In a world with ever-changing restrictions, new Covid-19 variants and outdated—sometimes seemingly arbitrary—‘red lists’ of countries where traveling is discouraged, uncertainty may feel like the ruling force. For airlines, tour operators and all brands within the travel industry, there are too many gray areas and not enough clarity on how to communicate with their audiences while promoting responsible tourism. But here’s the good news: travel intent is resurging, and people are more eager than ever to connect with brands over their love for it.
To say that the last year and a half has been tough for the travel industry would be an understatement. The same can be said for their creative and advertising partners, who were forced to think on their feet to help them stay relevant for their audiences and connected to them. Now, with vaccination allowing for shorter—if any—quarantines and fewer obstacles, people are starting to plan future trips, and the opportunities to build a renewed relationship with travelers are expanding.
However, people’s approach to travel has changed. From longer trips to cheaper stays, consumer needs are not the same as they used to be—and more than ever they need brands to communicate and guide them in the process of re-entering the world of travel. As we gear up for the new era, here are four trends that will help guide your efforts in the right direction.
Domestic Tourism Is Here to Stay—Literally
In the last few months, the majority of those who dipped their toes into travel experiences did so close to home, fueling a significant rise in domestic holidays. While many of us are excited to hop on a plane and get as far as we can from the places where we quarantined for over a year, the unpredictable restrictions and overall risk of being abroad are clearly dissuading a significant number of people—especially those on the older side.
Another consideration to weigh is access to social security programs. These are more likely to cover their beneficiaries while inside the country, whereas different programs are required for international trips—in fact, numerous countries list it as a requirement for entry. Unless this situation dramatically changes, we can expect people to carry on exploring their home countries and expanding this trend well into 2022.
For brands, this means that they’ll have to think outside the box and adjust their proposition to reach new audiences, such as in-country or even in-state visitors. In doing so, it’s important to approach domestic destinations not as the second-best option to international travel; rather, as an equally exciting, brand-new experience that’s relevant to today’s customer needs. Also, keep in mind that the content and overall messaging aimed at international travelers can hardly adapt to a local audience, so make sure to tailor it accordingly.
Remote Workers Go the Extra Mile for Travel
It may come as no surprise that the flexible office schemes prompted by the pandemic have allowed for a blend between work and leisure. While the community of digital nomads is not new, the concept of “workations” has definitely expanded, and more location-independent workers are looking to leverage that flexibility and enjoy a dose of new cultures—even if it means taking work with them.
In the Caribbean, alluring places like Barbados and Aruba started extending visas in a bid to attract remote workers, an offer that was taken up by many. The destination options are endless, but one thing is certain: digital nomads look for longer stays, and therefore, cheaper accommodations, so make sure you keep their needs in mind while speaking to this growing community.
There’s a Thirst for Adventure
Whether you’re targeting “workationers” or tourists looking to fully disconnect, conveying a sense of security is key. In addition to the ever-changing restrictions calling for booking flexibility, travelers are demanding transparent hygiene and clear safety measures. But before you put the pedal to the metal and speed down that road, keep in mind that focusing solely on the safety aspect can be counterproductive.
Even though the concepts of health and safety have never been more crucial, they are rarely what inspire consumers to seek new adventures. Instead, try to balance comfort and protection with nostalgia and excitement—reconnecting with our dormant love for travel while reimagining what holidays can look like in the near future.
To that end, influencer marketing can help brands lead the conversation around new and future travel paradigms. Booking.com’s Future of Travel campaign is a great example of this. Through their social channels, content creators offered a window into their own experiences, spreading a sense of reassurance and inspiring their audiences to follow their steps. These efforts are not merely about reach; rather, about carving a deeper connection between brand and consumer through the authenticity influencers provide.
Technological Innovation Goes a Long Way
Like with all industries, integrating new technologies can provide endless opportunities for travel brands to adapt and evolve the customer journey. Not long ago, Thomas Cook launched a video-sharing app that allows travelers to create, share and watch content from other users—being just one step away from booking a holiday themselves.
While engaging with audiences on the mainstream social platforms can help build a community, having your own spaces of interaction can result in a more integrated, seamless experience for your consumers. To that end, we at Media.Monks built an Apple TV app for Hotel Xcaret Arte in Mexico—a unified platform that helps guests get familiar with the park, book activities, order room service and even save the photos that were automatically taken in different spots throughout the park to carry their memories with them.
In addition to assisting guests in making the most out of their time at Xcaret, the app allows for a more personalized experience—which plays a major role in strengthening the customer-brand relationship. That said, you don’t need to go as far as developing an app: packing light with simpler experiences like a platform for visitors to download their tour photos can kick-start an ongoing relationship.
Although the travel landscape has changed, I firmly believe that there’s a wide window of opportunity for brands in the industry to engage with consumers in ways we’ve never seen before. As people reassess their approach to traveling and grapple with loads of information, they’ll seek brands’ expertise to connect the dots and help them make their travel experience as effortless as possible. I, for one, am excited to hit the road again and enjoy what travel brands have to offer.
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