When Travel Goes Wrong: What We Can Learn From 3 PR Mistakes

Travel is an industry of unknowns and unpredictability. Over the course of a single trip, one traveller might be dealing with or served by countless different operators. Whether it’s booking a trip through a travel marketplace, getting an Uber to the airport or complaining about your hotel, there are always opportunities for an established brand to slip up. PR mistakes occur, by definition, in the public domain. Here are a few of the most high profile in recent times, along with what travel operators can hope to learn from them.

British Airways’ Computer System Failure

Back in May 2017, British Airways had the nightmare of all nightmares, the situation that no airline ever wants to deal with: a power outage that left its IT system crippled. The result was thousands of stranded passengers, hundreds of cancelled flights and an embarrassing ordeal for a brand that prides itself on quality and reliability.

Rumours began to circulate that it was some kind of cyber attack, that BA’s systems had been compromised. The company was understandably cautious about giving too much detail over what had happened. On the ground, airport staff struggled to deal with the hordes of frustrated holidaymakers. It was a recipe for a PR disaster.

The Lesson: Apologise, front-up and reassure

There is only so much that an operator can do when fundamental systems, such as those handling bookings, are wiped out. Although staff on the ground were reportedly less than informed about what was going on, British Airways was relatively quick to issue the following statement on its Twitter account, from CEO Alex Cruz.

With a problem this unavoidable, the only possible PR move was to issue a public statement like this and front up to the problem. The message had clear instructions, an apology, reassurance concerning refunds and a partial explanation. There wasn’t much more that British Airways could do given the circumstances.

United Airlines: The Perils of Social Media, Greed & Repeating the Same Mistakes

In the first example, British Airways used social media to their advantage. They quickly spread a clear message to worried travellers, reassuring them, apologising and going some way to explaining what was happening. The company was able to do this because of the popularity of platforms just like Twitter – Once it’s on Twitter, it’s open to the world.

Read more: Social Media Tips for Travel Industry Professionals

That same level of transparency and potential virility can also be the fuel for a total PR nightmare. That much was confirmed after this disgraceful incident was caught on camera before the departure of a United Airlines flight…

The video shows a paying passenger being forcibly removed from flight 3411 on April 9th, because United Airlines deliberately overbooked its flight and needed to make room for cabin crew. Staff asked for volunteers to leave the plane, and when nobody stepped forward, one unfortunate gentleman was dragged off, literally kicking and screaming.

Understandably, this outrageous treatment caused a stir online and rapidly became a global story. In itself, a complete PR disaster, highlighting all of the traits that travellers despise in industry giants: greed, indifference, disregard and a total lack of empathy.

But the blunders didn’t stop there. In the following days, everybody involved with the airline, from the social media team to its CEO, appeared to make things worse with poorly thought out statements. These only added fuel to the fire. CEO Oscar Munoz referred to the clear assault that had taken place aboard one of his airline’s planes as ‘re-accommodating a customer’.

And it got worse. The social media team appeared to be doing everything possible to keep the fire burning. Here they are explaining how a lack of volunteers justified the passenger in question being forcibly removed:

The Lesson: Sincere PR is the best way to brace for impact when things go wrong

Aside from the initial incident, which was always going to be impossible to explain away, the United Airlines saga went from bad to worse because of how the emerging situation was mishandled. Everyone from the social media team to the CEO badly misread public sentiment and failed to respond accordingly.

Eventually, Oscar Munoz did issue a strong apology. But because this came long after the event and after other statements had served to fan the flames to the extent that United’s stock was plummeting, it wasn’t taken as sincere by the public.

Travel operators need to accept that when things go wrong, they can go viral quickly. As such, teams (particularly on social media) need to be prepared to respond quickly, appropriately and with empathy. Social media teams should also understand that their responses are completely public, and craft messages carefully to avoid further damage to their reputations.

It doesn’t take a genius to see why the footage from that United Airlines flight was so controversial. The company’s inability to see it from the same perspective is what helped the situation escalate to a global news story.

Thomas Cook: What Not to Do When Tragedy Strikes

Often PR situations can escalate because it’s not clear who is to blame, and the parties involved appear unwilling to accept responsibility. This is sometimes the case when a terrible tragedy has unfolded. One example of this is the sad passing of two young children while on holiday with their father in Corfu in 2006. The boy and girl died because of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a boiler leak at their accommodation, which was provided by Thomas Cook through a third party.

Thomas Cook took legal action against the hotel in Greece where the boys died and protested against inquests into the children’s deaths taking place in the UK. The popular tour operator then received £3 million in damages from the hotel and was heavily criticised after the children’s parents were awarded just over 10% of that figure.

It was not until 9 years later after the event that the company’s CEO agreed to meet with the family and issue a formal apology for how the situation had been dealt with. It donated £1.5m to charity and went on to be found guilty after an inquest jury reached a verdict of unlawful killing. The ruling stated that Thomas Cook had breached its duty of care.

The Lesson: Respond to tragedy like a human, not a company

No gesture or words could ever replace the lives lost in a tragic event such as that which occurred in Corfu in 2006.

