Although some naysayers have declared that we’ve reached a “travel apocalypse,” travel, tourism, and hospitality companies can still build lasting relationships with customers and generate positive ROI with some key loyalty strategy investments.1 Guided by our responses to an online survey of travel industry managers fielded in December 2021, we’ve put together five tips on how to improve marketing or loyalty efforts in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries.
If you’re ready to cruise past mileage points and into deeper relationships via personally-tailored journeys for your customers, read on.
Implement Tools and Strategies to Better Understand Your Customers
You can’t exceed your customers’ expectations without knowing what they want, and that means you need a robust data analytics practice. Companies must build innovation into their loyalty programs with a suite of insight-accelerating analytics tools, revealing customer needs and unlocking customer satisfaction. Tools can include loyalty dashboards that reveal user-friendly insights, as well as behavioral analysis methodologies that can unpack the “why” behind these data visualizations.
Travel, tourism, and hospitality brands can combine the valuable transaction, preference, and profile data they already have with additional behavior and interaction data to build a true 360-degree view of customer behaviors, routines, motivations, and aspirations. They should also harness zero-party data and progressive profiling data from customers to better understand them. Lastly, developing programs and governance for regular customer outreach and primary research is a critical addition to back-end CDP, tracking, and analysis tools.
Deliver Highly Personalized Content, Offers, and Experiences
All this data gathering won’t be for nothing: it should inform the perks that your customers are expecting as part of your loyalty program. Use your data wisely to ensure that the experiences you offer your customers are relevant, helpful, and add value to their travels. Perks such as an airline-ride sharing partnership, where customers can integrate flight information in-app, can push the customer experience beyond expectations.
Invest in Marketing to Increase Comfort Levels with Travel and Bolster Trust
We can’t deny that travel patterns and attitudes have fluctuated since the pandemic first hit. Factors like COVID variant spikes and high inflation may mean they remain inconsistent for a while yet. For example, in July 2022, Morgan Stanley surveyed US consumers on their spending habits, and found that the number of people who said they intend to engage in leisure and entertainment slowed to an increase of only 2%, down from a rise of 7% from earlier in the summer (these numbers include travel).2 However, two months later, the New York Times reported that air travel has remained high, due in part to the trend of Americans working remotely while traveling.3 Regardless of where travel demand heads, the past two years have taught us that anything can happen quickly and travel and hospitality companies should be prepared to proactively address customer concerns. Here are some examples of steps companies can take to inspire customer confidence in travel amid persistent uncertainty:
- Offering flexibility with cancellations: Many companies are now ending Covid-related flexibility they implemented at the start of the pandemic.4 No one wants their dream vacation ruined due to an illness or other emergency, and they especially don’t want to lose what they invested into the trip on top of that.5 Brands should, at the very least, offer credits to loyalty program members whose travel plans have been disrupted by COVID, if they fall short of issuing refunds.
- Allowing for point transfer: At the beginning of the pandemic, when it became clear that travel was off the table for most people for the immediate future, some companies got creative and offered the ability to transfer customers’ points for other benefits, such as a meal kit subscription.6 Offerings like this show customers that your brand cares about their wellbeing and further encourages them to book their trips with you once they become comfortable again with traveling.
- Publishing content about how to stay safe while traveling: This could be anything from how to find quality, authentic masks to how to put a plan in place to seek treatment while abroad if necessary. The more helpful you can be to your members, the more likely they’ll continue to use your services for their next trip.
Ensure That the Experience Is Optimal and Consistent Across Product, Service, and Digital
A satisfying customer experience is table stakes for companies these days. Of course, this is easier said than done, and it often means a lot of behind-the-scenes interorganizational wrangling across siloed departments, necessitating operational changes encouraging cooperation between different factions.
Organizations should focus on tearing down internal silos and building partnerships across business units to bring loyalty closer to the customer. This way, all teams will have a clear understanding of what the customer experience looks like across channels, and will work together to ensure that membership in the program feels consistent.
Don’t Stop Evolving
The way people travel and their expectations for how companies show up for them are always changing, so make sure that your program is meeting them where they are. Traveling is a life-changing experience for many people, so it’s important to cater to your customers’ needs at such an important moment in their lives—or another brand will the next time they travel. If you keep your finger on the pulse of what your customers tell you they need from their travel experience, you can build a relationship with them that lasts throughout some of the most exciting experiences they’ll have.
To learn more about what lies ahead for travel loyalty, download Raising the Bar on Travel Loyalty Programs, our report on travel, tourism, and hospitality loyalty in partnership with Salesforce.
1 “Best Hacks for the Travel Apocalypse,” Chris Taylor, Reuters, August 9, 2022.
2 “Consumer Confidence Drops as Inflation Squeezes US Shoppers,” Enrique Roces, Bloomberg News, July 22, 2022.
3 “Airlines Cash In as Flexible Work Changes Travel Patterns,” Niraj Chokshi, The New York Times, October 21, 2022.
4 “How Travel Companies Are Handling Covid-Related Refunds Now,” Rashaad Jorden, Skift, July 15, 2022.
5 “During the Summer of Revenge Travel, Covid Struck Back,” Fenit Nirappil, The Washington Post, September 4, 2022.
6 “Redefining Loyalty for a New Breed of Traveler,” Salesforce Webinars, 2022.
Manager, Strategy Insights