As monthly air passenger arrivals to the UK fell by 98% – from 6.8 million in February 2020 to 112,000 in April 2020 – according to ONS figures, there has been no question about the pandemic’s impact the on the travel industry.
Our client Welcome to Yorkshire also reported how many of the region’s businesses were forced to close, with visitor attractions, festivals, bars and restaurants struggling to survive.
But this isn’t a blog centred on doom and gloom, as we’re starting to see a bit of light at the end of a very long tunnel. There is good news. We’re being told that Britons can start to ‘think about foreign travel’ as more people access the vaccine, and we continue in our social distancing efforts.
So, with things hopefully turning a corner, what should modern-day travel marketers be focusing on throughout 2021 to ensure they’re staying ahead of the curve? James Skellington, our travel specialist and automation consultant, shares his insight…
1. Marketing teams will reduce in size if they haven’t already
Yes, it’s true. It’s been a harsh time for employees in this sector with furlough and redundancies taking place, but that doesn’t mean the product has to be diluted – there are still so many opportunities for people involved in travel.
Being scaled back in numbers will mean that departments will be homing in on what’s working and parking the efforts that weren’t impacting their bottom line. Teams will also be looking towards experts to lighten the load, and these individuals will be key to moving brands in a positive direction swiftly.
The majority of manual processes should be a thing of the past too. Of course, it’s important to be ‘human’ in your correspondence with customers and we’d never say otherwise, however, there are elements of marketing automation that marketers can plug in to take care of the ‘mundane’ tasks, so they can focus on building those all-important consumer relationships.
Additionally, automation opens the door for a greater level of data segmentation which will be pivotal for teams to truly understand their customers’ wants and of-the-moment interests – and this can be achieved in minutes rather than hours.
For us, we saved a travel client over 60 hours of manual data segmentation a week simply by showing them how to make the most of our Force24 platform! Imagine what your departments could do with that additional time?
2. There will be immense competition
In truth, when is there ever not a battle for space in this industry? As much as marketers in this arena will be aware of others vying to monopolise the landscape, the winners will be those who fully understand their audience and respond proactively to their needs.
That means as a savvy marketer, you should forget about a one-size-fits-all approach or ‘batch and blast’ email sends. Instead, focus on building your relationships, personalise your content and get to know what every individual wants from your brand. Customer loyalty is scarce so you must be in a position to show them exactly why they have no other option but to instil their trust in you.
3. Marketers must lead the way to educate and reassure holidaymakers
Brands must step up and lead on what people can expect with their travel – don’t go quiet on them either as they’ll soon access the information elsewhere, and then you’ve lost a customer completely.
Our advice is to find out what people want to know and where they want to go – make sure you steer away from predicting their interests because they’re likely evolving at a rapid pace.
Set expectations and instead educate holidaymakers on what their 2021 getaway will involve. Utilise your comms well so they answer the questions of:
- Where can I travel?
- Do I need to be vaccinated?
- What will the experience be like?
- What precautions do I need to take?
- What safety measures are in place at my hotel or airline of choice?
4. It comes back to understanding the customer
It’s been said throughout this blog because it’s vitally important. Without knowing how your consumers feel, why their interests are evolving, and what they’re now interested in – in real-time – you’ll struggle to connect with them, and your digital comms will likely be received with an ‘unsubscribe’ in response.
There are so many people who are eager to get on an aeroplane and see the world following a difficult 12 months, but what will their requirements and concerns be in the short, medium and long term? If you can proactively answer these queries, you’ll be able to steal a march before a competitor does.
As we move beyond the pandemic and into a ‘new normal’ version of holidaymaking, customers’ needs will develop and marketers need to be on top of this throughout. It’s about delivering hyper-personalised comms that recipients want to read, not what you think they want to consume.
The good thing here is that marketing automation can help you achieve all these goals. Arming you with critical data, you can segment audiences so you know they’re receiving relevant content they’re interested in. In return, you’re more likely to build long-term trust and loyalty during a 2021 that presents both challenges and immense opportunities.
Find out about how marketing automation can transform your travel brand’s customer comms. Book a demo and let’s talk! And don’t forget to follow the latest updates on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.