In Google’s latest research, the focus lies very much on travel brands and how these can increase loyalty. Traditionally, tourism companies would rely heavily on rewards and free gifts to get consumers to come back. For many organisations within the tourism industry this is not enough anymore. Hotels, airlines and other tourism organisations realised that they need to understand the travellers fully. Once this understanding is achieved, companies can go further and achieve true loyalty rather than giving out simple rewards (Google Think Insights 2013).
UNDERSTAND THE TRAVEL PROCESS
True travel loyalty needs to be achieved through understanding consumers. This means understanding the planning process is key to that. Every traveller is unique and has different needs – understanding the travel process is therefore absolutely crucial. Travel differs depending on who consumers go with, for example solo, with partner or with friends. The purpose of travel is also impacting on the planning process and the expectations towards the trip. Sites mentioned when wanting to get a feel for destinations are Google, Expedia. Travelocity and VRBO.
Travellers are also interested in hearing other people’s opinions in terms of reviews, thoughts and photographs. Popular sites when it comes to travel user-generated content are TripAdvisor, Cruise Critic, Pinterest, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s and Facebook. When planning a trip, most travellers are starting with getting flights then hotels and more specific details are sorted last. Travel Agents still play a major role, as do sites such as Travelzoo, Expedia or Travelocity. In this last stage of planning a trip, when it comes to actual bookings, consumers are often not sure with whom to book with. This means that travel companies need to ensure travellers see the added value in booking with them.
“ROAD TO LOYALTY”
The planning process is essential when it comes to loyalty in tourism. However, tourism as an industry has not built loyalty around the feeling but around getting free things and rewards. Good transparency is therefore one of the core factors to loyalty. Being transparent about costs and demonstrating value in tourism is crucial. Travel Brands need to be very consistent with regards to their messaging and need to be able to fix issues quickly. This enables consumers to connect with the brand. Surprise and delight is another core factor on the road to loyalty. Travellers want to be recognizes and valued, personalization and exclusivity are very appreciated. Travel Brands therefore need to get to know individual consumers, use their data to deliver benefits and anticipate their needs. These individual points raised by Google’s latest research emphasise the importance for tourism companies to be proactive about increasing loyalty and also think beyond simple rewards. Having a positive feeling about a brand is often worth much more in the long-term than something free as this gets forgotten very quickly.
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