The Grapevine summer series
According to Hopper’s 2023 Travel Trends Report, people are booking holidays at the last minute more than ever before.
In this mini “sun-lounger” podcast, we ask whether this a good thing for marketers when it comes to thinking about shoulder season? Is there still time to market to those people who haven’t yet booked for September and beyond?
And can we avoid shoulder-season discounts?
We delve into consumer behavioural changes, community networks and the true meaning of value to answer these questions.
[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to a special summer edition of the Grapevine, brought to you by her Deify. My name’s Vicky. I’m the c m O at her Deify, and I’m in the driving seat this week while our usual host Tom, is taking a well-deserved holiday. So this is a mini episode, especially for marketers in the travel industry, and you’ll be pleased to hear it’s only 15 minutes long.
So think of this as Sunland content. Our topic today is post summer travel, and as always, I’m joined by Ed. So how are you, ed? Hi, Vicky. I’m good. Thank you. Enjoying, enjoying the sun when it chooses to come out. How are you doing? I know a glimmer. A glimmer of sunshine today. Thanks for joining me this week, um, and holding my hand as it were.
Um, so we’ll, we’ll kick straight off. Um, we all know that the summer, that, sorry, the post summer shoulder season can be tricky for travel
[00:01:00] marketers, and I think this year we can say that that’s more than most really, um, consumers I think are really holding their nerve and booking even later than usual.
Um, so it’d be great to hear sort of why you think that is. So, to be honest, no one really knows why that is. It seems to be a trend that’s come out of, uh, come out kind of post pandemic. Um, it could be because people, uh, just not wanting to, you know, book plan, booking plans and lock things in. I think that definitely, uh, sort of in the immediate post pandemic demic world, you know, um, People were very much waiting to see what the travel situations are like.
And that’s kind of a habit that’s, that’s now being formed, right? Is, you know, given three years of not being able to book a holiday in a year in advance and know what’s happening, it’s sort of leads, leads to, uh, a situation where people then take that on as a habit and have decided that they don’t, they don’t wanna book.
[00:02:00] Um, as far in advance, the other big thing, um, in part in particular in the UK is, is worries about cost. And the cost of living crisis, meaning that people are more, not necessarily spending less on, on travel. Uh, there’s some evidence that actually people are expecting to spend more on travel, but, um, that they’re being more wary about committing to costs that they don’t think they’ll necessarily, um, Be able to afford in the future.
Uh, particularly if you think, if you are, if you’re looking not to this year’s, uh, shoulder season, but next summer, right. No one really ever, especially with inflation where it is, and it has been, people are used to things changing a lot in a year now, and their, their situation changing and people don’t wanna commit a long term advance, uh, without knowing, knowing kind of what their situation will be like.
Um, Then the other, uh, part of that, or the other kind of cost, cost [00:03:00] implication could be that people are looking for deals, that there is, uh, you know, people are being less fussy potentially about where they go and exactly when they go or on holiday. Um, particularly if you think about people who are able to be more flexible.
So here we are thinking about a lot of the sh uh, traditional shoulder season, uh, customers. So people without children be then retirees or younger people. You know, they’re being much more flexible about where they might go because they’re looking for a deal. And when you’re looking for a deal, a, you might wait until the last minute because there is, there’s a perception that last minute deals you can get some of the best deals in the LA at the last minute, which is true.
Um, but also if you’re looking for a deal that takes a lot longer, right? It, it, it feels. If you, if you, if you set out to look for a deal rather than to go to a particular place, it becomes a lot harder to sort of finalize this is the thing that I’m gonna do. Right? This is the best deal I’m [00:04:00] gonna see. So people I think are potentially struggling to make that final decision, uh, because they don’t know what’s coming next.
They dunno what deal will be out next week. Yeah, you’re right. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there, isn’t there? I think what you just said about the kind of the behavioral change is really interesting. You know, the, the environmental factors like, you know, cost of living crisis and, and people not having so much money to spend on travel or being a little bit more, I guess, hesitant to spend on travel.
