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11/12/2021

Consumer Perspectives: Travel & Hospitality Expectations in 2021

Check out four trends and tips for industry leaders looking to reassure tentative consumers as travel recovers.
a woman sitting on a suitcase

As movement restrictions are lifted and vaccine rates rise, consumers are once again getting bit by the travel bug. While many brands are optimistic about the travel sector’s rapid recovery, several critical questions remain: How can we reassure tentative travelers? What’s the best way to communicate with consumers? How can travel brands reemerge stronger than ever?

For leading travel and hospitality brands, answering these questions is critical as they aim to meet post-pandemic consumer expectations. According to a recent survey of 1,500 US consumers, travel and hospitality expectations will be redefined and reoriented in 2021 and beyond. Here are four can’t miss trends and tips for industry leaders tasked with navigating this malleable moment.

1. Travelers Want Flexibility

Consumers are looking forward to returning to travel in 2021, and while safety is top of mind, travelers are more focused on the overall experience.

COVID-19 increased consumer demand for control and caution over every aspect of travel. Contactless experiences (46%), the ability to change travel plans without fees (33%), a smooth booking process (31%) and clear communication about COVID policies (31%) were reported as the most important factors for consumers when traveling this year. With COVID limiting the ability to predict what’s next, consumers want brands to help them stay informed and prepared every step of the way. 

  • Tip: Optimize every touchpoint available and give travelers an omnichannel experience by offering more than one way to connect with your brand.

2. Travelers Are More Mobile-first

While email is still the primary channel for travel communications, there is a growing preference for other methods of communication. Specifically, 19% prefer to be contacted via in-app messaging and 16% through SMS. When on the go, having all the necessary tools, forms, and notices in the palm of their hands makes customers more confident that they won’t miss a beat during their journeys, especially in an emergency. From flexible reservations and booking to refund and cancellation pages, every brand’s mobile app should have a UX suitable for travelers of all ages and tech-savviness.

  • Tip: A simple and speedy mobile UX is key to keeping consumers connected and engaged through every step of the experience. Ensure that the customer data you’re collecting is clean so that you can respond accurately and nimbly to any inquiry. 

3. Travelers are Staying Closer to Home

After abiding by stay-at-home orders for a year, consumers are eager to get away. However, 28% are still tentative decision-makers when it comes to travel plans, and flying overseas is entirely out of the question, with only 4% of consumers planning an international trip.

What’s more, uncertainty only increases with age. Most 55+ travelers have yet to make travel plans (37%). To appeal to the needs of different generations, tailoring offers to the right audience is more critical than ever.

Developing targeted offers or promotions that appeal to the 22% of consumers who are open to local travel, or adjusting messaging to reach the 30% of consumers who plan on traveling in the Fall can help capture market share. 

  • Tip: Instill traveler confidence by sharing deals close to home that they won’t want to miss. Relevant, personalized offers can inspire even the most apprehensive traveler to get back on the horse (or plane).

4. Travelers are Searching and Booking Travel in More Ways Than Before 

As the travel landscape grows more complex due to COVID protocols, fewer consumers are relying on travel advisors to help plan their getaways. Only 7% of travelers indicated that they plan to use a travel agency for their next trip.

Instead, travelers are taking charge of their journeys. Many choose to self-plan: Forty-eight percent prefer an online checkout experience directly with the brand, while 37% prefer to book online through services like Expedia or Travelocity.

Implementing a multi-channel marketing strategy ensures that your brand is accessible to shoppers, no matter where they plan, search, and book their trip.

  • Tip: Beginning every customer journey with accurate and verified data, such as email address, home address, and zip code, can improve both efficiency of a brand’s services and the deliverability of its communications and offers.

Conclusion

The travel and hospitality sector has an opportunity to bounce back from a pandemic year that disrupted operational capacity and revenue potential. These trends and tips can help leaders successfully navigate a post-lockdown environment and provide a customer experience that will deliver rewards now and in the future.

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Furneaux is a technology veteran with over 20 years of experience in helping retail, hospitality and travel businesses reach their customers globally. Matthew is a director at GBG and responsible for strategy and innovation for GBG's location intelligence solution, Loqate.