PSFK iQ

PSFK’s professional-grade research platform, featuring access to our full-report library and on-demand research services.

Take me to PSFK iQ

Help, I have question!

  • + What is my level of access?
  • + Not sure what product is right me
  • + I am having access issues
Chat with a representative

Want to send us an email?

Email us at sales@psfk.com
How The Travel Sector Is Enhancing CX To Respond To New Consumer Mindsets
07/30/21

How The Travel Sector Is Enhancing CX To Respond To New Consumer Mindsets

With travel once again nearing its pre-pandemic peaks, both customers and companies face a very different landscape - lingering economic uncertainty, increased safety concerns and an ever changing set of rules and restrictions to navigate. In addition to their reservations, tickets and passports, travelers must now contend with masks and vaccination cards, all before reaching the airport security checkpoint or hotel front desk. The stresses encountered before enjoying a relaxing trip or delivering an important client pitch have become overwhelming, not to mention the fact that a majority of travelers are completely out of practice.

With travel once again nearing its pre-pandemic peaks, both customers and companies face a very different landscape – lingering economic uncertainty, increased safety concerns and an ever changing set of rules and restrictions to navigate. In addition to their reservations, tickets and passports, travelers must now contend with masks and vaccination cards, all before reaching the airport security checkpoint or hotel front desk. The stresses encountered before enjoying a relaxing trip or delivering an important client pitch have become overwhelming, not to mention the fact that a majority of travelers are completely out of practice. 

On a more positive note, the travel marketplace is ripe with opportunities. Office bound employees have been freed from the tyranny of their desks and can now work from anywhere with a reliable WiFi connection. For innovative airlines, hotels and platforms, new business models, amenities and services have created new customer touch points where they can deliver value and build strong relationships.

To meet the needs of the re-emerging traveler, companies are offering a new set of digital tools to remove common points of friction throughout their journey and help customers feel more connected and in control along the way. What’s more, they must extend and enhance assurances for their passengers and guests to allow them to book and travel more comfortably and confidently. Beyond ensuring ease and convenience, companies must continue to encourage the aspirational aspects of travel by creating new ways for their customers to visit more places and extend their stays through subscription-based packages and improved loyalty programs.

+++

Hospitality Business Landscape

As social commerce becomes a widely adopted behavior, travel companies and booking platforms are supporting the path to purchase through new channels. 

56% of U.S. travelers booking hotel rooms on their devices after being influenced by social channels. The numbers are similar in the UK and France, but lower in Germany and much higher throughout Asia. In addition, 48% of travelers will purchase airline tickets via mobile based on social media influence.
Influencing & Activating Travelers: Content Matters As Travel Recovers. PhocusWire, 2021 

Hospitality providers are adapting their service options and operations to match customer expectations for frictionless, self-controlled environments. 

“We’re seeing contactless check-in, mobile check-ins, really pick up quite significantly. It’s a net win for consumers and really can for hotels, as well. They’re looking to operate — and in many cases have to operate — much more efficiently.”
Nicholas Ward. President & Co-Founder, Travel Booking Technology Company Koddi

Safety & Well-being / Trust in Travel & Hospitality 

More than 4 in 5 consumers say trust plays a major or minor role as they’re selecting an airline, hotel or cruise line, with at least half saying it plays a major role.
Trust In Travel And Hospitality. Morning Consult, 2021

Supporting consumers as they navigate new requirements, rules, regulations 

According to Google insights, searches for “can I travel” jumped more than 800% in June, while consumers are also increasingly using keywords like “safety” (59%), “flexible” (56%) and “full control” (56%).
Next-Gen Travel Search Data. Think With Google, 2021 

Personalization/Curation 

52% of travelers are excited about tech’s potential to further personalize their travel experience in the future.
Future Travel Enthusiasm in the Age of COVID-19. Travel Tech Association, 2021 

+++

Deep Dive with PSFK’s latest report… Enhancing CX For A New Traveler Mindset

For a deeper dive into this topic, check out PSFK’s latest report which describes seven trends within this report highlight new customer experiences across the entire travel journey with examples from organizations leading the way through innovation. While we’ve focused on the travel occasion, we feel many of these lessons can be applied to any industry. 

+++

TRENDS

Flexible Bookings

Despite the return to travel, consumers face an uncertain landscape. Beyond price sensitivity, which is even more important given the recent economic hardships, safety concerns are ever present and regional restrictions are always changing, making it difficult for many travelers to commit to future plans. While many companies relaxed their cancellation and rebooking rules during the height of the pandemic, the majority of the industry has returned to business as usual. However, some companies are taking lessons from the past year to double down on providing more options to their customers with a la carte offerings, new financing models and enhanced flexibility.

Expanding on its Price Freeze for Flights tool, the new Price Freeze Hotel solution from travel app Hopper allows travelers to put down a deposit to lock in the price of a hotel stay for up to 60 days. If the price goes up during that time, Hopper will cover the difference, up to $100. If the price goes down, travelers will be able to pay the new, lower price. Additionally, the original price freeze deposit is transferable to a different hotel. Hopper estimates this tool will save travelers an average of $17 per night on their hotel stay, but could save people upwards of $70.

Subscription Stays 

As work from anywhere has become an ongoing perk for many, travelers are exercising their newfound freedoms to turn out-of-office vacations into extended stay work-life blends. To cater to these emerging lifestyles, hospitality companies have begun to offer flat rate subscription-based packages complete with necessary perks like WiFi and concierge-access that guests can choose to use at one or more properties in a portfolio.

