4 Tips to Meet the Rising Demand for Personalized Travel Experiences

By Ralph Failla, Senior Account Director, Inspira Marketing Group

Travelers have always appreciated the red carpet “you’re a star” treatment. However, in recent years, pampering has moved from a perk to a necessity for modern daytrippers, jet setters, and bleisure enthusiasts.

Just how many consumers hunger for personalized treatment from hotels, airlines, and other hospitality brands? Most, according to a recent Hilton Global Trends report. A staggering 86% of survey participants said an individualized traveling experience was essential.

Fortunately, most leading travel companies are paying attention to their customers’ high expectations and adapting their business models to use data more effectively. From tailored messaging and customized discounts to enhanced loyalty programs and self-serve digital platforms, travel organizations are all jockeying to win travelers’ hearts by treating them like old friends instead of generic consumers.

Putting all the personalization puzzle pieces together can be challenging, though. Concerns about data privacy, identity theft, and cyber hacks have dampened some travelers’ desires to hand over their private information. A Salesforce investigation discovered that only 57% of consumers are willing to share their personal data in exchange for customized discounts. However, they need to know upfront how their information will be stored and protected.

Another challenge involves keeping up with the evolution of what “personalization” means amid AI’s predictive capabilities. The trends in personalization are changing quickly, making it difficult for brands to respond fast enough, let alone remain on the leading curve or anticipate what tomorrow might bring.

Remember: Only a few years ago, selecting in-flight amenities or accessing real-time booking updates online were cutting-edge features. Now, it’s table stakes. Brands can’t afford to lose any momentum, or they can find themselves behind the times. Instead, the goal is to consistently offer personalized experiences that make travelers feel valued, which is essential to fostering loyalty, engagement, and higher retention rates.

4 Ways to Woo Travelers with Tailored Touchpoints

The good news is that offering a personalized and differentiated experience is hardly an unrealistic dream. It’s a practical goal for your travel brand and can be accomplished in just a few steps.

Improve your data game.

With data (and a direction for its use), you can individualize your engagements with prospective travelers and repeat customers. The more data you can collect, the simpler it will be to construct dynamic audience profiles that you can use to anticipate what your customers will want.

Becoming more data-driven should have an appealing bottom-line effect on your business, too. Research by Google indicates that using data effectively gives companies a significant leg up over their competitors. Statistically, data-focused companies enjoyed revenue rates of 16 percentage points higher than their peer organizations. Plus, they saw a sizable lift in their fan bases.

Fill in the gaps.

The more you understand the current state of the travel industry and the contemporary traveler, the more attuned you’ll be to service gaps. Each gap is a chance to wow customers and keep them from being wooed by other brands.

One way to pinpoint gaps is by staying active on social media. Statista insights show that 36.5% of leisure travelers rely on social media when investigating where to go next. By investing in organic efforts, you can understand these travelers and determine what they’re missing. Once you’ve identified gaps, you can close them with customizable products, services, and solutions. At that point, you can advertise your innovations via content and level up to include paid search campaigns.

Curate immersive experiences.

When Virgin Atlantic wanted to generate buzz and awareness for its three new ways to travel economy on Boston to London flights, the company hosted an upscale, share-worthy event. The event was built around the experiences of three influencers who planned and took Virgin Atlantic trips overseas. The influencers documented every detail online — right down to their cloud-themed cocktails. Not only did the activation show off Virgin Atlantic’s latest offering, but it also emphasized the possibility of personalization when flying with the leading airline.

Your event doesn’t have to go the extra mile like Virgin Atlantic’s did, but it should have enough sparkle to hold the interest of your audience. The secret to a successful activation is to give attendees a feeling of exclusivity so they understand you’re serious about delivering individualized engagements.

Consider partnerships.

Brand partnerships and collaborations can further help you achieve your personalization goals. The right partner can enhance your ability to customize an experience via an avenue that’s different from your specialty.

For example, look at how Delta Airlines collaborated with Une Femme Wines. For every Une Femme wine sold on a Delta flight, a portion of the proceeds went to support a cancer charity. This partnership enabled customers to feel like they could contribute to cancer awareness through the brand of in-flight beverage they chose, ultimately boosting brand sentiment and trust.

The desire for personalization isn’t going to take a vacation anytime soon. But consumers will. When they do, make sure you’re giving them exceptional customized interactions so they feel happy to come back to your brand time and time again.

About the Author

Ralph Failla is a senior account director at Inspira Marketing Group, a purpose-driven brand activation agency headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with offices in New York City and California.