The State of Travel Booking in 2021 Pt 2: Our Tips

 

A couple of days ago we looked at Skyscanner’s Horizons report into the state of travel booking in 2021, and extracted our key takeaways. In Part 2 of this blog, we present our tips for making sure your travel business is capitalising on this year’s booking trends, as our industry begins to reawaken from its COVID-induced coma…

Read more

Skyscanner Survey Reveals State of Travel Booking in 2021 – Pt1

Travel metasearch engine Skyscanner’s new report ‘Skyscanner Horizons – The Return of Travel‘ was published last week, and with the tourism industry starting to stir back into life following the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a very timely insight into how travellers are booking their first trips in 2021. You can click the link above to download the full report, but we’ve summarised our five key takeaways in this post. In part 2, we’ll share our tips for benefiting from these trends.

Read more

Letter From America: Bob’s Thoughts on US Travel Recovery

In his first post for the eRoam blog, our US Commercial Director Bob Gilbert shares his thoughts on the outlook for post-COVID tourism recovery…

Read more

Digital, Dynamic, Domestic: McKinsey Points Way to Asian Tourism Recovery

Last week, research company McKinsey released a report called Reimagining Tourism: How Vietnam Can Accelerate Travel Recovery. The report is very interesting reading not just for those in Vietnam’s tourism industry, but throughout Southeast Asia where COVID-19 has largely been controlled and where the region’s tourism industry is waiting, increasingly impatiently, for the rest of the world to get its act together.

As we can see from the graphic below, the pandemic had as catastrophic an effect on Vietnam’s inbound tourism industry as it did across the region, with international visitor numbers plummeting from 18.5m in 2019 to 3.5m in 2020. Catastrophic because whilst international visitors only make up a relatively small percentage of Vietnam’s overall tourism figures, with domestic travel dominant, they spend around 10 times more in the country on average than domestic tourists, so tourism revenues were hit hard.

 

 

Vietnam’s highly successful, world-leading zero- COVID policy, which has seen the country suffer only 35 deaths, means it is ideally placed to bounce back quickly when tourism recovers, and much of the advice in the McKinsey report also applies to other Southeast Asian nations that have successfully managed the pandemic, including Thailand (91 deaths), Cambodia (4) and Laos (0). McKinsey predicts that, if it follows the right strategy and maintains its low infection rate, Vietnam’s tourism industry can return to 2019 levels as soon as 2024.

 

 

The report shares several strategies that Vietnam – and by extension its neighbours – can use to drive tourism recovery, and here are our takeaways from those.

Focus on Domestic & Regional Travel

Vietnam and Thailand in particular have huge domestic tourism industries and, in recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in outbound trips from both countries. This means that, with outbound travel currently impossible, those travellers will travel domestically, increasing the average spend per domestic traveller, and encouraged by an absence of large numbers of foreign tourists and abnormally low accommodation rates – as McKinsey put it, “Shifts in tourism behaviour could result in high-end domestic trips. With borders remaining closed for outbound travel, an increase in domestic luxury trips could occur as travellers reallocate their budgets.” So travel companies need to focus more on domestic travellers and tailor their offerings to them, which will in many cases require a different strategy to marketing to and building itineraries for foreign visitors.

McKinsey also predict that the first international visitors to return will be from neighbouring countries that have managed COVID recovery similarly impressively, such as China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand – all countries who were amongst Vietnam’s top source markets pre-pandemic. So any recovery roadmap for Southeast Asia also needs to focus on attracting visitors from regional neighbours.

 

 

Pricing & Packaging

With tourist demographics totally shaken up, and traditional high/low seasons turned on their heads, McKinsey advise travel companies to rethink their traditional pricing strategies in two key ways:

Packaging

Companies need to think more about bundling services together, to increase revenue and provide better convenience for bookers. We are already seeing hotels in the region offering more creative staycation packages to local travellers, including not just a hotel room but also limousine pickups, spa and gym access, dinner, and even local sightseeing trips, and this kind of creative packaging will be crucial in order to get domestic travellers to travel more, and spend more when they do.

Dynamic Pricing

As the report states, “Historical booking patterns and trends normally used as key reference points for price optimisation and yield management may no longer be as relevant.” This means companies will need to use up-to-the-minute data on things such as hotel occupancy and domestic flight numbers, as well as changing pandemic situations at home and abroad, to price their offerings more dynamically in order to maximise yield.

