The travel industry, arguably the industry most bludgeoned by the relentless specter of COVID-19, is transforming in order to survive in a post-pandemic world. Many have highlighted the new health protocols and programs—from Delta’s “DeltaClean” to Hilton’s “CleanStay” to Hard Rock Hotels’ “Safe + Sound”—that are becoming essential tools to help win back the trust and the business of guests who have stayed home for many long months. Another key change sweeping through the travel industry is perhaps a bit more surprising, but nonetheless worth examining: a large increase in time and effort spent researching and planning a trip before actually booking one.
Post-COVID, travelers will spend more time planning their vacations before they commit to booking, let alone packing their suitcases. Indeed, a recent TripAdvisor survey found that 70% of travelers will do significantly more research before booking a post-COVID vacation. Who wins and who loses when travelers spend more time planning their vacations? Let’s use Xpertainment’s Pause/Play/Forward ® framework to evaluate.
PAUSE | Last-minute, spontaneous trips, especially last-minute international trips, are no longer feasible or desirable for many travelers. Thus, travel providers that utilize last-minute discounting as a key pricing strategy will need to find new means to attract customers. Some companies that are built primarily on last-minute discounting, such as HotelsTonight.com, will be particularly hard-hit by the declining interest in last-minute trips.
“A recent Trip Advisor survey found that 70% of travelers will do significantly more research before booking a post-COVID vacation.”
PLAY | Planning most elements of a trip before departure will become one of the “new normals” of post-COVID travel. After all, such planning does not merely promote a traveler’s peace of mind—it also ensures that they will be able to access attractions that may otherwise be sold out due to reduced capacity limits, from tickets to a Disney World park to restaurant reservations to a time slot for viewing a museum exhibit. The winners here are travel companies that provide or even facilitate advance trip planning and booking, especially those with aggregate review functions such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Travelocity. In addition, those travel companies that can produce 3D and virtual tours, extensive FAQs, and other travel “research tools” to help guests envision and become comfortable with a given property or attraction before booking will be more likely to win over guests. Indeed, many travel companies have already deployed such tools—for example, hotels ranging from Holiday Inn Express to the high-end Dubai Atlantis have recently launched vivid virtual reality tours for potential guests.
FORWARD | Finally, we expect to see an increased demand for curated and/or package trips, perhaps with concierge service, where all elements of a trip are planned (and vetted for health risks) in advance. This means that hotels, cruise lines, and other travel providers that offer all-inclusive trips might see an increase an interest from travelers who pre-pandemic would have preferred an “a la carte” experience. Travel companies that can quickly create more all-inclusive or concierge-style services and packages will be more likely to reap benefits from this increased need for pre-trip planning. And travel advisors too should focus on providing a new type of value by considering how to anticipate guests’ health and safety concerns, and vetting and suggesting travel experiences accordingly.
As potential guests spend more time planning their vacations post-COVID, there are clearly opportunities for travel companies to embrace this new trend, and utilize it to quickly re-gain guest trust and even increase demand. For specific, targeted strategies on this topic, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.