The Impact of COVID-19 on the Travel Industry in 2020
We sat down with Tedd Evers, Founder and CEO of TripTuner, to find out how he thinks the COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on the future of the European travel industry and how travel brands can try to stay positive during this turbulent time for the industry in 2020.
How has your business been impacted by the Covid19 virus? What major lessons have you learned from this unprecedented experience?
Like every travel company, the sudden and total drop in demand has impacted us. Pending projects have been paused, and we’ve shifted focus to identifying how we may help our existing partners. This shift requires us to be even more customer-centric and hyper-local in our thinking, since the assumption is that the recovery in travel will happen closer to home.
We began as a bootstrapped startup, so we’ve been fighting for survival from day one with a model that positions us relatively well to weather the storm. Cash as always is king, and new investments are only made where they will add value to clients, partners and the bottom line where it makes sense right now, not where we think things will be in the future. As a 100% virtual team working from home wasn’t a big adjustment – only now I’m the IT director of my household and the common areas need more frequent attention! I think people work best where they’re most comfortable and with today’s communication platforms it gets easier by the day.
Adaptability is a core aspect of our organisation. We take an agile approach to everything – not just development. Every initiative, whether it’s product, marketing, finance or operations is tested before it’s scaled. Plans are made, but are expected to change. Right now, we are listening intently to what our partners are saying and looking for signals in customer behaviour generally (not just in travel) to inform our near-term strategy.
What can travel brands do to help reduce their exposure in 2020 from the impact on the industry from the Covid19 virus from a digital marketing perspective?
It’s not appropriate to market travel when health and safety guidelines indicate we should be staying home, but that doesn’t have to mean going 100% dark. It just means that communications need to be more empathetic, respectful and relevant. Relevance may be hard to achieve since this crisis is not impacting everyone equally.
I think finding ways of listening to customers - like simply asking how they are doing - will go far. It’s an opportunity to implement new ways of establishing stronger, closer relationships with customers. Test campaigns – appropriately messaged - are a great way to identify who will be the “early adopters” leading travel’s return. It can also help brands prepare for different scenarios, given the recovery will likely be sporadic, varied and unpredictable.
What do you think travel brands will be specifically focusing on with regards to their digital marketing strategies to re-fire customer enthusiasm for travel in the second half of the year?
Travel brands will be focusing on safety, communicating the specific hygiene and protective steps they are taking to protect travellers during every step of the journey. Enthusiasm for travel will be there, but it will likely be tempered by a “show me you’re ready” attitude from those who are more cautious. Those who are more carefree will likely jump on the many deals that will appear.
What advice would you give to those travel brands that are struggling to implement a roadmap for digital marketing success in 2020?
There’s no playbook for what we’re going through right now, so I think flexibility is key. Given the fluid situation, marketing messages should demonstrate empathy and show how your brand is listening. In the absence of a clear direction, it’s one way to identify the way forward. Starting from zero also provides some freedom to test things you may have been reluctant to do before for fear of disrupting existing business.
What steps can travel brands take now to overcome internal challenges such as silos and outdated legacy systems when implementing new digital marketing strategies?
Unfortunately, many silos will be eliminated by the enormous layoffs and furloughs impacting every industry, not just travel. The fallout will cause many brands to review and rethink processes to see if they’re still needed. Those that don’t add value now should be eliminated, and if you’re able to make a longer-term investment in new technology, there’s never been a better time to obtain value through favourable terms and to forge mutually successful partnerships. Now may be a good time to revisit plans to migrate legacy systems, taking into account the changing, uncertain landscape.
What can travel brands based across multiple global locations do to help improve their customer experience, reduce churn and improve the number of their bookings?
Looking at the adoption curves of technologies and models within different regions can identify opportunities based on your brand’s strengths. Online travel is considered mature in most parts of the world, but there are areas where it still has huge potential for growth with the right team, model and execution. COVID-19 will impact different regions in different ways, making it important to take an iterative approach, testing messaging and the customer experience and optimising accordingly.
What new innovative technology do you think will be most beneficial for travel brands to implement to maintain and improve their data management protocols?
What excites me the most will be seeing what innovations come out of this crisis, that may not be obvious immediately but that will in retrospect, seem obvious. Virtual, contactless technologies can provide business continuity in the face of severe events. Some innovation will come from the acceleration of existing but not yet mainstream technology like biometrics, contactless payments and voice. These may eliminate what we know today as screens, touchpads and other input devices. Virtual travel technologies have the potential to diversify revenue streams beyond bookings, while helping travellers find ideal experiences more easily and ideally promoting more considered, environmentally aware travel habits.
What are you most looking forward to at the Digital Travel EU event this year?
To at last see friends and colleagues face to face, in person! Just as there will be pent-up demand to travel, there will be pent up demand for IRL (In Real Life) interaction and the spontaneous conversations, insights and laughter that comes from being together. As conference chair, I look forward to learning from the attendees and encouraging discussions that help parse the many techniques and strategies we are all hearing on how to survive and thrive in this uniquely challenging time. See you in London!
Download the agenda today to find out what other fantastic speakers, sessions and activities we've got lined up at the event this year.