As any savvy marketer will tell you, personalisation is the new frontier. Online or offline, it’s essential for companies to provide customers with opportunities to do-their-own-thing. It should be the Holy Grail for travel providers too, because holidaymakers increasingly crave experiences that engage them with their destination and the local people, as individuals, enjoying flexibility and freedom.
It’s easy to understand why this transformation of aspirations is taking place. At home consumers already have the expectation of personalised service throughout their daily lives, so on vacation it’s natural that they will increasingly want the same. More and more they are shunning over-organisation and turning to travel options that closely synchronise with their individual ambitions, dreams, and specific needs.
The impact of the internet
Independent-minded travellers also tend to take their counsel from peers and reviews, and conduct research online to seek out providers who meet their aspirations. It’s not about cost, they are making their decisions based on the concept of being able to better and more flexibly control their own experiences. This transition is being fuelled by the relentless and inevitable rise of online ‘local experience’ portals. These sellers are ever ready to roll out their virtual red carpets and supply bookable access to almost unlimited longtail independent traveller services.
How to counter the threat
Many operators work to counter this threat by ensuring they provide plenty of ‘local experiences’ and ‘authenticity’. Nowadays however, particularly with the progress in technology, there is much more that can be done within a tour package to help guests personalise their experience.
One way is to provide useful digital or app-based information and recommendations for free time activities. Examples of the latest offerings include geo-locating hotels and pickup points to give confidence, recommending photo-spots, or featuring sponsors where guests can receive discounts for drop-in visits. Another idea is to add geo-tagged pop-up notifications for activity suggestions as they explore their surrounds; as well as providing ‘welcome home’ messages when customers return to their hotel or ship. Nowadays, it is possible to provide fully navigable, self-guided walking or cycling itineraries with full auto-play audio commentary and stories from your local experts. Routes and contents can incorporate literally any style or interest you choose – from squares and fountains to gourmet tastings or wine cellars; and from countryside walks to fitness trails. It is even possible to provide digital codes for entry tickets or provision of contracted services at eateries, wine bars, local experience providers or sightseeing venues.
Beat Mountain View at their game
Of course, if you don’t provide guests with digital free-time assistance, the reality is that Google is ready and waiting to step in and fill the void; and they won’t be sharing with you the rich tracking data and trend analysis they get from your guest’s activities and movements. However, if you become the prime mover, providing the technology for your guests, then it is your business that will receive those invaluable insights into clients’ aspirations and behaviour, not Google. And this information will help you plan more effectively for the future.
Complementing not replacing your products
Like everything, life needs balance. The goal here should not be to replace your existing products, ground staff or tour directors with digital services, but to complement and supplement. Best of all, the app technology to allow personalisation is inexpensive, has no up-front hardware costs and gives a great marketing message. It is also true that uncluttering itineraries and providing free-time for personalisation not only satisfies guests themselves, but it saves you money too. And that goes to profits.
It’s a win-win situation
In summary, it’s a good idea to rethink the way products are constructed. Consider how to provide the technology that makes it simple for guests, occasionally, to individualise their vacation. Give them the time and space to create personalised encounters and immersive experiences here and there, within the convenience, security and comfort of your own expertly compiled vacation products. The cross-sell and upsell opportunities are countless, and your marketers and PR teams will have one hell of a story to tell. It really is a win-win situation.