Brits on travel and leisure £1 went to spontaneous trips and outings (£1,933 out of £6,073).
  •  Over half of Brits (56%) say the best decisions they had ever made were spontaneous (OnePoll survey commissioned by, with 2,000 adults in the UK in July 2014)
  • 44% of Brits have booked a holiday or break completely on a whim (OnePoll survey commissioned by, with 2,000 adults in the UK in July 2014)
  • Almost a third of Brits (32%) say they totally rely on their gut feeling when making a decision (OnePoll survey commissioned by, with 2,000 adults in the UK in July 2014)
  • Brits think about just quickly getting away spontaneously almost five times per week (Yougov survey commissioned by, with 2,200 adults in April 2013)

The top 10 most common decisions made on a whim by Brits:

(OnePoll survey commissioned by, with 2,000 British adults in July 2014)

  1. Booked a holiday / break
  2. Bought a television or big gadget
  3. Dyed my hair
  4. Went out one night which turned out to be the most amazing night ever
  5. Quit my job
  6. Started a whole new hobby / passion
  7. Just packed the bags and went to a place I always wanted to go to
  8. Asked someone out on a date
  9. Got a tattoo
  10. Been unfaithful

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