November 30, 2021

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The travel folks

Guest Blog: Why data is crucial to the success of travel companies post-lockdown

5 min read

IF the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic was the hallmark of 2020, the global vaccine rollout is shaping up to be the defining development of 2021. While this has instilled a new sense of hope across the globe, the emergence of new Covid-19 variants underscores the fact that we are not completely out of the woods yet.

Carolyn Corda

In Asia, governments are keenly aware of this fact with plans to establish bilateral air travel bubbles in the region repeatedly disrupted due to resurgence of Covid-19 cases. As Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung noted prior to the deferment of the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble in May these “stop-start situations” have become the norm for travel arrangements.

Nevertheless, things are looking up
with more people getting vaccinated and Covid-19 vaccines becoming available to
more of the world’s population. Even more importantly, the need and desire to
travel remains ingrained in many – as ADARA’s recent data indicates.

Against this backdrop, timely and
privacy-compliant data-driven insights are more critical than ever for
companies looking to navigate the evolving operational landscape and come out
ahead. For travel companies and brands in particular, data is crucial to their
survival and success moving forward as post-lockdown travel resumes.

Capturing
pent-up demand with real-time data

Even as
some countries experience second or third waves of rising cases, and
governments enact heightened COVID-19 restrictions, pent-up demand for travel
continues to build among Asia’s consumers.

According to a global survey by Collinson Group, 77% of travellers in Asia are ready to fly in the next 12 months and, despite Asia’s lower vaccination rates compared to the US and Europe, nearly 80% of these travellers cite growing confidence in the safety of air travel as vaccine programmes in countries like Singapore and South Korea ramp up.

In recent weeks we have observed an increase in travel booking searches to countries in the region with little to no shift in booking numbers. For example, international routes bound for Bali are showing signs of growing demand, as evidenced by a strong increase in search volume between 24 May to 22 June, especially from flight routes originating from destinations like British Columbia, Canada and San Diego in the US.

Canadian-based
travellers in particular have shown a strong increase in interest with the
market share of international travel to Indonesia up by 178%. Meanwhile,
domestic travel in Indonesia saw an 18.8% growth in volume of searches between
24 May to 22 June, and bookings are up by 27.4% compared to the previous 30
days. This all suggests strong travel intent and growing signs of pent-up
demand amongst consumers.

Due to the region’s fragmented
recovery – with different countries at different stages of vaccination rollout
and subsequent reopening policies – there is no one-size-fits-all approach for
travel companies looking to tap into consumers’ appetite to travel. 

Consumer behaviour and preferences
will change depending on which phase of travel recovery their respective
country is at. These new, disparate demands will require different strategies
to market to target audiences.

Travel
companies, going forward, must ensure they understand customer behaviour and
intent by using customer data to identify changes in destinations and the
length of stay. This context can really fuel and optimise marketing campaigns,
ensuring that offers are compelling and relevant to their intended audience.

Reimagining
recovery through emerging trends and opportunities

Beyond navigating the evolving
pandemic, data can also enable travel, hospitality and tourism brands to
identify and secure new opportunities that are emerging from structural and societal
changes the coronavirus have inadvertently brought on.

For example, wellness and rejuvenation tourism was one of the fastest-growing travel segments prior to the pandemic – according to a 2018 Global Wellness Institute report, wellness tourism was expected to see an average annual growth of 7.5% through 2022, with the Asia Pacific region predicted to grow by the highest growth rate moving forward.

As more countries in
APAC step up national vaccination programmes, and governments’ plans to reopen
to inoculated travellers are on consumers’ radars, wellness tourism in the
region is likely to reach greater heights in the post-Covid era. Add to that
the growing awareness of mental health issues and renewed focus on personal
wellbeing after a year of isolation and work-from-home fatigue, and hospitality
brands have already seen surges in demand for spa treatments and wellness or
digital detox retreats.

There is also continued
interest for virtual tours and experiences, borne out of the early days of the
pandemic when nearly all international borders were closed. With border
restrictions keeping away foreign visitors, travel brands can use virtual tours
to keep consumers engaged while pushing top-of-mind recall. For example, COMO
Hotels and Resorts guests can follow online wellness courses from COMO
Shambhala from their homes or try one of their spa cuisine recipes even if
they’re not able to visit the resort or that destination yet.

Delivering
assurance and value to meet consumers’ pain points

Even as countries start
reopening, there remains a segment of the population who are unable or
unwilling to travel due to border closures, changing travel regulations,
vaccination status or comfort level.

Tapping
into this need to feel safe and secure while enjoying a break will be a crucial
success factor for many travel brands; while those marketing destinations
outside the “top ten” – e.g. destinations that consistently top travel lists –
might want to consider how to reassure customers of their safety.

Customer
data can also be used to track how people are responding to ongoing news events
and gauge how  people are changing their
booking habits. Search data can give real-time insight into changes wrought by
news developments, while predictive intelligence ensures that brands can
meaningfully engage with consumers depending on the given circumstance.

This is
why it’s crucial to have a robust external data source that can be coupled with
internal data to paint a rich, multi-dimensional picture of customer activity
and intent.

Covid-19 has caused significant
disruptions across the board. But amidst these challenges lies new
opportunities for brands to address consumers’ pain points and pent-up travel demands.

As vaccine rollout progresses and
testing capabilities advances, IATA is forecasting global air
passenger traffic to recover to 88% of pre-COVID levels by 2022. To take advantage of the return in demand we’re beginning
to see, travel companies must ensure that they have the proper tools in place
to remain competitive.

Data-driven brands with their finger on the pulse when it comes to new trends and obstacles travellers face in a post-lockdown landscape stand to build brand affinity and drive revenue in the mid-term, and eventually gain market share of the emerging recovery in the long run.

Carolyn Corda is chief marketing officer & chief commercial officer at ADARA.

Featured image credit: Michele Ursi/Getty Images

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