SEO Case Study: how covid-19, coronavirus and the lockdown affected the search market for holidays in romania - Romanians became cautious

Romanians Cautious After Lockdown – How COVID-19 Affected Romanian’s Search For Holidays in 2020

Google search trends Romania: search for “vacante” (holidays) in the past 5 years. Screenshot taken 27/2020
Google search trends Romania: search for “vacante” (holidays) hit a sudden down during lockdown, but even after restrictions were eased holiday planning remained on 5-year-low.

Usually, Romanians used to plan their holidays for the current year well ahead starting in Q1 and then constantly searching for fitting offers until Q3. The first spike thus is in January 2020 was no different here, and the second in June and the subsequent months. This season, however, was on a five-year low, even after lockdown and restrictions were eased.

For 2020 we can observe first in early Q2 an abrupt decline in searches for holidays, which was obviously forced by lockdown, both domestic and largely international. But even after the lockdown was eased the overall search activity for 2020 (blue line) compared to last year (red line) remained well below. It is hard to capture the entire impact on he industry as a whole by these graphics alone, but it is safe to say that at search activity over the course of the year so far have been down with at least 30% – 40% for the year so far.

Google search trends Romania: search for “vacante 2020” (holidays 2020) vs “vacante 2019” (holidays 2019) in the time range 1/1/2018-9/27/2020. Screenshot taken 27/2020
Google search trends Romania: search for “vacante 2020” (holidays 2020) vs “vacante 2019” (holidays 2019) in the time range 01/2018 and 09/2020. The area below the blue line (holidays 2020) suggests a substantial decline.

This can be seen particularly well if we observe the search for the most popular travel destinations for Romanians like Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria over the last three years: being otherwise pretty constant, we see a sharp drop during lockdown 2020, between March and June. Beginning with the end of lockdown and start of the holiday season searches rise again, but without reaching the level of the previous year. It seems that this is not necessarily driven by external factors, such as restrictions, but possibly a large number of Romanians prefer to stay safe to avoid holidays altogether.

Google search trends Romania: search for “grecia” (greece) vs “turcia” (turkey) vs “bulgaria” (bulgaria) vs “vacanta” (holiday) in the time range 1/1/2018-9/27/2020. Screenshot taken 27/2020
Google search trends Romania: search for the popular holiday destinations “grecia” (Greece) vs “turcia” (Turkey) vs “bulgaria” (Bulgaria) vs “vacanta” (holiday) suggest that all holiday-related searches show the same dynamics. A forced decline by lockdown and afterwards a resume, without reaching former levels

This is also suggested by the evolution of the searches for vacations in Romania, which on the one hand experience a more characteristic, longer-lasting spike in 2020 (we see three spikes in 2020 »mountain« vs only two in the previous years), however, the overall level of search activity seems to be below the previous year level. 

Google search trends Romania: search for “vacanta romania” (holiday romania) in the time range 1/1/2018-9/27/2020. Screenshot taken 27/2020
Search trends for “vacanta romania” (holidays Romania) suggest that in-country holidays / trips show the same decline versus previous years as holidays abroad. Instead of two large spikes like in the year before, we see three spikes, but the overall volume seems in decline.

The same behavior remains visible if we analyze the search data for the most popular holiday destinations at the Romanian seaside: Searches for sea resorts such as Mamaia, Eforie, Mangalia, and Costinesti are heavily affected during the lockdown and at the end of April / beginning of May when they should have their first spike. Starting with the summer holiday period we see a catch-up, even though, the level remains here also below previous years.

Google search trends Romania: search for “mamaia” vs “eforie” vs “mangalia” vs “costinesti”  in the time range 1/1/2018-9/27/2020. Screenshot taken 27/2020
The drop in search activity for in-country holidays/trips is clearly visible in the search for the popular Romanian sea resorts “mamaia”, “eforie”, “mangalia”, “costinesti”. A sharp decline during lockdown, and a resume on a lower than to be expected level after restrictions were eased

The same pattern persists for searches for in-country travel destinations such as the mountain resort „Poiana Brasov” but also Vatra Dornei, Baile Felix, or Herculane: a forced and sharp decline during the lockdown, and a cautious, not fully recovered resume starting with the summer holiday season.

Google search trends Romania: search for “poiana brasov” vs “vatra dornei” vs “baile felix” vs “herculane” in the time range 1/1/2018-9/27/2020. Screenshot taken 27/2020
Holidays in the mountains or other inland holiday resorts such as “poiana brasov”, “vatra dornei”, “baile felix”, “herculane” show the same caution after lockdown: the search activity level remains below previous years

But not everything was the same. The situation gave rise to completely new searches such as here the rapidly rising search for travel conditions.

Google search trends Romania: search for “conditii de calatorie” (travel conditions)  in the time range 1/1/2018-9/27/2020. Screenshot taken 27/2020
Google search trends Romania: search for “conditii de calatorie” (travel conditions) – a new type of search / keyword which quickly came to rise after lockdown

Not everything was persistent though: The search for COVID tests for travels to Greece appeared suddenly in summer and disappeared the same fast at the end of the holiday season:

Google search trends Romania: search for “teste covid grecia” (covid tests greece) in the time range 1/1/2018-9/27/2020. Screenshot taken 27/2020
Romanians were interested during the holiday season how to prepare for the border crossing in Greece. In particular anything related to COVID-19 tests specific for Greece was researched: “teste covid grecia” (covid tests greece)

But travel was affected in general, not only vacation. This becomes clear if we take a look at the searches for flight tickets, which also include business travel and other migration movements. Thus, the impact on the sector as a whole may be bigger and exceeds the effect suggested by the search for vacations.

Google search trends Romania: search for “bilete avion” (plane tickets) in the time range 1/1/2018-9/27/2020. Screenshot taken 27/2020
But not only leisure and private holidays were affected, but the real, entire impact also shows the search for “bilete avion” (plane tickets), which shows a more than half reduction of plane ticket research online

The budget, by the way, does not seem the main concern. Searches for last-minute and all-inclusive fell in the same manner, without showing a clear difference in their decline.

Google search trends Romania: search for “all inclusive” vs “last minute” in the time range 1/1/2018-9/27/2020. Screenshot taken 27/2020
Price does not seem to be the main explication for the low volume of holiday search after lockdown, but caution: search for “all inclusive” vs “last minute”

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