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‘Agility’ key for travel firms in Covid recovery, say marketeers

Travel brands must adapt to customer behaviour and be agile with their marketing as the industry emerges from the pandemic, Abta delegates have been urged.

Dean Harvey, marketing director at Kuoni, told a panel session at the association’s Travel Trends Conference this week firms had to be able to promote alternative options quickly in case a destination closed.

Stuart Baker, business director at audience insight company GWI, told delegates their key skill was providing customers with alternatives.

Harvey (pictured) said Kuoni had learned during the pandemic that “we had to be agile”, explaining: “At the beginning of the pandemic it was ‘what are we going to say for the next two months?’ We planned out for five, six, seven, eight weeks ahead.

“What you need in your content production, what goes in your newsletter each week and you need to be agile. You need stuff in your back pocket.”

He urged companies to have “one eye on previous content” in case it could be reused later.

“If you’re flipping from Italy, then you need to be able to substitute with another piece of content,” he said, adding that firms would need to do this “for a while”.

Echoing Harvey’s point, Baker said: “It’s all about being agile and having that agile mindset and being on the front foot.

“If there’s a destination that’s closed or looks like it is getting a bit wobbly, be on the front foot, communicating that out and giving alternatives.”

He added: “That’s what you’re best at in this room, providing that next step and giving alternatives.”

Youth-focused tour operator Contiki has looked to “emerging” social media platforms TikTok and Snapchat to inspire customers during the pandemic.

This is a prime example of “going where the audience is”, being flexible, boosting brand awareness and in turn sales, chief marketing officer Simon Llanos said.

Around 75% of Contiki’s audience is aged between 18 and 35 and “would say that their initially inspiration comes from some form of social [media],” he added.

“Initially that used to be Facebook and Instagram but now we’re seeing much more of TikTok and Snapchat and those emerging channels.

“If they don’t know about us and what we have to offer, it doesn’t matter how many reviews we have on our site, our operation does not exist there.”

He went on to explain how the operator converted bookings had also changed during the pandemic.

Customers now took weeks to make a booking whereas before they would take “a couple of hours, maybe a couple of days” over chat services.

“[The customer] will keep dipping in and out of the chat, asking another question and then convert in two weeks’ time,” he added.

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