But in mishandling the situation and its aftermath, Thomas Cook quickly developed a reputation for prioritising the financial cost of the event over the human, lacking empathy and being indifferent to the family and their loss.

For a travel operator whose business is almost exclusively dedicated to family holidays, coming across as a faceless corporation at a time of crisis was the last thing it should have been doing.

When tragedies such as this do occur, instead of shying away from responsibility, travel operators would do well to embrace the situation first and ask question later. Mistakes can be forgiven. Even negligence can be forgiven. But the emotional impact and the damage caused by indifference can linger for years.

Why B2B Travel Technology is Vital to the Industry

Depending on who you speak to, there are different definitions of what constitutes travel technology. As a travel marketplace provider, we certainly see that definition in a different light to a transport company like Uber or an OTA like Expedia. Our job as a (mostly) B2B service is to enable operators to reach as many travellers as possible. We provide the travel technology and work in the space in between operators and customers.

But it makes sense that, as technology becomes more of a feature in our daily lives, travel companies of one sort or another will utilise different aspects and become a part of the ‘travel technology’ family. A case in point is Skift’s Travel Tech 250, which includes everything from deal sites like GroupOn to rental platforms and price comparison websites.

Travel Technology Now Comes In Many Forms

From looking through Skift’s map of ‘250 travel tech companies’ shaping the modern day travel experience, it’s clear to see that travel tech has an extremely broad meaning. It spans marketplaces for travel, transport and accommodation. There are also B2B services covering distribution, booking engines and even travel industry marketing specialists.

As Skift writes, “We recognize that the travel industry is in constant flux, with new brands and disruptors coming on line all of the time. The design we chose for this visualization is exactly that – a snapshot of what the industry looks like today.”

Sure, we might be biased, but we think we deserve a little more recognition here. Not in terms of being included, although that would be nice. But in terms of the significance of what we and other booking engines do. The Skift image is just a snapshot of the industry as a whole, so let’s try to explain why what we do is so vital.

As more and more travellers research and organise their trips online, having a web presence is becoming a prerequisite to winning bookings from international tourists.

But that’s putting it mildly. Having an online presence is a pre-condition to attracting tourists in the same way that having a warm pair of socks is needed if you’re going to climb Mt Everest. There’s a lot more to it than that. There are some serious marketing challenges facing small travel operators that we’ve outlined again and again.

The first – and most important – is being discovered. An online presence is worth nothing unless people can find it. Only once your products are found can you begin actually selling them. This is getting harder by the day for two reasons. First, a small number of B2C travel industry giants dominate search engine results. And by dominate, we mean that you’ll be lucky to get a look in. They’ve got more content than you, more backlinks than you, and you can bet that their marketing budgets far exceed your own.

The second challenge to getting noticed is increased competition from other smaller operators. As they fight to take traffic from the big guys, many smaller travel startups are making life harder for each other.

But it’s not all bad…

But there is a silver lining. There are two, in fact. The first is that once they get over the hurdle of being heard, smaller operators are in a unique position to concentrate on a single niche. They can then easily build brand awareness and customer loyalty around that target market. By definition, smaller travel operators can be lean, more flexible and highly specialised. That’s the personal touch that many travellers want, not a mass tourism package trip churned out by an industry giant.

With specialised knowledge comes a specialised service. And with that comes a trip that travellers remember for all the right reasons.

travel technology - our marketplace platform

Why True Travel Technology is an Enabler

In our view, true B2B travel technology is tech that helps startups in the industry overcome the challenges mentioned above. True travel technology is empowering, breaks down conventional barriers and gives the small guys a fighting chance against established dominance.

Sure: all of the companies listed above under ‘Travel technology’ are, according to Skift, “shaping the modern-day travel experience”. We don’t deny that Uber, Secret Escapes and Trivago are all offering valuable services that the industry couldn’t do without. Yet the key word for us in that Skift definition is ‘experience’.

Shaping the Travel Experience for the Better

Here at Travelshift, we firmly believe that smaller operators are in a much better position to give 21st century travellers the immersive trips and personalised service they’re looking for.

As we’ve mentioned before, there is a fear that the combining forces of big data and seamless integration will leave the largest technology companies in the best position to dominate the travel industry – even more so than the current industry giants. There is no telling what kind of impact even more dominance in the hands of a few major players will have on the traveller experience.

That’s why we are remaining firmly in the corner of the little guys, enabling them to compete with travel industry giants with our unique, feature-packed marketplace software. We hope that the result will be a greater number of specialised marketplaces, catering to their chosen niche and providing the best possible experience to travellers – right the way through from booking to returning home.

Our Travel Technology Gives Smaller Operators The Platform They Deserve

As we’ve mentioned, setting up in the travel industry and offering your expertise to tourists is only the first step on a long, difficult journey. Many fall at the opening hurdles, and many more follow suit soon after that.

That’s why we put our heads together before launching our first platform in 2014 to produce the perfect solution: A travel marketplace that brings together small operators and allows them to reach a larger audience than they could ever imagine when working as individual suppliers.

