Travel companies must be honest, transparent and flexible with their marketing amid the pandemic, say experts.
The TTG Summit – ‘Putting travel back on the map’ – heard from Kuoni, Accord Marketing and Finn Partners as part of London Travel Week, ahead of WTM Virtual (9-11 November).
Talking to Daniel Pearce, Chief Executive of TTG Media, the panellists agreed that trust is a key element of rebuilding consumer confidence, especially as so many travellers were frustrated with the refund process earlier this year.
Amy Skelding, Senior Partner at Finn Partners, said: “Travel is up there with estate agents and used car salesmen in terms of trust.
“With the Thomas Cook collapse and lockdown, it was like the Wild West [with refunds].
“We did a shoddy job of explaining where the money was and why they are not getting it back.”
She highlighted some brands which performed well with marketing and refunds, such as Kuoni, Intrepid and Advantage Travel Partnership.
Dean Harvey, Marketing Director at Kuoni, added: “Only a few brands are coming through shining – those that have played with a straight bat: keeping the phone lines open, refunding quickly, implementing decisions quickly.
“If you can contact a brand and get a decision, that reinforces trust.”
Jasman Ahmad, Strategy Director at Accord Marketing, added: “Trust is key thing.
“Show that your brand cares about the consumer and that it’s safe to travel – are you telling people about your protocols and what they deem as safe?”
They agreed that rapid changes in government travel policies mean that marketing needs to be flexible – digital campaigns are more adaptable than TV advertising, for example.
Marketers also need to understand people’s emotions about travel – some are keen to go on holiday but others are adamant about staying at home.
“That’s the biggest challenge: finding those people who who are prepared to go on holiday,” said Harvey.
“The best platform to find their intent is search engines, such as Google’s intent marketing.”
The panellists also agreed there is likely to be a shift back towards booking with travel agents.
Skelding said agents are being vocal on social media and have proved their worth during the pandemic, by taking the side of the consumer over refunds and dealing with complex travel arrangements.
When asked about which brands had marketed themselves well during the pandemic, they cited examples such as Original Travel, Celebrity Cruises,
Abercrombie & Kent, and the tourist boards of Iceland and Malta.