Claire Burgess, Director of Delivery, Incubeta, says the post-pandemic world requires brand to question old assumptions about how they reach travel customers
Guest Post: Top tips for travel marketers to balance demand against disruption
After two years dominated by travel bans and quarantines, the global travel industry is facing a whole new set of challenges in 2022. However, from a demand point of view, things are looking good.
According to insights compiled by the European Travel Commission, travel intent among UK holidaymakers was revitalised this year, with 82% of those surveyed in March planning for a holiday this summer, an increase of 29% on December 2021.
Those surveyed were also on average spending more money, booking earlier, and increasingly seeking international destinations over domestic travel.
Yet, with demand so buoyant, why are travel marketers feeling under pressure right now?
With the threat of severe COVID waning, this was supposed to be the summer when air travel returned to some kind of normality but, unfortunately, things have not gone entirely to plan.
The surge in consumer demand has been accompanied by staff shortages and industrial unrest leading to major disruption to services across most European airports.
Early in July 2022, Heathrow (the UK’s busiest airport) asked airlines to cancel 10% of their planned flights in order to alleviate a baggage backlog, and has recently announced it will be cancelling another 10,000 flights until the end of March 2023.
Just as the public’s desire to travel has returned with a bang, the business model of high-volume, low-cost air travel appears to be on the brink of collapse.
At the same time, consumers are concerned about the increased cost of living. Cost is now the biggest factor influencing travel decisions and, with many consumers considering making cuts in their spending, holidays are one of the most ‘at risk’ categories.
Travellers are actively demanding discounts as they seek out the best deals.
In addition, the experience of the pandemic and ongoing disruption to flights has made many potential travellers more wary of travel. As a result, many travellers are seeking assurances like money-back guarantees and zero cancellation-fees before committing to a booking.
For travel marketers, a careful balance needs to be struck. They need to find a way to leverage the current enthusiasm and demand for travel while successfully managing the expectations of post-pandemic travellers around cost and the risk of disruption or cancellation.
Tips for travel marketers
For those marketing travel destinations, there’s a lot to play for, but it would be wrong to assume that the same old promotional techniques will work just as well as they did before the pandemic. Here are some tips for travel marketers in 2022:
Find the new ‘value sweet spot’
With consumer concerns around coronavirus in decline, rising costs are currently top of mind for would-be summer travellers.
Marketers need to recognise that, to consumers, ‘value’ represents a mix of functional assurances (such as cost or risk of hassle and disruption) and emotional elements (including self-actualisation, fun and hope).
Campaigns with the best chance of success right now are those that successfully mix messages from both sides of the value equation, but weighted towards emotional messages designed to inspire.
The number of travellers turning to smartphone apps for their brand interactions is increasing steadily.
Indeed, the amount of worldwide gross bookings made on travel apps last year totalled 613 billion dollars.
Not only should travel operators be ensuring that their own app is delivering a great customer experience, travel marketers should be exploring advertising opportunities available within other popular brand apps.
Likewise, investments in search marketing should also be extended to cover non-brand keywords - more than half of all travel related searches by US consumers did not include any reference to a particular brand.
Take another look at YouTube
Another key trend in digital marketing has been a significant growth in the consumption of digital video content over the past few years.
What’s more, the smartphone is not the only place that travel customers are consuming digital video.
Over 67% of households in the UK now own a connected TV and it is becoming one of the fastest growing digital channels.
This provides travel marketers with an opportunity to design creative ad content that takes advantage of the larger screen.
Indeed, the channels and messaging that consumers choose to engage with have changed.
To make sure they are optimising their reach and delivery, it’s time for marketers to start questioning some of their long-standing assumptions about reaching travel consumers and bring their marketing efforts up-to-date for the post-pandemic world.