Take a look at the impact our platform had in its opening few years when combined with the Iceland tourism boom.

Guide to Iceland growth timeline, proving our travel technologyThis goes to show that a small but dedicated (and talented) team can achieve great things with the right travel technology in place. Our aim is for the same platform solution and techniques to be used to develop partnerships and niche marketplaces all over the world.

The result will be the growth of smaller travel operators, as they each benefit from the support and association of a marketplace that’s purpose-built to drive traffic and sales for niche travel sectors. More success among smaller operators promises to shift the travel landscape, provide tourists with more authentic experiences and bring back the concept of ‘loyalty’ to an industry that has lost its personal touch.

All of this takes us back to the title of this post. So why are B2B travel technology suppliers so vital to the industry? Simply put, we support startups and breed innovation. We make things happen.

More Than Just Another Booking Engine

Earlier in this post we compared having an online presence in the travel industry to having a pair of socks at the base of Mount Everest: It’s only the beginning. And the same can be said for having a travel marketplace that aggregates operators in your chosen niche.

Building a marketplace is only half of the challenge. You still need to market it properly, to streamline its systems and drive as many sales as possible.

That’s where Travelshift’s technology comes in. Our marketplace solution has been honed over time and proven in practice. It’s complete with localisation features, built-in SEO tools, flexible inventory systems and much more besides. Most important of all, the Travelshift platform was built and designed to bring in as much relevant traffic as possible.

To do that, we’ve combined a smart, flexible SaaS travel marketplace solution with unparalleled content marketing capabilities. But the key is where that content comes from: The community. By encouraging locals and tour guides to contribute article and blog posts, our platform allows you to amass a huge social media following and drive significantly more traffic into the marketplace than operators can manage independently. With our tools and no shortage of hard work, you can quickly become the leading producer of content in your field.

Community-driven content is a foundation of our success, and we’re convinced that the model can be applied to any number of travel niches.

Trvaelshift marketplace software

Feeling Inspired?

We’re always on the lookout for new partners, exciting startups and talented individuals to work with. If you’d like to be considered, all we need from you is a discovery letter. In the letter, you should indicate as concisely as possible the following elements of your proposal:

  • Define the market. What are you trying to aggregate?
  • How do you plan to bring in suppliers and/or access inventory?
  • What is your preferred form of partnership (joint venture, revenue sharing agreement, etc)?

You can send your discovery letters to info@travelshift.com.

The travel industry is an exciting and thriving sector with a seemingly endless amount of business opportunities and prospective ventures. We love to team up with intelligent and creative people and enjoy receiving new proposals. Get in touch with us today!

The Changing Trends of Travel Industry Marketing

Travel industry marketing is changing. And, for better or for worse, travel operators need to adapt. In this blog post we’re going to be taking a closer look at how travel marketing is being turned on its head, what challenges these changes pose to operators in the industry, and how Travelshift software can help you overcome those challenges.  

We’ll start at the beginning. Why is travel marketing being transformed? And what are these emerging trends in travel industry marketing that operators need to get to grips with?

Changing traveller attitudes toward advertising

Quite fairly, we think, travellers now have much higher expectations of brands and operators when it comes to marketing. Younger tourists (-30) in particular are increasingly tech-savvy and spend more time online than any generation in history.

This has several knock-on effects. The first is that brands now need to work harder to grab travellers’ attention. The move away from traditional forms of advertising on TV and in print is well underway.

But it’s not as simple as moving marketing efforts online. Many of today’s internet users are immune to spam campaigns, neon banners and click bait. They’ve seen it all before and won’t be falling for it anytime soon. They are adept at filtering out irrelevance and heading directly to what they’re looking for, fast.

This leaves operators with an obvious challenge: be relevant or get left behind. Be informative and inspiring or be ignored. Be interesting or watch your revenue shrink.

Nowhere is this trend played out more than in the sphere of social media. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are unique places where travellers can create their own bubbles of content that are tailored to their ‘likes’ and interests. Let’s look at this in more detail and think about how travel industry marketing needs to adapt.

The growing importance of social media

Social media is the new travel marketers’ battleground. It’s where millions of potential customers are active, engaged and there to be influenced and sold to. But the increasing importance of social media platforms is forcing marketers to adapt. In the travel industry, it’s not enough to spread links to your products and special offers.

Travel operators need to be more creative than that.

Content is King

Instead, operators are pivoting towards creating long-term relationships with potential customers, through the creation and promotion of inspiring content. It’s this element that is seeing a massive rise in terms of budget and focus.

We’ve previously highlighted the importance of content marketing, and quite rightly, too. This is an area where spending is on the up because it’s an easy way for travel brands to connect, engage and grow an audience. According to a Skift report on the state of content marketing, “the aspirational appeal of such content, combined with its increased credibility, helps it succeed with travel customers.”

But it’s not enough to simply produce content. First travel operators have to define what content even is, and what kinds of content they’re going to use to spread their message or philosophy.

And once that has been done, and content has been created there are still plenty of challenges. But first…

What counts as content?

