After years of hesitation and restlessness, summer travel in 2022 is finally starting to take off and travel-lovers are coming out of the woodwork in droves. Leisure flight bookings have increased 25% above pre-pandemic levels since April 2022, and “revenge” travel is becoming more common to make up for so much lost time.
Unfortunately, the world of adventure these eager travelers are embarking on includes high prices, limited flight availability, and continued unpredictable pandemic regulations.
Lucidworks surveyed consumers in the U.S. and U.K. who travel for leisure at least once a year to understand how brand loyalty, budget, and booking options influence vacation planning and how brands can capitalize on pent-up wanderlust. Our report uncovered three major takeaways for brands:
- The winner of loyalty versus price is still up for debate. The number one priority should be understanding consumer preferences across the board.
- Travel is multi-faceted–the booking process should be, too. Relevant recommendations that suit traveler preferences makes it easier to book multiple components of their trip.
- Consider the digital experience beyond booking. Brands should ensure consumers can access information, recommendations, and customer service through the search bar and chatbot.
Brand loyalty and cost consciousness are in a stalemate
Our survey report found that travelers were mixed on whether or not they are consistently brand loyal. Roughly three in ten respondents said they’re not loyal to any particular airline or hotel, and that number was even higher for cruises. Only 7% of respondents said they will never book outside of loyalty. Even the majority of people who said their travel persona was “Lover of Luxury” will still book outside of loyalty if the price difference reaches up to $100. Additionally, when asked for the most common reason they’d book outside of loyalty, 58% of respondents named price.
Despite all of this, however, two-thirds of respondents say they’ll remain brand loyal (even if it is more expensive) because of familiarity with the brand. The next biggest reason they do so is to earn points for future trips. Travelers also mention that booking with a familiar brand that knows them simplifies the entire booking process. Loyalty was strongest among respondents ages 18-34, and the majority identified specific airlines they were loyal to. People who travel for leisure at least three times a year or more tend to be more brand loyal as well. Travel brands should focus on how they can make once-a-year travelers feel catered in order to foster a loyal connection.
Aggregate booking sites have an advantage
Travelers love to save where possible. 40% of survey respondents described themselves as “Deal Hunters”–the kind of traveler who knows that sometimes the best deals are found on aggregate booking sites. People who book flights and cruises were evenly split in their preference for using an aggregate site versus going directly to a brand’s website. However, hotel room shoppers were slightly skewed toward booking on a website like Expedia or Kayak, with 53% preferring to use an aggregate site.
That said, aggregate sites have much more potential than just delivering hard-to-find deals. “Experiences” (such as restaurants and concerts) are driving tourism more than ever–roughly 34% above pre-Covid levels. Our survey revealed that 56% of travelers would prefer being able to book everything on as few sites as possible, and 24% that a lack of recommendations for additional activities on their trip was one of the most common frustrations in their booking experience.
Aggregate booking sites have a major opportunity to deliver powerful experience recommendations to one-stop shoppers who want access to a mix of offerings without having to navigate different sections of the site (or, about a quarter of our survey takers). While many travelers are intent to tailor their own travel itineraries, aggregate sites can simplify the process by making all of that information accessible from a single point.
First-class booking requires first-class technology
Whether an aggregate site or highly tailored brand, a great digital experience is key to keeping travelers coming back. More than half of survey respondents say the most common reason they get frustrated with online booking is hitting dead-ends when availability doesn’t fit–and no recommendations or alternatives are suggested. Brands should be tracking navigation on their websites to understand traveler interests and preferences and then deliver relevant recommendations and content to save them busywork and make the experience feel tailored.
Brands should also consider the value in their website’s search functionality. When asked which website features travelers most commonly use, the number one answer was the search bar. Brands should be incorporating smart search technology that can get to know traveler preferences and interests and deliver relevant recommendations and personalized results that fit their travel tastes.
The digital experience doesn’t end after the booking has been made. A quarter of respondents say they use virtual assistants or chatbots to troubleshoot issues when they are on a site and nearly 20% say it’s the first place when an issue crops up during their trip. If the issue is time sensitive, 49% of travelers pick up the phone and call customer service. A chatbot without a customer service representative that can quickly access and understand previous interactions doesn’t work. Brands need digital channels to connect with the humans who are the front line of service.
Jet-setting in the future
Travelers would rather be out and about experiencing the world then spending more time on their screens. They don’t need to be tripped up by confusing online experiences or obtuse customer service. Travel, hospitality brands, and aggregators need to understand traveler preferences around booking, site navigation, and recommendations to help them reach their destination vacation. This is the year to meet the demand.
Looking to journey deeper into the insights? Download our free survey report that digs further into specific brand loyalties and what motivates travelers when it comes to planning and booking.
Contact us today to learn how Lucidworks can help your team create powerful search and discovery applications for your customers and employees.