Now is the time to market for the post-COVID travel recovery. Here's why:
It is no secret that the travel and tourism industry took a destructive hit due to COVID-19. In fact, during the first 10 months of 2020 alone, the pandemic cost the tourism industry $935 billion in lost revenue worldwide. For much of the world, uncertainty made travel practically impossible last year. During this time, travel for leisure and business took a back seat to priorities surrounding the health and well-being of our communities.
It has been a year of uncertainty for individuals in the travel profession and many are still reeling from the implications this pandemic has had on their businesses and livelihood. However, there is a wave of hope on the horizon, and recovery from this unprecedented global event might be closer than you think.
The events of 2020 have leveled the playing field for hotels and tour companies across the industry. The time to hit the ground running and plan for a resurgence of travel and tourism is now. With so many people trapped in their homes and cities for such a prolonged period, many are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get out into the world and explore.
According to Zeitgeist data, 70% of consumers in the U.S./UK are planning on taking a vacation this year.
It is vital that you begin to strategize for the emergence from the pandemic and set yourself up for success in 2021 and 2022. Those that position their businesses to take the leap to the front of the impending recovery will have an invaluable advantage against those that hesitate to act.
Vaccinations are well under way
Although still not widely available to the public at the moment, vaccines are being distributed at a quicker and more efficient pace. The new U.S. administration set an ambitious goal of 100 million vaccines in its first 100 days, and it appears that the goal will not only be reached but surpassed.
In fact, in recent days the administration has secured an additional 200 million vaccine doses now totaling 600 million overall doses by July 2021 in the United States.
With a population of 328 million, this means the U.S. will be on track for 70% of its population to be vaccinated by September 2021.
Improved vaccination efforts here and abroad will set the stage for a possible return to normality in late 2021 to early 2022. We can see from Israel's example, that the country has started to open up travel as their population reaches 50% vaccination. Once vaccinations are widespread, individuals will not only begin to feel more comfortable traveling but will be able to do so with fewer restrictions.
Pent-up demand will boost recovery in travel and tourism
Endless Zoom meetings, virtual school, online celebrations – people are tired of being stuck at home and are looking for any opportunity to travel and experience something different. The dynamic is also creating a unique prospect for individuals that can truly work from anywhere in the world and many are jumping at the chance to find a new location to work from.
Even cruise lines, one of the earliest and hardest-hit sectors of the industry, are seeing optimism on the horizon. Royal Caribbean recently debuted plans for 3 new ships in 2022-2023 and, in a recent interview with Insider Travel Report, Carnival Corporation President and CEO Arnold Donald predicted that by end of this year most if not all of Carnival’s fleet will be in action. “By early next year, all of the fleet will be back…if nothing else occurs,” he said, basing this on the availability of multiple COVID-19 vaccines and “all the things we've learned to mitigate the spread [of the virus] onboard.”
With many areas of the world are still managing COVID-19 and vaccination efforts, 2021 is setting up to be a pivotal stepping stone to reshape and rebuild the industry for 2022 and beyond.
Vacation planners are in the research phase.
While vaccines appear to signal light at the end of the COVID tunnel, concerns about it still govern consumers’ vacation and travel plans. For this reason the vast majority of vacation planners remain in the research phase.
With the encouraging news on declines in new virus cases, Skift found that American consumers’ confidence of a better 2021 continues to rise. In their survey earlier this month, 72% of Americans said they would "definitely" or "likely" travel in 2021, two percentage points higher than in early January.
A Travel Industry Redesign To Match New Priorities
It is without question that this pandemic has changed people's perspectives, interactions, and priorities. For vacation planners in the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic is now the most important factor to them when considering a trip. This ranks 16% higher than the state of their personal finances, indicative of how devastating the pandemic has been on the industry.
As travelers begin their planning, they are taking safety precautions into consideration and shifting their decision criteria. What may have been most important in the past like prices and perks will likely be sidelined for more pressing concerns of safety, comfort, and destination appeal. For example, there's been a huge increase in search terms like "hotel covid safety protocols."
As pricing becomes less of an emphasis, loyalty is more important than ever before. The vacationer of 2021 is cautious and wary of traveling again, so it is paramount they trust travel brands.
Hotel Speak emphasizes that marketing based on discounts alone is the #2 most common mistake in post-pandemic messaging.
In a year when most communications and interactions took place from afar many customers will be looking to build stronger connections in all of their endeavors, including those they entrust to plan their travel.
As far as destinations, according to Global Web Index, vacations are more likely to be shorter and closer to home than they used to be – more staycations and road trips versus international travel. Quieter destinations and the great outdoors will also feature heavily rather than crowded cities and enclosed venues.
The travel industry must adapt to these changes to meet the needs of customers and provide the experience they are longing for. It is vital to shift your thinking on the customer relationship and how you will meet their changing needs and expectations. Focus on the customer value journey and your relationship with your customers to allow for a more personalized approach to their travel and how you can fulfill guest needs.
When interacting with clients make sure to address their specific concerns and wishes to build trust with your customers. The reality is that not everyone will be looking for the same thing when it comes to travel and not everyone will have the same comfort levels or adventurous spirit. Get to know the customer's desires to make certain you can provide them with the options that will appeal not only to their senses but also to their sensibilities.
The Time to Start Recovery Marketing is Now
There is no better time to get a leg up on your competition than now. And though the industry landscape is different to what we’ve known before, travel brands that tap into consumers’ changing demands, and make them work for them, will be the ones best set for takeoff. With hope and the promise of a better year ahead, now is the moment to stake a claim in the online search game and set your business up at the top of the results for months to come.
It can take up to 90 days for search engines such as Google to index your optimal keywords; the sooner you begin the process, the faster you will gain a competitive advantage. Take action now to build a powerful online marketing and email strategy, conversion rate optimization, and search in your travel sector.
While last year was a great time of uncertainty for travel brands, 2021 is a new story and represents opportunity. Tourism and travel brands that acknowledge this will be the best positioned to take off once again. Don't get left in the back of the pack. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to establish your business as a leader and strong presence over your competitors.
If you are looking for the best approach to market your business throughout the recovery, let's talk. We can provide valuable tips to help you reemerge as a top competitor in your travel sector.