I think a lot of marketers, you know, they, they really know that and they feel that, but the behavioral change side of things, it’s really interesting in that the pandemic has sparked. A change in how consumers, you know, react and behave when thinking about a holiday. So I guess the big question then is, you know, is this last minute the move to more of a last minute kind of booking
[00:05:00] pattern, is it a good thing for
Actually, you know, when, when it comes to thinking about post peak shoulder season, Is there still time to market to those people, do you think? Who haven’t yet, but September? I think it can be a good thing for marketers if they’re willing to lean into that. Right? So I think it means that there’s a marketers and potentially also, uh, sort of other exec, the executive functions of, of travel companies need to appreciate that this is what’s happening, right?
And not necessarily look at annual performance in the middle of the summer and. Booking rates in the middle of the summer and assume that that’s the, a good, you know, as good a barometer as it was in the past of how annual performance is gonna be. At the same time, marketers therefore need to kind of change their marketing strategies to try and take advantage of these, these end of, um, you know, or the fact that come the middle of the summer, you’re not just sort of
[00:06:00] executing holidays that have already been bought.
You are, you are still marketing, you’re still trying to get. A more much kind of larger fraction of your, effectively your inventory or your, your, um, your possible holiday sold. And I think that’s maybe a slight change in the behavior of marketing departments for, for travel is that they, they’ve gotta think about it as a, not, not just a sort of almost like sale driven, um, purchase time, right?
People, if people are delaying their decisions, then. It’s not just those last minute bookers who are looking for a great deal, who are left in the market. And, and so, um, what that really means is that, you know, if we look at where we are today, so we, we are talking in the middle of July here, you know, the average, so take some US numbers.
The average US domestic holiday is about four weeks booking at the moment. And that’s from first research to holiday, right? That’s not from. [00:07:00] Um, booking. Wow. That’s from first research to holiday, whereas, uh, longer haul, we are talking between seven and 12 weeks. So that means that when we are talking in mid-July, the majority of people who will go on holiday in September haven’t put that holiday yet.
Yeah. So for marketers, that’s where So lots of opportunities. Exactly, exactly. So for marketers, that’s a lot of opportunity to attract them towards their own holidays. I think there’s. Also something to be said. And this is, um, kind of related to what we were talking about before,
about the costs that the cost of living and crisis and, and people not wanting to commit the, the money to holidays is that there, one thing I’ve definitely noticed is a big increase in the cost of flights and also a bigger variability in the cost of flights.
And so I, you know, when I’m looking at a holiday now, It used to be, if it was go, if I was going on holiday in Europe, you’d book the accommodation and sort out flights later, because if you’re going anywhere in Western [00:08:00] Europe, it’s probably, you know, a similarish price and you’ll be able to get a flight for between say a hundred and 150 pound return, something like that.
Now, with the cost of flights being much more flexible, you know, there’s some locations in Europe where even at sort of four to, uh, three to four months in advance, you’re paying maybe two 50 for a flight. Yeah, people are trying to factor all of that into booking together, which again is delaying the booking process.
So even if you are a marketer for something, say hotels, which tended to be booked further in advance, you all also might be dragged into that kind of late booking cycle.
So really a move, I suppose as well to to help consumers understand. The experience in its entirety and also the value behind that experience. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s kind of the, the key, I would say, [00:09:00] uh, not tool, but asset really, that companies do have this sort of, with a later booking cycle is they have all the, all the consumers that went on holiday this year already.
Right. And, and I think this is, is, is. Massively beneficial for the travel industry, especially where it is recovering from Covid, we had, we can probably say like particularly for longer haul and, and abroad holidays abroad, we maybe had like two to two and a half years with much lower sort of, uh, return rates or, or people who had been on holiday recently in those places.
Also, I’ve definitely noticed this, and I’m sure you have as well, like a lot of, uh, hotels and a lot of, um, Kind of resorts and things like that have changed quite a lot since Covid. And I think a lot we’ve, I’ve certainly discussed this a lot with my friends that like they’ve gone back to places and they’ve been different in various different ways.
Like be that because they’ve been under different [00:10:00] ownership
because of the financial travels of Covid or just because staff of staffing changes. Right. Particularly hotels which have, um, Transient staff, they’ve been struggling to get a lot of staff and things like that so that that can really affect the atmosphere of a, of a hotel if they have a complete overhaul of all the staff.
