Global lockdowns may have kept many travellers grounded for part of 2020, but that didn’t stop our imaginations pondering when the next opportunity for travel would arrive.
A quick look at the data from online search engines and OTAs revealed an ongoing appetite for travel both home and abroad.
But in an already tumultuous year for global travel, how will traveller behaviour continue to change as the year reaches its close?
As of September 2020, 63% of the world’s population can access the internet, and taking note of their digital behaviours can tell us a lot.
Search data from OTAs gives us the insight and the ability to make predictions about when, where, and why they want to travel. People who were unable to travel were inputting searches into OTA search engines to keep an eye on the destinations that were open for business at the most competitive prices.
Even a single search can provide helpful data about a prospective traveller and the timeframe in which they wish to visit a particular destination.
Multiply that and it delivers a number of chances to formulate a profile of a destination’s potential customers.
As we reach the end of the year and we start to see another wave of lockdowns, our industry must continue to monitor the sentiments of travellers.
When a booking is made, the details from that decision can be combined with the data we already have to provide “choice modelling” algorithms, with the ability to present individuals with carefully tailored offers in the future.
More broadly, a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and large data sets can be used to connect destinations to travellers in order to create that spark of inspiration that leads to a memorable holiday.
Similarly, when online search data indicates that a destination is not being searched for, the destination marketing organisation (DMO) can use these insights to target relevant prospective customers to encourage them to visit for the first time.
During initial lockdowns, DMOs such as Marketing Greece took the opportunity to reach out to potential customers while also delivering a “stay at home” message.
The Greece From Home campaign, a project for Greek National Tourism Organization launched in April 2020, targeted travellers from Germany and Austria with messaging that kept them updated on the latest situation in Greece, equipping them with the inspiration and information they need to travel safely and at the right time.
By showing potential travellers the initial Greece From Home advertising, and monitoring the campaign every 10 to 15 days, the DMO was able to choose the right times to move to the next stages of the campaign, culminating in the “Endless Greek Summer” campaign.
This campaign encouraged travellers to visit the country whenever they felt most appropriate, during the summer or outside peak times. By the end of July, Greece was attracting 25% of travellers who ventured to southern Europe, an increase of 5% from the previous year.
Across all regions where travel is taking place, at Travel Audience (an Amadeus company) we have observed that the typical pre-booking times and trip lengths are shifting dramatically from the established norms.
Data modelling in this way is also showing us that competing destinations are shifting regularly in line with the spread of the pandemic. Old assumptions about the popularity of various destinations that DMOs took for granted are no longer relevant, as consumers from different markets respond flexibly to travel restrictions.
With regards to Greece, it has traditionally been the case that the competing destinations drawing tourists from Germany, Switzerland and Austria have been Spain and Italy. However, in 2020, although the demand for travel overall has decreased substantially, destinations such as Croatia and Turkey were seen as popular alternative options due to their perceived safety and the openness of the country to travel.
What these insights highlight is that successfully building confidence in travellers requires DMOs to understand the motivations, preferences and other online behaviours of their potential target audiences in order to provide information to the target audience at the optimal time. The data informing these campaigns is constantly changing, so DMO campaigns need to be updated on a very regular basis. Data-led, industry-wide, and coordinated work will be central to rebuilding traveller confidence.
With countries across the world and in particular in Europe now returning to stricter lockdowns, delivering the ability to understand and use this information has never been more important for DMOs. Simple though it may seem, the better we know each market, the more sensitively we can reach them and the more successful the travel sector recovery will be.