What happens when a pandemic throws a global industry upside down? It may mean viewing some strategies from a completely different lens while keeping our eyes on a future that will eventually normalize. Katie Briscoe, President of MMGY Global, weighs in on how travel brands need to consider their decision-making processes going forward. Read his quick takes below and click here for even more in-depth research, insights and webinars.
What are some shifts in the travel experience that we can expect to see in the coming phases of recovery?
Something I find quite interesting is the shift from B2C to C2B. This theory suggests that consumers are going to take a much more active role in shaping the services and experiences that businesses – especially travel brands – will have to support. This includes things like sanitation, empathetic customer service and flexibility around planning, bookings and cancellations. Information about new operational philosophies is so critical right now. Recently, there was a completely full United flight from Newark to O’Hare, in which every seat was taken and passengers were upset. There was a new expectation that there would be a little bit more space. Expectations have absolutely shifted, and subsequently that experience will shift and travel brands will have to support that.
What kind of education about the travel experience will brands have to provide customers?
A number of our client partners are asking how we communicate effectively. It will be a different experience at a resort where there may not be a spa, or you may not be able to have the same dining experience as before. But there’s still so much to offer in terms of an escape, natural beauty and getting out into scenic areas. It’s going to be interesting how we manage consumer expectations, how those consumer expectations have shifted, and how those marry together.
Will there be an evolution of “premium” experiences where privacy is monetized?
We’ve long talked about different areas in the market and how they move through this pandemic based on enormous changes in the economy. The middle market gets hurt the most, luxury tends to sustain, and the economy tends to stay pretty strong given the competitive rate scale. In terms of how businesses fit new practices into their structure and budget and how that gets passed onto the customer remains to be seen. Obviously, these elements that are in place around sanitation and social distancing are expensive. But it’s certainly something that’s being discussed in board rooms.
Is this a point when companies need to take a closer look at sustainability and corporate responsibility?
I absolutely believe that travelers will care more about environmentally responsible business practices and will align more with travel brands that authentically operate these practices. Many people see the impact of this global pandemic as an opening act for broader issues about the environment. In our Portrait of the American Travelers® this past year, we saw that year-over-year growth for brands demonstrating environmental responsibility continued to rise. One in 4 travelers were intentionally booking trips with environmentally friendly hotels and tour companies, and over 30% of travelers were paying higher rates for those. Those who made a purchase based on social concerns spent 39% more. This was all before the pandemic. That’s certainly going to drive differentiation in a post-COVID-19 environment, and it’s the right side to be on – it’s a lucrative side and there’s an economic return. This could be something that really opens our eyes to how we need to do business and how we travel moving forward.
How has media consumption changed as a result of the pandemic?
The shifts in media at this time have been nothing short of fascinating. At one point, 93% of the population was under shelter-in-place mandates, so content consumption and media consumption have completely shifted. For example, CNN saw a 119% jump in ratings this year over last year in the months of March and April. As we move toward new phases of recovery, consumers are going to seek out different types of content. We’re going to shift from this dependence on news to more of what we consider “recovery content.” That’s content around behaviors and expectations like mask-wearing requirements, and which businesses are opening around the nation. Then it will continue to shift toward containment – people will still be seeking out informative content, but we will get back quickly to more inspirational content that will lead to travel decisions and booking behaviors. As the situation normalizes, it will shift back into standards that we’re typically accustomed to when we’re architecting an integrated marketing strategy.
What marketing channels should we be focusing on now and in the near future?
Right now we’re seeing a focus on retail marketing like fare- and rate-driven marketing tactics, and subsequently the channels that support those messages are seeing a tremendous amount of activity: email, paid search and paid media tactics that utilize programmatic data to deliver messages. Marketing channels that leverage more brand narrative messaging are a little bit less critical right now. But again, as the situation continues to evolve and consumer sentiment starts to pick back up, you will see brands engaging in more traditional ways than they are today.