Preparing for the next takeoff: Tips for emerging travel and hospitality marketing trends
The global travel industry is booming. According to Forrester, the industry achieved a massive total booking amount of $1.6 trillion in 2017, contributing to roughly 10.2 percent of the global GDP. The worldwide surge in international travel, especially from developing nations, has buoyed brands’ outlook for future growth, but are they equipped to meet the demand and still satisfy their diverse travelers’ expectations for superb experiences?
Delivering on both fronts is no small task. Consumers are simultaneously more connected and more in need of connections than ever. With a multitude of devices and digital platforms at their disposal, they have mastered the art of looking for better options online—and with so many apps competing to simplify their lives, they are only going to get better at it.
But more and more travelers, especially millennials, are also starving for connections. They are tired of stays that are always delightful but never distinct. Burnt out on cookie-cutter tours, they want to have authentic experiences, to feel a personal connection to their destinations, a connection that hotels and travel brands are surely expected to make.
This blog outlines the emerging challenges—and opportunities—facing travel and hospitality brands in the age of perpetual connection.
Travel brands enjoy a wealth of data that would be an object of envy for other industries. But too often, brands large and small are hobbled by siloed data sources and data platforms incapable of bringing clarity to their fragmented insights. The lack of an adequate data foundation results in either no personalization at all or travel experiences that are poorly customized and punctured by inconsistencies.
However, as brands continue to roll out integrated loyalty programs across their properties, they can not only offer more exclusive services but centralize their customer intelligence, from dietary choices to leisure preferences. A robust data foundation will orient their efforts with a unified view of the customer. With this guiding insight and the continuous augmentation of their data, brands will be poised to build on past interactions and customer actions, providing truly individualized services specific to the tastes, needs, and habits of each customer.
Shifting Millennial tastes
Inclusive, digitally savvy, and curious about the world beyond their own, Millennials are gradually shifting the paradigm, a pivot towards minimal, interactive designs, experience-oriented travels, and more conscious consumption. While they are still dogged by economic burdens, millennials’ spending power will be formidable in the next few years.
Millennials are more inclined to research their travel options through independent research, often through aggregate websites and the countless apps they use frequently. They are also much more invested in social media, drawn to everything “sharable” and indicative of their individuality. Burnt out on mass-produced tours, they are loath to spend money on experiences that bear no connection to histories, people, and cultures.
Brands must act early, and backed by strategic insights. Invest in social listening to identify relevant trends, conversations, and value shifts. Enrich your research with insights from other data sources to curate effective communications, offers, and experiences. Finally, ensure the right capabilities are in place to accommodate millennials’ impulsive decisions and preference for spontaneity.
Accommodating every customer’s omnichannel journey
Consistently tracking individual customer journeys is one of the biggest challenges for travel brands. Customers take on a variety of digital identities, and they shuffle between channels at barely a moment’s notice.
This makes it easy for brands to lose track of their customers, but to customers, there’s no excuse for the inconsistencies that result. Customers expect a continuously evolving experience with your brand informed by previous interactions. They do not value redundant or irrelevant communications or random, disconnected offerings no matter how great they might sound in isolation.
To sustain the continuously relevant conversations and interactions that travelers expect requires the right omnichannel journey mapping tools. Leverage past and ongoing campaign data and competitor research to design divergent, engaging customer experiences across channels. This, of course, assumes the ability to identify and track individual customers across a variety of touchpoints and to capture new insights at every turn over time.
Embracing disruptions and innovations
Marriott’s recent experiment with Alexa for Hospitality signals the continuation of travel and hospitality brands’ commitment to elevate customer experiences with emerging technology. Incorporating voice assistants into the hotel experience to handle more routinized requests and tasks frees up a brand’s experienced employees to better serve customers. Many brands are also experimenting with new check-in options, leveraging smartphone apps and sensors to remove all pain points as weary travelers trudge to their hotels after a long flight.
The future of travel and hospitality is experiential, data-driven, individualized, and omnichannel. Brands that embrace these disruptions now will emerge victorious.