The answer to the above question is largely subjective. For many travel brands, the simple act of posting something on social media might be seen as content marketing. For others, it might be the production of a GIF, eBook or podcast to go alongside a new product release.

All of these possibilities have an element of truth about them. Sure, anything can be content, whether it’s 140 characters in a Tweet or a 10-minute promotional video. But to understand what content marketing is really driving at we have to think about its purpose. Only once the aim is clear can travel brands think closely on the message and the medium.

What is the point of content marketing?

Content marketing is not just about putting your stuff in people’s faces. It’s about become established, a leader, a respected voice in your field.

In many cases, it’s entirely separate from the direct-sales marketing we’re all familiar with. Instead of pushing a specific product with an in-your-face advert, content marketing aims to build an audience and grow an operator’s influence.

It’s not supposed to be marketing-y.

Instead, the fundamental principle goes something like this: If you, as a travel provider, produce content that entertains, engages and informs your target market, they will be more inclined to buy your products and trust your brand as a result.

We’re a lot more cynical than we used to be when shopping. Our relationship with advertising has changed. Travellers now appreciate honesty and authenticity. They want the truth, and enough information to make informed decisions.

The concept is simple and it’s proven to be effective. And there’s another reason that travel brands are investing so much in fresh content…

Perpetuating traffic: The by-product of great content

Great content is great for SEO – there’s no getting around that fact. On the one hand, travel operators can create extensive written content that will be shared and viewed by thousands of readers. This, in turn, will generate more sales through a higher amount of traffic to the website in question.

But more content also boosts traffic organically by bumping agencies up the search engine rankings. Because of this, a by-product of any content marketing efforts is usually in an increase in relevant traffic and a natural growth in sales.

And it’s not only written content that boosts your traffic. Search engines also take into account an operator’s popularity on social media platforms and the reach of their brand beyond a simple website. This means that having a strong presence as a content creator on sites such as Youtube is also highly beneficial.

From this, we can clearly see that content marketing is an easy way to perpetuate traffic and sales. This also goes some way to answering one of the questions posed above. Namely, what kind of content should travel operators be using as part of marketing campaigns?

Content marketing in the travel industry: How and where?

So the two main questions here are what types of content should travel operators be using to reach potential customers, and where should they be employing these tactics?

The How

‘Content’, as we have seen, comes in many different forms. But to be an effective content marketer in the travel industry you need to understand which of those forms pushes the buttons of prospective travellers. More often than not marketing in this industry is about aspiration and inspiration.

via GIPHY

For that reason, content often needs to be visual and engaging. Sure, there’s room for thought-provoking writeups and detailed travel guides. But pictures still say a thousand words. Videos say even more.

So let’s focus on media content for the time being. It’s not only that pictures, videos and GIFs have the potential to highlight a product or destination better than words ever can. In an online world where we sift through huge amounts of information in seconds – whether it’s on timelines or scrolling through a website – media content offers immediacy. A quick fix, a powerful punch of inspiration.

Because they force an immediate reaction, snippets of visual media stand out on social media and general websites. It’s a medium that people can engage within seconds without complication.

If something can be engaged with quickly on social media platforms, it’s more likely to be shared and spread. As well as being increasingly good for SEO, this peer to peer sharing can be the foundation of the authenticity a travel brand is trying to develop. Even in the digital world, a share or recommendation is a pretty big compliment. It suggests that a travel operator is doing something right.

content marketing travel

Take Facebook, for example. The world’s most popular social media platform has seen a huge rise in the use of video content on its pages.

Twitter last year introduced its new GIF search feature, encouraging users to share media content to improve the quality of their tweets. And then you’ve got Youtube, the video behemoth that’s quietly become the second-largest search engine in the world, with countless hours of video content uploaded and watched every day by people all over the world.

Youtube also gives travel operators the ability to create channels, which fans can then subscribe to and watch regularly. That same video content can then be shared across social media platforms. Which leads us to an interesting question:

If we agree that visual media content is 1. the most effective at portraying aspiration and inspiration that travel lovers love and 2. growing rapidly in terms of engagement across the web….

Should every travel operator be a media organisation?

It’s difficult to get away from this as a conclusion. But it needn’t be an intimidating one for those working in the travel industry. As the traditional need for travel agents has evolved, customers are looking for more than great prices. They want information, insight and inspiration. If a travel operator can offer those things, the need for conventional marketing could disappear completely.

The Where

A few of the platforms we’ve already mentioned are prime for content marketing campaigns dedicated to travel. Facebook and Twitter, in particular, offer easy avenues to viral content if the media is engaging enough.

Instagram content marketing travel

Instagram is the perfect platform to build a loyal band of followers.

But other platforms, including Instagram and Youtube, are also proving popular arenas for content marketing – just with a slightly different edge. Although photos and videos can also go viral on these platforms, the focus is more on building a fanbase, a group or subscribers or followers that receive regular updates and believe in the message travel brands are portraying.

But of course, it’s not only on social media platforms that content marketing can boost travel brands.

