Research and Article by Taylor Blowers, Strategist, Full Contact.
What’s keeping the travel industry alive? They are listening to their customers and fueling their decisions based on consumer insight.
Here are some realities that the travel sector has had to consider…
- Consumers want to get back out there.
- “Expedia is calling 2022 the year of the GOAT, or the “greatest of all trips.”
- American travelers are expected to spend 29% more on their average trip in 2022 than they did in 2019.
- But they are being careful about their choices.
- 47% of global travelers cite a COVID-19 related factor as the most influential criteria in choosing a destination and two thirds expect an understanding of the COVID-19 prevention measures in place prior to booking. 70% of travelers confirmed that destinations with lower numbers of Covid-19 cases will factor highly when making decisions on where to travel next.
As we dug into the challenges facing the travel world, we, of course, had to start with exploring the business of cruising.
Cruises have been at the epicenter of COVID-19 concerns since the first outbreak in the United States. In December of 2021, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took no time in issuing an advisement that, “People should avoid traveling on cruise ships, including river cruises worldwide, regardless of vaccination status.” (CDC)
Cruise lines such as Carnival, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Virgin Voyages and Disney Cruises had to make a move. Since a portion of the consumer group is ignoring the CDC’s recommendations, the first tactic was to discount tickets. Fortune wrote, “Despite the high-risk travel escalation thanks to Omicron variant’s spread, travel still is happening and travel companies are not planning on slowing down either.” (Fortune) Discounting tickets and promotion through sales events allows loyal customers still willing to ride a reward and hesitant customers an appeal to purchase. Cruise lines also acknowledged the growing skeptical consumer in offering early bird deals. For example, Carnival offered those passengers who aren’t interested in sailing now the option to book ahead and save money in return. (Carnival Cruise) In addition, Royal Caribbean cruises and others have introduced, “Cruise with Confidence” where passengers can feel better about the changing environment and “Cancel up to 48 hours before sailing, for any reason, and get a Future Cruise Credit for the full paid value of your cruise.” Cruise lines, in particular, and the travel industry in general are smart to listen to the consumers who are uncertain about the idea of traveling at this time and address that directly with their marketing and promotions.
Cruising isn’t the only behemoth in the travel industry that has been impacted by the current challenges in the Covid-travel landscape. Entertainment travel has been experiencing similar fluctuations.
Arguably the entire Super Bowl event can be seen as an example of the return to live sports and entertainment-based tourism. Super Bowl weekend showcased tourism recovery efforts as Visit California invested $22.1 million dollars into their campaign before and during the LVI game at SoFi Stadium in Golden State’s own Los Angeles. (Adforum.com) Unlike in 2021 where advertisers and companies were less willing to buy spots due to less impressions and smaller budgets.
Theme parks also understood this need to invest in the conversation around the realities of the Covid world and address consumer concerns as they visited their parks. Disney has used words like, “[We] cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit,” because there is an “inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19…in any public place where people are present.” (Discover Disney World) (Universal Orlando Resort). Theme parks like cruises and Disney, have offered discount promotions and “no block out dates” to increase flexibility in booking to help accommodate and show appreciation for consumer needs. However, there is another tactic that utilizes the “go big or go home” 2022 prediction, with new attractions that have been created in an attempt to garner attention and avoid the “ghost town vibes” (Inside the Magic).
Where have the traveling consumers gone?
As travelers look for less crowds and authentic vacations, personal lodging companies such as AirBnb and Vrbo leaned into the wants and needs of consumers through targeted campaigns. AirBnb has expertly shown viewers what to expect in our very unpredictable world when using their hosting/guest services through strategic storytelling of intimate vacations in a series called, “Made possible by Hosts”. My personal favorite is the “Bonnie and Clyde” montage of an adorable older couple who wanted a romantic getaway with a sound over of a Jay-Z song. Another fun montage in the series was the “Back in the Day” spot featuring a group of young friends who stayed at a retro house listening to vinyl and feeling like time travelers. This specific ad capitalized on how TikTok has influenced the travel perception. There is also a TikTok hashtag called “#houseswap” which has “generated approximately 10 million views and viral videos of users swapping houses on the social app.” (Fortune) Thanks to the trend “more than 40% of Gen Z employees plan to take a “workcation”” and the need for a hybrid home away was recognized quickly by Airbnb and others. (Fortune)
And speaking of social media…
In terms of booking trips, travelers looking on travel websites are likely to be influenced prior to even reaching the site by none other than social media. Social media may seem like a place to brag about a vacation, but that brag is also helping viewers discover where they should vacation next. Social Toaster reported that “84% of millennials say that they are likely to plan their own vacation based on someone else’s social posts.” (Social Toaster) Having an influencer or friend take a trip first allows for an in-depth review of the experience before they themselves take that trip. Not to mention, “86 percent of people (and 92 percent of Gen Z) said they’ve become interested in a specific location after seeing user-generated content” regarding that location. (Stackla) Travel messaging on social media is not new, however utilizing this insight seemed untapped until now. TikTok alone currently has ten or more travel video formats common to couples and friends traveling to take along their journey. There are also “travel hacks” on TikTok that show users potentially effective ways to travel more comfortably and affordably. (TravelPulse) National Geographic even has a multiple page article on how TikToK is changing the travel scene by acting like a travel agent for viewers. Social media is the social sphere keeping travel flowing by word of mouth, or better yet pictures. “The easiest way to start travel planning with TikTok is to follow a hashtag, such as #Mexico or #rollercoasters,” and the algorithm on the “For You” page does the rest to get you interested in a destination or travel experience. (National Geographic) The social landscape thanks to COVD-19 has want-to-be travelers excited than ever and thus as shown for marketers, it is a peak time to utilize social influencing tools.
According to Travel and Leisure, “travel is anticipated to generate nearly $2 trillion of the U.S. economy in 2022.” (Travel + Leisure) To ensure travel services get a piece of that revenue after the initial devastating impacts of COVID-19 travel companies worked smart by creating a strategic plan. Through smart targeting, reinvestment in impression driven opportunities, crafted messaging, and insightful listening is proving to be the best solution that turns a difficult time back into a successful future.