Um, and so I think people are really, like, consumers are really looking for people who have been on holiday recently as their best indicator of, or the best reflection of what that holiday might experience might be like.
So really kind of thinking about a, a step on from U G C, you know, actually thinking about, um, other, other customers experiences, but how can we sort of leverage those. Experiences to sort of attract this last minute audience. Yeah. Oh, and you tr you touched us then as well on kind of the trust piece and [00:11:00] that’s, you know, for a whole other podcast, I think.
Um, but how do you kind think that travel marketers can, I guess, leverage that on first party data that they have? Um, to really help with that kind of trust piece, um, with this last minute audience. So I, I think there’s, uh, yeah, there’s a lot, a lot to unpack there. As you say, we could have a whole podcast about trust, right?
And I think travel and experiences like travel, right? They’re intangibles. It’s very hard to express that in sort of traditional marketing content, right? Copy or videos or anything like that. Um, and for that reason we see like time and time again. Especially in, in travel, lots of, uh, most consumers look to friends and family for recommendations as their, their source of, um, their, so, you know, their source of ideas really.
And that, that’s what we’ve seen, um, kind of across all the most [00:12:00] recent research. Like there was some, the research from, from Hopper that came out recently, which had, I think it was over 80% of, uh, Of users would look to some form of social network for their first recommendations, right? That’s where they do their research.
They don’t use the internet, they’re not using Google. They’re using social research amongst people they know. And I think what can, what, um, marketers can do in, in the sort of holiday space, um, really is, is therefore engage more with their existing customers. Right? Now unlike, uh, say something like a subscription box, which is, um, a product which has like a high return rate.
Marketers in, in travel are of often lean towards a much le less frequent return rate, right? If you are selling a, a foreign holiday, you might expect someone to come every year, but you’re not expecting them to necessarily come four times a year. [00:13:00] No, so, so you, your, your standard flow is to, like, once that person’s been on the holiday is probably to, to nudge them to try and book another for themself.
But really what, what Marcus can do is using that first party data is, is nudge, sort of recommendations, referrals, and try and initiate conversations with their peers. So initiate those recommendations that they might be coming giving, but also ensure that as a brand you are top of mind. When people do get asked, oh, have you been on a good holiday recently?
You know where, or you know, you went to say, Portugal, where did you stay? Was it worth staying? That? Those sorts of questions. You wanna make sure that your brand is top of mind and people remember the holiday, the great holiday they had with you, so they can share that experience. Yeah, and I think, you know, we all do it.
Travel in particular, it’s, it’s such a hot topic and it’s something that you really do [00:14:00] discuss, you know, in whichever social group you’re in, whether it’s. Group of school moms or you know, your teammates on the rugby team? I’m not sure why I mentioned that. Cause I have no affiliation there at all. You know, down the pub.
It’s the kind of thing that you, everybody, it’s common across all social groups. Everybody discusses where they’re going on holiday and if they’re not going on holiday, the fact that they’re not going on holiday and why. So you can really see kind of how that, how those recommendations, I guess, travel through a community.
Um, so I’m gonna address the other elephant in the room. We’ve talked about trust in travel. I think the other elephant in the room is probably kind of discounting. Mm-hmm. Especially in shoulder season. It’s the time when, like you said earlier, kind of people are expecting discounts. They’re expecting prices to drop significantly from peak summer.
So, How do you think kind of communities can impact that? Can [00:15:00] they help travel businesses to hold their value and maybe not discount so much? What’s the message there? Yeah, so I think, like you said, the key word there at the end, and the key word is value, right? People are as shown, I think this is, yeah. In, in the, um, hopper study,
the majority of people are expecting to spend more on their holiday, but are also at the same time, more conscious of wanting to get more value from that now.
And the, and the key there is that they’re not necessarily, therefore looking to spend less and looking for a discounted holiday. They want a better product for the same or more price. And so what, what, um, What kind of companies need to be, or brands wanna be doing is, is, is demonstrating value, right? As opposed and, and you can do that in two ways.