Experiences

One of the biggest tourism trend in recent years has been the growth of experiential travel, with many tourists – particularly in the luxury and millennial sectors – preferring to spend their money on unique experience over luxury hotels/resorts and the standard tourist itineraries. As McKinsey put it, small local operators are generally a lot more agile than the bigger travel companies when it comes to creating new local experiences, so there is a lot of scope for partnerships; and small local companies with unique local experience offerings should be looking to global platforms such as Tripadvisor, Viator and AirBNBExperiences to boost their reach and revenues.

Also, this trend is not limited to international tourists – domestic travellers are increasingly looking to spend their money on experiences and see their own countries in a new light. Here in Thailand for example there is a big trend for farmstays and homestays, and so operators should be thinking local both in terms of the experiences they offer and who they market them to.

Digital Transformation

Yes I know, we say this in every blog post, but it’s only because it’s true! And McKinsey agree with us: “The time for digital (really) is now…The pandemic has made the adoption of mobile and digital tools even more essential“. This means not just focusing on online digital booking channels, but also providing more customer touchpoints during the trip (using a mobile app for example, and embracing an omnichannel approach to communication) and also making it easy for customers to change or cancel their trips – such flexibility is likely to be a key driver of customer loyalty in the ‘new normal’.

McKinsey also suggest that governments should be drivers and facilitators of digital transformation, citing the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (STAN) and the Tourism Exchange Australia (TXA) platforms as good examples of governments connecting travel businesses to technology providers.

 

To conclude, McKinsey’s report says “Travel players in Vietnam can seek to accelerate the industry’s recovery by capturing emerging growth opportunities domestically as they gradually rebuild international travellers’ confidence.” We believe that applies not just to Vietnam, but to any country that has managed the pandemic successfully and is now able to prepare for tourism recovery – and at eRoam, our technology solution is here to help companies every step of the way. To find out how we can help you digitally transform your business, sell more domestic travel, and easily offer dynamic pricing and packaging online, please get in touch!

 

 

B2B Travel: Are You Providing a B2C-Level Customer Experience?

E-commerce platform Magento released their State of B2B Ecommerce in ANZ, SE Asia and India report this week, and whilst the report is primarily focused on tech, manufacturing and retail companies, it also makes compelling reading for those of us in the travel industry. Read more

A Blank Slate: Seven Ways to Reset Your Business

 

At some point, I suspect everyone who has run their own business has wished they could hit the reset button. Maybe the business hasn’t evolved in the way you planned; maybe you don’t have the right clients, or you have the right clients but you’re not giving them the right level of service; maybe your team doesn’t have the right dynamic; maybe you picked the wrong tech solutions; maybe you’ve simply abandoned your original ideals in order to make revenue. However, once your business is established, starting afresh is simply unfeasible – you can’t simply dump your clients, get rid of your whole tech stack or fire your entire team, and doing it incrementally takes a lot of time. If only you were able to start again with a blank slate… Read more

VIDEO: eRoam for Tour Operators & DMCs

 

If you’re a tour operator or DMC and curious as to how eRoam can help you improve quoting/response times, customer service and, most importantly, revenue, check out our brand new explainer video for an introduction to how we can work together. Then contact us to arrange a demo and a free trial!

 

 

Holidays at Home: How Travel Companies Can Ride the Domestic Tourism Boom

The year may have changed, but COVID-19 is still with us – and spreading faster in some countries – and so it looks as if international travel restrictions will remain in place for some time to come. But one positive side effect has been the growth in many destinations of domestic travel, as people who would normally holiday abroad rediscover the delights of their own countries, unencumbered by foreign tour groups or huge visitor numbers.

