As travel returns, people are having a wide range of experiences as they navigate the new normal. Marketers in the travel and tourism industry should take note that many visitors are experiencing surprising highs and devastating lows. As travelers take to the roads, skies and hotel beds in droves, the level of service they are experiencing can be wildly out of whack with their expectations.
Our team at 62ABOVE has been part of the fray, traveling for business and leisure with a wide range of experiences. See below for their story details!
Think about it. People have been cooped up in their homes, dreaming of traveling to their favorite destinations. They’ve been waiting so long and they are so excited to visit, and they are coming back in huge numbers! The problem is, they are coming with a historical experience of what travel should feel like. Right now that experience may not be the case, which sets up a conflict in their expectations.
Some folks have been able to take a deep breath during travel, thinking beyond their momentary circumstances to understand that everyone is doing their best to return to standard operating procedures. But not everyone is so empathetic.
Most are aware that staffing is a pain-point for the hospitality industry right now, and rehiring enough employees to fill all the jobs is happening very slowly. Through more communication, we can help visitors remember that we are in the midst of bouncing back and doing our very best to provide them with the experiences they expect and deserve. We can also remind them that circumstances are far from perfect, and we hope they can bear with us.
Even now as things continue to loosen, the travel industry is faced with different travelers’ perception of what safety means to them, and we predict this will continue for quite some time. How can marketers sell “safety and comfort” when that definition varies from person to person, and place to place?
It all comes down to communication, customer service and problem resolution. When these three things are working hand-in-hand, guest expectations can be managed destination-wide and property specific.
Read on for some real-life stories from our intrepid travel crew, and perhaps find a few gems of wisdom in how travelers are perceiving experiences good and bad.
Real Travel Stories from the 62A Team:
Sheena Martin: I would say my negative travel moments have been at the airport. Even in the thick of covid, people rushed the gate, did not stand 6 feet apart while getting on the plane and jumped up and packed the aisles as soon as the plane parked. Covid or not, I don’t want people that close to me.
Amy Gelender: My family and I were craving a change of scenery and our annual ski trip to Aspen/Snowmass Colorado. We didn’t feel comfortable flying since we were all unvaccinated at the time so we decided to road-trip it and turn it into an adventure. When we arrived, we felt very safe. Aspen Ski Co took covid precautions seriously, firmly reminding people to mask up and practice social distancing. We chose to return home for lunches rather than eating outdoors in the cold. On the drive home, we stopped for a hike at Arches National Park, drove through Monument Valley, and took a slight detour for take-out from Pizzeria Bianca in Phoenix. After nearly a year of quarantining, it was a just the thing we needed to power through the final months of the pandemic!
Pierce Cooley: My fiance and I were traveling on Alaska Airlines to Sacramento from San Diego to visit family. It was his first flight since the pandemic began, and he was understandably very anxious. Experience tells me that a first class upgrade usually helps those nerves, because of course it does. I went up to the gate, explained the situation, and the gate attendant told me he'd see what he could do. He came back and said they wanted to make his experience better, and offered me an upgrade for $19, total. He very clearly identified my pain point and went above and beyond to help the situation.
Venice Fahey: I recently took the train for the very first time up to San Juan Capistrano, and overall I felt safe. On the way up, my family and I had the entire cabin to ourselves and could choose to wear masks or not (I kept mine on, aside from when I was eating/drinking). The way back was more crowded. Attendants were passing out snacks throughout the trip, so people had them off while eating/drinking, but most passengers kept them on. By the time the trip ended, I was looking into booking another train ride to Santa Barbara, so I definitely felt comfortable with the experience! Having been vaxxed also helped alleviate anxiety.
Andrew Kougl: While I haven't travelled out of the city yet, it has been nice to see the attention the San Diego Zoo took towards safety and mask wearing when the lock down periods began lifting. All employees were wearing masks and not afraid to tell guests if their masks needed to be on. It made me safe with how serious they were taking COVID, especially with a family friendly environment and knowing kids can't get vaccinated yet.
Indra Gardiner Bowers: On a recent trip to Los Angeles, we visited The Broad Museum in DTLA. The staff at The Broad were wearing buttons that said Welcome Back to Art, such a perfect message for the moment. Lunch at the Water Grill was a bit more challenging as service was slow, sometimes confused, and we didn’t receive the correct menu. But given the challenges restaurants are currently facing in re-hiring staff, we all need to take a deep breath and be patient as they gear back up for service. I think restaurants may want to consider a message to their patrons that is up front if they are having hiring issues to help set expectations, and hopefully engender some understanding from diners. Everyone is just trying to do the best they can!
Torie Covington: I haven’t traveled much yet - we’ve done Airbnbs in Big Bear, Palm Springs and Crystal Cove Cottages in Newport. We stayed in the rentals the entire time since it was pre-vaccine days, so don’t have much to say on these areas other than the rentals themselves were wonderful and very clean.
Jon Bailey: We just got back from a family vacation in Los Cabos, MX last week. In the planning stages, we were worried about how safe our travel experience would be in Mexico. I obsessively checked the news on Cabo’s COVID test results, vaccination rates, etc. and as the date for travel neared, and things looked safe enough for us to follow through on our plans. When we arrived at the Cabo airport, my family and I soon realized that Mexico was taking far more precautions than California. The airport staff, the transportation and the team at the Hyatt Ziva Resort where we stayed were kind yet firm about wearing masks, taking temperatures, sanitizing hands and surfaces. There were signs posted everywhere reminding guests of proper protocols, and staff made sure guests followed the rules. We were impressed with the lengths to which the Los Cabos tourism business is going in order to maintain safety and comfort as they encourage guests to visit the destination. They know the news has not been good for them, and their proactive measures are working. The place was packed.