It may not be time for party planning yet, but people are itching to get out of their house for some fun and fresh air. In fact, a recent Deloitte study found that 52% of Americans say they’re ready to travel. This is great news for the outdoor recreation industry, and online booking agencies in particular.
As consumer confidence in travel continues to rise, so will their planning activity. People are feeling more safe staying in hotels month-over-month, and there’s an up-tick of people actively looking for travel deals. Interest in leisure travel has remained steady since April 2020 despite updates from health experts which have left business travel interest more volatile. This overall upward trend in confidence and interest is great news for the outdoor rec and tourism industry.
This optimistic outlook is a welcomed shift for an industry that has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns and regulations. The overall tourism industry is expected to drop $16B in 2020 and with outdoor recreation being largely made up of small businesses, employee layoffs and furloughs have put into question the survival of many retailers and experience providers. This presents a challenge for consumers, but an opportunity for booking agencies as leisure travel interest continues to grow.
The challenge for consumers is a matter of having access to the information they need to make purchase decisions. In other words, what is open and what isn’t? Where is safe to visit and where should they avoid? This is a significant barrier for tourism brands looking to attract customers, because it’s not easy for small, local, or even large organizations to spread their message to a broad audience.
Not to mention, with the unpredictable changes in government regulations and the uncertainty around the survival of individual businesses themselves, brand messaging and status updates need to be in real-time so that customers can make informed decisions. Herein lies the opportunity for online booking agencies to play the hero by acting as the liaison between brands and their prospective customers.
Many brands, across all industries, are struggling to keep up with the changing wants, needs, preferences, and expectations of customers on a month-to-month basis. If an online booking agency can keep a finger on the pulse of shifting consumer behaviors, they can become the eyes and ears of their partner brands. For example, in 2019 there was emphasis on air travel and finding unique lodgings through companies such as AirBnB. However, recent studies have shown that in 2020 the emphasis has shifted to travel by personal car and hotel stays.
Equipped with this information, an online travel booking agency can shape their service and package offerings to align with this shift in consumer preference. In doing so, they become a preferred source for customers looking to plan a trip, and a more valued partner to the travel and lodging brands acquiring new business. Furthermore, the online booking agency can become an information hub relaying real-time details regarding the most relevant travel guidelines, safety recommendations, and operational updates for individual businesses.
For the online travel booking agency interested in playing this vital role in the resurgence of the tourism industry, we have the strategic framework needed to develop a pipeline of customer insights. There are two main areas of focus that establish a competitive advantage: customer personas and journey mapping.
Yes, monitoring website activity and transactions will provide important details regarding areas of interest and trending preferences. But this is basically a constant state of reaction. Following along with consumer activity and make decisions for today based on what happened yesterday. We’re talking about thinking forward, future-planning, and staying ahead of the curve.
By regularly engaging customers, gathering feedback, and running segmentation analysis, you are able to identify trending preferences and shifting purchase intent BEFORE they’re identifiable to the entire industry byway of sales data. In doing so, you can preemptively build travel packages that dynamically shift along with public sentiment. You can offer travel advice or recommendations that align with customer wants and needs. You become the primary source connecting brands to consumers and consumers to brands in a proactive way, rather than reactive.
All this happens because you know what consumers are looking for, and you’re keeping track of how their preferences are changing over time.
Customer Journey Mapping
Part of motivating consumers to take a desired action is delivering the right message to the right consumer at the right time. To hit this targeted trifecta, it’s important to have a “big-picture” understanding of the how the customer moves across the sales cycle.
It’s common for brands to focus on their own specific industry or market when considering a customer’s path-to-purchase, but we encourage our clients to step back even further to understand how individual components of the customer’s life fit together. Of course we want to know how a customer behaves and what drives their decisions after deciding to plan a trip. But what are the behaviors and decision drivers leading up to the that initial decision? What factors, influencers, information sources, and market variables have the biggest impact on a consumers behavior prior to searching travel details?
The more you understand about the journey before and the journey after a specific action is taken, the better you can shape an experience to fit within that window of opportunity. Looking back at the customer persona development, it’s important to remember that each segment is different, so the customer journey map isn’t a one-size-fits-all initiative.
While creating a web of experiences and branded touchpoints for a variety of customer segments may seem like a daunting, overwhelming task, we’ve spent the past 35 years refining our approach to customer persona development, customer journey mapping, and insights application. We empower brands of all sizes across many industries to accomplish their goals by providing the wisdom, clarity, and guidance needed to make intelligent business decisions.
If you’re interested in becoming the go-to source for both consumers and partner brands, we’re ready to take you there.