You can either demonstrate that with a very cheap price or a relatively cheap price, or you can demonstrate that with [00:16:00] a high value experience and have, and your communities are, as we said, like one of the best ways of communicating the value of that experience, right? Ultimately, how good that is. Only really comes down to how that person feels, how much that person, someone enjoyed their holiday.
Right. And as a travel company, it’s actually really hard because, you know, so much of it could be out of your control. Right. You know, you might, the number of times that like, you know, you might, someone might come to go to a hotel, have a fantastic stay, but they lost their baggage on the way home. For example, the airline loses their baggage.
That’s all they talk about with the holiday. So as a, as a brand is like, what you can do there is you can try and communicate with your, or you can communicate with your current, you know, your, um, the people who have visitors, your, your, your consumers and explain or, or [00:17:00] remind them of the fantastic floor they, they have.
So the next time they’re in the pub telling the story about their holiday, it’s, oh, it was, it was a bit annoying. We lost our luggage on the way home, but, It was the end of a fantastic week or something like that. And to get, and in communities, that’s where that sort of, those discussions are most likely to happen.
I love that you, you mentioned the kind of, the aspect of how travel makes you feel, because I think that’s really key and I think that’s why the, the concept of communities is so powerful there because it is, you know, It helps marketers to communicate that feeling in a way that perhaps their kind of their marketing activities maybe can’t.
You know, you hear it from somebody that you know and trust and you
understand that they had that amazing feeling while that, when they were on holiday, and that’s sometimes harder to get across, I think in like a [00:18:00] TV ad or something like that. I think, I think it’s, or I, I would go so far as to say it’s impossible.
Actually in a trustworthy way. Like even, yes, exactly. Even with, you know, you might be able to communicate, particularly say with like U G C or something like that, right? Uh, or like sponsored content, influencer content. You might be able to communicate how that person feels about it, but people won’t trust it.
Like our natural incarnation is to see that as an advert. People are very aware, consumers are really aware of all the advertising and all the money that goes into producing. Social media content now, and therefore trust is at an all time low when it comes to sort of umbi, like trusting that a review is unbiased and therefore kind of friends and family are really the only place we can go for that.
Not necessarily the only place you can go for honest advice, but the only place you can go where people, where consumers do believe the advice is honest. [00:19:00] Yeah, absolutely. And that I, I suppose coupled with marketing activity mm-hmm. Becomes very powerful. Yeah, exactly. So what marketers can do is they can, they can basically motivate those conversations to happen, right?
And, and, and as a marketer, you have to be sort of ever so slightly prepared to lose control of the message and lose control of, of the, the impressions that are coming away from a message or coming from a message because you want those messages to spread and you just have, have to be happy initiating those conversations rather than directing them and controlling.
Yeah, there’s a challenge I think for travel marketers. Are you happy to lose control of your message? Exactly. Um, I think that’s a really good place actually to wrap up then. Um, so thinking about kind of one tangible action for a travel marketer to take today, having listened to this, that will put them in a good place.
When they’re thinking about shoulder season bookings perhaps while they’re sitting on a sunland to [00:20:00] themselves. Wow. What’s that one piece that you would recommend that they do once they’re back at their desk? So I, I would, I would in, uh, kind of urge them to think about that message of value and, and how they remind their, uh, kind of
returning holiday makers that about the value they got from their holiday.
And that doesn’t have to be, and importantly, that really doesn’t have to be about price. Right. Ultimately the more value you can, uh, you, the more value that people think they had in their holiday, the less you have to discount the price later. And I think that’s what what it really comes down to. At the end of the day, like the, the greatest experience that someone will ever have is, is value even at any price, right?
So if you can get people sharing that, that’s what they had on your holiday, then you won’t have to discount come, you know, your last minute deals in September. So really hold your nerve, think about how to convey the [00:21:00] value of your experience and think about how you can convey that message through communities.
Exactly. So a fair summary. Yeah, I think that’s a very, very fair summary. Yeah. Brilliant. Thanks so much, ed. It’s brilliant chatting to you as always. Um, and I think we’ll wrap up there. So thank you so much everyone for listening. Um, and if you’re interested in any more of this, then please check out herd offi.com, leave any, um, any messages or comments for us on the Grapevine podcast, and we’ll be back in touch after the summer.
Thank you and goodbye.