You’d be hard pressed to find an industry hit harder by the pandemic than travel and tourism. Factors ranging from restrictions, to cancellations, to personal safety have caused most of the world to stay close to home for the last 18 months.
Now, as restrictions ease and the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out globally, the travel itch can finally be scratched.
But if the pandemic has taught us anything (and surely it has), it’s that there’s no going back to how things were. Let’s take a look at three trends that will dominate our much-anticipated return to everyone’s favorite pastime.
In my opinion, one of the biggest opportunities for the travel and tourism industry is leveraging data to create personalized digital experiences. Data plays a huge role in what we do at Appnovation – so when we're thinking about a new digital experience for a traveler or for someone that's looking to find inspiration, we use data as a core anchor to validate our ideas – or toss them and move onto the next.
When it comes to delivering these personalized experiences – the right message, to the right person, at the right time – it’s technology and data that enable us to do it consistently and accurately.
For example, Appnovation’s recent Travel + Tourism research found a difference in readiness to travel between Canadian and American tourists. This poses an interesting challenge for travel brands. Consumers are planning international travel for a year from now, but many are ready to travel locally now. To be empathetic, marketers need to strike a balance between the varying levels of readiness by understanding their traveler and personalizing the digital planning and booking experience accordingly.
Marketers should think about correlation between the amount of time travelers are now taking to book trips to when they are actually traveling and tailor campaigns accordingly. Personalized campaigns offer the ability to target local campaigns to staycationers who are ready to travel now, and long term campaigns to appeal to international travelers.
Looking back over the last five or ten years, I think the struggle with personalization comes when brands take a technology-first approach. Perhaps they’ve invested in technology that assists in personalization. And then they bring in an agency to help implement it. But what they fail to do is stop and ask, “What’s our strategy, where are the data points, where’s the content that’s going to feed that personalization?”
I like to think about technology as being the hidden enabler of the experience. Meaning, always lead with the experience – and always lead with the user in mind.
We all know that one of the biggest changes to travel since the pandemic began is taking trips closer to home. Many of us finally visited that beautiful town just a couple hours away – the one we recommended to foreign travellers but had never actually visited ourselves. This shift forced Destination Marketing Organizations to start looking at customers within their region, and it opened the door to a lot more touchpoints and a lot more learnings.
Even before the pandemic, sustainability and over-tourism was a huge talking point and concern for many destinations. So with these new touchpoints and insights into where travellers are coming from and how they’re enjoying the trips, we gain the tools to potentially change the way we market certain places at certain times of the year. We can then influence their plans and almost “move” people around, so they get a better experience from the vacation as well.
The pandemic certainly showed travel brands a side of themselves they hadn’t seen before. And while there are many aspects of this change brands want to leave behind forever (75% off coupons – no thank you), there were great lessons learned as well.
So, use data to get more personal, always think about the experience first, and don’t be afraid to influence customer behavior in the name of sustainability.