In the past year, most people were forced to put off travel season because of COVID-19. Would-be travelers dashed their hopes of visiting family, escaping to the beach, or going on an adventure to scratch off their bucket list due to border closures and city or country-wide shutdowns. Things were even more dismal for the travel and tourism industries as flights were grounded and hotels and restaurants closed by choice or government order.
While businesses in the tourism and travel industry have largely adapted to the pandemic by instituting extra cleaning protocols and making accommodations for social distancing, such modifications weren’t enough for many people to risk venturing too far from home. This had people asking, will travel season happen this year? Yet, all things eventually come to an end. Even a global pandemic.
As the numbers of people contracting COVID-19 start to drop, travelers are pulling out their credit cards and getting ready to hop back on planes, boats, and trains. As lockdowns cease, the travel industry is working hard to make a comeback all over the world. While “business as usual” looks differently for travel companies post-pandemic, traveler expectations have also changed. These issues give rise to how the travel industry can influence traveling decisions to reel in travelers and create the kind of customer expectations that keep them coming back. So, buckle up! Travel season is open for business, and we’re here to get you rolling.
COVID-19’s Impact on the Travel Industry
After news broke out about how quickly COVID-19 was spreading, the media aired repeated footage of empty airports and train stations worldwide. These images were a glaring reminder that the travel industry was suffering along with other industries.
These stats show just how devastating the impact of the pandemic has been on the travel industry:
International flight arrivals dropped 74% in 2020 from $1.46 billion in 2019 to just 381 million in 2020 (United Nations World Tourism Organization).
The decline in travel resulted in an approximately $1.3 trillion loss of global export revenue due to the decrease in international travel (United Nations World Tourism Organization).
The cruising industry is facing losses amounting to $32 billion (USA Today).
Amtrak projects they’ll lose $700 million or more even after help from federal funding (Reuters).
Popular tourist destinations that depend on travelers to support their economies also took devastating blows as these stats indicate:
In Italy, travel was down nearly 94% (PR Newswire).
For Spain, there was just over a 93% decline in the travel industry (PR Newswire).
In London, inbound tourism dropped 63% (The Guardian).
For Hawaii, visitor arrivals were down 80% in January 2021 (The Business Journals).
Disney theme parks project losses of $2.4 billion (CNBC).
That’s just a snapshot of what the travel industry has experienced so far. Fortunately, that’s all about to change. Consumers are dusting off their suitcases and pouring over the internet to look for safe travel options. A few cities around the world are already gearing up with new campaigns for the 2021 travel season.
Travel is Back: What Does This Mean?
Declining COVID numbers and access to vaccinations mean that people feel safe enough to travel. As places open up, cities are starting to launch new tourism campaigns to entice travelers to land their cities high on the list of hotspots and vacation spots. Soon, people will have more places to go, and that’s great news for your travel business.
What’s even better is that some governments are eager to reinvigorate their economies. Cities, states and even countries’ governments are launching post-pandemic tourism campaigns. Make sure to research where you have offices to see if you can take advantage of small businesses’ grants through the campaigns. With new tourism campaigns in full swing, or at least on the horizon, small businesses like yours have an opportunity to invest in digital technology so you can provide a good customer experience as the travel season begins.
Let’s look at a few of the new tourism campaigns in cities, states, and other places around the world.
Renewing Tourism Around the Globe
New York City — The Big Apple is investing $30 million in a tourism marketing campaign called “NYC Reawakens” starting in June. The goal is to invite domestic and international visitors back.
Georgia — The Peach State is ready to receive travelers with their “Ready. Set. Georgia.” campaign. They’ve created the “2021 Explore Georgia Official State Travel Guide”, and the governor is offering up $1 million in grants to help the travel industry recover from losses.
Hawaii — The Aloha State is trying to lure tourists from the “mindful” sect with a tourism campaign that revolves around the term malama, a Hawaiian term that means “to care for”. The Malama Hawaii program offers participants a free night at a hotel and other perks when they agree to participate in certain volunteerism projects. It’s a win-win campaign to get travelers moving again.
London — London’s tourist board is launching a new campaign to drive UK visitors into central London. The concept is to spend their money in their own country rather than venturing to other countries. The campaign is called “Let’s Do London”, and they’ve invested £6m to attract visitors.
Switzerland — Robert DeNiro and Roger Federer teamed up for a commercial to entice travelers to visit the picturesque, family-friendly country where you can experience four different languages and cultures within a short time.
