The Strategies Top Travel Brands are Using to Outlast an Industry Downturn

Last updated on June 22, 2020

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The Strategies Top Travel Brands are Using to Outlast an Industry Downturn

In the wake of COVID-19, few industries have been as hard hit as travel and hospitality. 

Travel searches are down 97%.* DAUs for travel apps sank by 55% at the end of March and campaign engagement fell. In response, many travel brands are scaling back: Airbnb laid off 25% of its workforce, and Uber cut nearly 7,000 workers.* 

But while things may seem gloomy now, there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful for a massive turnaround. 

In post-COVID China, after Beijing announced it would lift lockdown requirements, hotel bookings increased by 40%* and airline bookings shot up 15x. The number of tourists who booked trips in April increased by 300% compared to March* and the Chinese domestic tourism market says it’s preparing to recover 70% of losses over the next six months.*

Still, in many parts of the world, lockdown orders are keeping would-be travelers at home. So what are smart marketers doing to maintain relationships with customers and keep their travel businesses stable during this temporary downturn? 

These are the strategies today’s most successful travel brands are using to set themselves up for a strong rebound. 

Invite Customers to Become Insiders

DoubleTree Hotels, owned by Hilton, recently released a content campaign sharing the secret recipe for their famous chocolate chip cookies — a recipe bakers had been attempting to copycat for years. The recipe video has been viewed more than 400,000 times,* with fans posting their home-baked cookies to social media. 

Disney followed suit, sharing their secret churro recipe to help fans recreate their park experience at home. 

You don’t need a decades-old, world-famous secret recipe to unveil in order to have a successful campaign like this. All you need is to peel the curtain back in order to help your customers feel like they’re a part of your brand’s insider community. Give them a behind-the-scenes peek at whatever makes your brand special or helps them recreate the customer experience at home — it could be anything from curated music playlists to cocktail recipes.  

Recreate the Spirit of Travel at Home

When the travel bug bites, it’s impossible not to scratch — unless, of course, you’re under government orders to stay put. So smart brands are helping customers satisfy their wanderlust from the safety of their homes. 

Airbnb took its popular Travel Experiences virtual with Online Experiences, which lets customers embark on digital adventures like exploring the wonders of Pompeii with an archaeologist, meditating with Buddhist monks, cooking with a Moroccan family, or going backstage with a producer at Cirque du Soleil. 

Tripadvisor created a series of emails that shared international products and recipes to help customers get a taste of travel, as well as ways to upgrade their living spaces to experience the comfort of a five-star hotel or world-renown spa.

Tenaya Lodge in California sent customers whose trips had been canceled an email with the subject: “We’re bringing Yosemite home to you.” Inside were links to live webcams of famous park landmarks Yosemite Falls and Half Dome, a video of the hiking trail from Yosemite Valley to the top of Half Dome, and little-known facts and figures about the park. For customers whose vacations had been put on hold (like myself) this email was a welcome escape — and reinforced my relationship with their business. 

Find a way to help customers experience that rush of the out-of-the-ordinary and they’ll remember your brand when it comes time to book their first post-COVID adventure.  

Connect Customers with Valuable Discounts & Deals

Airlines, hotels, rental companies, tours, and cruise lines are offering insanely cheap deals to lure travelers back. But the fine print on each offer is different, and consumers may be wary of making a travel commitment with the future state of the pandemic still so fluid. 

Keep customers engaged by helping them score discounts and understand the specific terms of each deal so they feel comfortable making a purchase. 

Hopper and Southwest Airlines are helping users book cheap flights and hotel stays now for travel later this year with generous cancellation policies. 

Share Useful Information

As the pandemic stretched around the globe and lockdown orders hit, travelers faced a multitude of questions. 

If my flight is canceled, will I get my money back? How long will it take to process my refund? How far out is it safe to book my next trip — six months or a year? How can I be sure my hotel room and airline seat have been properly disinfected? 

Travel brands that are proactive in answering these questions not only add value to their relationships with customers, they also save their support teams from a flood of customer queries. Brands like Tripadvisor and Southwest Airlines are proactively sending emails with the latest policy changes and travel statuses, as well as details on rigorous new cleaning and disinfecting protocols. 

Spread Good 

In the midst of crisis, showcasing your company’s humanity is more important than ever. Your brand is one small part of your customer’s day — how can you make sure it’s a positive experience?

Tripadvisor shared a series of uplifting stories and good deeds from its community and invited readers to reach out on social channels to spread their good news with the hashtag #TheresGoodOutThere.

In this climate, consumers are looking for brands to do more than just add empathy to their marketing messages. They want companies to actually be empathetic. 

American Airlines and Hyatt Hotels partnered to give free vacations to frontline healthcare workers at some of the US’s hardest-hit hospitals. Uber has pledged 10 million free rides and food deliveries for healthcare workers, senior citizens, food banks, and others affected by the outbreak. The company is also providing financial assistance to drivers who have fallen sick.* 

This isn’t just good PR: customers take notice when brands step up and do the right thing. 70% of consumers want to know what brands are doing to support social and environmental issues, and 46% say it has an impact on their purchasing decisions.*

Final Tips & Takeaways 

The best travel brands are more than just a booking service. They connect their customers with extraordinary experiences, both near and far. 

How can your brand live up to that promise and maintain strong customer relationships during lockdown? Offer virtual tours or lessons, curate playlists or product roundups, and highlight local spots your customers might have missed out on. Provide the answer to a customer’s question before they have to seek it out. Make sure every interaction leaves a smile on their face. 

It’s the mantra we’ve been repeating since Day 1: deliver value, and your customers will keep coming back — even through the end of the world.
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