Freehand Hotels has launched a subscription service for frequent, long-term guests that starts at $3,500 per month. Subscribers can get access to a room in any of the hotels within the Freehand portfolio and get access to a dedicated Member Concierge for booking, choice of room and access to Freehand’s sister properties. Services included in the subscription include WiFi access, daily housekeeping, in-room entertainment and streaming services, reception and fitness center access, co-working spaces and more. 

Frictionless Checkpoints

On-the-go and time-strapped consumers don’t want the inconvenience of waiting in long lines or stopping to pull out tickets or IDs at multiple points in their journey, most frequently as part of the check-in or checkout process. Advanced image recognition and mobile responsive technologies are removing the friction from these stages, seamlessly logging in customers as they enter a space and logging them out as they leave. With payment information on file, these systems can also automatically charge people for any items they may have consumed on premises or taken away.

Frequent flyer program customers of Star Alliance member airlines will soon be able to use their biometric identity for a faster, touchless experience across any participating airline at any participating airport. In addition to being a speedier way to navigate an airport, this frictionless experience stands to make physical IDs and potentially boarding passes a thing of the past. The Star Alliance Biometrics platform connects to SITA’s Smart Path comprehensive whole-journey identity management solution, currently available in more than 460 airports, and NEC’s I:Delight touchless touchpoint solutions to deliver a hygienically safer and seamlessly digitized traveler experience.

On-Demand Support

Throughout the travel journey from booking to check-in to disruptions along the way, there are multiple points when travelers require in-the-moment service. To scale both access and speed of response, companies are launching chat-based programs that combine some level of human expertise with AI-enabled assistance. These initiatives build on the near universal adoption of chat as a preferred method of communication to deliver convenience and 1:1 personalized support.

United Airlines’ “Agent on Demand” program allows travelers to scan a QR-code, or access a self-service kiosk, to be connected live via call, text, or video chat with a representative for help with seat assignments, boarding times, and other questions. QR codes are displayed on United signage throughout participating airports, and the self-service kiosks are located by United gate areas. Currently, the Agent on Demand pilot program is available at Chicago’s O’Hare and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airports. It is scheduled to expand to United’s other airport hubs around the US by the end of the year.

Guest OS

Tapping into consumers’ desire to use their phones as the primary platform for navigating their daily lives, hotels and resorts are rethinking guest systems with a mobile-first mindset. This app-based strategy aims to streamline processes like check-in/check-out, room and property access and on-site bookings and service requests into a single touchpoint that in many cases can respond to contexts like date and location to serve up relevant features. Beyond ease and convenience, this approach taps into safety concerns in a post-Covid landscape where self-serve and contactless are new traveler requirements.  

Opening in partnership with Life House, a hotel brand and management company, KAYAK Miami Beach provides its guests with an innovative take on hospitality and rooms full of tech-forward amenities and all powered by the KAYAK app experience. Serving as a design lab for KAYAK to build and refine its proprietary accommodation technology, guests will enjoy contactless check-in/out, room-ready alerts, itinerary management, housekeeping requests, and the ability to interact with staff as little or as much as is preferred all through the app interface.

Traveler Ecosystems

When planning and booking their trips, the majority of travelers are utilizing multiple providers and sites that range from 1st-party services to 3rd-party aggregators to locate the most convenient options and best prices. Individual companies not only lose out on potential revenue but they’re also missing out on a valuable intel about each passenger or guest. In an effort to close the loop on data and generate more two-way value, the industry is developing enhanced loyalty programs and tracking tools to create more complete traveler profiles, which in turn can be leveraged to drive right time, right place offers and recommendations. 

TripAdvisor has officially launched TripAdvisor Plus, its $99 per year subscription program, offering members access to savings on nearly 400,000 bookable experiences; savings and benefits from rental car partner Hertz and Dollar; flight deal alerts along the travel journey; and access to travel advice via Tripadvisor Text. Aggregating all of these extended experiences into one service has allowed TripAdvisor to deliver relevant recommendations and discounts. When booking through TripAdvisor, Plus subscribers save on average $350 per stay. The membership program is currently only available in the U.S., with more markets to follow.

Members-Only Access

Particularly at the high-end of the market, travelers appreciate uniqueness and exclusivity. To cater to these desires, hospitality companies and other luxury providers have evolved loyalty into paid membership programs that provide access to enhanced amenities, service and experiences, encouraging participants to increase the frequency of their travel in order to take advantage of all of the benefits.

21c Museum hotels, a chain of contemporary art museums and boutique hotels, launched a loyalty program to engage its super fans and incentivize traveling. The loyalty program offers exclusive deals and on-site perks, along with a special prize to guests who stay at all nine properties in twelve months. Members of the Penguin Passport receive a physical passport to collect stamps at each hotel, an exclusive number for reservations, and exclusive messaging from the hotel. The first person to check-in to all nine hotels will receive complimentary hotel stays for one year. 

+++

Deep Dive with PSFK’s latest report… Enhancing CX For A New Traveler Mindset

For a deeper dive into this topic, check out PSFK’s latest report which describes seven trends within this report highlight new customer experiences across the entire travel journey with examples from organizations leading the way through innovation. While we’ve focused on the travel occasion, we feel many of these lessons can be applied to any industry.