We’ve all seen how the travel industry has been disrupted this year. Now it’s time to think about the ways it has changed for the long term; and how the Covid-19 pandemic has created “new rules of seduction” for enticing travellers in 2021 and beyond.
The way people think about travel has changed. Convincing people to book a trip or activity will require more than posting pretty pictures and videos, or offering the cheapest deals. Sure, those things will still be appealing, but people are focused on things beyond an Instagram-worthy destination or a last-minute steal: namely flexibility, safety and sensitivity. So let’s break those points down.
“People want honest, clear policies on rebookings and refunds”
Thousands of people around the world have been left feeling annoyed and out of pocket as a result of late or non-existent refunds from airlines, hotels, booking platforms, insurance companies and other sectors of the travel industry this year. Consumer watchdog Which? estimates that in the UK alone, 9.5 million people had plans for a package holiday disrupted in 2020, with more than £1 billion in refunds still being unlawfully withheld from those people six months later.
Even as travel begins to look more “normal” next year, the knowledge of how quickly things can fall apart won’t be forgotten in a hurry. That’s where flexibility comes in. People want honest, clear policies on rebookings and refunds. Websites like Travelbounce, The Points Guy and more have been compiling lists of holiday companies, airlines and hotels with the most flexible policies to help rebuild traveller confidence going forwards. That kind of content will be front-of-mind when bookings take off again, so it’s time to think about how to get yourself featured in it.
You’ll also need to be flexible in terms of your actual marketing. A campaign that’s relevant in February may seem outdated by March, particularly when it comes to messaging on…
The safety element might seem obvious, but it’s worth a reminder because of how important it will be in the year to come, whether you’re a government tourism board, hotel, airline, travel agent… the list goes on.
“Make sure that as a destination you all sing from the same hymn sheet”
In a survey by Bloom Consulting earlier this year, 64% of respondents said their fear of contracting Covid-19 outweighed their desire to travel. We can assume that number will drop as time goes on, especially with the latest positive vaccine news.
But still, Bloom Consulting concluded that destinations and other tourism businesses will need to redesign their business models to adapt to new expectations. “If the global public perceives the government of a country to have managed the crisis well and to have a secure health system, 53% of tourists’ desire to visit the destination will be influenced in their favour,” the study stated.
So make sure you align your marketing with the latest government updates on the pandemic. Make sure that as a destination you all sing from the same hymn sheet, and that your messaging does not contradict the latest news. As well as your own, think about highlighting safety procedures adopted by airports, hotels, attractions and other public places in your destination.
The public receives an overload of news and information these days, so marketing that’s accurate, transparent and up-to-date will matter more than ever. In October, a Medicspot survey showed that 60% of Brits were confused by their local Covid-19 restrictions… let alone those nationwide or in other countries.
That presents both a challenge and opportunity for businesses to act as useful sources of information. A report by Deloitte published in August found that while the long-term outlook for the travel industry’s recovery was positive, businesses and destinations that bounce back first will be those that “regain customer confidence”, engage in “trust building”, and communicate “strict sanitary and hygiene measures”.
“Think about how everything you post will come across in this new world”
Then there’s sensitivity; as in, being sensitive to global and local moods and making sure your marketing feels appropriate. Think of all the feel-good viral stories from this year, like clapping for health workers and ‘nature is healing’ stories. Is this a side of your business or brand you can show? Can you help the public out (and sure, put your brand name in front of them at the same time)?
We all know the value of fast, human-to-human customer support, but this is another area which people have despaired of this year, with many feeling like travel companies weren’t listening to their complaints. Is there any way you can increase personalised interactions with your customers or potential ones in 2021? Remember to also ensure that all your brand’s social media interactions are informative, accurate, friendly and humanised.
Sensitivity also means not just reusing your old marketing messages. Think about how everything you post will come across in this new world. Travel Weekly has highlighted several brands that have been praised for switching to a “soft marketing” approach this year, including British Airways’ inspirational “Dear Britain” poem recited by staff, Kuoni’s “Kuoni Moments” which aim to transport viewers from their living rooms, and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s #CaribbeanDreaming campaign.
Next year provides an exciting change to pivot again; travel is coming back, so why should people choose you for what might be their first trip in over a year?
Want to learn more about how to achieve all this? You can find our 7-point checklist for marketing in 2021 here.
About the author
Manish is the founder of one of UK’s leading tourism and travel focused marketing agencies, Digital Dialog. He is also founder and chief editor of Travelbounce, a news website that helps travellers find essential travel information amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Manish has been helping tourism, travel and hospitality brands leverage digital channels effectively since 2012. Some of the brands he has worked with include Switzerland Tourism, Tourism Ireland, Atout France, Austria Tourism, Visit Wiltshire, Travelodge, Preferred Hotels to name a few.
If you would like to get in touch with Manish to discuss any of your marketing needs, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org