The travel industry has been transformed by 18 months of pandemic and lockdowns. Have travelers gone through their own transformation? Jamie Ross-Skinner, insights manager at Tipi Group, looks at the new traveler archetypes for a post-pandemic world.
After 18 months of fire fighting, uncertainty and sitting on the sidelines, travel marketers are now racing to plan for what could be travel’s biggest ever peak season.
Many marketers are now asking how their customers’ needs and desires have changed, and what they can do to reach and convert them. As a framework for travel marketers to build from and built on real data, here are seven post-Covid travel personas.
1. The YOLO jet-setter
GWI has reported that 49% of UK and US international travelers are looking to spend more money than usual on their next trip (32% are looking to spend the same and only 19% are looking to spend less).
After an unexpected and prolonged period of being confined at home, these travelers are ready to throw caution to the wind and treat themselves with their saved-up cash. They will be looking to be treated to a luxury experience, whether that be an upgraded flight, personalized touches throughout the trip or an abundance of Michelin star dining spots.
2. The anxious passenger
Safety has of course always been a consideration for travelers, but the benchmark of what ‘safe travel’ means has shifted, with Covid-19 moving toward the top of the agenda for many. This group now experiences greater anxiety around the health implications of travel, and safety precautions have become a priority when booking their next trip.
To comfort the anxious passenger, brands need to build strong relationships with them by designing and executing a robust CX strategy. Through clear, reassuring brand associations via transparent, informative and reliable messaging, brands will surge demand among this more cautious audience group.
3. The delayed ‘I do’
In the UK alone over 300,000 weddings have been delayed since March 2020, but now restrictions have been lifted the bells are ringing once more. As a result, Google searches for ‘best honeymoon destinations’ are up 90% in the UK over the past 90 days. With a surge in demand and some destinations off the table due to restrictions, these travelers should expect lack of availability and inflated prices for honeymoon hotspots.
Brands targeting this audience need to consider whether their offering could make a good alternative honeymoon for cash-strapped couples unwilling to make the traditional trip to the Maldives.
4. The comfort seekers
Despite the cabin fever felt through lockdown, customers crave familiarity when it comes to returning to travel. ABTA data shows that holidaymakers are now seeking out familiar destinations, with 32% of people saying they would be likely to visit a country they had never been to before (down from 45% in 2019) and 41% saying they’re likely to visit a new resort or city (down from 54%).
The hiatus of global travel has made far-flung family and friends feel further away than ever before. Unsurprisingly, almost one in three travelers say they are planning on visiting friends or family on their next trip, according to Google.
5. The furry plus one
Over three million households in the UK acquired pets through the pandemic, taking the total number of pets in the UK to 34m. Many of these pets are now due to be taken on their first holiday, so it’s unsurprising that searches for ‘dog-friendly’ holiday rentals and glamping sites have been rising.
Airbnb alone saw searches for pet-allowed rentals grow by a huge 65% year-on-year for Q1 2021. If travel brands want to tap into this emerging market, then clear benefits for pampered pets need to be considered and communicated.
6. The eco-explorer
In 2011 ABTA reported that only 19% of people said they were more likely to choose one company over another based on a better environmental record. In 2020 this had risen to 38%.
Driving forward and communicating your brand’s green credentials will not only positively impact our environment, but also increase and sustain customer loyalty – especially with this passionate persona group.
7. The digital nomad
The traditional dichotomy between travel ‘for business’ or ‘for pleasure’ is challenged by the rise of digital nomads. Traditionally, they have been self-employed or freelancers, but Covid-accelerated WFH policies have opened up the opportunity to full-time employees.
In 2020 10.9 million American workers described themselves as digital nomads, an increase of 49% from 2019. For brands, providing the facilities needed to attract digital nomads, or keep them for an extended period, could offer a formidable new revenue stream.
How to connect with the post-pandemic traveler
Consumer attitudes and behaviors toward travel have shifted dramatically. The better marketers can understand these shifts, the bigger the competitive advantage they will gain over rivals.
Site analytics, search trend analysis and social listening are all valuable sources of easily available data, but the best way to glean true insight from real customers is to ask them directly, using surveys or focus groups.
Many brands are likely to find that their old customer personas are in drastic need of a refresh, or even a full reimagining post-pandemic, so insights should be the first item at the top of every travel marketer’s wish list as we head toward Christmas.
The better we understand our customers today, the better we can communicate with them when marketing ramps up in January.