Everyone with a crystal ball now is busy making predictions as to what the world is going to look like after the pandemic of COVID-19 is over. BookYourHunt.com doesn’t have a crystal ball, though, and no Tarot cards either. We prefer to make our decisions on a solid scientific basis. This is why we surveyed the clients – the hunters who book their hunts on our online marketplace – and asked them a few questions.
We received over a thousand responses, all coming from people who are seriously in the market for outfitted and guided hunts, within their respective countries or abroad. This makes the results strongly representative – and the responses themselves are highly encouraging!
1. Hunters want to hunt.
We made a claim previously that, contrary to what some ‘experts’ may say, hunters are only waiting for the end of the travel bans and restrictions to return to their favorite pastime. The survey results support that. Nearly 76% of our respondents will start hunting again as soon as they can in 2020; some 5.3% have their sights set on spring 2021, and 6.1% on the fall of 2021. Only 11.4% of hunters did not make any plans because of the uncertainty of the current situation.
2. The industry is shaken, but not yet stirred!
One of the first things we asked was whether the hunters’ plans were or weren’t affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. And the bad news is that the situation did mess with the plans of about half of our respondents. Nearly a quarter (26.8%) had to cancel their hunts, while another 22.9% rescheduled their trips. It’s a relief to know that the “Reschedule, Don’t Cancel” campaign that has been pushed by most stakeholders in the industry (including us), has an effect. As far as our research suggests, about half of the hunters whose plans were ruined by the pandemic managed to reschedule their trips, which is good.
3. What can stop hunters from hunting?
The biggest threat to hunting, according to 46% of our respondents, are lockdowns and travel bans, especially if they remain in place for a long period of time or get tougher. 16.3% quoted things unrelated to the COVID-19, including decreasing numbers of hunters and similar threats. It is also important to note that not every hunter will rush out to travel when the governments say “Now!” Hunters are concerned about their safety, and may choose to stay home voluntarily if they feel that it is unsafe to travel until a vaccine is developed and available worldwide – the answer selected by 28.2% of respondents. Even more serious are concerns related to the economic situation. 34% of hunters in our survey are worried that they will experience shortage of cash to spend on hunting (please note that the numbers don’t always add up to 100% because for some of the questions hunters could select more than one answer).
4. To discount or not to discount?
If you’re an outfitter, this is probably one of your most urgent marketing dilemmas. Do I drop my prices to have at least some sales now, or I am only going to lose money this way? Our survey results suggest that hunters aren’t sure what to expect, either. About half (49%) think the outfitters will reduce prices to attract more new clients. But about the same number of hunters (51%) feel that the outfitters will be rescheduling many hunts to upcoming years so probable lack of availability will keep prices the same or increase.
The bottom line is that we think that outfitters that are offering their hunts at discounted prices are going to win in the long run. It is better to get some cash when you can now, to make sure you’ll make it to the end of the epidemic, while setting a few spots aside for that post-COVID rush. And hunters should take advantage of these offers – there aren’t going to be any “hot last minute offers” once this is over. All hunts will be hot – and go for premium prices.
5. A shift to hunting locally?
“Shop local and directly from the farmer” has been a hot trend recently. Will hunting follow suit? The at-a-glance analysis of our survey results doesn’t give a straight answer. On the one hand, the answer “Will travel to hunt but within my own country” gained twice as many votes (36.8%) as “Ready for international and overseas travel (16.2%). On the other hand, taken together with the more cautious “My plans will depend on the prices and outfitters’ availability, but I’m open for travelling”, the potential globetrotters gain nearly half of the votes, while the answer “Will stick to hunting locally or at nearby locations” was chosen by the smallest number of hunters (14.5%).
In any case, it is obvious that the closer the destination, the sooner it is likely to open, so outfitters who can cater to both local and international clients may be wise to temporarily shift their focus to the former.
6. One more time: Hunters want to hunt!
We mentioned already, that over 76% of hunters say they are ready to return to hunting as soon as the restrictions that limit them are over. But are they on the market for hunts yet? Apparently, yes. 13% of the respondents chose not to answer the question about the status of their next hunt. Among the rest, 27.7% have their hunts booked and scheduled fine, 42% are looking for options but are not ready for commitments, and 30.3% selected “looking for options and ready to book if I find a good one”.
Another question of the survey that strongly supports this positive trend is, interestingly enough, “How can we make BookYourHunt.com better for you?” In this question, respondents could select more than one answer. It turned out that 68.6% of our clients want us to “List more discounts and cancellation hunts”! The second most popular was “Inform of the lifting of international travel ban restrictions” – it collected 35.3% of votes. And we’re going to satisfy both requests (as well as the others, not mentioned here), best we can! (See our COVID-19 special information page, for example)
The bottom line.
The hunting industry is taking a strong beating, but it is not fatal yet.
On the one end of the scale, we have positive factors that support the hunting industry: a) rescheduled (as opposed to cancelled) hunts; b) hunters’ readiness to travel as soon as the travel restrictions are over; c) interest in best deals; d) the fact that it’s travel bans, not economic reasons, that is perceived as the major threat to hunting.
On the other end, there are negative factors: cancelled hunts; a somewhat alarming share of hunters concerned with possible economic problems.
On the whole, the positive factors outweigh the negative factors by a large margin, so, we can expect a recovery after the end of the epidemic. How fast or slow this recovery will be depends on the degree of economic slowdown. So far, we can expect a ‘post-COVID rush’, heated by delayed demand and the fact that a lot of hunts for years 2022 and 2021 are already taken. Most hunters seem to think that it is totally safe to book their hunts a couple of years in advance: outfitters ought to take heed.
The pandemia, along with protective measures adopted against it, is not over yet, and things may yet change. But in any case, the best bet for the industry is following the “Reschedule, not cancel” routine, and focusing on early bookings for 2021 and 2022 (or “open date” hunts) at reduced prices.
Do not hesitate to contact the BookYourHunt team for any questions, clarifications, or if you would like to use the results in your own research or publications. Together we can overcome the challenge that the pandemia presents to our industry, our lifestyle, and our passion.