From the NSW bushfires to the global COVID-19 pandemic, travel and tourism industries have faced an uphill battle in Australia and New Zealand.
Whether it’s a natural disaster, an act of terrorism, political instability, or a change in consumer confidence, the travel and tourism industries are often the first sector to suffer.
With recent announcements of long-term border closures, airlines suspending operations and hotels closing, it might sound far-fetched to say “keep marketing”. However, it is important to stay in front of your consumer and keep your brand top of mind for when the travel industry does recover. Not going silent with your customer during these tumultuous periods is important and planning for the future could dramatically alter how your business exits this downturn.
But, you need to be smart about which customers you engage with, as well as when and how. Using this time to evaluate your marketing plans, adjust the tone of your communication and, above all, use a data-led approach to determine when to communicate is critical.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Although bookings are down significantly, we are seeing that there is a rise in interest to travel to or within Australia starting from September. At Sojern, we’ve seen a 60 per cent increase of people who searched for travel and flights to Australia between September and November this year.
Our data shows travellers are still searching, many with increased interest to book trips later this year. In today’s circumstances, it’s important to respond to real-time travel intent. For example, if someone searched to travel to Fiji later in the year, spend your marketing dollars wisely by focusing on engaging with them. Being personalised and targeted to your customer is of the same importance.
Assess which channels you are investing in
Now more than ever, consumers are online, especially during quarantine and social distancing. Time spent online by consumers has increased substantially, spending 7.3 hours each day on mobile internet – up 20 per cent since January.
Live streaming across YouTube and Facebook/Instagram and using video conferencing technology are taking centre stage – who would think a house party and workouts would move online? Subsequently, it is no surprise that subscription television services in Australia are experiencing spikes in usage.
Travellers are not using one channel when on the lookout for travel. Taking a multi-channel approach is key by leveraging websites, social media channels, connected TV, and mobile among others for travel marketing. Ultimately, whatever approach you take, it’s important to empathise and connect with travellers in a real and personalised way – demonstrate your true human side and tell real stories.
Get creative, look beyond the traditional and be ready for recovery
It is important to look beyond the traditional seasons and patterns of travel you know about and analyse the changing landscape to adjust your marketing budgets and strategies. Finding creative ways to serve the needs of customers and communities will go a long way.
Analyse what is changing and be prepared to reallocate budgets and creatives. People are spending more time at home and the out-of-home advertising industry has been affected by this, so adjust and adapt to the ever-changing landscape and invest in the right channels.
Tourism Australia is a good example of this, with their ‘With Love from Aus’ video campaign urging future holidaymakers dreaming of a visit down under to hold on and that Australia will be ready to welcome everybody once the world returns to normality.
In a report published by Sojern in late 2019, travel marketers in Australia and New Zealand believed that an area to invest in heavily for 2020 was interactive video ads and machine-learned generated audiences. With an ever-changing landscape and people working more remotely than ever before, using these can help you to keep up with the fast-paced technology.
Finally, there is no denying that the current pandemic has impacted our industry severely, unlike anything ever witnessed. It’s important to take a short- and long-term view. The one thing we know is that the industry will recover, and the data reflects travellers’ continued intent to travel. They may not be booking as quickly, but they are looking towards future travel, with increased interest later this year.
Use the time at hand to stick to the facts. Dig into the available data, understand which customers and markets are slowing down, and where you may be seeing your own unexpected increase. That way, you can streamline your focus and budgets so that you can intelligently spend while planning for foreseeable future changes.
Chris Blaine is the vice president of the EMEA and APAC regions at Sojern.
Featured image credit: iStock/HAKINMHAN