Businesses in the travel industry have faced extreme challenges during the pandemic, but some have been able to turn adversity into opportunity. To learn how they’re doing it, we’re sitting down with travel industry leaders to discuss their experiences during this 3-episode podcast series, Think Travel: Leadership Circle.
The travel industry is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, as cross-border barriers are progressively lifted and more people are getting vaccinated globally. But we still don’t know what the future looks like. To get a glimpse of how businesses are navigating the way forward, we sat down with APAC industry leaders from Scoot, Grab, Rakuten Travel and Tourism New Zealand to learn how they’ve managed to turn the challenges of travel restrictions into new growth.
How Scoot is re-imagining the travel process
When cross-border travel ground to a halt last year and with no domestic market in Singapore for flights, Scoot decided to digitize and future-ready its business.
Scoot re-imagined travel as a seamless, touch-free experience that eliminated unnecessary touchpoints. It began implementing tools so people can digitally check-in, order in-flight meals and shop duty-free, making these contactless processes both faster and more hygienic.
Hear Scoot’s CEO Campbell Wilson share the airline’s vision of a new travel experience
This year, Scoot, which has a fully vaccinated crew, became the first low-cost airline to attain Diamond status from the Global Airline Health Safety Audit. The airline used the accolade to create a branding moment, with a campaign promoting Scoot as safe and reliable. At a time when everyone was concerned about safety, it understood the need to reassure people. Without a doubt, these measures also prepare the airline for global tourism recovery.
“People aren’t travelling yet, but we promote that we’re at the forefront of health and safety so people are comfortable when borders open.”
How Tourism New Zealand stays top-of-mind even with international travel on pause
With international tourism at a complete standstill, the government of New Zealand had to start promoting domestic tourism to keep local businesses afloat. That’s where Tourism New Zealand stepped in.
The team approached New Zealand as if it were a new, untapped market. Since there was limited data on the domestic travel market, the team conducted research to obtain fresh insights on locals’ motivations and barriers to travel. But how do you break through their norms and habits about travel? Change their perspective. Tourism New Zealand launched “Do Something New, New Zealand” to change how locals see domestic holidays. To drive the message home, the team used a mix of digital channels and out-of-home media. Since the campaign, the company has seen a 15% increase in domestic tourism.
Hear René de Monchy, Tourism New Zealand’s Chief Executive share how New Zealand changed its travel marketing strategy
While building new business domestically, Tourism New Zealand knew it had to keep engaging people to prepare for the travel industry’s tourism recovery. From a brand’s perspective, it was about keeping the dream of visiting New Zealand alive.
So the team continued running awareness campaigns in the face of uncertainty, using a data-driven marketing strategy to better understand and engage people. For instance, the company knew three-quarters of its purchases are made online via indirect channels. Using data, it zeroed in on channels that made the most impact to accelerate their performance.
Data also helped the company understand changing consumer habits and behaviors shaped by the pandemic. It leaned on it to explore innovative ways of connecting with people online.
“We are big believers in the longevity of brand-building… If you switch off and go dark, the cost of starting back up again is much higher.”
How Grab shifts to new opportunities quickly
The pandemic is a reminder that businesses need to be nimble, keep up-to-date with rapidly changing consumer preferences, and innovate fast. For Grab, the secret was using first-party data to understand what people wanted and quickly shifting its business strategy to fit local demand.
Hear Sulin Lau, Grab’s Regional Head of Country Marketing, share how its grocery business got started
Around the world, people responded to lockdown differently, in terms of changing how they ate and ordered food. In cities such as Singapore, New York, and London, meal delivery took off. In other places, people started whipping up more home-cooked meals and buying less takeout.
In places where food delivery slowed down, Grab shifted its focus to building a grocery service to provide home cooks with convenient grocery delivery. And because those people want variety, it also promoted fancier cuisines on its food delivery platform that they were less likely to prepare themselves.
“We didn't have a grocery business but factored that into the marketing plan... within that quarter, a full vertical went from zero to market readiness.”
Implementing these new strategies required changes across the board. To get the grocery vertical up and running, Grab had to onboard new merchants to its food delivery platform and re-train drivers to send packages and food, instead of passengers to airports.
It helps that Grab has a well-equipped marketing team – and first-party data to help shift to new opportunities quickly across markets. The ability to deploy quick surveys through its app allows the company to obtain near-immediate feedback from its diverse audience and act on it.
During the pandemic, it continued to launch these surveys to customer sub-groups for answers on a range of interesting questions, like: “What hygiene protections would make customers feel safe in each country?“
If there’s anything we can learn from Grab’s nimble navigation of a crisis like COVID-19, it’s that first-party data will play an increasingly important role in businesses.
How Rakuten Travel uses data to make decisions
Amid the uncertainty during the pandemic, data is an invaluable tool for understanding what people want. And with tighter budgets, data-driven marketing can help brands spend more efficiently with data guiding where and how to meet people at their point of need.
A survey of customers during the pandemic led Rakuten Travel to create a list of 36 anti-COVID-19 safety measures that hotels could implement. These measures were then displayed on the website, addressing travellers’ top concern at the time: hygiene.
The company also leaned on insight from Google data to uncover the pockets of micro-demand in Japan’s different regions. For example, when office closures and remote working started in Tokyo, Rakuten Travel noticed the demand for budget hotels to work out of. Trends varied across regions, so the team quickly catalogued its inventory and created dynamic landing pages with unique messaging based on people’s location to promote nearby offerings.
Rakuten Travel’s Vice General Manager of Marketing, Yuhi Fujimaki, shares how it used data to uncover micro-demands
Data again helped Rakuten Travel alter its offerings quickly when it learned that domestic travellers were looking for luxury hotels to hang out in and relax. So the company used these insights to improve its inventory and launched campaigns to promote luxury hotels.
For Rakuten Travel, data powered a micromarketing strategy that uncovered otherwise unrealized business opportunities. And it’s a strategy businesses can adopt, even beyond COVID-19.
“We work with Google [to see] what kind of micro-demand there is for different regions… Those are prime examples of how we took this pandemic and data-driven opportunities to serve our customers.”
Innovating our way out of adversity
Hearing firsthand how these four industry leaders innovated and changed so rapidly during the pandemic despite the adversity – from vertical shifts to completely updated technology – made us take a step back and reflect. So much of our focus the past year has been on the devastation of COVID-19, we often forget to appreciate how quickly we adapted in this time of crisis.
Lockdown forced the travel industry to change in ways many thought impossible. After talking to our guests, it’s evident there’s a permanent shift happening to how people travel and a rapid move towards fully contactless experiences.
Come hear more details on how these organizations are using data to help better serve customers and build future growth, along with their thoughts on the role of governments, their sense of purpose, and the path to recovery for the travel industry.