The Sun is Rising for Travel Brands
The pandemic has been extremely hard for many sectors, and the travel industry has been hit harder than most. But with Boris providing some hope as to when Brits might finally be able to head for some much needed sun, travel brands have work to do to regain consumer trust and get them booking with confidence.
While the government may say that it’s still too early to be planning a trip abroad, there are many things that travel brands can do to ensure that consumers feel comfortable when the world opens again.
Allay the fears: Many consumers are understandably going to be apprehensive about booking a holiday. Explicitly outlining why a travel company should be trusted will help customers feel better about parting with cash. This could include explaining the steps you are taking to ensure that customers will be safe or outlining cleaning practices.
Easyjet has put a huge amount of effort into understanding the concerns of its customers by appointing KPMG Nunwood to conduct a survey to see how customers are feeling about travelling in the near future. Once you understand consumers' concerns, you can then work to change their perception of travel.
We worked with PDSA to change people's perceptions on animal charities, aiming to increase donations. It’s about using behavioural science and creating focus groups to craft messages that resonate. If the travel industry can do this, they have a better chance of regaining consumer trust.
Allow consumers the flexibility to plan ahead: With so much uncertainty on when we will be able to travel abroad legally, many will want to know that they can easily change their plans if necessary with no stress. Many holiday companies are now offering flexible booking options, making it easy for customers to change their destination or dates easily. One option for travel brands is opening bookings further in advance, allowing consumers to book for 2022 or even 2023. This will allow consumers to feel more confident that they will actually be able to travel, and allow them a longer period of time to pay off the holiday.
Kuoni has announced that it will be putting customers' money into an “escrow” type account, ring fencing it in case things don’t go to plan. They are also offering different types of flexi booking dependent on people's needs. Ultimately they are living and breathing their brand messaging, “Total piece of mind isn’t standard... But neither are we.”
In Asia, travel brands take no deposit, and the payment for the holiday happens once they start to travel. Cancellations are easy and payments back to the consumer happen in 3 days. We might see a move towards these types of offers from travel brands.
Create a clear financial protection plan: Having a full refund guarantee, and making it as easy as possible for consumers to get their money back if things don't go to plan. There was a huge amount of publicity around the difficulty some consumers were having last year, which will undoubtedly put many off.
Lastminute.com proved reluctant to give money back to customers, offering vouchers instead. Travel brands should have a clear refund guarantee and reinforce the legal obligations that the business has when it comes to providing refunds. Center Parcs has been displaying strong messaging, telling consumers they can “book and stay with confidence” with a no questions asked refund policy or the ability to change your travel date ahead of time. It’s steps like this that will make consumers feel more confident about making a booking.
Entice consumers with offers and FOMO: Holidays are being heavily discounted to encourage bookings, but travel brands could make more of the pre vs post COVID savings by explicitly telling consumers what they would have paid for the holiday pre-March 2020. There is also expected to be an increase in demand for holidays once the border does open, so using this information brands can encourage consumers to book now to avoid missing out.
Although there is a lot that is still uncertain in 2021, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for travel brands. With the right combination of tactics, the industry has the opportunity to regain consumer trust and encourage new bookings. Brand messaging and clarity is going to be vital to ensure the industry is able to reopen and start to thrive again.