Travel Industry Insights: COVID-19 Recovery

Travel Industry Insights: COVID-19 Recovery

Visit Yolo staff have been following closely a variety of regional, state and national updates on the COVID-19 impact of the travel industry. We thought you might be interested in also keeping track of the current impact but also the professional researchers look to the future of the industry. Here are some highlights:

SHORT TERM BOOKING TRENDS 
-People are still searching and planning for travel with the booking window pushed back to August-October;
-Key search considerations include: pay now, go later; flexibility in cancellation policies; ability to postpone/reschedule if needed;

RECOVERY PERIOD PREDICTIONS 
• Strong correlation between border reopening’s, flights resuming that will be strongest indicator to consumers that it is safe to travel again;
• Domestic travel will be the quickest and strongest to bounce back, with international anticipated to take much longer;
• Prediction that return to travel will be led by interest in staying closer to home, within 500 miles, and focus on short term escapes and weekend getaways;
• Once travel begins to flow again, the business and solo leisure travel sectors will be the strongest, with family travel showing signs of recovery as confidence to do so with children reappears;

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY TO COPE AND PREPARE 

Key Indicators to Follow:
Macro                                                                   Micro
Federal Policies                                                   Client Visitation Data
State Regulations                                                Social Listening
Outbreak Cases                                                    Search Trending
Recovery                                                               Vendor Trending
School Closings                                                   Future Forecasting by Traveler Type
Commercial Impacts
Health Systems
CDC Updates

INDICATORS TO WATCH WEEKLY 
Search Demand: Hotel + flight, Track YoY, Last 30 Days
Booking Demand: Share of Wallet, Trending by Market, Future Stays, Volume by
Traveler Type
Booking Window: Changes by Market, Booking by Window Lengths

POTENTIAL STRATEGY IMPLICATORS 
Messaging
Funnel Weighting
Markets
Audience
Media Mix
Timing

SUGGESTED RECOVERY STRATEGY

WAIT – shelter in space, traveler caution/restrictions, new daily normal, rally around community, maintain top-of-mind awareness, inspire and reunite post crisis, support community stories, book now/travel later;

BE READY: social distancing reductions, travel restrictions relaxed, a new normal emerges with elevated interest in travel but heightened sensitivity to type of travel, drive awareness and consideration, inspire and inform (safety, booking incentives), connect travel brand with consumer need/interest – AGAIN, a new normal will have emerged;

SET: be aware of “new normal”, traveler will be seeking a different type of escape than traditional, encourage travelers to get out and explore with existing sensitivity to some social distancing, they will be increasing consideration and defining travel period, will get excited about their forthcoming experience;

GO!: traveler will begin going at normal cadence, resuming normal travel plans, connect travelers with reasons to travel, encourage visitation and bookings, full funnel comes into play, travel booked;

FUTURE AUDIENCE OPPORTUNITIES
-Leverage data to find travelers showing signs of future travel;
-Capture search data and adapt keywords per current interests;
-Focus on “stay” and “near” cation market segment audiences;
-Maximize market share capture by targeting relevant audiences;
-Short term audience will be different than before but long-term audience will likely return to normal;
-Ensure media is properly places and consistent to avoid start and stop inefficiencies and increased costs;
-Shift messaging to be in-line with audience sensitivities. Adapt as they change. 

PLAN STRATEGY
Create a plan unique to destination/product

Monitor

1) Social sentiment within own channels;
2) Meet consumers where they are, both physically and emotionally;
3) Review keywords in both paid and organic search engines;
4) Assess additional data through booking reports, info requests and email sign-ups, monitor traffic to website, share research resources;
5) Shift messaging strategy and calls-to-action;

Measure
6) Understand stakeholder sentiment and needs;
7) Weekly changes to social sentiment and engagement;
8) Shifts in top keywords for your site;

Messaging
9) Aggregate details to support local businesses;
10) Create content calendar across all channels to share the information and experiences;
11) Highlight road trips and feature itineraries;
12) Emphasize outdoor experiences;
13) Promote self-guided tours;

Manage
14) Engage residents as well as travelers;
15) Work closely with local businesses, encourage to use Google My Business and Online Travel Agencies such as Expedia, TripAdvisor, others to ensure information accurate and updated;

Market
16) Focus on own channels at first;
17) Identify benchmarks such as web traffic trends, travel sentiment, media consumption beyond news channels;
18) Create a plan to assist local businesses as they prepare to reopen – special offers, incentives, other;
19) Expand paid placements to ensure brand awareness;
20) Go slow, modify calls-to-action from dreaming to welcoming to planning;

KEY COMPONENTS / CONSIDERATIONS 
-Create value – actual and symbolic – with partners
-Take Messaging vs. Marketing approach to create holistic, fluid strategy with consumers;
-Use storytelling but watch calls-to-action;
-Use own data to contextualize strategy with regional, state, national and global trends;

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