Traveling is all about change. A change in pace, in scenery, in experience. These are things that the travel industry should also take into account when evaluating how it should continue to evolve.The demographic of customers', as well as their needs, change. And so do their preferred methods of communication.
This ever-changing and ever-so-complex web of customer expectations is something that travel operators need to address. And that’s beside tackling the usual challenges in improving customer experience.
The travel and hospitality industry would be remiss if they failed to maximize opportunities brought by a new breed of customers - millennials. They are travel-conscious, travel-hungry, and are willing to spend top dollar on unique experiences.
So let’s take a look into how millennials are changing the travel landscape, discuss some factors that can affect brand advocacy and generate stronger revenues. And finally, look at some travel industry trends that affect customer satisfaction.
The travel industry is growing (albeit slowly)
Despite serious economic concerns and issues of terrorism, travelers seem largely undaunted. In 2015, sales for travel industry products came in at $2.1 trillion, according to a report by the World Travel Market and Euromonitor International.
The figure is expected to top US$2.5 trillion by 2020. The boost in part is due to the adoption of digital trends, new technology and diverse business models.
Deloitte’s 2018 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook reports that travel companies are expected to see a healthy demand for all types of trips in the next few years. This regardless of whether trips are domestic, inbound or outbound. The report also goes on to say that the U.S. market is recording an increase in spending for recreation and travel.
Millennials, the game changers
Millennials continue to grow and become a more dominant market force. And unlike traditional customers, they have a different set of priorities. They also care a lot more about customer experience and customer satisfaction.
American millennial families are predicted to spend 19% more on vacations in the next 12 months and intend to travel 36% more than the previous year, according to a report from MMGY Global. In fact, travel is especially important to millennials. Particularly in China, many say that they would prioritize travel over saving for a home, according to a report from AirBNB.
Millennials present a unique challenge for the travel industry. Naturally, the travel industry needs to capitalize on the current upward trends of the industry while also keeping the traditional customer experience that many customers are familiar with.
To be successful, they must do this, and balance catering to a new segment of customers who have different priorities, outlooks, and needs.
The 2018 American Customer Satisfaction Index Travel Report reported a decline in customer satisfaction for airlines. In general, customer experiences on website satisfaction, ease of booking tickets, check-in process, timeliness of arrival and baggage-handling scored lower. The report also noted that airlines have improved in responding to complaints. This is especially significant. Previous ACSI reports indicated that perfectly handled complaints were shown to increase customer loyalty significantly.
Competition is fiercer among hotels. Leading many to seek unique ways of creating better branding. Airbnb’s data shows that it continues to be strong among millennials. Roughly 60% of bookings on the platform are by millennials.
Other companies have responded by strengthening their branding and offerings. The Hilton, for example, has its Tru brand. Among other things, it offers smart and efficiently designed guest rooms, reimagined public spaces, and creative updates around food and beverage. And true to its name, Tru is emerging as one of Hilton's most valuable brands.
Trends indicate that customer satisfaction no longer lies with the generic clean hotel room, but with experiences meant to make trips more memorable.
Internet Travel Sites
ACSI statistics for customer satisfaction with travel websites for booking flights, hotels, and car rentals is down. This indicates that there should still be an existing focus in strengthening person-to-person customer handling. However, this also an opportunity for operators to seek new ways to enhance the customer experience and increase customer satisfaction.
Opportunities are out there
Millennials continue to shape the travel industry in many profound and unique ways. The travel and hospitality industry are poised to reap the benefits of a stronger travel industry in the coming years. This is as long as they manage to "speak the language" of this new generation of travelers. They need to keep abreast of millennial habits and characteristics. This way, they can determine how best to attract more of these customers. High customer satisfaction will trigger not only brand recall, but also brand loyalty.
There is (and always will be) room for improvement in terms of strengthening traditional avenues for customer satisfaction. It is through tapping into the millennial movement that travel operators can see significant growth.