Few sectors have suffered as much as travel, tourism and hospitality lately, the industry literally grounding to a halt overnight right at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fast forward 15 months, and excitement is building as international travel engines rev up again and the world’s borders start to reopen, with dreams of a foreign getaway becoming a reality. But will travel ever be the same again and, if so, how can brands get ready for takeoff?
The UK government’s latest travel update saw Bulgaria and Hong Kong added to the green list of countries per the traffic light system. Croatia and Taiwan have joined the green “watch list” which means they could be at risk of moving to the amber list at the next travel list review. While initially joining Malta, Madeira and several Caribbean islands and British Overseas Territories on the green list just two weeks ago, Spain’s Baleraic islands (including Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca) have been moved back onto the amber list, along with the British Virgin Islands – sowing even more confusion for would-be travelers.
As travel and tourism brands gear up to reignite marketing activity, they need to be mindful of this ever-changing landscape. While attitudes towards travel from consumers in the UK are beginning to improve, there’s still work ahead on this road to recovery to ensure that brands are empowering consumers with the confidence boost they need to book their next trip after a long hiatus. Over half (52%) of UK consumers haven’t travelled anywhere since the start of the pandemic - that’s the highest percentage in Europe.
However, as the vaccine rollout continues and lockdown restrictions ease, the majority (almost 60%) are getting more comfortable with the prospect of returning to travel, according to a new report from customer engagement platform Braze in partnership with Apptopia and Skyscanner, which explores 2021 travel industry trends, insights and strategies.
But this rising desire for travel is clouded by confusion and concerns over safety and travel rules, highlighting an imperative need for travel brands to improve communication with consumers to deliver the right message at the right time.
Hopes for international travel have been driven by the ‘NHS Covid Pass’ which launched in April and, according to Apptopia, saw an average of 62,600 daily downloads throughout May (446% higher than May 2020). Now, it’s being rolled out across EU member nations as a ‘Digital Covid Certificate’. The report found that consumers are happy to comply with travel regulations and 85% willing to share personal data and their vaccination status with brands to be able to travel.
At the same time, more than half (53%) of UK consumers said Covid-19 safety measures are their number one consideration when choosing a travel brand, and 52% would choose not to travel with companies who aren’t complying with the rules. Yet, less than half (47%) claim to understand the rules governing international travel and 55% found quarantine rules, Covid-19 vaccine certificates, testing requirements and the traffic light system confusing and felt they could be communicated better.
Younger travelers were most confused about how their unvaccinated status will affect travel plans (62% of generation Z and 54% of millennials). Many 18-34-year-olds claim that they still don’t know enough about the rules or requirements to feel comfortable moving ahead. As a result, 44% admitted to postponing their international summer holiday this year.
Going the extra mile for travelers with cross-channel communication
These trends point to a need for travel brands to seize this opportunity to rebuild relationships and trust with consumers by delivering insightful and personalized information that cuts through the noise and confusion to give them the confidence they need to book travel and accommodation.
A case in point, UK-based Skyscanner launched a ‘Where Can I Go’ map that sought to help travelers answer questions about Covid-19 guidelines and border restrictions. The supporting email campaign used AI triggers to deliver personalized emails to customers when there was a relevant change in border restrictions or quarantine information. The rich experience and timely nature of the message led to open and click-through rates that were three-to-four times higher than average, per the report.
Communication updates have always mattered for travel brands but today’s it’s crucial: 34% of global travelers said they’d consider booking with another company if they didn’t get the communications they expected. Amid changing guidelines and heightened expectations, brands can seize the opportunity to deliver the right message with timely, relevant updates by adopting a cross-channel engagement strategy that gives consumers the confidence they need to be able to travel again. Here are three tips to help you get there:
- Messaging matters - Travelers expect communications around Covid-19 so brands need to ensure they are sending timely, relevant updates on Covid-19 company policies, as well as regulations and status of the virus at the location they are visiting.
- Personalized emails perform better - Most travel brands send each user one email per month but as people become more open to travelling, brands might benefit from upping frequency. After all, emails triggered by user actions perform 10.8 times better than time-based emails.
- Cross-channel boosts results - Email is still the most popular messaging channel for travelers but Braze research shows that brands see stronger results with a cross-channel strategy. It can increase session activity by 4.1 times on average and boost the lifetime value of a customer. In-app messages, for example, drive 3.3 times more bookings, reservations and purchases than email.
To learn more about how brands can meet the challenges and opportunities that come next – including a look at how attitudes to travel are changing across the globe – download Braze’s ‘Ready for Takeoff: 2021 Travel Industry Trends, Insights and Strategies’ report here.