Travel & Hospitality
2021 Travel Industry Trends, Strategies, and More
It’s been 16 months since the last time I traveled for work; 16 months since I last sat in an airplane and heard the pilot announce we were ready for takeoff; 16 months since I flopped onto a comfy hotel bed at the end of a long day of business travel. Needless to say, I’ve missed it—and I’m past ready to travel again.
It’s no secret that the travel and hospitality industry has been among the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 epidemic. But as restrictions are eased in some parts of the world and borders begin to reopen, now is the time to think about the travel landscape and what it means for brands moving forward. To do that, I sat with Mark Crossey, Director of Sales, Americas, at Skyscanner, and Adam Blacker, VP Insights, at Apptopia, to discuss travel industry trends, insights, and strategies.
The Travel Landscape: Cost Remains Central—But Safety is Arguably More Important
Cost has always been an important factor for consumers when it comes to selecting flights, accommodations, and other travel bookings. But while that trend is still very much in evidence today, we’re seeing more nuance when it comes to how travelers approach cost in their bookings. When I asked Crossey about post-pandemic trends among luxury-minded vs. budget-minded travelers, he noted that “US travelers are choosing to upgrade their travel, opting for fares on average 20% more expensive than the lowest shown to them for their route, suggesting they are selecting fares with added extras, such as flexibility or higher green or COVID safety credentials.”
However, cost is no longer the top consideration for consumers when it comes to travel—we’re seeing travelers put their health and safety first. 31% of consumers say that safety is their top consideration when booking travel now, with cost following closely at 28%. In addition, Skyscanner found that the average airline safety score for flights booked by consumers had reached 4.8 out of 5, up 14% from summer 2020. Accordingly, Skyscanner reported that more airlines have added safety scores as part of ongoing efforts to increase traveler confidence and inspire additional bookings.
The COVID Factor: Vaccinations Are Creating Opportunities, But Communication is Key
With the number of vaccinated individuals in the US, the UK, and other countries on the rise, we’re beginning to see travel options open up as some consumers begin to feel safer traveling. According to Blacker, that trends can be seen in the rising popularity of apps intended to showcase COVID-19 vaccination status: “In late April of this year, it was announced in the UK that the NHS app would be used for international travel. Downloads immediately shot up, breaking daily download records for itself several days over the past few months.” In fact, the downloads for the NHS app have risen an incredible 218% year over year, highlighting the built-up demand for vaccinations and all that they bring with them in the UK.
That’s a major opportunity for travel brands, but grasping it will require them to clearly communicate the right information to consumers at the right time and in the right channels for each individual. With customer engagement becoming more essential in the travel and hospitality space, Crossey noted that Skyscanner has succeeded by doubling down on communication: “Skyscanner is a traveller-first business,” he told me. “We are built on that foundation. It’s served us really well during the last year as our affinity with our travelers and ability to listen to them and react has meant we are always serving them the most useful information.”
The information travel brands need to communicate to customers today extends beyond just gate change updates and hotel loyalty points. Blacker called out the importance of sharing relevant health and safety information, and advised brands to “keep travelers informed daily of changing COVID-19 rules and guidelines for all locations they’re browsing or booking at. Really plan out any updates you do for your mobile app user interface or experience. Setting expectations and providing explanations sound simple but are often forgotten and can save your bacon.” He noted that failing to communicate effectively with consumers can hurt their relationship with your brand and even result in customer churn over time, making this a key priority for brands in the travel sector.
As millions of consumers around the world prepare to take their first flight or book their first hotel room since the pandemic hit, it’s more important than ever for travel brands to take a hard look at their communications strategies and ensure that they’re serving up experiences that today’s travelers want. To prepare by exploring key travel trends, insights and strategies, check out Ready for Takeoff: 2021 Travel Industry Trends, Insights, and Strategies.