You’ll struggle to find travel operators these days who don’t provide some kind of insight, information or inspiration to potential customers, free of charge. Most often this will be in the form of blog posts, travel guides and other shareable content.

The post you’re reading right now could be deemed a form of content marketing, for example. We’re not simply trying to sell you our services (indeed, we haven’t even mentioned them yet) – we’re addressing the issues of interest to our target market, establishing ourselves as visionaries in our chosen field and generally informing, entertaining and inspiring the next generation of travel startups.

Those same techniques can be found in blog posts, website content, email newsletters and more.

Things to think about

With the move toward content marketing, different challenges are now being faced by operators in the travel industry.

The biggest challenge is obvious: How do we make and measure great content? 

Although we’ve highlighted the popularity of images and video on the platforms above, that’s by no means the end of the line. What type of content depends very much on the audience and product in question.

Another huge challenge for travel brands is finding talented content creators, whether that’s writers, video editors or creative thinkers – they don’t just grow on trees, after all. Because travel businesses are primarily setup to give their customers memorable experiences, content creation is not usually an area of expertise.

Perhaps for that reason, we’ve seen an interesting trend develop in travel alongside the popularity of social media: partnering with influencers.

In many ways, these influencers provide a shortcut to exposure. The idea is simple: pay a well-known, influential figure to feature your product or service, and reap the rewards by reaching their audience directly.

Read more: The Power of Influencers in the Travel Industry

But working with influencers comes with an interesting set of challenges.How do you go about choosing who to work with? And what’s the best way to measure their effectiveness and ensure high-quality results?

What if you could create your own ‘influencers’ and measure their impact on your travel business in real time?

Where Travelshift Comes In…

travelshift-logo-blue-horiz-big

You might be wondering how all of the above could possibly be related to Travelshift. As you may or may not know, we build travel marketplaces. We’re not a content marketing agency. We don’t specialise in creating original media, so what do we know about content marketing?

We lied about only building marketplaces. We also build communities. And we’ve pioneered a whole new type of content marketing off that back of it. We call it community-driven content, and it works like this:

Our proprietary marketplace software allows our clients to build travel platforms with a difference. Built into these platforms are all the tools you need to bring together a community of writers and bloggers. In the first application of our software, our community of Icelandic locals, bloggers and travellers helped (and still helps) drive a huge amount of traffic through our GuidetoIceland marketplace.

You can read more about our GuidetoIceland marketplace in the case study.

With our community-driven framework, the authenticity and insight of locals and genuine travellers do plenty of the content marketing for you.

Interested in finding out more? Get in touch today!

How Travel Agencies Can Benefit From the Mobile Revolution

If there’s one thing the travel industry has had to come to terms with in recent years, it’s the increasing influence of mobile platforms. Not only are smartphones and tablets dominating travel research, social media and bookings themselves, compatibility with these platforms has also become a vital factor in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). With that in mind, this week we’re going to look at how travel startups can harness the power of mobile platforms, cut through the noise and create long-lasting, profitable bonds with tech-savvy travellers.

Why does your travel platform need a mobile strategy?

Mobile devices are becoming more prevalent among travellers, ut it’s not only during trips that these come in handy. The majority of people now research trips from a mobile device, while the amount of people making bookings on these platforms is also on the rise.

Here are a couple of enlightening charts from our colleagues at Skift, one the few publications that keeps an even closer eye on the travel industry than we do.

mobile marketing for travel

Skift

Clearly, there is an upward trend for mobile bookings around some of the world’s most popular destinations. What also needs to be taken into account is the ability to make bookings while travelling that mobile platforms provide.

Below is another chart, which suggests that travellers are more comfortable using traditional purchasing methods when it comes to flights – although this number is also steadily rising.

Mobile marketing

Skift

So what does this data tell us? It’s obvious that having a smooth mobile platform that travellers can use for research and bookings is vital in this day and age. There’s plenty of room for more growth in mobile bookings, so travel agencies and marketplaces that fail to prepare will have prepared to fail.

First of all: Optimise for Mobile

The first step here is fundamental. If travellers can’t easily use your marketplace or booking system on a mobile device, you’re going to miss out on sales. It’s as simple as that. Your platform needs to be optimised for browsing from these devices. Compatibility and ease of use are doubly important when you consider that, as well as losing revenue, you will be punished in search engine rankings for having a poor mobile experience.

That’s right: Google will be less favourable to your platform is the mobile experience sucks. Take a look at these three facts, courtesy of Marcus Miller at Search Engine Land:

  1. Today, more people search on mobile phones than computers
  2. People are five times more likely to leave a site if it isn’t mobile-friendly
  3. Over half of mobile users will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load

With these in mind, the first steps toward any mobile marketing strategy should be to:

  1. Concentrate on ease of use and mobile compatibility
  2. Ensure your website is responsive from mobile platforms
  3. Do everything you can to improve your page loadings speeds

These factors can be addressed in many different ways, from streamlining the process for filling in forms, to shortening menus and simplifying the search process.

Read this post on optimising sites for mobile for more information.