So with domestic travel undergoing something of a boom in many regions, how can struggling travel companies more used to selling outbound trips or marketing to inbound travellers pivot and make some much-needed revenue from domestic tourism? Here are our tips. Read more

The DMC Landscape is Changing: 6 Ways to Stand Out

We don’t need to repeat it again really, but COVID has had a destructive, disruptive and transformative effect on the travel industry, and when tourism resumes – as pent-up traveller demand suggests it will – our industry will look very different. Here in Asia we’ve already seen several large, traditional DMCs go out of business, and it’s the same story worldwide. And with travel agent and traveller needs changing to adapt to the new normal, those DMCs that ride out this tough period will need to adapt if they’re to survive and thrive. Read more

COVID-19 and Travel: Digital Transformation Now More Important Than Ever

 

A few weeks ago, travel news website Skift teamed up with Amazon Web Services to canvass the views of 1,000 tourism & hospitality executives on digital transformation in their business and how COVID-19 has changed their strategy when it comes to technology and cloud-based solutions. You can download the original report here – meanwhile, here are our takeaways…

COVID-19 Has Increased the Pace of Digital Transformation

We’ve been saying it for weeks – whereas a few months ago digital transformation was seen as a nice-to-have rather than an essential for many travel companies, COVID-19 and its decimation of our industry has changed attitudes across the board. 57% of those surveyed said that the pandemic would have a significant impact on their digital transformation strategy in the short term, whilst 78% said the pandemic has made it more important for them to proceed with their digital transformation strategies.

IMAGE: AWS/SKIFT

IMAGE: AWS/SKIFT

IMAGE: AWS/SKIFT

IMAGE: AWS/SKIFT

 

Digital transformation can help companies be more responsive and more agile during crises, and can also help them rapidly pivot their product offering to move away from international to domestic travel whilst borders remain closed. We predict that those companies that come out of the crisis stronger and ready to do business will be those who already have their technology stack in place.

Few Travel Companies Are Ahead of the Curve

We didn’t really need telling about this next bit, but it was still good to see the numbers! Of those surveyed, only 28% felt they were ahead of the competition when it came to digital transformation, with 71% saying they were either keeping up or behind. We’re pretty sure that it’s the 28% who will be leading the way when travel bounces back, as it undoubtedly will.

IMAGE: AWS/SKIFT

IMAGE: AWS/SKIFT

There are several reasons why travel companies feel unable to get to grips with new tech. For larger companies, rolling out new tech across large teams and different offices is a huge undertaking. Also, keeping up to date with the rapid pace of change and the growing range of solutions can be a headache. many travel companies have legacy systems that are a key part of the business and which need to be integrated with new solutions, which takes further time and money. And of course introducing new tech, whatever size your company is, requires some upheaval, change management and staff training.

The Customer Experience Remains Top Priority

Whatever the stage of their digital transformation journey, one thing that pretty much all respondents conveyed was that delighting and retaining customers is key to their success. “Provide consistent and high-quality customer experiences”, “Deepen customer relationships” and “Increase customer retention” were three of the top four stated business priorities for 2020, and the only way to achieve these at scale is to use technology.

Customers are more digitally-savvy than ever before, more so after COVID-19 and the resultant increase in the use of Zoom calls, food ordering apps, track & trace solutions etc. People are more comfortable with tech than ever and they don’t just desire it from the travel industry – they now expect it. They’re also used to the quick, immediate booking process provided by OTAs and the old DMC model of taking hours/days to respond to a quote enquiry is on its last legs.

Travel Is Underusing Data Analytics

With digital transformation comes lots & lots of lovely, usable customer data – indeed, digital analytics is the number one area companies are planning to invest in in the next 12 months, with nearly 75% saying data analytics is very important or critical to the success of their business.

IMAGE: AWS/SKIFT

IMAGE: AWS/SKIFT

 

However, the desire does not currently match the reality! More than half of the respondents said their company’s data strategy was average or worse, with only a third claiming to be successful at using customer data analysis to make better business decisions.

The Cloud is Where It’s At!

Of the companies surveyed, 88% are either in the cloud already or planning to move their, with a mere 12% holding out and keeping their software in-house. The top three reasons for going cloud-based were better business flexibility and agility, easier scalability, and an enhanced customer experience. A mere 3% disagreed with the idea that cloud computing helps improve the customer experience and optimise the company’s operations.

With its lower costs, greater flexibility, scalability and security, and easier implementation, there is no doubt that the cloud is here to stay, and it’s not a question of if your travel business will move, but when.

 


eRoam is at the forefront of helping travel businesses digitally transform themselves to deal with the unique challenges 2020 has presented. Our cloud-based solution is affordable, easy to implement and simple to use, and helps companies provide a much better customer experience and harvest valuable behavioural data. To try eRoam for yourself, click here to sign up for a free trial.