How rapid digital transformation will be key to travel’s post-Covid recovery

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated existing customer trends, but none quite as much as the digital shift. A strong digital presence will be one of the most valuable weapons in any travel company’s recovery strategy and beyond – here’s why.

Even if digital transformation had been in the pipeline for a while, Covid-19 forced companies to compress their timelines. But, for many travel companies, this shift has left them in an interim no-man’s land. Some are relying on temporary solutions that aren’t fit for purpose, yet feeling too cautious to invest in permanent changes. If the travel sector wants to bounce back better than ever, investing in long-term digital transformation will be crucial to its recovery. 

Uncertainty was the zeitgeist of 2020 but, with the approval of vaccines and the discovery of more effective ways to treat Covid-19, 2021 has arrived with a quiet whisper of optimism. If you’re looking to ride this wave of hope and make the future better, you can’t afford to ignore your business’s digital transformation needs.

Seamless customer experience

Even before social distancing and Zoom calls were a thing, customers were engaging with travel companies in increasingly digital ways. Analysis by BCG found that 85% of travellers use a smartphone when planning some aspect of their trip. However, other research found that 79% of customers wouldn’t return to a slow-loading website or app. Your digital presence needs to be as welcoming as your physical one or you could struggle to convert interest into action.

In-person and digital touch points allow your customers to continue their interactions with you any time, through the medium that suits their needs. If their in-store visit is cut short, you can offer them a way to continue their booking whenever they like. Combine this ease of access with the excellent service and products you’re already offering, and you’ll be on to a winner. 

 

Adapting to customer demand

As we’ve seen this year, destinations can fall in and out of favour literally overnight. And while I hope mandatory quarantine and travel corridors never come back, many companies have learned the hard way how important it is to be agile. Improving your digital presence is one of the most effective ways to stay on your toes. 

National Geographic predicts that travellers will seek out new experiences this year. These include more inclusive getaways that cater for everyone’s unique needs and trips that take them down the road less travelled. Juliet Kinsman, sustainability editor at Conde Nast Traveller, also believes that bespoke advisers that travellers can reach out to at any time will become an essential part of any trip. 

Making it easier for your team to update your site or apps will allow you to regularly pivot your offerings. It’s not enough to just have a digital presence; you need to utilise it to make your life easier and your business better. And by strengthening your online presence with digital campaigns and virtual ways to connect, you can be there for customers whenever they need you. 

 

Inspiring wanderlust

As well as the obvious boredom of being stuck inside, we’ve all found it hard to keep spirits high without a sun-soaked escape or frosty retreat to look forward to. Digital travel companies have offered brief respite (even if it has been just to window shop) from an otherwise rubbish year. 

At the time of writing, lockdown restrictions are back in full force. There’s not much to do right now other than wander around our (by now very familiar) local areas or hunt for the final unexplored corner of Netflix. So, just as I did as a fresh-faced teenager stuck behind a school desk, we’re all choosing to get lost in a dream instead.

In the summer of 2020, travel giant Tui reported its 2021 bookings were up by 145%. And following the positive Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine news in November, Skyscanner reported a 48% week-on-week increase in its online traffic. Digital solutions have made it possible for travel companies to capitalise on demand, even if they can’t welcome people just yet.

Rather than staring at the same four walls, people are browsing holidays. And if your digital experiences aren’t up to scratch, you’re missing out on converting all this wanderlust into precious new customers. You can give people the chance to imagine they’re exploring the jungles and luxury resorts of Langkawi, getting lost in the crowds of the Big Apple or stretching out on a glorious Caribbean beach, instead of focusing on being stuck in a cramped flat.

Implementing digital transformation

2020 has allowed companies to test for weak spots in their digital operations. If you want to get back on your feet as quickly as possible, now is the time to evolve temporary adaptations into permanent solutions. Reflect on what has worked well (and the things that couldn’t have gone much worse) from a digital perspective. You’ll be able to identify areas for improvement and get help to make sure your temporary weaknesses don’t turn into critical shortcomings. 

If you need help adapting your travel business for a digital world, 3Sixty can help. Get in touch to find out more about how we can work together.