Use mobile to personalise the experience

Once your platform is optimised for mobile, the obvious advantage of being in your customers’ pockets is the ability to personalise their experience.

Here’s a great example of what we mean, from hotel giant Marriot.

Marriott personal service with app mobile

The Marriott App

The new Marriott Rewards app has been designed to give users a tailored experience. It adjusts depending on which point the traveller is at in their journey. The app will offer content and advice related to trip planning, the day of travel itself, transit and the hotel stay.

Smart devices are now everyone’s indispensable travel companion, as more and more travellers increasingly expect to have their needs satisfied using their mobile phone,” said Marriott International SVP digital George Corbin.

Marriott is using mobile to introduce and revolutionize the next generation of customer service to travelers worldwide, delivering a far more personalized and anticipatory stay experience.” – Marriott International SVP digital George Corbin

Marriott International vice president of loyalty, Thom Kozik, highlighted the connection between offering a personalised experience and the customer loyalty that ensues. “Many people have an emotional connection with their mobile devices and apps they’ve downloaded,” he said. “We know some of our most loyal guests stay with us upwards of 100 nights a year. For them, along with members who stay less frequently, we can become a valuable part of their travel experience on a device they engage with 365 days a year.”

Personalising a traveller’s experience via mobile can involve anything, from using their name and treating them as a genuine person, to tailoring offers and sending them promotions they have a track record of being interested in. A strong mobile experience gives a travel agency the opportunity the connect with customers directly and treat them as genuine people – there’s no better way to build a relationship.

Location is Key

Plenty of research and bookings occur during a trip, not before it. Sure, the big stuff (flights, transfers etc) will probably be arranged before departure, but on longer trips it’s highly likely that excursions, activities and maybe even accommodation will be booked while on the road. This highlights the need for our first point: Optimising for mobile. But it also raises the importance of localisation.

Localisation is something we’ve discussed before, in our piece entitled ‘Translation & Localisation; Travel Agents Must Adapt to the Global Marketplace‘. The idea is simple. Plenty of travel operators work in the shadow of huge, internet-dominating travel giants. We all know who they are. One key to getting the upper hand is focusing on localisation; becoming a trusted source of bookings and information in your chosen area.

An Ipsos study back in 2014 found that 88% of people make local searches on smartphones, while 61% want mobile search results optimised to their location. It’s clear that if you can localise your mobile offering with geographical offers, maps, driving directions and local search results, you’ll be giving travellers what they want.

Enable mobile transactions

It goes without saying that if you want to make the most of the mobile booking trend, you need to enable mobile transactions on your website. But this doesn’t only stand for transactions of money. Anything that stands to help travellers avoid queues or delays is a positive step. After all, nobody travels through a love of standing in line. Mobile integration of check-ins, room service and reviews can all help to make travelling a more seamless experience.

Moving services onto mobile platforms can boost customer satisfaction. A study by The Center for Generational Kinetics discovered that at 40 percent of millennials prefer customer service that’s totally online. Self-service and support via mobile ticks all the boxes of this growing trend.

Rewarding mobile users

Done right, enhancing your mobile offering comes with its own benefits that travellers will appreciate. But that doesn’t mean you should stop there. Mobile users taking advantage of self-service systems and following your advice on local activities should be rewarded in some manner. This might be by building a loyalty scheme that gives travellers discounts over time, or offering specific rewards for travellers who provide feedback or share their experience on social media.

Be the Concierge

We’ve written before on how many travel operators are beginning to use messaging platforms to offer a new type of customer service. The vast majority of mobile travellers will have access to instant messaging platforms such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. As a travel operator, there’s a huge opportunity to harness these mediums and provide travellers with real-time customer service.

Smartphones and tablets are providing the capability. It’s up to your agency or marketplace to make the most of it.

Stay one step ahead

There are plenty challenges faced by travellers no matter what the destination or trip type. For example, how many travellers have difficulty explaining where their accommodation is to a local driver? How many travellers want to learn some basic phrases in the native language of their destination? How many travellers want easy access to city guides and local things to do? The answer, of course, is millions.

These are all small problems with simple solutions, but mobile offers the key: accessibility. If you can provide directions in the local language, a guide on local things to do, and general assistance in anticipation of a problem, travellers will thank you for it with loyalty.

Make the most of social media

We can’t speak about the importance of mobile without touching on social media. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are primarily, or in some cases exclusively, accessed via mobile platforms. Because of this, a large part of any decent travel operator’s marketing plan will focus on these avenues. Travel is an industry driven by curiosity and aspiration, so if you can invoke these emotions through a strong social media strategy then you’ll be on to a winner.

social trends in the travel industry

No mobile strategy would be complete without a focus on social media.

Post pictures and inspirational videos from your locations or trips, and encourage your customers to share their experience on social media with their networks. Competitions are also likely to spread around platforms such as Facebook and Instagram like wildfire.

Travelshift can help you build a marketplace that’s optimised for mobile

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Want to build a travel marketplace but intimidated by all the technical challenges? That’s where Travelshift software comes in. Our proven solution is fully optimised for mobile use, and comes with a range of features to help you compete with established giants in the travel industry.

