The new reality of travel bubbles

With recent lockdowns in the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland, plus the discovery of the Omicron variant, the travel industry is back on high alert.

Of course, the industry can’t return to normal just yet, but there are strategies available to make the most of an unpredictable future.

Sometimes referred to as travel bridges or corona corridors, travel bubbles allow movement for a specific groups of people between countries where coronavirus has been contained, removing quarantine restrictions and other requirements that were set up to limit travel.

By strategically opening borders with countries that are mutually considered low-risk, destinations have been able to slowly rekindle tourism.

Though travel bubbles are a temporary fix to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the industry has had to adapt and make the most out of a less than ideal situation.

We all know how quickly things can change, and countries and enterprises are learning to adjust quickly and most importantly, become nimble. By focusing your efforts on activities that produce short- and mid-term results, you will see profitability return to your business.

Here, I outline our top ten strategies for making the most of the travel bubble reality:

  1. Revisit your feeder markets on a regular basis and ensure you know which ones are still valid and appear set for the next few months.
  2. Focus your marketing efforts on channels that are quickest to adapt. In the online world, this means paid traffic, specifically target markets that have just reduced restrictions or opened borders and use this information in your messaging.
  3. Create custom offers that are specifically tailored to a travel bubble. Go deeper by geotargeting your customers, you can adjust your online activities multiple times despite different travel bubbles for the same language. For example, though English-speaking countries like the U.S., the U.K. and Australia are all in different bubbles, you can use the same English site but can create specific elements that are shown to each target market based on the user’s IP.
  4. Localize the full customer journey as much as possible, as long as the materials can be adjusted easily and quickly on the fly. Starting with sales landing pages, property content, booking pages, and email confirmations.
  5. Provide as much up-to-date information as possible, or at least links that are maintained constantly. This is truer for airlines than any other travel segment, since most bookings start with flights. Travelers will be hesitant to book flights until they are comfortable with the rules, restrictions, and entry requirements. However, once they have booked flights, they will be much more at ease with the remaining travel services.
  6. Continue to offer flexible rates. Consumers have become weary of shifting travel bubbles, for example when the U.K. shifted its classification for Portugal to requiring quarantine upon return for U.K. citizens and residents, wreaking havoc among travelers scrambling to return before the shift date started.
  7. If your business offers services that may or may not be affected by certain lockdown measures, to advise potential customers of these changes as much as possible. They will feel more comfortable and you’ll have a better conversion rate.
  8. Identify new inbound markets and customer preferences, particularly regarding booking methods. For example, the vast majority of Chinese users do not have use Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, so unless you offer Union Pay, PayPal, or booking without credit card/prepayment, you will not gain any traction in those markets. This could also result in less direct bookings to your partners as travelers go instead to OTAs who are already offering their preferred payment method.
  9. Leverage tools to track demand, including Google’s new Travel Trends and Demand tool, to understand how travel demand is shifting in real time.
  10. Build out campaigns for markets in readiness to switch them on when a new route opens up. Demand spikes as soon as the news hits, so you need to be able to switch campaigns on and off as quickly as possible.

Find out more…

If you would like a more in-depth view into travel bubbles and how to create an effective data-driven strategy to deal with them, download the full length whitepaper.