How Data Can Be a Cure for the Travel Industry

By: Bob Adams, Business Development Director, Valid Data Solutions

December 1, 2020

As we all know, hotel occupancy rates and ADR’s have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. Consumers are not traveling internationally, but are traveling domestically making closer to home travel arrangements, staycations, and increased leisure travel by personal vehicles. However, business travel has decreased significantly and is unlikely to return to pre-Covid levels, or near pre-Covid levels until a vaccine is readily available. At the time of this piece, a vaccine seems to be on the horizon, but months away from widespread distribution.

This past summer was a welcomed breath of fresh air. Even though overall travel was down, leisure travel boosted demand and revenues.  Unfortunately, 2020 holiday projections point to a decrease in travel compared to 2019.  AAA predicted 50 million Americans (10% drop from 2019) were planning to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, with 95% traveling by car. Commercial air travel was projected to be down dramatically with just 2.4 million hitting the skies for their Thanksgiving plans, in the largest one-year drop on record.  Holiday airfares, meanwhile, are at their lowest in three years.  With travel following these trends, the road to full recovery will be in phases according to many.

What do travel marketers need to do now?  

It’s more important now than ever before to personalize messaging across channels and devices.  To drive relevant communications and offers, travel companies need to build out improved guest segmentation and guest personas using their first-party data in combination with third-party data to understand customer behaviors and characteristics.  Over the years, lodging companies have been slower to adopt data-driven marketing decisions and strategy.  Covid-19 is forcing travel marketers to accelerate this adoption.  Those that welcome this transition will quickly realize the many benefits and continue to move forward with a data-driven marketing approach to leverage data in combination with analytics and modeling.

With this approach, travel marketers can find new customers via prospecting look-a-like models and present cross-sell and upsell incentives to their current customers who are most likely to accept targeted offers. This will improve the understanding of the lifecycle of their customers and loyalty members that lead to strategies and tactics to prevent attrition by leveraging at-risk models to identify customers before they are lost.

For a quick win, focus advertising and marketing spend on regional feeder markets. Test stay-cation deals for locals, weekend getaway packages, special occasions, leisure deals, food & beverage packages, family packages, or add the option of a bonus night stay to increase the incentive for your regional markets. Leverage localization with a Google relationship to provide local content and video to improve search ranking.

In addition, properties need to ensure they have a digital presence. Websites need to be responsive with fast download speeds and mobile-friendly content. Over 70% of website visitors are now viewing lodging websites on mobile devices. Before the pandemic, hotels were beginning to integrate branded apps as a marketing strategy to send push notifications. Driven by Covid-19 these branded apps have become a one-stop portal for everything from reservations to room service and an improved overall guest experience in a contactless way. Used correctly, a branded app can help streamline operations, establish a direct channel of communication between hotels and guests, and provide a marketer with treasure trove of individual guest data.

Today, the amount of data that apps produce is far larger than before Covid-19 and the value of the data is even greater.  Apps are full of information from guest preferences, food and beverage choices, restaurant reservations, guest satisfaction, room service, spa, and other amenities. The amount of data generated by apps provides an opportunity for hotel marketers to learn more about guest behavior and inclinations, which creates the ability to personalize the guest experience even further.

 In the hospitality world and the travel industry as a whole, data and analytics can be the cure to the downturn caused by the pandemic.  The ability for marketers to collect first-party data generated by their guests to seamlessly integrate from numerous data silos, (e.g.; PMS, POS, CRS, APPS, Website, etc.) and resolve to a single view of the guest (i.e.; Identity Resolution) will be paramount to their overall success. Data is information and marketers can use this information to gain knowledge.  Knowledge provides the power to drive strategy, develop key initiatives, make sound business decisions, and connect in a more meaningful, personalized way with guests.  Used correctly, data and analytics can help travel brands heal, get stronger, and recover from this pandemic more quickly and successfully.