CMO and CCO
If the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic was the hallmark of 2020, the global vaccine rollout is shaping up to be the defining development of 2021. While this has instilled a new sense of hope across the globe, the emergence of new Covid-19 variants underscores the fact that we are not completely out of the woods yet.
In Asia, governments are keenly aware of this fact with plans to establish bilateral air travel bubbles in the region repeatedly disrupted due to the resurgence of Covid-19 cases. As Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung noted prior to the deferment of the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble in May these “stop-start situations” have become the norm for travel arrangements.
Nevertheless, things are looking up with more people getting vaccinated and Covid-19 vaccines becoming available to more of the world’s population. Even more importantly, the need and desire to travel remains ingrained in many – as ADARA’s recent data indicates.
Against this backdrop, timely and privacy-compliant data-driven insights are more critical than ever for companies looking to navigate the evolving operational landscape and come out ahead. For travel companies and brands in particular, data is crucial to their survival and success moving forward as post-lockdown travel resumes.
Capturing pent-up demand with real-time data
Even as some countries experience second or third waves of rising cases, and governments enact heightened COVID-19 restrictions, pent-up demand for travel continues to build among Asia’s consumers.
According to a global survey by Collinson Group, 77% of travelers in Asia are ready to fly in the next 12 months and, despite Asia’s lower vaccination rates compared to the US and Europe, nearly 80% of these travelers cite growing confidence in the safety of air travel as vaccine programs in countries like Singapore and South Korea ramp up.
In recent weeks we have observed an increase in travel booking searches to countries in the region with little to no shift in booking numbers. For example, international routes bound for Bali are showing signs of growing demand, as evidenced by a strong increase in search volume between 24 May to 22 June, especially from flight routes originating from destinations like British Columbia, Canada and San Diego in the US.
Canadian-based travelers in particular have shown a strong increase in interest with the market share of international travel to Indonesia up by 178%. Meanwhile, domestic travel in Indonesia saw an 18.8% growth in volume of searches between 24 May to 22 June, and bookings are up by 27.4% compared to the previous 30 days. This all suggests strong travel intent and growing signs of pent-up demand amongst consumers.
Due to the region’s fragmented recovery – with different countries at different stages of vaccination rollout and subsequent reopening policies – there is no one-size-fits-all approach for travel companies looking to tap into consumers’ appetite to travel.
Consumer behavior and preferences will change depending on which phase of travel recovery their respective country is at. These new, disparate demands will require different strategies to market to target audiences.
Travel companies, going forward, must ensure they understand customer behavior and intent by using customer data to identify changes in destinations and the length of stay. This context can really fuel and optimize marketing campaigns, ensuring that offers are compelling and relevant to their intended audience.
Reimagining recovery through emerging trends and opportunities
Beyond navigating the evolving pandemic, data can also enable travel, hospitality and tourism brands to identify and secure new opportunities that are emerging from structural and societal changes the coronavirus have inadvertently brought on.
For example, wellness and rejuvenation tourism was one of the fastest-growing travel segments prior to the pandemic – according to a 2018 Global Wellness Institute report, wellness tourism was expected to see an average annual growth of 7.5% through 2022, with the Asia Pacific region predicted to grow by the highest growth rate moving forward.
As more countries in APAC step up national vaccination programs, and governments’ plans to reopen to inoculated travelers are on consumers’ radars, wellness tourism in the region is likely to reach greater heights in the post-Covid era. Add to that the growing awareness of mental health issues and renewed focus on personal wellbeing after a year of isolation and work-from-home fatigue, and hospitality brands have already seen surges in demand for spa treatments and wellness or digital detox retreats.
There is also continued interest for virtual tours and experiences, borne out of the early days of the pandemic when nearly all international borders were closed. With border restrictions keeping away foreign visitors, travel brands can use virtual tours to keep consumers engaged while pushing top-of-mind recall. For example, COMO Hotels and Resorts guests can follow online wellness courses from COMO Shambhala from their homes or try one of their spa cuisine recipes even if they’re not able to visit the resort or that destination yet.
Delivering assurance and value to meet consumers’ pain points
Even as countries start reopening, there remains a segment of the population who are unable or unwilling to travel due to border closures, changing travel regulations, vaccination status or comfort level.
Tapping into this need to feel safe and secure while enjoying a break will be a crucial success factor for many travel brands; while those marketing destinations outside the “top ten” – e.g. destinations that consistently top travel lists – might want to consider how to reassure customers of their safety.
Customer data can also be used to track how people are responding to ongoing news events and gauge how people are changing their booking habits. Search data can give real-time insight into changes wrought by news developments, while predictive intelligence ensures that brands can meaningfully engage with consumers depending on the given circumstance.
This is why it’s crucial to have a robust external data source that can be coupled with internal data to paint a rich, multi-dimensional picture of customer activity and intent.
Covid-19 has caused significant disruptions across the board. But amidst these challenges lies new opportunities for brands to address consumers’ pain points and pent-up travel demands.
As vaccine rollout progresses and testing capabilities advances, IATA is forecasting global air passenger traffic to recover to 88% of pre-COVID levels by 2022. To take advantage of the return in demand we’re beginning to see, travel companies must ensure that they have the proper tools in place to remain competitive.
Data-driven brands with their finger on the pulse when it comes to new trends and obstacles travelers face in a post-lockdown landscape stand to build brand affinity and drive revenue in the mid-term, and eventually gain market share of the emerging recovery in the long run.