What Does 2021 Hold for the Travel Industry?
As we begin to implement COVID-19 inoculation plans, the world is starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
But what does that light look like? What’s next?
The travel industry has changed significantly and won’t ever be the same as it was pre-pandemic. We’ve heard the forecasts that travel won’t reach 2019 levels until 2023, so the vital questions are:
- How do we get there?
- What steps do we need to take?
- How do we make the best of the situation while on the road to recovery?
First things first, each individual country has to go through its own approval and vaccination process.
For example, the plan in Germany is for mobile teams to give people the inoculation in care homes and hospitals while the broader population will get the shot in the early summer.
Hopefully, things will gradually improve, but when they do, we will still need to deal with the situation the coronavirus has left us in.
2021 in Air Travel
According to a 2020 IATA report, the world is now less connected. Airlines have been reducing destination pairs and, more ominously, some have been going out of business.
Travel boomed as low-cost airlines connected to a multitude of destinations before COVID-19, enabling people to travel farther than ever. Fewer travel routes means less travel, affecting all sectors of the travel industry.
So, what does this mean in the short term?
Focus on Travel Bubbles
Restoring air connectivity is important for both business and leisure. Travel bubbles can do this. A travel bubble is a state-level agreement enabling international air travel between two countries by reducing restrictions or conditions. Travel bubbles provide a higher degree of predictability and transparency for airlines and have the potential to support traveler confidence and reduce uncertainty.
You should set your sight on bubbles in the regions where you operate, but limit your expectations. Travel bubbles may also herald in a newer, more expensive, and less frequent method of travel in the post-COVID-19 era.
Many of the new travel bubbles require testing before and after travel. While the costs of these tests are at the expense of the passengers, testing is still expensive. It may often cost the same or more than the flight itself, creating a big obstacle for travel, especially when it’s for leisure. Business travel will also be hurt since constant testing will be a hassle and planning issue.
A multi-country business trip would either not be possible or require multiple tests during the trip, since the test results are generally only accepted for up to 72 hours. This type of business travel will also require agreements between governments on many specifics, such as the level of testing standards.
For now, focus on those travel bubbles, looking at what markets are included and supporting those destination pairs. Create content and localize for those specific markets to optimize the performance of your channels there.
Hospitality Trends in 2021
In the hospitality industry, things are looking up.
According to reports on HotStats, all regions globally have returned to profitability in hospitality, albeit at the expense of layoffs and hotel closures.
So now that the initial adjustments have been made, how will hospitality companies adapt to the transition?
Refocus Marketing and Group Sales Outreach
It’s easy to pause or reduce marketing activities, but marketing in times of crisis keeps your hotel top-of-mind in what is essentially a battle for market share and getting enough bookings to cover costs.
Keep in mind that staycations are one of the biggest holiday trends, and even more so since the pandemic. For example, Barcelona saw a large influx of French travelers in the summer who preferred to drive down in private cars rather than risk air travel and the fluctuating air travel situation. In language-dense regions, such as Europe and Asia, you’ll want to make sure messaging around staycations is also in the inbound languages.
Instead of reducing spend, refocus your marketing strategy to better allocate existing budget by adjusting your segments, messaging, pricing, and offers. By understanding the market demand as it grows, you can strategize accordingly while letting travelers know you are open and ready for their business.
Your website is your most valuable owned channel. Constantly update your blog, booking engine, and homepage to align messaging and drive visibility.
Prominently place a “Message to Our Guests” on your website and booking engine so that guests can easily find cancellation policies, cleanliness commitments, and other essential information. Make sure this information is available in all relevant languages.
Lastly, maintain paid acquisition channels! You need to stay top-of-mind for those guests who are still traveling.
Create a COVID-19 Landing Page
If you haven’t done this yet, build a dedicated landing page in all your major languages using SEO and post the latest updates from your property.
This can help to counter any negative news media that may show up when travelers are searching for your hotel on search engines such as Google, Baidu, and Yandex.
Make Friends with AI
Consider using technology to maintain for other cost-cutting measures. For example, by leveraging AI, you can implement chatbots on your website to answer any questions from potential guests.
In addition, playing into AI trends will help keep you keep up with the competition.
You can still serve the same markets while reducing costs by taking advantage of the inherent benefits technology affords us. Advancements in tech continue to progress quickly and what may not have been feasible or profitable last year is now.
If you’re ready to take on the travel industry post-pandemic, contact us today.