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Comment: The new travel bubble reality

Joel Brandon-Bravo, vice president of travel solutions at TransPerfect, gives his tips on how travel firms should prepare

While the return of travel has been a blessed relief to the industry, recent lockdowns in Amsterdam, Austria, and Switzerland, the Omicron variant, and rising Covid infection rates around the world mean we cannot be complacent.

Indeed, the industry cannot go back to normal but needs to adjust to an unpredictable future in the short to medium term.

Travel bubbles, sometimes referred to as travel bridges or corona corridors, allow movement for specific groups of people between countries where coronavirus has been contained, removing quarantine restrictions and other requirements that were set up to limit travel.

By strategically opening borders with countries that are mutually considered low-risk, destinations have been able to slowly rekindle tourism.

Though this concept is a temporary fix to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the industry has had to adapt and turn the somewhat negative into an opportunity.

We all know how quickly things can change, and countries and enterprises are learning to adjust quickly and, most importantly, become nimble.

By focusing your efforts on activities that produce short- and mid-term results, you will see profitability return to your business.

Here are our top 10 strategies for making the most of the travel bubble reality:

  1. Revisit your feeder markets on a regular basis and ensure you know which ones are still valid and appear set for the next few months.
  2. Focus your marketing efforts on channels that are quickest to adapt. In the online world, this means paid traffic, specifically target markets that have just reduced restrictions or opened borders and use this information in your messaging.
  3. Create custom offers that are specifically tailored to a travel bubble. Go deeper by geotargeting customers. You can adjust your online activities multiple times despite different travel bubbles for the same language. For example, though English-speaking countries like the US, the UK, and Australia are all in different bubbles, you can use the same English site but can create specific elements that are shown to each target market based on the user’s IP.
  4. Localise the full customer journey as much as possible, as long as the materials can be adjusted easily and quickly on the fly. Starting with sales landing pages, property content, booking pages, and email confirmations.
  5. Provide as much up-to-date information as possible, or at least links that are maintained constantly. This is truer for airlines than any other travel segment, since most bookings start with flights. Travellers will be hesitant to book flights until they are comfortable with the rules, restrictions, and entry requirements. However, once they have booked flights, they will be much more at ease with the remaining travel services.
  6. Continue to offer flexible rates. Consumers have become weary of shifting travel bubbles, for example when the UK shifted its classification for Portugal to requiring quarantine upon return for UK citizens and residents, wreaking havoc among travellers scrambling to return before the shift date started.
  7. If your business offers services that may or may not be affected by certain lockdown measures, to advise potential customers of these changes as much as possible. They will feel more comfortable and you’ll have a better conversion rate.
  8. Identify new inbound markets and customer preferences, particularly regarding booking methods. For example, the vast majority of Chinese users do not use Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, so unless you offer Union Pay, PayPal, or booking without credit card/prepayment, you will not gain any traction in those markets. This could also result in less direct bookings to your partners as travellers go instead to OTAs who are already offering their preferred payment method.
  9. Leverage tools to track demand, including Google’s new Travel Trends and Demand tool, to understand how travel demand is shifting in real time.
  10. Build out campaigns for markets in readiness to switch them on when a new route opens up. Demand spikes as soon as the news hits, so you need to be able to switch campaigns on and off as quickly as possible.

TransPerfect has published a whitepaper on how to create an effective data-driven strategy to deal with travel bubbles

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