By Bob Adams, Valid Data Solutions, Business Development Director


Covid vaccines are well underway with over a quarter of the U.S. population fully vaccinated and roughly 50% having received at least one dose by mid-April. Consumers are now looking for a break from the lockdowns and are starting to feel more comfortable venturing out to travel again.

As the pent up demand for travel increases, the industry is starting to make its way towards a recovery of sorts.  However, business travel will not be the same as we remember it from 2019.   U.S. travelers took 464 million domestic business trips in 2019, representing 30 percent of total travel spend that year.  Domestic business travel in the U.S. is estimated to have dropped to 185 million trips in 2020 because of the travel restrictions due to the pandemic.  It is forecasted that the number of business trips will recover gradually over the next few years, reaching 457 million by 2024.

As of Q2 2021, we are seeing the leisure travel segment driving the majority of the demand and leading the travel industry out of the pandemic.  Fifty-six percent of Americans say they are likely to travel for leisure in 2021, but 48% say their willingness to travel is tied to vaccination in some way, according to the AHLA’s State of the Hospitality report released earlier this year.  The modes of transportation consumers are considering using for their leisure trip are changing from a year ago.  According to a recent study by MMGY Global, in April 2020, 70% of travelers said they felt taking a trip by car was safe. A year later, 78% of travelers feel car trips are safe. With regard to domestic air travel in April 2020, 27% of respondents felt it was safe. That figure has increased to 46% in 2021.  While travelers still view road trips as a safer option, there is an increase in the perceived safety of air travel.

Travel companies must act to take full advantage of a burst in pent-up demand, which largely returns to 2019 levels by 2022.  – Accenture

For travel marketers, this demand is evident, and it is growing based on spring and summer travel bookings. How are you thinking about your marketing strategy and initiatives for leisure travel?  In my view, travel marketers should not only be thinking about new customer acquisition, but also ways to drive customer retention and increase share of wallet among existing customers — driving another visit or an incremental purchase from a customer that’s already familiar with your brand, property, etc.

Think domestically for the time being.  Do your best to reach out to your most loyal customers and although all customers are important, it is recommended to prioritize these customers first. Reach out to those customers who have visited you in 2019 for leisure or bleisure stays and invite them back with an incentive offer.  Leverage your data to determine the customers most likely to return and what the value of the offer should be based on historical stays and total spend value (i.e., purchases, length of stay, stay patterns).  Better yet, use data and analytics to determine customer lifetime value (CLV).  CLV and customer retention initiatives go hand in hand. CLV tells you who the most loyal customers are and helps prioritize service and offers based on customer value, improving customer loyalty, which in turn increases CLV.

When it comes to customer acquisition strategies, use your customer (first party) data combined with third party data and analytics to understand how customer behaviors may have changed during the pandemic. Life is different today, therefore, it’s important to review your marketing segments and personas and find out how their behaviors might have changed over the course the pandemic.  More so, it’s necessary to consider if your target audience has changed or not.  Once your data partner has provided this analysis, they can subsequently analyze your customer base to determine the most valuable customers by applying analytics and modeling.  Add scoring to improve targeting for your acquisition campaigns.  Your data partner will likely have access to a large National Consumer Reference file that they can use for the scoring of your customer database to help you find the best customer look-a-likes for prospecting and improved targeting for customer acquisition purposes.

Whatever you do, DO SOMETHING NOW and leverage data to take action as the leisure travel wave will likely become a tsunami!  Focus on the opportunity to enhance customer experiences and build brand loyalty that sets the foundation for the future.