As many companies in the travel industry reach 2019 levels of business, they are trying to determine where growth will come from next.
Consumer behavior trends help inform decisions on where to invest, whether that’s in technology development, people or sales and marketing.
We highlight some of the trends that travel companies already are – or should be – paying attention to as they plan strategies for the future.
Throughout 2022 there was much discussion around driving efficiency through the increased use of automation.
Some believe that the need for high-touch service in the hotel sector is a myth and that going forward, because of labor shortages and increased automation, the hotel workforce will halve.
Chatbots are one of the technologies being employed in hotels to assist in areas such as general queries and room service orders. Airlines are also turning to chatbots and rebooking technologies, especially in times of disruption.
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Meanwhile, mobile apps are increasingly being used by both online travel agencies and hotels for the booking as well as the on-property experience.
The caveat with increased automation is that, as the trend suggests, it needs to be authentic and travel companies must tread the fine line between human and machine.
Euromonitor research reveals that only 19% of consumers are comfortable talking to an automated bot to address customer service issues.
Interestingly, eight in 10 consumers under the age of 29 say they are comfortable interacting with robots.
Going forward, voice-enabled technologies could drive further automation as well as increase comfort levels while many are also excited about the promise of artificial intelligence.
Here and now
The Euromonitor study reveals that consumers are taking more of a short-term buying approach with their discretionary spend, which could be good news for travel companies.
“Sparking joy can be a purchase motivator” according to the report, which suggest businesses create campaigns that target special occasions and appeal to consumers’ desire to live in the moment.
While not necessarily targeting special moments, British Airways in its latest campaign is reminding consumers of the many reasons to get away including the weather, mischief, food and the stars.
A further creative from the airline’s holiday arm encourages travelers to “stay much less dead for much longer” by keeping clear of work tasks while on vacation.
Overall the “here and now” trend highlights how consumers are placing increasing importance on time, health and joy.
Buy now pay later products and services are also helping to feed this trend as consumers are not immune to the current financial climate.
Young and disrupted
Gen Z or ‘Zoomers,’ which generally refers to those born between the mid-90s and roughly 2012, make up a quarter of the population and are on “the cusp of financial independence” according to the report.
While the cohort should not be ignored, travel brands know they need to align themselves with the expectations of the demographic.
Euromonitor says they’re immune to traditional advertising and much more responsive to and likely to be engaged by story telling. Social media platforms such as TikTok tend to be where Gen Z congregates currently, which means travel companies need to be there too.
Brands such Hopper already devote marketing budget to social media platforms while other companies are just beginning to explore their potential.
Startups that enable purchasing via the platforms are also springing up while TikTok has begun enabling e-commerce for brands to sell to the community.
Further trends playing out in travel
- “She rises” is another trend highlighted in the report with women’s rights and the need for a more diverse and equitable workforce more widely is taking a higher priority on the corporate agenda.
There are numerous studies on the lack of gender equality as well as diversity in top roles within hotels, airlines and the wider travel industry and while there is progress, a mindset switch is required.
- “Control the scroll” is also already seen in travel with companies working on the digital experience to lighten the burden for consumers. Studies revealing the amount of websites consumers visit before making a booking as well as the low rates of conversion in online travel have highlighted the need for travel companies to develop the search and booking experience.
Large online brands such as Booking.com and Expedia are already addressing the issue with increased focus on their apps, payment systems and loyalty programs. The goal of personalized content and a seamless online journey is getting closer.