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…
European pandemic surges (again) plus heavy fines if the English take an international vacation, have dampened travel bookings (but not the travel spirit). On this side of the Atlantic, the US consumer is actively looking at where to go, when to go, what to do, and how to get there.
Meanwhile, those of us in the travel and tourism industry are trying to figure out what post-Covid travel will look like and what we need to do in order to meet the changing consumer needs to best engage in this new age of travel.
Here’s my Top 10 List to ponder…
- There is no New Normal. This suggests that there was a normal. Travel habits have consistently changed over the years and we have adapted appropriately. Business-wise, I have sadly had to encounter 2 Gulf Wars, SARS, H1N1, Hantavirus, 9/11, Recessions, Wild Fires, Hurricanes, and other sundry calamities and now a pandemic. Take Away: We look, listen, learn and adapt. We always have and always will.
- Embrace fit-for-purpose technology. Rip out back-end legacy systems that can only communicate internally! Now’s the time. You will find examples everywhere with low entry level pricing. If you don’t believe me just look at the incredible amount of investor money pouring in to the travel industry. The better news is that technology is getting more niche and less expensive. A great example is eRoam’s amazing travel leisure B2B booking platform. It takes planning and booking travel affordably to the next level for travel agencies and travel advisors. Whatever your niche there is a new solution that will help you be more efficient, improve engagement and drive ROI. Take Away: Be open to learn new ways of doing business.
- Micro-Segmentation. The ability to gain insight far beyond the old fashioned segments, by tracking micro-segments, is now accessible without breaking the bank. Tourism Alchemy’s proprietary program can not only identify actionable micro-segment trends for a destination or a resort but also how to zero in with appropriate tone and feel of messaging that will enhance engagement and drive a better ROI. Take Away: Keep looking beyond your immediate horizon. Spread your wings.
- Crawl, walk, and then run. The travel rebound will not be an avalanche. It will return segment by segment. Front runners will be the Baby Boomers, who will have had Covid-19 vaccinations before anybody else, and yes they still enjoy traveling. This Herd Immunity will take full impact hopefully in the Fall. Stagger your roll out and ensure you track each promotion until you find the one that outperforms.
- Touchless travel. As we become more familiar with our contactless eco-system we shall be looking for more ways to maintain the highest level of customer experience but doing so with technology. About 20 years ago we called this Hi-Touch – Hi-Tech. The difference between then and now is that technology has taken quantum leaps. Today we can book a a flight, hotel, activity all on our mobile phones. We can pre-select our room, get a key card and enter the room by-passing the front desk. We can look at area activities on our phone or in the hotel lobby on the full size kiosk. Personally, I like the OmniExperience model that has a fully integrated welcome center in a kiosk. Take Away: Manage social distancing with technology that provides Hi-Touch.
- Local rediscovery and regional road trips. One silver lining among the dark pandemic clouds was the “re-emergence” of local experiences. Whether a Staycation or the embracing of the the Road Trip. The Road Trip is not a new phenomena and it does recall nostalgic memories of a bygone era. The new age of road trips is very different and driven by personal bucket lists. It can be a family, a groups of friends or a couple. One such shining light is Bandwango. You might not have heard of them as they are a 100% B2B experience platform. They partner with destinations in developing and curating unique experiences from individual attractions to multi passes that range from museum passes to Ale Trails. In the last 6 months they have launched new products in over 60 destinations generating over 100,000 consumer conversions! Take Away: Think local. Think regional. Think Niche.
- Zoom Webinars. Over saturated many months ago. “Experts” proclaim new weekly findings and eventually it all begins to sound like Groundhog Day. My biggest problem is that the vast majority of insights provide nothing that is actionable. Nothing new that I didn’t already know. There are exceptions to the rule but have I cut way back from attending webinars. I now attend maybe one a week depending on the speakers. I am also over the “Turn your mike on” or unmute yourself call outs. Take Away: You get what you pay for (oh, there is no cost to attend)
- Remote work. This is not going away anytime soon. It is a fact of life and a fact of ‘life balance’. More efficient and economical for businesses with less overhead costs. There are exceptions of course but I have found remote situations drive more creativity and I get responses faster. Hoteliers; don’t compete with Staycations – Entice longer stays with Workation discounted pricing, plus you have all the business resources at your fingertips. Take Away: Working in your shorts or PJ’s increases performance. Consider a Workation and let others do the washing up while you work from the beach, lake or mountain.
- What travelers want next. This is an easy one. Travelers most immediate trips will be Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy’s 4th novel). Wide open spaces that offer outdoor recreation, wellness and a chill down factor will benefit. Places like Montana’s open spaces like Glacier National Park, Idaho’s nearly 20,000 miles of hiking trails, and Northern California coastal communities like the authenticity of Eureka nestled between the redwoods and the Pacific Ocean. Better still if they are within driving distance. Take Away: Rural destinations need to prepare for a surge of new travelers and a Summer that will extend to well into the Fall.
- Air Travel. Airlines are trying real hard to accommodate Covid-19 protocols and I applaud Delta in particular for still maintaining open middle seats. Pricing will remain competitive through the Fall and I am confident we shall see more pop-up sales. Interesting to note that despite the revenue woes of airlines I see two new low costs carriers entering the battle to win the hearts minds and wallets of the traveling public. One will be no frills the other with more frills. Watch out for a focus on new routes taking city slickers to rural destinations. Take Away: Rural destinations will need to ‘up’ their local infrastructure and ensure that “locals” will embrace their city cousins. Take Away: Watch our for a price war this year…
To find out more about how eRoam’s cutting edge digital travel solution can help your travel agency or tour operator business kickstart post-COVID recovery, please contact us!