Insights|Meaningful Travel Experiences and Their Impact on Brand Loyalty

Meaningful Travel Experiences and Their Impact on Brand Loyalty

Now that the travel industry is rebounding, how will travelers’ expectations for their trips begin to change? As travel came to a halt across the world in March 2020, millions of people were forced to cancel long-awaited domestic and international journeys.

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by Sitel Staff March 21, 2022 - 4 MIN READ

Now that the travel industry is rebounding, how will travelers’ expectations for their trips begin to change?

As travel came to a halt across the world in March 2020, millions of people were forced to cancel long-awaited domestic and international journeys. For many, this meant missing out on meaningful travel experiences planned and dreamt about for months or even years.

In 2022, the travel industry is set to continue its return, though the travel landscape may appear different to those who set aside their suitcases in the early days of the pandemic. Restrictions have been rescinded and then reapplied; familiar policies have evolved; trips are at higher risk of being canceled than ever before. Travelers eager to fly again will count on flexibility, as well as careful planning, to make their 2022 trips a success.

With so many plans on hold for so long, travelers are more than ready to get back to their vacationing routines — and for some, that will mean finally crossing off bucket list destinations from their lists. Whether they’ve been dreaming of climbing the tallest mountain peaks in South America or relaxing in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives, tourists and adventure-seekers alike have decided that the time is now.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and for those who are excited to create new travel experiences, that saying couldn’t be more accurate. In an era where customer expectations are continually evolving, how can brands prepare to deliver the memorable, hassle-free experiences that customers seek? Here, we’ll explore what makes travel so valuable to customers, the types of travel experiences travelers can have, and how CX plays a significant role in experience-based travel.

Why Are Travel Experiences So Important?

From planning the trip to sharing that trip with family and friends, travel creates experiences that are unique to each traveler and that will inspire memories that can last a lifetime.

Understanding the value of the travel experience and the importance of traveling is critical to supporting the customer journey in the travel and hospitality industry. With Expedia’s recent Travel Report indicating that 32% of surveyed travelers will be visiting a bucket-list destination in 2022, we can see that long-awaited trips are making their way back.

In the world of travel and hospitality, each customer touchpoint functions as a milestone for the travel experience. These milestones occur in the planning, booking and travel phases, continuing to experiences, and eventually, the memories created by those occasions.

Aside from the fun and memories created by traveling, there are also health benefits. Travelers can expect positive effects on their mental health, as travel has been shown to increase happiness and creativity, among other factors. Airlines and hospitality brands have ample opportunity to add to those positive feelings by fostering a positive travel experience.

Of course, negative travel experiences come at a cost for brands. As reported by Tripadvisor, customers are 79% more likely to book a hotel with a higher rating, with 72% stating they always read reviews when making travel-related decisions. This means that all eyes are on the travel experience — and that fostering a memorable experience can generate reviews that will inspire customers to book their next trip.

In the recent Travel and Hospitality Loyalty Report from Sitel Group ®, we found that friendly staff was the top driver of customer loyalty. This reminds us of the important role that customer service plays in a traveler’s journey and the memories they create along the way.

Types of Travel Experiences

There are many types of travelers and many kinds of travel experiences — each corner of the map brimming with so many destinations and kinds of trips to choose from. There is truly something out there for every traveler.

To better understand the customer journey, let’s look at some different travel experiences and how customer preferences may differ.

Luxury Travel

Luxury travel can be appealing for customers seeking ultimate relaxation and might consist of staying at a high-end resort or hotel in a faraway locale. Many of these destinations involve long flights, meaning that customers will perform a great deal of research and may prefer to book early and have their journey planned out well in advance of their trip.

Adventure Travel

Adventure travelers may look to participate in hiking, climbing or other outdoor sports. These trips can also involve a significant amount of extra planning due to international travel rules or booking experiences on top of the typical flights and hotels. Millennials make up one demographic that seeks out experience or adventure-based travel.

Group Travel

Group travelers may opt to book with a travel agency if they are looking for a tour, cruise or other travel experience that can accommodate them. Group travel can involve many levels of coordination, particularly when considering activities to be planned for different age groups or interests.

The Role of CX in Experience-Based Travel

Customer experience (CX) plays an integral role in experience-based travel and can significantly impact a traveler’s opinion of a brand. In today’s digital age, customers look for customer service options to be available on a variety of platforms, making an omnichannel approach even more valuable for airline and hospitality brands continuing their comeback in 2022. 

Social media and self-service solutions can contribute to a more seamless travel experience, as they both allow for customers to conveniently find support on the go. With a comprehensive social media strategy in place, travel brands can reach customers more easily and cut down on normal wait times while driving consistent messaging and problem resolutions.

Self-service solutions are another practical tool for hospitality brands that can be used to empower customers and connect them with fast, accurate support. How-to guides, FAQ pages, videos and other self-service content can be housed in an online resource library where customers can diagnose common issues or answer common questions.

Across all interactions, customer experience analytics can be used to strategize for and improve upon the future travel experience. Speech and text analytics are particularly useful for reducing customer effort, and can help brands understand the top contact drivers, statistics like average handle time and customer satisfaction, and opportunities for improvement throughout the customer journey.

Driving customer loyalty begins with looking at the customer experience from a 50,000-foot view. By implementing omnichannel strategies and utilizing analytics, you can optimize the customer’s journey to fit their travel needs and the type of experience they want. From there, the path to loyalty becomes more seamless, and the memories your customers create are positive and long-lasting.

Finding More Meaning in Travel in 2022

As travelers return to airports and hotels this year, travel and hospitality brands will look for ways to meet their changing expectations while continually adapting to the future of travel. While the outlook for leisure travel may still be uncertain, it’s clear that customers will be searching for meaning in their traveling pursuits, and that the ease, comfort and effectiveness of the travel experience will continue to be a differentiator for airlines, hotels and other travel brands.

To learn how you can prepare for the travel environment in 2022 and help your customers tell their best travel stories, download the Best Practice Guide Delivering Best-in-Class Customer Experience in Travel and Hospitality.

written by Sitel Staff
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