AITO – The Specialist Travel Association

Trends in specialist travel revealed in the AITO Travel Insights Report 2020

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Travel Insights Report
  • Brexit, what Brexit? 80% of travellers’ holiday plans not affected by the UK’s departure from the EU

  • Value for money comes fourth amongst six factors when considering booking a holiday

  • Customer reviews have doubled in importance for travellers since 2019

British travellers aren’t holding off on their holiday plans as Brexit advances, with 80% claiming it has had no effect on them whatsoever, according to a recent survey by AITO, The Specialist Travel Association. Of the 20% whose holiday plans have been hindered or changes in some way by Brexit, 73% of them are less likely to book a holiday to Europe in 2020, with concerns over access to EU countries and potential long airport queues.

The AITO Travel Insights Report 2020, compiled in association with leading travel data insight agency SPIKE, has – for the 5th year in succession – delved into the travel habits of the specialist traveller, who largely falls into the 50+ market (80%, with an average age of 61), usually travels as a couple (57.4%) and tends to take two or more holidays a year (36%).

The 2020 specialist traveller has been hit by the latest ‘Waitrose effect’ (in the latest Which? Supermarket Satisfaction Survey, the supermarket came top in every category but price) and considers value for money fourth on the list when booking a holiday, below (1) knowledge and expertise, (2) a holiday company offering a preferred specialism, and (3) having a previous good experience with the tour operator. There is a remarkable thirst for specialist expertise and a willingness to pay more for an experience to make it memorable.

Verifiable customer reviews are more influential than ever before, nearly doubling in importance – from 19.9% in 2019 to 39% – in 2020. However, travellers are wary of fake review sites and untrustworthy platforms and it is imperative for the industry to ensure that feedback submitted is submitted by genuine customers. AITO’s own review system on, for example, has measures in place to ensure that reviews are solely from authentic sources.

The AITO Travel Insights Report 2020 revealed the following Top 10 specialist interests as:

1. Exploring culture, arts and history
2. Walking and trekking
3. Wildlife
4. Safaris
5. Gastronomy and wine
6. Skiing and winter sports
7. Photography
8. Archaeology
9. Gardens
10. Wellness and spa

While cultural holidays top the list, wellness & spa holidays have edged their way into the Top 10 list in 2020, along with skiing & winter sports and photography, demonstrating a desire for holidays with purpose, whether it be wellbeing, fitness or learning a new skill.

AITO’s Executive Director, Martyn Sumners says: “This report and the research behind it proves how vital it is for our specialist holidays companies to utilise their vast expertise and knowledge to help consumers navigate the world of travel bookings and to make their experiences memorable and meaningful.

“Specialist travel is hugely different from the mass-market holiday sector, and we need to keep refining our research to help our members to understand the needs of the discerning customer and to provide them with an experience like no other.”


Some 40 companies participated in the research – a mix of AITO tour operators and AITO Agents – and 26,000 customers responded to the detailed survey.

About AITO

AITO, The Specialist Travel Association, is a group of unique and specialist travel companies, which collectively provide an unrivalled range of holidays. When booking with an AITO member, you are assured of the finest personal service, expert knowledge, and a holiday that is fully financially protected. All AITO members are fully bonded and comply with AITO’s Quality Charter and Sustainable Tourism goals. Their joint aim is to offer the best possible holiday, allied with excellent customer service.

For more information on AITO’s 120-plus specialist holiday companies with an unrivalled collection of holiday ideas covering every corner of the world, visit


SPIKE is the leading data insight and customer experience specialist in travel. Founded in 2009 by Roy Barker and Jon Walton, SPIKE aims to deliver commercial value by using powerful data analysis techniques, Net Promoter Scores, and the latest technology to help businesses benchmark, monitor and improve their customer experience.

Press: For more information on AITO or AITO Specialist Travel Agents, or for high-res photos, please contact Jackie Franklin or Charlotte Griffiths at Travel PR on 020 8891 4440 or email or


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