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Monday,  July 22, 2024   3:27 PM
Trends, tips & talk from Best Western’s leisure travel summit

Best Western hosted its annual Leisure Travel Summit on May 7 in Toronto, once again bringing together a panel of travel experts to highlight trends for the coming year, and share insights into the Canadian leisure traveller.

This year, Dorothy Dowling, senior vice-president, marketing & sales for Best Western International, Brian Payea, head of industry relations for TripAdvisor, and Brenda Kyllo, vice-president, travel, for CAA, came together for a spirited talk that included the future of travel, top traveller concerns, and social media’s role in our industry, based on studies and analysis conducted by their respective companies.

Here’s what was covered:

Consumer trends

“We see searches and activities around Canadian destinations continuing to grow.” - Payea

TripAdvisor's TripBarometer, which measures traveller sentiments, emerging hospitality trends, etc. saw a four per cent increase on the average Canadian travel budget, and 50 per cent of Canadians said they were looking for their dream trip.

Based on numerous survey results, the summer is the busiest time of the year for consumer research pertaining to trip planning. Potential travellers conduct more online searches to determine where they want to go, typically starting the process in April (or up to six weeks prior to departure) with the intention of being in-destination by July-August.

Some suppliers in U.S. have begun increasing their Canadian resident offers to stimulate their own travel market, sometimes offering up to 20-25 per cent reductions on products.

Loyalty programs are becoming increasingly important to consumers, who are using them more and more to add tangible value to their trips.


Travel planning

“Consumers are looking for the assurance that they’re going to have a good experience.” - Dowling

According to studies, travellers are spending more time planning their travel, simply because they derive pleasure from the process.

At the same time, with regards to travel planning for entire family groups, stress has been associated with the need to produce a satisfactory trip.

Experts are thus seeing an increase in the use of travel advisors – either for assistance throughout the entire process, or for validation on the choices trip planners have already made.


Traveller concerns

 “Everybody is working in front of multiple screens all day, so when it comes to travel, the consumers want someone to curate their options for them.” – Kyllo

Reports are seeing that an overload of information has consumers overwhelmed.

Lack of transparency on pricing (taxes, call service fees, airline surcharges, for example) is resulting in client frustration.

Flight-focused concerns such as seat size, in-flight entertainment options, are also prominent issues for almost all travellers.


Marketing and Promoting Travel

“No one really has a full view of the customer anymore.” – Dowling

Everyone is trying to figure out how to drive the value for customers, but they want to do it through selected groups to achieve the best financial outcomes. Increasingly, companies are able to understand what consumers are looking for based on their searches, and thus provide them with exactly what they want.

The Internet has played a large role in this in terms of pricing and distribution in the travel industry, as well as increasing transparency. As such, the industry can expect to see a transformation in terms of the booking distribution path.

The concept of Big Data and closed, user-group marketing (whereby brands do not release their best offer directly to the public, to manage discount expectations) is also increasing. This results in the development of trusted partnerships to attain exclusive offers that can only be offered through certain channels.

Another trend is personalization, due to information-based marketing. Database management and segmenting offers (making offers that are relevant and resonate with particular membership bases as opposed to making the same offer to all six million members) to customers with specific product interests is on the rise.


Travel tech

“People expect to move from device to device. They want the same information available depending on the device they’re looking at.” – Kyllo

Mobile devices and determining how to make personalized information available, and accessibility to consumers is key.

Records show that the consumers’ increased use of personal assistant technology is resulting in an increased use of call centres and engagement in human service.

Technology still remains unreliable to a degree, due to things such as battery power and internet access limitations during travel, so boarding passes, fliers and brochures are still largely being used in hardcopy.

Security issues in technology leads consumers to seek out trusted partners during the booking process.


Advantages of social media

“The community aspect [of social media] is so important; the act of giving back to the community who helped them have a great trip.” – Payea

Social media allows consumers to find specific communities according to their travel needs. This kind of customization empowers travellers in their decision making.

People are looking for advice when sorting through all the feedback on sites like TripAdvisor. That’s where travel consultants come in.


Staying relevant

“We need to stay with consumers [if not get ahead of them].” - Dowling

Understanding demographics – not only knowing the differences between millennials and baby boomers, but understanding the sizes of each group as well – is key.

Today, social marketing is about relevance. That includes making use of public figures, pop culture trends and of course, technology to get messages across.

Pet ownership is a good example of understanding demographics. Millennials are known for the importance they place on pet ownership, and those who capitalize on that in travel are seeing an enormous response.

Emotional engagement, and leveraging that with the use of technology, can ensure customer loyalty simply through making apps inclusive and accessible in its usability.

Loyalty is vital to company survival. Travellers are looking at how to make the most of what they have in travel, and as such are always looking for ways to accrue currency in any way they can (i.e. loyalty programs).


Final words

“Travel enhances people’s lives, and its industry will continue to grow, due simply to people’s desire to see the world.” – Kyllo

“Behaviours, technology and resources are changing so rapidly that it’s impossible to predict where the travel industry is heading. All we can do is continue to adapt.” – Payea

“The voice of the customer is going to continue to grow in relevance, and empower our industry in different ways. The possibilities give me a lot of hope for the future of travel.” - Dowling

PHOTO: Dorothy Dowling, senior vice-president, marketing & sales, Best Western International; Brian Payea, head of industry relations, TripAdvisor; Bryson Forbes, moderator, Granit Productions & Brenda Kyllo, vice-president, travel, CAA

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