The coronavirus pandemic has hit many industries hard, but few have fallen as far or as fast as the travel industry. Following the technological revolution that fuelled over one billion trips per year – many of them luxury – thanks to making travel simpler and more seamless than ever, it is now in dire straits as hotels remain closed, airlines grounded and travellers opt – whether by their own choice, or not – to stay at home.
But whilst it’s unknown how long the current situation will continue on a global scale, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, as many hotels prepare to reopen their doors in June and airlines begin to announce an increase in the number of daily scheduled flights they will run in the coming months, there is hope that things could start to get back on track sooner rather than later. Although threats of further restrictions loom depending on the progression of the pandemic from here on out, travellers could be packing their bags as early as this summer and jetting off to their favourite luxury destinations, which is a pleasing thought for many. But what about those who are either still too vulnerable or too concerned about the potential impact of travel on their health?
It goes without saying that numbers will be down, as whilst many might be chomping at the bit to head off on their next adventure or rebook cancelled trips, others will be unwilling to part with their cash so soon after the peak of the pandemic, not least due to the potential of further cancellations looming.
As we inch cautiously back in the direction of normality, there may well be a long road ahead for the tourism industry, but in the luxury sector, plans are already afoot to start winning back customers. Some are offering reduced rates to attract bookings later on in the year, while others are ramping up their marketing efforts to make sure their presence is felt more widely than ever before – and that they are getting themselves in front of an affluent audience who can afford to rebook.
“Digital marketing is set to have an important role to play in helping the sector to bounce back, just as it always plays a central role in year on year growth,” says leading SEO consultant Daniel Foley.
“Many hotels and resorts will be seeking to strengthen their relationship with existing customers in the hopes of enticing them back, whilst others will be going all out to grow their audience across social media and via email marketing lists. We can also expect to see them coming back with newly revamped websites and investing more money into SEO than ever before to ensure that they appear high up in search engine search results for those seeking luxury travel.
“Now, more than ever, it’s important that luxury hotels and resorts remain well and truly in their customers’ consciousness, and we can expect to see them investing more into this area than ever before in a bid to accelerate their recovery after the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Although the luxury travel industry has experienced unprecedented cancellations for the coming months, whether it will be impacted as intensely as its mid-range and budget counterparts remains to be seen. Many experts are predicting that it could stand to bounce back more quickly due to its more affluent, high-net customer base, who are less likely to have been financially impacted to the point of ruin and may still have plenty of disposable income to spend on pricier trips.
In fact, some customers who do have that financial buffer are said to already be making plans for their next trip as soon as they can, keen to escape to a far-flung destination less affected by the current circumstances and finally enjoy those trips the inconvenience of the pandemic forced them to cancel.
Hotels and resorts located in remote destinations – from Caribbean island bungalows to lavish mountain hideaways – may stand to recover more quickly than others. It goes without saying that customers are more likely to opt to avoid busier places, at least in the short term – instead choosing destinations where they are free to relax and unwind at their leisure, without the added concern.
It’s also likely that destinations outside of Europe will fare better, with many keen to escape the current epicentre of the pandemic in favour of further flung places where the risk is somewhat reduced. Currently, restrictions to European hotspots remain in place for British travellers, with the exception of Greece – so one way another, numbers are bound to be affected.
For many customers, it’s not just their standard yearly holidays that have been cancelled – it’s destination weddings, honeymoons and other celebratory trips that it will have caused much devastation to lose out on. With this in mind, a wave of ‘second chance’ bookings is likely and, in some cases, already on the cards, with many hotels reporting customers keen to reschedule their bookings for later in the year.
Whatever the future holds, suffice it to say that there is hope for the luxury travel industry, with positive signs already being reported from across the sector. But the more people return to normal booking behaviours, the greater the chance of a speedy recovery. Ultimately, only time will tell what’s in store, but here at LLM, we’ll be doing all be can to show our support.