Covid normal: How the travel industry is looking to recover

New research examines the opportunities for travel marketers to drive business growth in wake of COVID-19

Consumer confidence is the biggest hurdle to the recovery of the travel industry, according to a panel of Australia's top travel sector chiefs.

Tourism Australia MD, Philippa Harrison, Ponant APAC chairman, Sarina Bratton, Qantas CMO, Jo Boundy, and APH Group MD, Chris Hall joined a panel speaking at a Nine event on the travel industry.

The group agreed that, in the short term, consumers are lacking certainty and it’s getting in the way of travel bookings and the recovery of the industry.

“The biggest issue we have at the moment is snap border closures. Consumer confidence takes a dip every single time that that happens,” said Tourism Australia MD, Philippa Harrison.

Nine, in conjunction with Kantar, conducted research in travel which revealed two key barriers travel brands must first address in order to achieve conversion. These are the issues of fear and uncertainty – concerns that could best be managed by addressing a need for a feeling of safety and clarity around travel; and what would happen if travel had to be cancelled.

APH Group MD, Chris Hall, predicted confidence incentives around bookings rather than money incentives with discounts may be needed to help bring people back to travel. “It's work on confidence we need to do,” said Hall.

Travel businesses of all types have had to re-engineer their processes to address health and safety requirements, along with passenger comfort and needs, to stay viable in the ongoing pandemic situation. And the process of coming back to full operation will be a long, complex path. It will happen in stages as countries work their way through the pandemic, vaccines are made available, government requirements, changing consumer sentiment along with health and safety measures are worked through.

“Confidence is the number one thing in travel at the moment. If we jump back to a year ago, health and safety was the real concern people had about traveling, whether it be on an aircraft or trying to recruit ships. Now it’s concern about travel disruption and booking flexibility,” said Qantas chief marketing officer, Jo Boundy.

Consumers are also being more pragmatic about their travel, with the findings highlighting more than half of respondents are comfortable with short flights. But 87 per cent are comfortable with travelling by private car, opening up opportunities for local/short-haul weekend-stay providers, in particular.

The research gives an insight into consumer spending expectations, with 22 per cent of respondents planning to “spend more than usual” on travel within Australia, while 38 per cent would spend their normal travel budget on “more short/frequent trips within Australia”, highlighting the opportunity for conversion among domestic travel brands.

“While there's still a lot of a lot of issues that we've got to get through, and a lot of recovery before we get there, the future is looking bright, because people love to travel,” said Harrison.

The research also shows the appetite of audiences to travel, especially domestically, remains strong with around two in three actively considering booking a trip this year. Despite the impact of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns on the travel sector, the research has found strong purchasing intent, particularly for domestic travel, with around two-thirds of respondents considering interstate travel and around half actively looking at travel within their own state.

The discussion and results come as Nine promotes its newly designated Travel tribes, part of its 9Tribes data product, with segments created specifically to target audiences across Nine’s network of assets with emphasis on domestic travel.

As consumers continue to adapt, remaining agile, building trust and helping consumers resolve tensions is key for brands.The research also highlighted as consumers continue to navigate through uncertainty, they are becoming more flexible and open around their travel plans while still ensuring they put aside money for travel.

Consumers understand and accept that there are new things to consider when planning a trip, and in return they are looking for flexibility and adaptiveness on the part of brands. Providing this will be key to conversion as the travel industry returns to growth,” said Nine chief sales officer, Michael Stephenson.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, or follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page.

 

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