Sergio Alvarez is a performance marketing expert, digital attribution leader and CEO and founder of Ai Media Group.
The travel industry has taken major hits in the last few years. What was once a thriving and robust global industry was shut down when the pandemic hit. Over time, as restrictions eased, we saw the industry start to crawl again, then stand up and walk. Today, travel seems ready to set into a full gallop, but the question remains: Is your travel business ready for this?
For the first time in decades, we might see demand start to outstrip supply in tourism and travel, and the businesses that win the most bookings will be those that set themselves apart from the pack.
Don’t Discount The Virus Just Yet
Although another major lockdown in response to Covid-19 is unlikely, the travel industry would be remiss to forget the impact that the pandemic had on the general public. Many travelers are now far more aware of the risk of transmissible illnesses while traveling, and companies that take precautions will endear themselves to a large number of customers. Although airlines, cruise liners and hotels don’t need to go as far as making the travel experience restrictive, travelers will appreciate enhanced cleaning protocols or improved HVAC systems to make them feel safer while using your travel service.
Many travelers had deeply unpleasant experiences when the pandemic hit. Some were stuck on trips and unable to get home, and others lost money on deposits for trips that were forced to be canceled. The travel industry can help build a sense of trust in its customers by focusing on new protocols to prevent this from happening again.
Personalization Is Key
Travel is a long-term experiences/” data-ga-track=”ExternalLink:https://www.countryliving.com/life/a44504/why-you-should-spend-your-money-on-experiences/” aria-label=”feel-good experience”>feel-good experience. Although purchasing a product online provides buyers with a temporary rush of endorphins, travel purchases create excitement during the booking process, anticipating the trip, during the traveling itself and while reflecting on memories afterward. The travel industry is selling the experience of travel and, as such, those experiences are best personalized to meet each traveler’s needs.
For instance, cruise lines should strongly focus on personalizing their packages to the unique needs of certain groups. Parents, for example, don’t want to worry about their children getting bored while on holiday—or fear that they’ll be an annoyance to other travelers. However, if they know that the travel experience they’re buying is completely personalized to the needs of parents, they’re far more likely to go with that offer. Couples’ cruises, family-friendly cruises and the like are all going to be far more attractive than packages that seem to lump everyone together in one category.
Along with personalized services comes targeted marketing, and digital channels are perfect for that. Travel companies can really put digital marketing to the test by narrowing down their target markets for ads and, through holistic attribution, starting to understand how well those campaigns are working for them.
Another lingering effect of the pandemic is a sense of information overload. Specifically, people are more skeptical about what they see on social media and other digital channels. Although many have become less trusting of anonymous media blurbs and mass advertising, we’ve also become a lot more trusting of other human beings and their experiences.
Marketers in the travel industry can and should use this to their advantage by encouraging happy travelers to share their experiences online for others to see. This can be done in the form of photographs, brand-specific hashtags and reviews. Regardless of the form it takes, social proof is golden for those looking to build their brand authenticity in the market.
It would be risky to assume that travelers who used your company pre-pandemic will continue to do so post-pandemic, so it’s a good idea to reward those that do. Incentivize repeat business and returning travelers with loyalty programs and discounts.
Using referral systems to encourage loyal customers to introduce their friends and family to your brand is also beneficial. Gratitude is really going to be the name of the game for the travel industry. People are no longer traveling because it’s the norm. They’re choosing to do so, and if they choose to do so with your company, don’t take that for granted.
Embrace This Reset
Those in the industry already understand how deeply the pandemic impacted each person and brand within the sphere. This is an opportunity for the industry to start fresh and really embrace what it does best: service. It’s worth underlining that the travel industry sells memories and experiences, not products. As such, the industry has a role to play in helping the world’s travelers heal from the last few years’ difficulties.
Not only does this new wave of travel promise rapid growth for brands, but it’s also a vital time for the industry as a whole to learn from past failings and get back on the horse with experience and a fresh mindset.