December 31st saw initial cases being treated with January 11th seeing the first mortalities in the Global Pandemic that is being caused by the spread of COVID-19.
Since then we have seen reported figures of anywhere between 15-40% predicted drop in bookings in the travel industry in 2020, compared with last year. Companies are looking at minimising costs wherever whilst trying to offer some kind of customer experience where possible, be it online browsers or trying to get travellers home.
The present situation: keep up with your customers
Location and Travel is strange to not go hand in hand. We should all certainly be planning to be at home if possible, to stay safe and free resources for key workers, but we really do believe that once the world and Industry can start to return to normal, things will have changed. The need for Innovation, concentration on Conversion rate through providing an outstanding customer journey and experience will be key. Reduce Bounce Rate, do not point your potential passengers at other services and drive for brand loyalty.
Furthermore, the loyalty of travellers will be markedly affected by the experiences they have in these difficult times. The organisations who are most agile in re-booking, handling cancellations, issuing vouchers, refunds and more will be the ones remembered by the travelling community when bookings return to normal levels.
It is all too easy to spend 4 weeks researching a trip, then 4+ websites to make bookings. We want to keep customers on one site, giving them the services they need. And right now and in the future, the confidence it will take to get the world moving again. The return of assurances that all components of a journey can be handled smoothly, with mitigation of the perceived need to shop around, is likely to happen when normal life returns.
The current situation in the UK travel industry
Safe Travel is a phrase we are hearing more and more from our client base and although not suitable for all Airlines, OTAs or travel organisations, UK travel industry’ businesses such as Independent Cottages and Campsites.co.uk are seeing year on year traffic and bookings increase by up to 40%.
People still want to travel, but they want to travel within the realm of their Country and stay in relative isolation with their families. Safe Travel – being in control of your own journey, your own property when you get there and have the ability to remain within the confines of your family group.
Accommodation site Host Unusual has also seen a rise in searches for more isolated and off-grid properties (up 45% and 38% respectively), as well as searches by people looking for properties close to where they live.
How and when will we recover from this? Ctrip's new offer after the Covid-19 recession in China.
Using China as an example of what happens downstream, International travel restrictions have created an opportunity for the Chinese domestic travel industry to rebound after nearly two months of virtual lockdown. Ctrip started selling travel packages and attraction tickets on its app last week as the country accelerated the pace of reopening parks and tourist spots. As of Tuesday, tickets to 1,449 well-known tourist spots across the country could be bought online while 40 per cent of China’s top national tourist spots have reopened, according to Ctrip.
We know travellers will return – but as we have no real end in sight for the immediate issues the virus proliferation is causing, we are yet to also identify the longer term human behaviour, when we are in a position to embrace International Travel again. Will we see people go wholeheartedly back to travel by Air to holiday destinations? Or will we see a slower approach of families looking to remain in their Country of origin for a time? We’ll know for sure after the light at the end of the tunnel becomes more than a very distant speck.
What we can say from extensive pure mapping experience in this industry is that the behaviours of holiday makers and business travellers will return at very different rates. And you, our clients, I am sure will be preparing for this.
Maps, location, proximity, POI information are all aspects that people will look for both in the future and most certainly in the realms of ‘Safe Travel’. Especially once this very initial ‘lockdown’ period in the UK is over.
So whilst we are on the ropes here, we do need to be prepared to get back into our corner, re think the next round and come out swinging when the opportunity arises. Throwing in the travel towel is not an option.
If you are one of our customers and would like a detailed report on API trends, or you arent one of our customers and work with location, contact us below:
Shaun leads the Travel, Tourism and Transportation department at Snowdrop Solutions. He has been working alongside the Google Cloud and Maps Platform since 2013 and has developed best practise insights in how to offer tailored geolocation services to leading companies in the tourism sector, to improve their business performance, increase conversion rates and customer loyalty and to deliver a better overall user experience.