The travel business’ recovery following Covid-19 is underway and will continue to accelerate over the next 12 to 18 months. There are a few things we know for sure: There’s high travel demand, and it’s going to be led by domestic leisure. Yet there are countless things we don’t know, and inconsistency will remain the order of the day at least through 2021.
At a macro level, safety and cleanliness protocols, digital proof of health (negative tests or vaccination), continued social distancing, and contactless interactions will be in place for the foreseeable future. But those will vary widely across the board, from the country level to the municipal level. At a micro level, consumer behavior will be as nuanced as the individuals themselves.
Covid-19 ushered in an acceleration of digital trends across a variety of fronts, and travel brands now find themselves in a position to become more effective and more efficient by using customer data to create hyper-targeted, personalized experiences.
“There’s a race to serve the leisure traveler, but these consumers have very different buying patterns,” said Nadira Kalliecharan, VP, Travel & Hospitality for Publicis Sapient. “While we are helping brands make this shift, we are also seeing gaps emerging in the instrumentation, data collection, and sense and respond capabilities.”
Publicis Sapient and SkiftX have compiled the following four key imperatives for travel brands as they aim to collect, parse, and apply data to capture customers where they are today.
#1 Aim to Inspire, Not Advertise
Inspiration is still the key to effective travel marketing. For example, social media will continue to ignite demand. Travel brands have no shortage of inspirational content, but often struggle to connect that content with individual traveler interests. For hotels, a successful social strategy in 2021 might manifest as a promotion of experiences such as weekend getaways highlighting location benefits, not just hotel benefits, and tailoring interactions based on context they gain from the responses they receive.
The challenge for travel brands to convert lookers to bookers will always be front and center, but there’s no “business as usual” to that approach through the 2021 recovery and beyond.
“There is a lot of complexity for travel brands to navigate in the recovery,” said Kalliecharan. “Right now, brands should take a customer-centric view to prioritization, focusing on sentiment, segments, spend and differentiation.”