Today it seems there’s no shortage of chaos and uncertainty in the world around us. Headlines from all across the globe tell of political unrest, cultural struggles, disease outbreaks, and threats of terrorism. All of which create sizable headwinds for travel and tourism. How does a destination or travel company create a pathway to success in such a volatile environment?
Let’s start with a discussion about consumer choices. We all make hundreds of choices every day: when to get up, what to eat, what to wear, and we haven’t even ordered our Starbucks coffee yet! Travel planning is no different. There are so many choices to make, from where to travel, to when to go, to how long to stay, and on and on. It’s important to realize that in a world filled with increasing levels of perceived risk, chaos, and uncertainty, a very real choice in travel planning may well be to nestle in at home, plan a staycation, or even invest in a home improvement project. And, for the coveted millennials who avoid making choices, it’s important to make the travel planning process as easy as possible for them. Suggested itineraries, online chat concierges, bundled packages, and online planning tools all can help simplify and reduce the barriers and complexity so often found in travel planning.
Travel is all about experiences and making memories. According to a 2016 Harris Group Study, 72% of Gen Y young adults value experiences over owning material things. Promoting escapism and “unplugging” from everyday life requires promotable content that allows the travel planner to see themselves in that environment and be able to share that experience with their friends. Recognize too that posts and articles from third-party ambassadors (travel influencers) are generally more credible than destination-sponsored content. Given the rapid growth of the influencer channel, it’s important to take a strategic and disciplined approach to unsolicited requests. Better still, there’s huge upside in unconventional programs that enlist and vet influencers proactively for competitive yet collaborative events.
Finally, it’s important to take a holistic view of the customer journey, starting with the dreaming and discovery phase, through the trip itself, and as they share their experience afterward and make plans to eventually return. Traveler touchpoints need to reinforce a consistent brand story and provide utility throughout where possible. Creating a customer journey map requires thoughtful analysis to define the various waypoints in travel planning where decisions are made, and map these waypoints against required content needs. This map becomes a blueprint for content strategy to deliver inspiration, education, and information how, when, and where consumers need it.
So while chaos and market volatility can complicate travel choices for the risk-averse traveler, destination marketing organizations and travel companies must embrace modern marketing techniques that put the traveler at the center. This means simplifying the travel planning process, reducing barriers, and providing authentic and compelling content that inspires travelers to overcome the paralysis and narrowed possibilities that often accompany feelings of uncertainty and perceived risk.