The movement that everyone in travel has been waiting for is getting closer & closer; travel rebound. Brands are keen to capture this pent-up demand for the much-needed cash flow. Joining Airbnb in its race to create a stronger brand is Expedia, while booking.com doesn’t want to take this route banking on its perfectly fine-tuned performance marketing algorithms.
I think of Covid-19 as a sort of reset to travel planning habits. If people were earlier spending 1 month to plan a trip the conservatives will just drop the idea & the enthusiastic ones will book further last minute. People are concerned about 2 things: Health & Money. I want to co-relate this new way of booking travel with the typical behavior adoption charts that we keep seeing in product management.
It’s fairly simple:
- Flew: The brave ones where the one who took at least one flight during some form of lockdown.
- Drove: Looking at these people, others started to drive around in closer areas to at least have a weekend getaway.
- Domestic Traveler: The weekend getaway folks will further fly domestic.
- Domestic + International: These domestic travelers will fuel international travel.
- Late Travelers: And then we will have the late travel adopters, the extra careful one aka conservatives.
As a traveler seller, your only job is to reduce the anxiety of the traveler in this post-pandemic world. Historically, travel agents have been doing this for people till technology caught up. Now it’s time to use the technology to go back to the roots.
We now know that low trust categories are easier to scale & requires lesser touch points. However, those are also the categories with low to no margin, high gross merchandise value, & low avg. transaction size. The early adopters are usually people who transact in this category.
While, trust can be defined as consistency over time from a long term-perspective, for travel brands, I would say that trust, at this moment, is quick access to critical information about a prospective travel plan. Currently, the information universe is so diverse & broken that research has become tedious; so much so that there are startups like Sherpa & TravelPerk which have APIs to provide the latest information about Covid-19 regulations.
In a recent paper titled, ‘Changes in Consumption Patterns and Tourist Promotion after the COVID-19 Pandemic’, the authors spoke about what source of information are the consumers trusting the most while taking travel decisions:
As you can see that advice from friends & family has taken a back seat because it’s no longer just about the destination but to keep-up with the changing rules & regulation, along with solving for anxiety.
Folks who flew & drove, are the ones who end-up creating a lot of informative content on social media, blogs, & also generate higher eWOM referencing the official channels where future travelers can keep an eye on. If you speak them, the only thing you get out of it is confidence that you can fly too, it’s not too dangerous, you should take all the precautions, & that you must vaccinate.
Depending on which level of traveller you are targeting, I believe social proofing travel with someone who has done that step or at least taken a step before it should be something which will assist conversions positively. This approach should work for leisure travel, something which will recover faster than business travel. Post 2008 financial crisis, leisure travel recovered in 2 years while business took 5 years.
There are & will be multiple social travel apps which aim to connect people to talk about travel, some have taken it a step further & connected micro influencers with travelers to help them plan. Tripadvisor recently launched a platform where you could hire a guide to help you with planning your trip around the world, these are mostly destination experts & can significantly cut down anxiety. One thing we all have learnt in pandemic is that human connection is paramount even if it’s digital.
So, what you do as a travel seller which can benefit you in medium to long term as people are taking baby steps?
Build a Community!
No, I am not talking about social media or an instagram account but using tools from the creator economy to fuel a travel community. Communities have a massive impact for people interested in creators to crypto. In fact, almost all the crypto assets leverage telegram groups with 100k+ people to enable engagement, clarify doubts, help fellow enthusiasts, & a lot more. They can plan a significant role in channeling the information from the early adopters to the group which is awaiting travel. Information which is first hand, verifiable, & current can positively impact the travel sentiments.
A good place to find some of these tools from creator economy can be found here 👉
An ideal community for travel will:
- Enable subscribers to find quick answers to their queries
- Help people find others who have either visited or planning to visit the same destination
- Enable rewards for contributors helping others (a travel crypto-currency anyone?)
- Access to genuine special prices or add-ons for bookings
- Enable discussions about important travel related topics via public discourse
Running a community (using one of those tools from creators) on your website along with telegram will enable the brand to create trust among the subscribers. This will further lead to better word of mouth, higher recall, & creating a stronger brand.
Few examples of communities built using old tools:
Community building used to be a time-consuming exercise but thanks to the creator economy, we see new tools launching daily. One must treat the brand that you work for as a creator & then you will be able to see the endless possibilities.
Communities are an important part of travel eco-system, when you travel you get acquainted with many of these communities which are distinct from ours. These interactions help us understand the world around us a little better, one community or destination at a time.
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