Understand how travel has changed
While travel is back, it looks a little different than it did pre-pandemic. And if you want to make your marketing efforts most effective, you need to know what your potential customers are now looking for. From choosing more exotic locations to larger group sizes to a greater focus on sustainability, today’s travellers have slightly different priorities. Travel has changed for good, and in the eyes of many people, for the better.
No sector can be insulated from the realities of finding sustainable solutions, and there are fewer sectors more directly affected by this than the travel industry. Companies need to be planning for a future where business trips are significantly reduced and people prioritise flights and trips for leisure instead.
As Deloitte’s ‘Return to a world transformed’ report highlights, while some business travel has resumed, budgets for travelling were cut by around 90% for many US firms. And, where travel has been necessary, individuals have preferred to drive and stay for longer, rather than fly on repeated trips.
Additionally, travel companies across the board are registering consistent interest in sustainable trips, and to rural or natural locations. While city breaks certainly aren’t a thing of the past, ecotourism has been enjoying consistent demand in the latter months of 2021. Whether for trips booked for longer, in larger groups or to less urban locations, travel companies need to show that they’re embracing the future of sustainable travel.
Reassure your customers
Rules that would’ve seemed nightmarish, like wearing masks for the entire duration of flights, have now been accepted as standard by keen travellers. However, many people are reluctant to brave travelling at what they feel is still an uncertain time. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the losses suffered by the international sector could be as great as $4.5 trillion. While there are green shoots, revenues remain at a fraction of their pre-Covid level.
If you’re going to be successful in tempting back anxious customers, you need to make it crystal clear that you’re all over the regulations and taking them very seriously. You could walk customers through what to expect, removing the fear of the unknown and showing them that their dream holidays aren’t hiding behind a heinously stressful process.
Customer experience matters
Making the booking and travelling experience as seamless as possible needs to be firmly at the top of every company’s January priorities. Customers turn to travel agents because they want to know that the complexities of travelling are going to be taken entirely off their plate, leaving them free to enjoy a blissful break.
Travel agents have a key role to play, acting as a kind of translator to decipher the reams of information into something customers easily understand and feel comfortable with. Regardless of whether you’re chatting to customers in person or online, 86% of them still expect authentic and consistent communications. A genuinely helpful approach to customer service and customer experience will help you capture the business of those who feel ready to travel.
Flexibility is now the name of the game when it comes to travel. Two years ago, flexible flying and refundable tickets weren’t a big feature of most companies’ offerings. Now, they’re something most consumers expect almost as standard. Covid-weary customers don’t want to lose out on hundreds of pounds if things that are out of their control change.
In such a changeable environment, flexibility is essential to both businesses and consumers. Being able to adopt flexible policies around bookings not only helps companies retain their existing flyers but gain new ones as well. Eighty-nine percent of travellers say that being able to book flexibly will help them protect themselves better against Covid, so it’s essential that you can enable customers to work around any hiccups along the way.
Though the future still feels a bit uncertain, and the unwelcome clouds of Omicron have rolled over, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic too. Millions of travellers have been able to travel safely and enjoy wonderful breaks in the midst of the pandemic, and with vaccines and more effective treatments on our side, a more normal way of enjoying the world is on the horizon.
Balancing caution and reassurance with a welcome drop of optimism and excitement will encourage customers to get travelling again. And if you can show that you’ll be there for them even in the worst possible scenarios, you’ll be well on your way to capitalising on the New Year Travel boom.