It’s safe to say one of the industries most impacted by the onset of COVID-19 is the travel and hospitality industry. The pandemic served as a proverbial record-scratch for everyone’s travel plans—cruise ships were docked, planes were grounded, and hotels served as quarantine locations versus luxurious getaways. And now, as we close out 2021, new variants (OMG, Omicron) have travel and hospitality brands once again contemplating the possible impact on their industry.
But, this doesn’t mean it’s back to square one. Where travel and hospitality brands are today is vastly different from where they were in 2020. Yes, the bounce-back to pre-pandemic numbers has yet to happen (demand and travel trends are ~20–25% below 2019), but that doesn’t mean brands haven’t learned plenty along the journey thus far.
For example, in 2020 many highly-anticipated trips were flat-out canceled. So, instead of getting their hopes up and rebooking the same trip in 2021, travelers opted to stay closer to home but further from crowds. Choosing staycations over international trips showed the travel and hospitality industry that the definition of a “vacation” is subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Attitudes towards travel are constantly changing. So, what can travel and hospitality brands do to stay on top of the emerging trends in 2022? We’ve got you covered.
4 Marketing Tips for Travel & Hospitality Success in 2022
1. Go Real-Time, Real Quick
The ever-changing travel landscape has made it difficult for brands to predict the next trend. Some sources are predicting higher spend and larger groups, to make the value of the trip outweigh the risk. Some are saying with the labor shortage, flights may never take off and hotel doors may never open. But, it’s not about knowing what’s coming, but more about being prepared to pivot. Staying flexible is crucial in an uncertain environment.
For your marketing efforts, however, this translates to real-time marketing messaging. With everything from government restrictions to price fluctuations, it’s important to keep your customers privy to any changes, as they’re happening. While crucial for most industries, this is especially important for the travel and hospitality industry due to the high price points and numerous variables that could impact a customer’s experience.
It probably seems daunting to inform each individual customer of real-time changes to their unique travel itineraries, but it doesn’t have to be a huge lift. With the right martech stack in place, marketing automation can perform real-time segmentation of your audiences, grouping them into similar categories.This allows you to feed information to larger segments, while still delivering relevant messages to each individual customer.
Real-time messaging is just a piece of the personalization puzzle. There are a variety of ways to appeal to unique customers via your marketing messages, but it can be a fine line between personal and pushy.
2. Get Personal, But Not Pushy
Marketing personalization isn’t a new concept. We know most customers (71%, to be exact) expect a certain level of customization when it comes to the marketing communications they receive. But personalization within the travel and hospitality industry, especially during these times, becomes a bit more nuanced.
Because many regulations and restrictions are handed down by the powers that be, travel and hospitality brands need to tread a little lighter when it comes to marketing to their customers. Unlike challenges of a traditional retailer where the customer may ask for a refund or the product is sold out, outside influences like government regulations may be responsible for the challenges that arise in the travel industry.
Brands need to establish trust with their customers and build a relationship early in the process to account for times when external factors get in the way. Something as simple as including the customer’s name in messages could establish that you, the brand, are paying attention to their needs. To go a step further, you could tap into their historical data, understand what they do and don’t like when it comes to vacation, and deliver dynamic content that changes along with their interactions with your brand.
This, of course, should be the case regardless of where your customer is located.
3. Meet them Where They Are, Literally
For travel and hospitality, real-time messaging and personalization can only go so far without understanding where in the world the customer physically is located. Advertising low prices on a trip to Spain while the customer is currently in Spain won’t garner a lot of engagement. For an industry that hinges on various destinations, geo-targeting is key.
With a smartphone in the pocket of 85% of Americans, knowing where each customer is, assuming they’ve enabled location services, is a piece of cake. But, it’s what you, as a travel brand, do with that information that will set you apart.
Imagine you’re an airline and your customer booked a flight, with a layover, through your app. Based on their location and time-of-day, you could make the assumption that they have missed their connecting flight. Instead of leaving your customer to panic, your marketing technology could automatically send a push notification that leads to flights from their current location to their desired final destination.
But, it’s hard to make an assumption like that based on location alone. Instead, brands should strive to understand the customer, as a whole. This requires un-siloed data.
4. Un-Silo Customer Data
Earlier, we mentioned the martech stack. This refers to all of the various marketing applications you can access to execute your marketing strategy. And, while having an assortment of marketing tools available is meant to make the lives of your marketers easier, having them siloed, unable to communicate with one another, really doesn’t help all that much.
You’re an airline again. You send your customer an email reminder to check in for their flight the following day. Whether they complete their check-in on desktop or mobile can guide your next marketing move. For example, say their flight is delayed. Do you let them know with a push notification or stick with email? If they checked in via the mobile app, we’d recommend sending a push notification informing them of the delay. They’re more likely to engage with the push notification since they’re comfortable using your app. If they don’t interact with the message, you can always follow up via a different channel.
This is why a centralized data location is vital for personalized marketing. Not only does it take the guesswork out of your marketing efforts, but it helps create a 360-degree view of each customer profile. Why does this matter for 2022? On top of personalization, it allows for automation, data analysis, and rapid testing. With data from multiple sources consolidated into one centralized location, your marketing team can feel empowered to focus on the bigger picture.
A Look to the Future…and Today
The travel and hospitality industry in 2022 is still pretty up-in-the-air (pun intended). It’s hard to predict numbers at a time where new curveballs are being thrown from every direction. But that’s really what brands need to focus on: being flexible. Instead of focusing on what the numbers will be, focus on the right now. You have the time now to understand your customers better than ever before and establish relationships as the uncertainty continues.
Instead of focusing on what could be, take a look at where the travel and hospitality industry stands today and how Iterable can help your brand today, tomorrow, and in the future.