Proprietary SEO technology and easy localisation help you use Travelshift to build a community-driven platform that puts content marketing at its core. Want to find out more about the explosive traffic and limitless sales that Travelshift can put at your disposal? Check out our case study for more information.

Travelshift’s 2016 Highlights

As 2017 gets underway, we thought it would be a good idea to allow ourselves a moment of nostalgia. 2016 was a big year for us here at Travelshift: The growth of our readership has been immense and our marketplace software has begun to help travel startups all around the world.

With that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to round up some of our favourite stories from the past 12 months. From Trump to Brexit, to Pokemon Go and Leicester City’s unlikely Premier League win, we’ve proved that there is no subject we can’t wrangle into a travel or startup-related story.

So here’s our top five stories from the last year.

What a year it’s been in the world of politics. As well as the vote to leave the European Union from Great Britain, we’ve also seen the rise of Donald Trump in the USA. Both will take full effect in the months and years to come, but there’s no doubt that there will be an impact on the travel industry.

donald trump travel industry affect

We’ve also seen the impact the darker side of politics has had on the industry, as we discussed in our Travel industry Hit by Terrorism and Political Unrest article.

As a business, we work on the boundaries of tourism and technology. Our marketplace software takes advantage of the latest techniques to help travel startups compete with established operators. For that reason, we like to look at other technologies in the world of tourism. This piece focused on artificial intelligence. We also had a look at general tech trends in the travel industry.

artificial intelligence could impact the travel industry in a big way.

We don’t only write blogs about travel industry news and future trends. Sometimes we like to focus directly on those that our company was built to serve: Travel startups. This post concentrated on the art of team building and features tips on startups should construct a team. It includes an interview with Rocketrip founder Dan Ruch.

content marketing startup

As you probably know by now, we like to look ahead to the future. Of great importance to the travel industry is how the next generation of travellers, Generation Z, can be best appealed to once they come of age. We’re already aware, in general terms, of what they are interested in and how they react to certain mediums. With that in mind, we put together a few ideas that travel startups can start thinking about for the next batch of young travellers.

generation z is coming. Is the travel industry ready?

Last year we started out our ‘Gap in the Market’ series. The idea is that every so often we hone in on a particular travel niche and take a closer look. There were plenty of personal favourites, including in-depth looks at the worlds of cruise, corporate and wellness travel, but we especially enjoyed our deep dive into food tourism. This piece also featured an interview with Hugo Palomar, founder and CEO of Foodie&Tours.

food tourism

We hope you enjoyed our blog throughout 2016 – here’s to many more!

The Travel Industry Must Adapt for Generation Z

Do you remember what kind of things you did for entertainment when you were younger? Take a moment to think about how you spent your free time as a teenager. You probably read books, played outside, made entertainment from nothing at all. And why? Well for one thing, the internet likely wasn’t in existence/a dominant source of entertainment in your home. Times were different, the digital world we know today was only just kicking to gear, and the result was a notion of self-entertainment that relied heavily upon imagination.

So how is this relevant to the travel industry, and where does the concept of imagination come in? More on imagination later. The main point we’re trying to make is that the young people of today are different. They’ve grown up in times of incredible technological advancement. And as their power as travel purchasers looms on the horizon, it’s becoming more and more clear that their behaviour, attitudes and expectations are completely different to generations of years gone by. Sure, every new generation has its quirks, but as the focus shifts from millennials to Generation Z, travel operators will need to adapt for this emerging customer base more than you might think.

Technology: A challenge and an opportunity

generation z travel industry

The relationship between Generation Z-ers and travel is and will be linked by technology. As a generation that’s grown up alongside rapid advancements in all things tech, the connected world has certainly left its mark. Teenagers today are the most tech savvy generation around. On top of that, having grown up in the immersive world of social media, advanced video games and platforms such as Youtube, this is a generation that takes technology and innovation for granted. For teenagers all over the world, these incredible advances have been a part of their lives for as long as they can remember. The digital world that they spend so much time in is all they’ve ever known.

Attention spans are at an all-time low – just eight seconds for Generation Z-ers according to some research. This means that things happen quickly. Content is engaged with and judged in a flash. Generation Z has been exposed to and shaped by the concept of instantaneous results and reactions. Just look at Snapchat, along with the growing popularity of memes and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it video content on platforms such as Facebook and Youtube.

But that’s not to say that the teenagers of today are a bunch of mindless kids who can’t focus on something for any longer than a goldfish can. That would be completely the wrong way of approaching this and missing the point entirely. This is instead about Generation Z’s ability to process information:

Mimi Turner, marketing director at The Lad Bible said the following:

“People talk a lot about this generation having a short attention span. That’s exactly what grown-ups say when they don’t understand something. This audience are extreme navigators of superior efficiency. They are machines at knowing what they want. They are highly sophisticated decision makers. They are efficient and marketers and brands need to catch up with that.”

