Paul Coelho once said, “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.” And he very well may be right – especially as we face week after week of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. People are talking about travel – and it’s not all about boycotts or travel bans, which of course makes for salacious news in and of itself. Consumers are anxious to travel again, and the industry needs to be tracking shifting travel sentiment caused by COVID-19 to watch for consumer indicators signaling they’re ready to rebook – and that social distancing is behind us.
People Love to Travel
It seems the travel industry is in the news constantly these days, as consumers dispute everything from airline fees to cruise ship nightmares. Yes, people are upset about travel being cancelled – and rightly so – but ahead of COVID-19, travel was among the most loved/talked about topics online.
We can see from the volume of conversations in the Quid product over the past 6 months that consumers were eager to talk about summer travel plans and traveling with family.
Sentiment clouds from late last year to early February paint a similar picture.
A 2019 NetBase report on travel and hospitality gives us insight into the overall passion toward the industry, as well as the brands winning consumer loyalty. The report “highlights ways brands can rise to the occasion, create brand loyalty, and make lasting impressions that have positive impact on their brand equity.”
And in it, we are able to look at several categories across the industry – such as airlines, cruise lines, and hotels – and see which brands not only dominate conversations in 2019, but also consumer sentiment.
It is clear that people were excited about upcoming vacations and travel plans as 2019 ended and 2020 ramped up. And that held steady until the Coronavirus brought travel plans to a screeching halt.
Shifting Travel Conversation
Since COVID-19 hit the global economy hard starting in early March, there has been a clear shift in consumer attitude towards travel.
A search in the Quid product on “vacation” and “travel” now shows conversations centered around travel bans, cruise ship quarantines, and disrupted vacation plans. Furthermore, we can see a steep nosedive around March 13th, when travel bans were put in place by the White House.
As consumers grapple with altered travel plans and missed family events, industry leaders scramble to stay afloat and save customer allegiance. Many companies are facing PR nightmares, as the masses are taking to social media to voice their displeasure over cancellations and ever-changing refund and credit policies.
A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News stated, “The coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for the travel industry to show how much it cares about you, their customer. But talk to travelers with a coronavirus cancellation and they’ll tell you it’s an opportunity the travel industry has missed, at least so far.” Consumer sentiment tends to agree, especially as the idea of traveling seems more of an “if” statement than a “when” for now.
As the travel industry struggles to save customers – and their bottom line – it’s not all doom-and-gloom. Many people, entering into their fourth week of stay-at-home orders, are eagerly looking forward to summer and the possibility of traveling again – and brands would be wise to be aware of this shift.
Preparing for Future Travel
People around the globe are concerned with what’s happening in the moment – the economy, jobs, finding a cure for COVID-19 and flattening the curve. And while hot button issues concerning travel exist, consumers are not just obsessed with refunds. There is a growing increase in conversation around travel plans and destinations once this is all over.
While most are not quite at the planning stage yet, brands need to be monitoring for behaviors and key term indicators that signal a readiness to plan and purchase.
A search in the Quid product that revolves around “future travel plans” shows mixed conversations, as the Coronavirus continues to impact our daily lives.
According to Brandon Billings, VP, Social Media & Content Strategy at MMGY Global, “we have the ability to pivot as we see movement in certain areas. We’ll start to see bookings, of course – but ahead of that, we’ll see indicators from social conversations – the voice of the traveler. They’ll share where they are mentally as they post about where they’re planning to travel once this is over. And we can see how it compares across destinations. That is valuable intelligence for our clients to have ahead of their competitors. And it enables us to position our partners for the greatest stability, through a very smart strategic lens.”
While we are still a good-ways off from a sense of normalcy, consumers are slowly expressing that they are ready to begin dreaming again. And smart brands need to be ahead of the competition, preparing and watching for this sentiment shift in real-time!
Prepare for Take-Off!
Humans are resilient. We long to go, dream and do. As we face these unprecedented times in history, one thing is clear. We will recover – we will restore – and we will reignite the passion of exploration. Smart brands need to be proactive in their customer service and begin preparing now for the influx of traffic that will come once consumers are ready to travel again – let us show you how!