If COVID numbers continue trending downward, the tourism industry will slowly get back on its feet. A slow move back to pre-COVID times gives small businesses in the travel industry plenty of time to prepare to deliver the best possible customer experience as they invite travelers in.
How to Support Your Customers During Travel Season & Beyond
Just as small businesses needed to adapt and adjust, customers also adapted their approach to buying goods and services. With nowhere to go and no way to get what they need, consumers have relied more heavily on the phone and the internet to satisfy their needs for entertainment and recreation during times of quarantine. Some companies have been more willing to meet their customers on these channels than others, and that’s changed customers’ expectations for how they rate the customer experience.
As your phones start ringing again and emails start to flow in, it’s important to make sure that your customers know you’re there for them, and you’re ready to go above and beyond their expectations.
Get back in the game with these three tips for planning your marketing, sales, and customer support strategies:
Align your sales and marketing departments as you plan new tourism campaigns so they’re both delivering the same message and sentiment.
Stay true to your brand. Your customers want assurance that your brand hasn’t changed drastically during shutdowns, at least not in a bad way.
Evaluate your technology and workflows to ensure that your reps are available for customers as needed.
With the assurance of social distancing measures and an increased focus on hygiene, people are starting to venture out cautiously. As they do, they want to know that they’re safe, and they also need a message of hope.
How a few countries have hit the right mix:
Britain — With a campaign called “Showing Love for Great Britain”, the country sent two opposite messages with a continual call to visit their sites when things were safer. One message encouraged them to stay home while the other invited them to go out once it was safe.
Portugal — This country took a similar approach as Britain with a campaign called “Can’t Skip Hope”. A video shows the beautiful scenery of Portugal and it’s narrated with a positive, uplifting message.
Saint Lucia — This Caribbean paradise took a cue from Portugal’s tourism board and launched a series of videos called “Seven Minutes in Saint Lucia”. They invited viewers to escape with a virtual yoga class, meditation session, cooking class, or cocktail-making workshop in just seven minutes. Plenty of viewers tuned in to experience a sense of peace and serenity at a time they really needed it.
Mapping Out Your New Customer Experience
As new and old customers begin to grace your doors after too many months of isolation, businesses need to know that the pandemic has been life-changing for them. Many of your customers’ priorities have changed. It’s caused them to think more about how they spend their money and what they choose to spend it on.
Why should you consider this? Because it may change your ideal customer profile (ICP). Hopefully, you already have a lot of data on your customers. You have to ask yourself whether that data is relevant today. The more you know about your customers, their emotions, and their motivations, the better you can gear your messages to them to keep them engaged.
In the examples above for Britain, Portugal, and Saint Lucia, they all hit the right tone on the head. Each of them provides the right balance of caring and hope, along with visuals of their beautiful nations. Such campaigns demonstrated doses of much-needed empathy and support.
Now is a great time to consider how your customers have changed their habits. Rather than focusing on what you knew about them before, it’s better to ask about them since the pandemic started. Your findings could have a very big impact on how you approach their needs at the current time. Digitization can help you glean new data about your customers using automation.
Our 10 Steps to Prepare Your Business for Travel Season
We’ve given you a lot to think about. We are leaving you with 10 steps to prepare your business for the upcoming travel season.
Keep your customers engaged, and find out what their new pain points and motivations are. Use data to personalize interactions.
Set up a call center and digitize your current processes to leverage automation for gathering data.
Communicate using multiple channels to reach customers in the way they prefer.
Utilize call center analytics to ensure quality interactions and gather feedback from customers.
As you build your business back, scale your call center up using a fully digital unified communications system. Make sure it includes a cloud-based phone system and software integrations.
Reevaluate the competitive landscape post-recovery, and evaluate whether your competition’s initiatives are moving faster or slower than yours.
Align your marketing and sales initiatives so teams send the same message and speak the same language.
Streamline marketing and sales automation processes to get messages to your customers as they’re ready to receive them.
Plan for the best times to enter new markets and increase your market share.
Be prepared to serve customers using mobile devices as they prefer and expect contactless services.
There’s no question that the travel industry has been disrupted like never before. The future of tourism and the travel industry is certain to have a bright future. Making sure your business can continue to evolve with the times is essential. Digital transformation is the guiding light to keep your customers engaged—so they remember your travel business when they’ve started to move past the pandemic.
Published on January 2, 2024.