Staycations are having quite the moment during the pandemic. And even with the increase in vaccinations and the launch of a traffic light system for international travel, many are still seeking out more local getaways to satisfy their travel urges a bit closer to home.
Whilst domestic travel and hospitality brands are enjoying their proverbial day in the sun, continuing to ride this wave beyond the current conditions requires a bit more forethought and creativity. In fact, in 2019 the total value of domestic value was £14.5 billion. Mintel has reported that 2021 may fall short of these levels, but summer travel will exceed pre-Covid levels.
Below we’ve highlighted four tactics and considerations for domestic travel businesses to continue their unprecedented levels beyond the pandemic.
Invest in green
Prior to the pandemic, sustainable travel was a growing consideration for travellers as they looked to decrease the environmental impact of long haul and short-haul travel. With stay-at-home orders in place and international flights grounded, this may have seemed curtailed, but search trends show differently. Search volume for “sustainable travel,” “sustainable hotels” and “ecotourism” continues to flourish, increasing by 31%, 49%, and 46% respectively. Eco-friendly domestic travel interest has also exploded, with camping searches increasing by 111% and glamping by 350%.
Looking over the 5 year period between April 2017 – March 2021, we see a marked increase in monthly searches for “sustainable holidays.” Despite a slowdown over the course of the pandemic, content producers (e.g. The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph) and holiday companies (e.g. TUI) have clearly identified it as a potential future source of traffic, one that would behoove domestic hospitality as well.
So how do you position your offering to attract these audiences? According to VisitEngland, 58% of English travellers want to stay in eco-friendly hotels or accommodation with environmentally friendly practices. So make sure that’s prominent in your messaging and on your site. Adding signals in messaging, as well as including any special accreditations or green partnerships, will help attract not only new customers but may also ensure that existing customers return as they know their accommodation is ethical.
You may also want to look to international travel for inspiration. Prior to the pandemic, many airlines and airports committed to offsetting their carbon footprint through the buying of certain credits to offset fuel consumption or using more sustainable materials. In 2018, Ryanair even introduced a carbon offset scheme for customers, a voluntary surcharge which the airline then donated to green charities and NGOs. More importantly, however, they are transparent about which charities and NGOs the donations are going towards, allowing the consumer to make a conscious choice with regards to how their carbon credits are used – thus building loyalty and trust between brand and target audience.
There’s power in large numbers
Now that restrictions are lifting and the UK is moving towards a full unlocking this summer, families and friends are looking forward to getting together after more than a year apart. Many are planning to take large family holidays or large group getaways to make up for lost time over the past year and to make the most of their time off. Moreover, they may be looking to simply expand their group beyond just 6 people simply because they can.
While this may, on the surface, seem to be just the case for 2021 after more than a year of lockdowns, we foresee this trend continuing into the future. For one, not everyone will have the opportunity to get away this year or may still have trepidation about joining in larger groups too soon. Others may even find that they enjoy the larger group getaways and want to repeat their trip in 2022 and even make it an annual thing. And let’s not forget the larger group gatherings that we’ll want to get back to that definitely aren’t just a passing trend in the UK: hen dos, stag dos, and weddings.
In order to capture these larger group bookings, you may want to consider offering group discounts or packages that allow larger groups to stay close together even if your accommodations are more tailored to smaller groups. We’ve not seen many others offer this sort of package in the UK, and it could be a great USP for your brand moving into 2022.
And don’t underestimate the value of larger bookings as well. The higher the occupancy, means better revenue as well. When analysing the average booking value of a domestic travel accommodation provider, we’ve seen a significant increase in demand and average booking value from 2019 to 2020 – 21% organic, and almost 10% from paid activity. And whilst we’re still in the early days of 2021, we are still seeing a marked increase in values, especially in light of continued international travel restrictions. So continuing to cater to larger groups beyond this year, maybe a great way to remain competitive in a post-Covid travel market next year and beyond.
You may also consider which activities could also be paired well for those groups – whether they are families, stag/hen parties, or wedding guests. Re-evaluating how you tailor to your customer base given new social dynamics can give you the edge on your competition.
Get more active with your travel packages
If there’s one thing the pandemic has instilled in us, it’s a return to the outdoors. In fact, whilst outdoor holiday searches have remained rather stable over the past five years, we’re seeing a sharp uptick in interest in 2021.
This uptick is yet another opportunity to rethink and reshape your staycation offering. Working in partnership with local adventure tourism brands or simply adding a filter on your site that allows users to view properties based on available activities, can attract those that are searching for holidays based on a particular pastime.
For instance, do you have great nearby cycling trails? Or do you offer accommodations near beaches with water sports? You can incorporate this into your product listings by either letting your customers filter by the type of activity or simply add icons to your site to let them know what they can do whilst on their staycation holiday.
On the other hand, if you decide to work in partnership with local businesses and tourism providers, you can offer specially-designed travel packages to tap into this growing audience of active holidays at home. However, implementing these packages requires more investment and proactive outreach, whilst the filters or tags could deliver a more immediate outcome.
Build up your loyalties for more royalties
All of these tactics are well and good, but the age-old question of how to keep your customers coming back still needs to be answered. According to a study by invesp, it can cost businesses 5 times more to attract new customers than it does to keep an existing one! And the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% versus 5-20% to a new customer (although, these figures could be much smaller when just looking at online conversion rates). Taking that all into account, creating brand loyalty is absolutely essential for efficiency and your bottom line.
Whilst enhancing and optimising your product in the ways we’ve mentioned is one way to improve and build customer loyalty, there are some other marketing strategies you can employ. One of these is truly optimising your email marketing. One study found that 32% of consumers say travel and hospitality brands email them too often and 52% said they’d like to see more personalised content, receiving information based on their reservations and past travel. It is important to really map out and understand your core customer base to ensure you’re delivering content that they need and want to make a second purchase.
In that same study, 83% of respondents said that rewards for their loyalty also influence their decision to stick with a travel or hospitality brand – whether that be through exclusive member benefits or fee waivers. But rewards don’t have to be limited to just these ideas.
By running an audit of your audiences, you can develop reward schemes and recommendations that are truly in tune with their best interests. For instance, if you take a sustainability approach, could you further reward your customers by matching their contributions for carbon offsetting or offer exclusive access to one of your more sustainable accommodations? Or is there an exclusive experience you can offer through one of your activity partnerships? Letting your customers’ interests direct your rewards scheme not only shows them that your focus is on them but also builds stronger relationships to ensure repeat business.
Domestic holidays are clearly having a moment, but its momentum will continue past this year. If you want to ensure that you get a slice of that moment and continue to improve your staycation offering, consider some of the tactics above.
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