Imagination and travel

In the opening to this post, we touched on the importance of imagination to the travel industry. Travel is, of course, driven by ambition, by a passion for exploration and a desire to experience new places. The imagination is where all of these wonderful emotions collide to form concrete goals that can be aimed at and aspired to.

The digital natives of Generation Z are set to have an intriguing relationship with travel and imagination. On the one hand, the next generation is touted as being more globally-minded than even Millennials. This suggests that travel will be a priority. But having said that, there’s an argument that the close relationship with technology we’ve talked about could be a barrier to those travel aspirations we currently take for granted.

“Only daydreaming while waiting for devices to recharge”

Why could this be? For starters, take a moment to appreciate how immersive and all-encompassing the digital world of technology is becoming. With the latest games, you can already explore the world (and beyond) in high definition with your friends by your virtual side. Technology isn’t (yet) an adequate substitute for the real thing, but how many teenagers are spending their days gazing longingly at pictures of Paris or Rome or New York instead of entertaining themselves via different means? The short answer is not many. You might even say there’s so much damn entertainment around that travel will fall down the list of priorities. After all, if you can have fun, a social life and experience new things through a screen does often expensive travel take a backseat?

Speaking with Campaign, Gerry Whiteside, co-director of P2 Games neatly summarises this debate. Previous generations have seen our imaginations shaped through books with a beginning, middle and an end. The infinite nature of the internet is both an opportunity but also pretty darn frightening. As Whiteside says, “There is a fabulous opportunity for children to be more creative as a result of technology. But I also have a feeling that whenever their device’s battery runs out, the next generation will only find time for daydreaming while waiting for it to recharge.”

Generation Z is coming – Is the travel industry ready?

In the next year or so the first members of this generation are going to be in a position to make travel decisions and exercise their enormous spending power around the world. So what does this tidal wave of tech-savvy youngsters mean for travel operators? And how can services and offerings be adapted to connect with the most connected generation ever?

Clearly things need to change. In a recent piece in Travel Weekly discussing how to make travel products appeal to the next generation, Miles Morgan admits that “As an industry, we have one of the most engaging products – holidays and holiday destinations – but we fail to cut through and engage people enough to grab their interest.”

The way we see it, there are two ways that travel operators can switch things up to appeal to younger customers. The first involves the way that products are marketed, and the second the medium through which that marketing happens. Now, that may sound like the same thing said in two different ways, but there’s a distinction. Honest…

Travel marketing needs to adapt to Generation Z

Even in the travel industry, taking customers and their willingness to travel for granted is a big mistake. As we’ve discussed, with the next generation of travellers it may take more persuasion than normal. That persuasion needs to be carefully planned and well thought through. Most importantly of all, it needs to be tailored to suit the behaviour and expectations of young buyers. We’re talking short-form video content through mediums such as Snapchat and Youtube; content that’s simple, shareable, visual and inspiring. Easier said than done, but the first generation of truly digital natives have got plenty of distractions to flick between. Travel operators need to cut through the noise.

The next generation of travellers spends more time watching video than any other generation in history.

The next generation of travellers spends more time watching video than any other generation in history.

They’re a social bunch too, so community driven content that encourages a relationship between your brand and each individual is the way forward.

And then we get to the mediums through which this marketing should happen. This is where we fight fire with fire. As much as we’ve been saying that digital technology poses a risk to the travel aspirations of members of Generation Z, the irony is that technology can also provide the solution. For example:

Harness the power of instant messaging

You might want to tap into fast-growing messaging platforms to offer a more personalised service. This is a generation used to having instant access to solutions and information. Anything less than that kind of speed is likely to put them off from dealing with you on a repeat basis.  

Enter their world

The real world should never pale in comparison to the virtual world. Travel offers so many opportunities and experiences that can change all of our lives for the better. If it takes a little technology to prove that and get Generation Z-ers interested, then that’s no problem. Why not create virtual reality travel content around your products to make them more enticing and immersive to a younger audience?

Being internet-savvy entails that this is a customer group that can spot cheesy campaigns from a mile off. Instead, members of Generation Z are far more likely to listen to the advice of their peers and people whose opinions they respect. Subtly tapping into the power of market influencers, whether it’s Youtube stars or Instagram giants, is definitely worth considering.

Adapt your products

Away from the techniques of marketing, one simple way to appeal to the next tech-savvy generation is to make your products as tech-friendly as possible. Generation Z is used to viewing the internet as any other utility – just like running a tap for water or turning the heating on. If you can incorporate this level of connectivity into your trips, along with other digital touches, from contactless payments to electronic keys, biometrics and (hell, why not) robot butlers, you’ll appeal both to their imagination and their love of efficiency.

Is the travel industry ready for generation z. It will probably need to adapt.

Our versatile travel marketplace platform

We’re incredibly proud of the travel marketplace platform we’ve built from scratch. One of its key features is that it allows you to build a marketplace that’s community driven and packed with relevant content from sources your customers will trust and engage with – Certainly one way to appeal to the Generation Z travellers on the horizon. Get in touch with us today to find out more and get started on your own travel platform.