The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought the travel industry to its knees, but respected media company, Skift, passionately believes that it not only has the power to bounce back, but to return out of the crisis even better than before. In a new report, Skift has outlined four distinctive actions that travel companies can take immediately to start the journey along the road to recovery and to embracing the many exciting opportunities that the future holds.
Before delving into the action points, it is important for all travel companies to acknowledge two truths that have been re-emphasised in recent times. Firstly, companies must acknowledge that the act of travel is deeply personal, and that it is vital to view each travel as an individual rather than a stereotypical demographic. Secondly, they must come to the realisation that every travel experience is an end-to-end journey rather than a series of separate events.
These two fundamental realities need to become the basis around which business strategies are built and tactics for sustainable growth are adopted.
Action #1: Listen to your customers
Don’t assume that you know what they are thinking or what they want. Make the effort to find all of these details out by engaging with them directly. As per the Skift report, it is a good idea to try to view your customers as microsegments rather than monoliths. In doing so, you realise that there are actually thousands of different ‘segments’ amongst your customers rather than just a handful of customer ‘types’, and that these segments are continuously changing and evolving with the times – hence your strategy should be, too.
Action #2: Make it better, not just safer
Of course, in light of current circumstances, safety is a top priority for travel companies both big and small. However, these companies must not let the emphasis on safety take away from the emphasis on providing customers with an experience to remember. Instead, the focus should be on figuring out how to merge safety with refreshing new experiences that will continue to set the company apart from the rest. Companies should be working on crafting thoughtful customer-experience interventions that delight, empower, and solve ‘pre-existing and COVID-19 induced pain points’.
Action #3: Expand your horizons
If the travel industry is to undergo a revival, travel companies need to more away from competition and, instead, work on achieving collaboration. They should expand horizons by building partnerships that replenish traveller confidence and leave them feeling ready to embark upon new adventures after spending so much time under lock and key worrying about their health and safety. Strong travel ecosystems are a must for individual travel sectors to survive.
Action #4: Stay nimble beyond the crisis
The pandemic has forced travel companies to kick into high gear and work relentlessly to meet and exceed new expectations. The experts at Skift insist that the key to optimising the travel industry so that it winds up being better than it was before the crisis hit is to hold onto this sense of agility and to keep up the creative thinking, innovation, and hard work at a similar pace going forward – pandemic or no pandemic! Travel companies should constantly be looking for ways to improve and give their customers more, as well as ensuring adept decision-making, strong day-to-day execution, and thoughtful talent allocation.
Collaborating to enhance the full travel experience
Ultimately travel companies should be working together to promise streamlined travel experiences from start to finish. Time should be spent on unpacking the following aspects of the traveller journey:
- Travel inspiration: Researching the destination, promotions, etc.
- Shop and purchase: Booking flights, booking activities, booking accommodation, etc.
- Preparing to travel: Arranging travel documents, packing, etc.
- Travelling to the airport: Organising transport, parking, early communication regarding potential disruptions to the journey, etc.
- The airport experience: Check-in, navigating around the airport, waiting at the gate, etc.
- The in-flight experience: Entertainment, refreshments, comfort, etc.
- Arrival and on trip: Baggage claim, customs, destination management, etc.
- Post-trip: Customer follow-ups, disruption recovery, etc.
All of the action points as highlighted above come into play regarding every aspect of the traveller experience, from listening to the customer, optimising safety and experience, partnering with other travel companies to enhance enjoyment and improve operations, and continuously striving to make improvements as demands and situations evolve.