Posted by Leger ● Sep 6, 2022 9:00:00 AM
Since the spring of 2020, the COVID pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have caused never-before-seen changes in consumer behavior on a global scale. As customer values change, there’s a potential for an adjustment in how they spend their money.
Understanding these changes in travel consumer values can help brands address the evolving needs of their existing customer base and effectively reach out to new audiences.
In our recent research study, How Consumers’ Shifting Attitudes Are Impacting the Role of Brands in 2022, 360 Market Reach (now Leger) offers key insights to help travel companies identify what’s important to consumers in 2022.
Here are some actionable insights from our market research that can help support your company’s focus on travel industry brand building in 2022 and beyond.
What Do Travelers Find Valuable?
Our recent study shows that, compared to pre-COVID attitudes, 27% of travelers find added importance in booking travel that enhances their sense of personal well-being. 26% also say they are more focused on booking travel that allows them to disconnect from their everyday routines.
Additionally, since the pandemic began, travelers are placing greater importance on a brand’s high cleaning standards. They also value flexibility in changing booking dates — without incurring additional fees — as well as companies that are honest and transparent with their customers.
1. Improved Well-Being and the Chance to Disconnect
Years of shutdowns and quarantines may have left customers longing for travel that leaves them feeling recharged and refreshed by new experiences.
Part of that recharging might mean getting away from daily stressors. Travel is an all-encompassing experience that may include spending time away from work, detaching from social media, spending time with family and friends, and more.
Travelers may look toward nature for a chance to boost their well-being. Lifestyle publication PureWow lists vacation ideas specifically designed to de-stress travelers, including hiking the Appalachian Trail, camping under the stars in Death Valley, and weathering the cold to catch a glimpse of the northern lights.
2. High Cleaning Standards
In our recent study, How Consumers’ Shifting Attitudes Are Impacting the Role of Brands in 2022, 45% of respondents said that, compared to pre-pandemic views, increased cleaning standards are more important to them when traveling.
One traveler told us: “Thinking about traveling now, [I expect] all of the same pre-COVID amenities and services. Enhanced cleaning would be added to that.”
According to CNN, North American hotel guests are decreasingly satisfied with hotel guest experiences. However, in a stark departure from this sentiment, some hotels have observed that “[guests’] cleanliness scores reached a record high in 2020 as hotels ramped up measures to bolster COVID safety and reassure potential guests.”
Hard Rock Hotels went the extra mile by developing their SAFE + SOUND program, which the hotel chain describes as “developed by a team of hospitality and gaming experts in collaboration with worldwide health and sanitation specialists…[the program is] focused on enhanced cleaning practices, social interactions and workplace protocols, while ensuring transparency.”
Given this initiative, it may come as no surprise that Hard Rock Hotels ranked highest in guest satisfaction for upper-upscale hotels for the second consecutive year in 2022.
Other brands should take notice: pivoting toward a more value-centric approach to customer service could prevent drops in customer satisfaction and keep your existing customer base happy.
During our own study, one traveler spoke to this idea in their video ethnography, saying: “During the pandemic, we were still traveling for business. I was happy to learn that the airlines used hospital grade air filters on their aircraft and as a result, it made us feel a lot safer when we did fly. And the same goes today. If the airlines were not using those hospital grade filters, then I don’t know if I would fly or not.”
3. Affordable Travel
In our study, 31% of travelers said that the affordability of their travel experience is more important to them than it was pre-pandemic.
One traveler told us: “With the cost of hotel stays drastically increasing, I’d love to see some better deals or incentives out there to book hotels.”
Affordability can be either a deterrent or an attractant, depending on how your brand navigates the next year’s economic challenges.
In the UK, the annual tourism forecast released by VisitBritain predicted that 2.9 million fewer travelers would come into the UK in 2022 than originally forecast. That’s a reduction of $2.8 billion in tourism income for the UK overall.
Some hospitality companies in the UK are addressing this prediction head-on by increasing affordability now.
For example, the QHotels Collection, one of Britain’s leading hotel chains known for its spas and resorts, introduced a “flash sale” with extensive discounts on multi-night stays, as well as packages that include attractive perks like golfing getaways, free champagne, and spa treatments.
4. Plenty of Flexibility
Our new research study shows that customers value flexibility when it comes to adjusting booking dates. They don’t want to incur additional fees for those changes. In our study, 41% of travelers said that flexibility in date changes is more important to travel than it was pre-COVID.
According to travel industry news website, Skift, airlines are struggling to fulfill flights due to staffing shortages. Cancellations are leading to some very unhappy customers.
Echoing sentiments from our travel survey conducted last year, airline industry reporter Edward Russell wrote, “Pent-up demand has proven stronger than the deterrent of high prices for most travelers. However, complaints have skyrocketed with the 5,079 filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation in April — the latest available month — a 322 percent increase over 2019 levels."
What can travel brands do to help mitigate customers’ dissatisfaction?
They also appreciate flexibility in other areas, such as the frequency of hotel room cleaning services. During our study, one traveler said: “Prior to COVID, travel was really important to me. It was really important to have a cleaning service every day. Now that we’re back to traveling, I find it a lot less important. I love [that] they give you the option to have it every day, every other day, or not at all.”
5. Honesty and Transparency
Our data also shows that 28% of travelers are more likely to be positively influenced by companies that are honest and transparent than they were before the pandemic.
Some companies’ honesty and transparency skills are only put to the test during an actual crisis. And only some of those companies are successful in putting out the fires. Wherever your brand falls now when it comes to coming clean, the research tells us what it takes to stay ahead: “owning-up” is what customers want to see.
For example, Air Canada’s largest airport hub, Toronto Pearson, has repeatedly faced overcrowding and flight cancellations. Like many other airlines, limited staffing is often the leading cause.
Air Canada proved to be the only Canadian airline cutting flights in July and August of 2022, with an average of 154 cancellations per day — 15% of its summer schedule.
CEO Michael Rousseau offered an explanation and — importantly — an apology to their fliers. In a letter, he stated that “Air Canada’s operations too have been disrupted by the industry’s complex and unavoidable challenges,” and offered “sincere apologies” to any disrupted Air Canada fliers.
Similarly, Delta CEO Ed Bastian posted on his Instagram account in the summer of 2022: “if you’ve encountered delays and cancellations recently, I apologize...thank you for your patience and understanding as our team works to restore the world-class reliability you deserve and have come to expect from Delta.”
How did consumers respond to his openness? One user posted: “Thank you for being one of the only visible figures in the airline industry, even pre pandemic, to put yourself out there and provide the accountability every big major industry is lacking.”
Stay Ahead of the Curve with Effective Travel Industry Brand Building
Adapt to critical changes in consumer values. Prepare for the impact of future shifts. Build your brand with insights from 360 Market Reach. Download your free copy of our whitepaper: How Consumers’ Shifting Attitudes Are Impacting the Role of Brands in 2022 today.