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Flight Centre reveals its average post-pandemic customer profile

The global giant has provided some compelling statistics on what its present-day Australian customer looks like and spends.

Flight Centre's store network is currently about one-third its pre-pandemic size.

Flight Centre has put together a compelling profile of what it says is its average Australian customer, who is a 49yo female making solo travel arrangements in one of its stores.

Having crunched significant tranches of data, the global travel giant revealed in a presentation in Sydney last night how different the travel booking patterns are between customers who visit one of its retail stores compared to those who book online.

The genesis of the study found that online bookings were growing three-times faster than in-store client bases, with around one-quarter of its total sales now taking place online, up from 15% prior to the pandemic.

Traditional booking patterns showing females as the dominant recreational travel planner of the household translated to in-store spend figures, which showed females spending 31% more than men on in-store transactions.

Flight Centre's average customer was a 49-year-old solo female.

The average age of Flight Centre’s in-store customers was 53, booking an average trip of nearly three weeks at least two months before departure, with more than half of these being international.

These statistics were in stark contrast to the typical online consumer, some of whom were booking only around three weeks before departure for a trip of as little as four days, with a domestic destination evident in eight of every ten bookings.

One thing the pandemic did not change was Australians’ love of its favourite destinations, with the top five destinations remaining the UK, USA, New Zealand, Bali and Thailand.

The United Kingdom replaced its cross-Atlantic rival as Australia’s most popular destination, largely on the back of the strength of the post-pandemic VFR market as Aussies looked to reconnect with family and friends not seen for at least two years.

Scandinavia had emerged as a dream destination Aussies were now flocking to.

A few surprise regions have popped up as popular as Australians take the opportunity to see places they had always dreamed of but were no longer willing to wait, such as Scandinavia and Antarctica, with Flight Centre said it was seeing higher levels of activity for both than ever before.

Flight Centre Global Managing Director, Andrew Stark, said one unmistakable finding from the research was that travel was undoubtedly back in a big way.

“I’m calling it the Renaissance for the travel agent in many ways,” Stark said.

“We've seen this unprecedented demand, or what I refer to as the purple patch. And we just can't keep up with the inquiry of the demand that's coming through. So it's a great place to be.”

The UK has overtaken the USA as Australia'

Despite this demand, Stark said the Flight Centre business had shrunk significantly from what it was “BC” or “Before COVID”, down to a third of what it was both in terms of shop network (now 408 globally) and staffing levels.

Stark justified this by adding the pandemic had “right sized” the business across all its booking channels and led to productivity increases of up to 140%.

The cost-of-living crisis gripping Australia has not deterred us from travelling, Flight Centre’s data showed, with families prepared to pay more compared to 2019. Budgets for the average domestic family holiday have risen $400, while Fiji has climbed $1,000 and $3,000 for other destinations.

It’s a good thing too because airfares were clearly more expensive now than in 2019, with Flight Centre saying the global average airfare increase in Nov-Dec 2022 was 15% for business class and 12% for economy.

Despite that, business class fares between Auckland and Sydney were down 30%, showing Aussies aren’t too concerned about flying at the front for the short three-hour hop across the Tasman.

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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 28 April 2023

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