Volume: 8 Issue No: 2
Dear Colleagues & Friends:
It would be nice to wake up from the world of economic uncertainty, but the current indicators and specters of consumer behavior are spooking confidence and spending. It is as if Halloween has already arrived!
Consumer confidence has been lackluster; people are saving and paying down debt. Is anyone dreaming of traveling to just get away? The answer is yes. The July 4th holiday saw a great bump in travel, the summer was steady, and the preliminary projections from AAA for the Labor Day weekend indicate a 10% bump in activity over 2009.
While economic data is being analyzed to death in the media, there is some good news
along with solid fundamentals as it relates to corporate earnings.
A deeper look at unemployment data according to Travel Indicators shows that while unemployment overall is at 9.5%, when the data is broken out by category, a different picture emerges. For people without a high school diploma, unemployment is at 13.8%; with a high school degree, the number is 10.1%; and college graduates stand at a low of 4.5%. To be fair, this data also varies by region. But the questions travel marketers need to answer are, "Who is your ideal customer?" "Where do they fall on the demographic scale?" "How can you access them?"
The upper end of the market is showing signs of spending activity in the retail sector.
There is plenty of money in the market, although on the sidelines. People who are working in corporate America need a break, especially now. Most companies have been cutting costs and labor since 2008, forcing those with jobs to do much more with less. That is why Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater, who recently pulled the emergency exit for his dramatic departure, has been seen as a folk hero.
The opportunities for fall and winter travel will continue to be in the local, state, and regional drive market. People absolutely need to get away, and the airlines have been helping the cause to keep people grounded. Their lackluster experience of sardine can travel, fewer flights, higher fares, and fees for everything but breathing is making people think twice about the mode of travel. The price of gas, continuing to decline, is also a plus.
Here are some ideas for ramping up results:
- Take an offensive rather than defensive approach to the market (cut your media intake).
- Focus on customers in the local, state, and regional drive markets.
- Identify your best customers and niche markets segments that show possibility.
- Engage buyers with value-added offers rather than just pulling the price lever.
- Test a few new promotions in key target markets that show promise.
- Develop an offer for past customers.
- Evoke seasonal themes and experiences that will create memories.
We do have a way to go for recovery. There is much work to be done. However, there are lots of travel suppliers that have hunkered down to reality. They are working to understand the market opportunities, and they are proactively promoting and marketing their services with success
While you might need some oxygen to keep a level head, there is no need to pull the chute!
The Opportunity Guy
Rules of Engagement
One of the activities that topped my list of "what I did on my summer vacation" was a whale watch! Being a New Englander, it was about time to experience this awe-inspiring phenomenon.
Since I was already on the Cape, my searching was all high touch, which included a brochure, phone calls, and showing up in person. I wanted the cruise company to anticipate my experience about whales right from the very start.
The brochure said we were guaranteed to see whales; if no whales, we'd get a free passage for a future cruise. Upon calling to make a reservation, I was given the information to book, cost, etc., but had to ask - "any whales?" [I reserved a spot for the sunset cruise!]
Upon arrival at the ticket booth, I paid for my reservation and was told to wait for the group to assemble. I said "thank you," but before I left I asked, "any whales this morning?" and the woman said, "Sure, lots." After waiting for 30 minutes, we were escorted to the boat and greeted by the crew. They were pleasant, said hello, took tickets, and I said "did you see any whales this morning?" "Of course," they said.
We boarded the ship, pulled up anchor, and set out on a 45-minute trip to the feeding grounds of the Cape's seasonal inhabitants. As we left the dock, the narrator greeted everyone, gave a rundown of the trip, timing, etc., and began to explain why whales are prevalent on the coast of Massachusetts. He never said anything about seeing whales in the morning.
You might think I am a bit whale-obsessed; however, my goal for going on a whale watch was to see whales.
When we got to the feeding banks, it didn't take long. They were there, jumping, spouting and enjoying the day - mothers and calves, along with several groups of whales swimming and feeding. We hit the whale of fortune! And, as the brochure said, guaranteed to see whales (no refunds on this cruise)!
The cruise line had multiple touch points to engage me and the other passengers. Each point in the (buying process) experience was an opportunity to engage and excite each of the customers about the trip.
The same principal holds true for most travel suppliers. Consumers come into their orbit from a variety of sources: websites, advertising, printed materials, social media, recommendations, etc.; each touch point in the process is an opportunity to engage them. Travel suppliers need to be strategically thinking about how to best engage the customer and set expectations that will generate excitement along the buying process.
In today's market, touch points translate into photos and comments that are instantly uploaded to social media and traveler opinion sites. This easily turns your customers into your sales people.
Does your organization have a set of rules for engaging customers? Have you drafted your strategy and identified the touch points of your customers' experience to enhance the connections that are being created?
Travel and Tourism is a high-touch business. When customers take a break from the everyday grind, concerns, and uncertainty, they want to be engaged, excited, and taken away for a few hours, days, or a week of fun.
I had a great time on the whale watch and will be planning another one in the near future. I just hope next time, the company will anticipate my experience and engage and excite me sooner throughout the process. It's interesting to note that the whales got it. They engaged us from the moment we saw them - why is it so hard for people and organizations to understand this concept!
Top Traveler Technology Trends, From PhoCusWright
PhoCusWright, one of the best sources for online traveler information, recently released the following trends as part of its Traveler Technology Survey for 2010:
The Internet may be ubiquitous, but it still isn't everything.
Less than one-fourth of consumers do all their travel shopping on websites.
User opinions can make or break you.
More than two-thirds are at least slightly influenced by traveler-generated ratings when making purchase decisions.
Consumers are ready for mobile; are you?
43% of mobile phone users are carrying smartphones, and more than a third of mobile users plan to book travel on their phones in the next year.
The young and the wireless
Close to half of smartphone users are under 35 years old.
You may have an app for that, but...
Less than a third of touchscreen smartphone users are carrying iPhones.
Even mom is on Facebook
Seven in 10 are members of an online social network, and membership is stronger among females than males.
Nearly nine in 10 social network users log on weekly or more often.
A lot of consumers are fans of travel, but not travel companies
While over half of social network users are "fans" of companies, less than two in 10 are "fans" of travel companies.
Word of mouth gets a megaphone
Nearly a third were at least somewhat influenced by comments from people in their online social network when making travel purchase decisions.
© PhoCusWright www.PhoCusWright.com
Travelers Love Smartphones
A recent survey from Ypartnership/ Harrison Group about American travelers shows that one-third of cell phone users are now using so-called smartphones. According to Peter Yesawich, CEO of Ypartnership, "mobile devices are destined to play an increasingly important role in travel services in the years ahead."
The survey found that among travelers who downloaded travel-related applications to their smartphones:
- 47% used GPS functionality to find their way to a destination.
- 46% searched for flight updates.
- 29% compared airfares or hotel rates.
- 18% booked air travel or lodging.
- 15% viewed virtual visitor guides.
- 11% downloaded and/ or redeemed coupons.
© USA Today August 31, 2010
For additional information and to check The Opportunity Guy's availability, call Joe Veneto at (617) 786-9096 or e-mail him at Joe@OpportunityGuy.com.
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