CMO and CCO
The rise of Novice Travelers is turning the travel loyalty pyramid on its head – traditionally, the people that have been most important were seasoned travelers. This year, Novice Travelers are spending on luxury travel to destinations like Miami, Hawaii and Las Vegas, and are choosing luxurious hotels at record rates. And while we typically think of this segment as deal-seekers — travelers that shop around more and tend to book through intermediaries, that’s changing dramatically. Within this group, there has been a 2x increase in bookings of hotels over $200 per night compared to the same period in 2019. Moreover, they’re not scrimping on rooms even at the most expensive destinations. They’re opening their wallets wider than the generally more free-spending Top Tier travelers.
For travel marketers, the focus needs to be on these newcomers –
- Drive short term bookings with this newly valuable group
- Make the most of first impressions with pre-arrival communications and service
- Capture more data to market effectively and ultimately build loyalty to drive future travel
Novice Is Next
Typically deprioritized by travel brands, Novice Travelers are classified as anyone who travels four times per year or less with no or very basic loyalty affiliations. They tend to be more frugal and book using OTAs rather than booking directly on brand sites.
At first, travel marketers may wonder why it’s important to focus on a group that only travels four times per year. Adara did a deep dive analysis of Novice Travelers and found that they are an increasingly important segment to focus on now.
While they tend to spend less per year on travel than seasoned travelers, they make up a whopping 80% of the market.
This segment is ripe for data collection and additional segmentation to find groups with potential to become more frequent high-end travelers.
For example, Novice Travelers are significantly more likely to be in the age 30-39 category, a young group that is likely to be in the process of building brand loyalty and growing their income. The 30 to 39 year-old group makes up 42% of Novice Travelers compared to 20% for Top Tier travelers, more than double.
Novice Travelers prefer warm, exciting places to travel right now. Novice Travelers have increased trips to Honolulu by a whopping 125% compared to the same time in 2019, and they’re traveling to Las Vegas at levels 28% higher than 2019.
Once they reach their destination, Novice Travelers are splurging on upscale and luxury hotels. For Honolulu, 41% of bookings are for hotels that cost $300 per night or more for this group compared to only 33% at that price point for top-tier travelers.
These new trends lead travel marketers to ask a few investigative questions:
- Where is their spending coming from? It appears to be from built up lock-down savings and credit cards rather than stimulus checks.
- Is this a long term trend? While we’re still tracking trends, this spending is likely to continue in the near term and also shape long term brand loyalty for this young group.
- Will the resurgence of the virus change this pattern? Potentially, but this pattern illustrates pent up demand for luxury travel for an under-targeted group.
Target Novice Travelers Now
The pandemic has elongated the summer travel season, so there’s still time to target and convert the Novice Travelers. Adara has both the broad data set to identify this new trend in segment behavior as well as the analytic expertise to separate those Novice Travelers booking and spending in the traditional way from those that are splurging. Furthermore, Adara has deep insights into the booking windows, length of stay and destination preferences of these travelers so that you get precisely designed audiences for your campaigns.
The travel brands that understand and cater to this group now will create a lasting bond. Not only that, it’s important to think beyond elite loyalty members when it comes to perks, VIP experiences and priority customer service. These travelers are forming impressions of travel brands that will guide future purchases. If there’s a service shortfall, that becomes the experience the traveler believes is the brand’s standard.
Travel brands have extremely limited information on these travelers – there are no past stays, no historical profile information. Getting insights from other sources like Adara is the one way brands can begin to personalize the experience for these travelers in a bid to win their hearts and wallets.
In addition to tapping into data partners like Adara, marketers can start building a bigger picture of this segment’s travel behaviors by implementing “drip” programs designed to gather guest data through surveys and polls over time via multiple channels — website, email and point of sale. Taking it one step further, applying advanced analytics to first-party and partner data sets can define the best approach for engaging Novice Travelers to boost loyalty program enrollment and encourage additional stays.
In the short term, Novice Travelers can help buoy destinations that are seeing fewer business travelers and large groups. Catering to Novice Travelers can help spread the word through social media that a destination has a vibrant nightlife that is appealing to this younger demographic.
This requires testing new segment-specific campaigns, new personalized messaging and new offers to determine how Novice Travelers respond, and drive new bookings. Adara can help plan, activate and measure this segment for any travel marketer’s destination or brand.
With Novice Travelers advancing in their careers, marrying and having children in the next few years, many will become family and business travelers in the future, and so forging long term relationships should also be on the radar.
Added together, these different opportunities form the basis of a full fledged marketing strategy. From short term incentives in the next few months to brand loyalty campaigns targeted to the segment over time.
Marketing Flexibility Drives Success
As demonstrated by the impact of the Delta variant, travel demand continues to be fraught with uncertainty forcing travel marketers to be flexible in their marketing approach particularly as it applies to targeting and segmentation. More than anything, the pandemic has forced travel marketers to be flexible in their marketing approach, and that should also apply to their approach to targeting and segmentation. Travel is forever changed by the past year, with impacts continuing for the foreseeable future from the Delta variant and possible new variants that affect different regions and groups. Despite the uncertainty, people are resilient and are showing that travel is still a priority. Travel brands that take a thoughtful approach to marketing will not only capture near-term opportunities but build loyalty as people establish new travel patterns.