After two years dominated by travel bans and quarantines, the global travel industry is facing a whole new set of challenges in 2022. However, from a demand point of view, things are looking good.
According to data compiled by the European Travel Commission, travel intent among UK tourists revived this year, with 82% of those surveyed in March planning a holiday this summer, up from 29% in December 2021. .
Respondents were also spending more money on average, booking earlier, and increasingly seeking international destinations rather than domestic travel.
Yet, with demand so buoyant, why are travel marketers feeling under pressure right now?
With the threat of severe COVID receding, this was supposed to be the summer air travel returned to some kind of normality, but unfortunately, things haven’t quite gone according to plan.
Rising consumer demand has been accompanied by staffing shortages and industrial unrest, leading to major disruption to services at most European airports.
In early July 2022, Heathrow (the UK’s busiest airport) asked airlines to cancel 10% of their planned flights to ease baggage backlogs, and recently announced that it will cancel a further 10,000 flights until the end of March of 2023.
Just as the public’s desire to travel has returned with a vengeance, the business model of high-volume, low-cost air travel appears to be on the verge of collapse.
At the same time, consumers are concerned about the rising cost of living. Cost is now the biggest factor influencing travel decisions, and with many consumers considering cutting back, vacations are one of the highest-risk categories.
Travelers actively demand discounts as they search for the best deals.
In addition, the experience of the pandemic and the continued disruption of flights has made many potential travelers more wary of travel. As a result, many travelers look for guarantees like money-back guarantees and zero-cancellation fees before committing to a reservation.
For travel marketers, a careful balance must be struck. They need to find a way to harness the current excitement and demand for travel while successfully managing post-pandemic traveler expectations around cost and risk of disruption or cancellation.
Tips for travel marketers
For those marketing tourist destinations, there is a lot to be played for, but it would be a mistake to assume that the same old promotion techniques will work as well as they did before the pandemic. Here are some tips for travel marketers in 2022:
Find the new ‘value sweet spot’
With consumer concerns about the coronavirus on the wane, rising costs are currently top of mind for would-be summer travelers.
Marketers must recognize that, for consumers, “value” represents a combination of functional guarantees (such as cost or risk of inconvenience and disruption) and emotional elements (including self-fulfillment, fun, and hope).
The campaigns with the best chance of success right now are those that successfully combine messages from both sides of the value equation, but lean toward emotional messages designed to inspire.
The number of travelers turning to smartphone apps for their brand interactions is steadily increasing.
In fact, the amount of gross bookings worldwide made on travel apps last year amounted to $613 billion.
Not only should travel operators ensure that their own app provides a great customer experience, but travel marketers should explore the advertising opportunities available in other apps from popular brands.
Similarly, investments in search marketing must also be extended to cover non-brand keywords: more than half of all travel-related searches made by US consumers did not include any reference to a particular brand.
Take another look at YouTube
Another key trend in digital marketing has been a significant growth in the consumption of digital video content in recent years.
Plus, the smartphone isn’t the only place travel customers consume digital video.
Over 67% of UK households now own a connected TV and it is becoming one of the fastest growing digital channels.
This gives travel marketers the opportunity to design creative ad content that takes advantage of the bigger screen.
In fact, the channels and messages that consumers choose to interact with have changed.
To ensure they’re optimizing their reach and delivery, it’s time for marketers to start questioning some of their long-held assumptions about reaching travel consumers and update their marketing efforts for the post-pandemic world.