Wish you were here...? How the travel sector is re-engaging customers

Melanie Hurst | Account Manager
Traveller at airport looking at departures board
Now that the nation has been in lockdown for a couple of months adjusting to what is the ‘new normal’, I get the feeling that what is getting us through the day is dreaming of eventually being able to jet off to that tropical holiday destination.

Or is it… Are some people going to continue their own lockdown and be extremely cautious about engaging in holiday activities, or are some people dying to get away from it all and unwind on a holiday of their choice.

In a quest to gauge the mood of the nation we conducted a small survey with a group of frequent travellers and asked them ‘What are your thoughts on travelling either within the UK or abroad once Government lockdown restrictions have been lifted?’
 
 

People do want to travel

The good news for the travel sector is that from the research, the main theme is that people do want to travel. Planning and dreaming of getaways either home or abroad is a key factor of helping people get through the day to day challenges of isolation. 

On average responses suggested they would like to start travelling in the UK again in the next 3 to 4 months and looking to travel abroad in the next 6 to 12 months. Feedback also showed that most of these decisions will be based on a mix of the governments travel advise, past experience of travelling to a destination, or other people’s reviews.
 
 

People want to be reassured

So, we know that people will be interested in travel again, however a key factor that stood out from the responses was the apprehension around safety; that of people’s money and their health.

People want to be reassured that if they do take the plunge to book again, should there be a second peak and tighter lock down restrictions, they have more flexible booking and cancellation options.

They also want to know that travelling will be safe, and companies are implementing processes to protect their staff and visitors. This involves being assured of proactive measures for cleaning and protection, such as screens, PPE, contactless check in / payment and confirmation that these procedures are happening in the form of video evidence, pictures and reviews.

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How to get travel customers to re-engage

So the challenge for travel brands is how to get their customers to re-engage with their brand again, knowing they are keen to travel, but also very apprehensive to do so?

Here are six key areas that you can use to develop the right customer communication strategy that will reactivate and re-engage your important customers.
 


1.    Continue to engage in conversations with your customers

People want to be reassured that their favourite travel companies, hotel chains and brands still exist. With lots of scaremongering in the news about redundancies and companies collapsing, your loyal customers want to hear directly from you on how your company is doing. 

Communications can focus on the work you are doing during lockdown perhaps involving:
 
  • deep cleans
  • supporting the community
  • putting new contactless procedures in place
Also you may not be able to take bookings at the moment but you can still encourage customers to visit your site and start browsing for future ideas for when bookings do open again.  

Sending out a good news story, or something to keep them entertained (such as browsing for holidays) will not only remind customers of your brand but will help warm up your IP’s so that you are in a good position to send out full sales based communications when booking systems are back up and running, and there won’t be any deliverability issues.

Quick tip - Good news stories seem to have a high level of engagement, however we have seen from Return Path that emails with COVID-19 in the subject line are increasingly being flagged as spam, so make the communication positive about the brand and the future, rather than about the pandemic.
 
 

2.    Get your own direct customer feedback

There are lots of general travel survey’s and opinion polls you can refer to but what’s better than asking your own customers what their concerns and plans for travel are through your own survey? The information gathered will be invaluable in shaping your future communication plans. 

Consider using a microsite to easily collect responses, utilise survey functions on social sites, or even a  ‘live poll’ within your email for a very quick and interactive temperature test of the mood and see what areas customers are focused on.

Then ensure these messages and key points are used in all communications with your customers over the coming weeks and months.
 
 

3.    Adapt your current automated communications

No doubt you have spent the last couple of months unfortunately sending reactive service-based communications around refunds and cancellations. In the future when looking to rebook, these concerns will be at the forefront of your customer’s minds. 

To reassure your customers you could simply add in a creative banner into the design of your abandon emails which highlights your terms and conditions or any new policies you may have regarding bookings and refunds, so they feel more at ease that it’s safe to book with you.

Another area to consider is amending the triggers. If you know you are unable to accept bookings until a future date, simply amend the trigger date in your abandon communications so they only trigger to customers looking at dates in the future that you are happy to accept a booking for. 

This avoids any customers becoming frustrated if you are reminding them of a holiday it then turns out they can’t actually book. Alternatively, a ‘holding’ message could be sent to customers looking at dates that are currently unavailable telling them to check back at a later date or look for dates in the future.
 
 

4.    Engage with the right customers

Once you are ready to start sending sales-based content again a key thing to review will be your engagement segmentation. With such a long period of closure and reduced communications your ‘active’ pot may be out of date. 

Look back at who was engaging on your site and with emails before lockdown and make sure you add these customers back into your engagement pot to help it grow back to normal send volumes.

Be sure to also consider any new customers you’ve acquired during lockdown, do these need different content and messaging to your existing customers?
 


5.    Encourage loyal customers to re-book

Your existing customers are your most loyal and most likely to rebook back with your brand as soon as they can. Lots of travel companies have issued refund vouchers to customers during the crisis to drive existing customers to repeat book with them. 

Therefore, quite simply, once bookings are being re-taken, make sure you let those customers know straight away and encourage them to use their vouchers and re-book.

You could do this creatively by using dynamic banners within either your BAU or automated emails for customers that haven’t yet redeemed their vouchers.

In addition, reminder emails can be beneficial for customers approaching their redemption date to remind them to use the voucher, and make sure you include inspiration where to book to further encourage a booking!
 
 

6.    Add value within your communications

Per the research people were concerned around safety and its likely customers may have common questions around what might have changed. So a good place to start could be to remind your customers of the page on your website which has answers to these common queries which could be anything from cleaning, food arrangements, checking refunds etc…

Alternatively consider merging your social feed into your emails which would have up-to-date information from your marketing team and might cover the answers your customers might have.

As a business you will have to be making changes in all areas such as contactless check in, so to make it more engaging you could show your customers the changes you are making through videos. These videos can then be included within your emails to reassure your customers that appropriate precautions have been put in place.


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Remember to focus on the positives

As well as including any new safety measures or policy updates it is important to also focus on the positives. People will want to be visiting outdoor locations and re-connecting with family and friends so link imagery to these emotive situations. Couples re-uniting, families enjoying the outdoors, individuals relaxing away from their home office.  

When government restrictions are being lifted, link destinations to those that are being re-opened such as national parks / beauty spots.  Drip feed in city destinations once local businesses in those areas are re-opened.

Also, don’t be afraid to look ahead for the next key seasonal event such as Christmas! People again will be looking for something positive to focus on coming out of the crisis so helping customers plan ahead whether for Chrsimas, or 2021, giving them ideas and inspiration they can look forward too will be valuable to them.
 
 

Customer reviews and social proof will be key

Finally reviews are key as customers will be looking for re-assurance once venues re-open on how other travellers have experienced their stay.

Include any recent excellent customer reviews in your email communications to help validate the information your are sharing.
 
 

Travel will always have a special place in our hearts

Overall, I think the key thing to note from the research is that people have not given up on the travel industry. Yes there will be nervousness in the coming weeks or months as lockdown is lifted, but we cant deny travelling whether home or abroad is a pleasure we all look forward to, and have sadly missed.

As long as travel brands remember to focus on the customer and communicate the right message to them, at appropriate times, things will get better.
 
Now back to day dreaming about the tropical destination I will be travelling to when lockdown eases…
 
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