Comment: Timing is everything

Travel brands that market at the right point will do well in the Covid recovery, says consultant and former Azamara EMEA MD Richard Twynam

Timing is everything, so they say.

I was a lucky beneficiary of that today while out grocery shopping. My favourite red wine has been on offer at 25% off for last two weeks, and sold out everywhere. The deal had ended so I was delighted when my local supermarket had somehow received six new bottles, extended the 25% offer and was offering a further 5% discount if you bought six bottles. Christmas wine sorted.

I’ve spent 2020 advising companies all over the world on exciting long-term projects, acutely aware of the day-to-day challenges the UK industry is facing. Observing the UK and global industry has been fascinating, one step back from the frontline for the first time in a long time.

What has been clear in the rest of the world, where the spikes in Covid waves have passed and travel is opening up, is that the winners (the companies that gained good sales or have stolen share) have been the ones which have selected the right product to merchandise at the right time. Putting everything on sale at the same time has not worked, and brands which have done that have given away margin they didn’t need too.

Of course there is pent up demand, but merchandising a perfect island destination during the rainy season may not be the smart thing to do during the traditional peaks season.

Customers, as always, are considering the usual factors; climate, value, budget, school holidays etc. The major variable now is which countries can you travel to without having to isolate at either end of the journey. What I have observed in places like Australia is that demand for peak season travel has been stronger than ever. Simply being able to consider booking for peak season has been motivation enough for the customer.

The winners will be those brands that are able to merchandise the offering at exactly the right time to connect with customer interest and demand, almost second guessing the corridors when they become open. Speed to market for those product and commercial teams are key.

Some brands, as they have, in Australia may choose to focus on departures for the second half of 2021, which is perhaps a safer strategy. Others may trade last-minute getaways hard while other brands may recognise, as they have in Australia, that just being able to travel safely is enough of an incentive. Doing a solid job of reminding customers what they have missed, and how holidays make you feel has been a fantastic enticement.

I wish all my colleagues in the industry the best possible peaks sales period, consider carefully what and when to merchandise. The spike in demand feels closer with talk of a vaccine; get the offering right at the right time and the feeling of joy for you and your customers will last well into the New Year.

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