Ed Heaney
Ed Heaney 2 March 2020

Global Travel Industry Faces A Rollercoaster Year in 2020

The last 12 months have been a rollercoaster year for the global travel industry, and the next 12 look like they will be no different, as fluctuations in the economy, technology and politics continue to affect the way that people navigate the world. This is evident across all industries, not least in the global travel and international OOH sector. Ed Heaney, Strategic Development Director at global location and OOH marketing expert, PSI, identifies some of the key trends expected to impact these industries during the coming year.

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising - an authentic platform to help brands walk the walk

Technology has made people more connected globally, and with that, bringing more awareness: people are increasingly wise to, and reactive to, global and local threats and issues that may impact their lives, be it the unrest seen in Iran, or the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Against this backdrop, consumers are now more concerned with how brands behave, than at any previous point in time. This includes where marketing budgets are invested, how they treat employees, how and where products are sourced, any political affiliations, and more.

In effect, consumers have wised up to, and are increasingly interested in, the impact that brands have on the world around them. They are more inclined to seek out and purchase from brands that have an authentic brand purpose.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of surveyed global consumers prefer to purchase from companies that stand for a purpose that reflects their own values and beliefs according to Global Consumer Research from Accenture.

Consumers want companies to take a stand on the social, cultural, environmental and political issues that they care about the most and as a result, brands have had to fundamentally re-evaluate their relationships with their most valuable audiences. In order to attract and retain loyal customers, brands are now placing significant importance on their values being reflected and experienced through all forms of brand communications. Without this, consumers will simply avoid brands they feel are unauthentic or lack distinctive values.

2019 was dominated by global political and environmental turmoil. With neither showing signs of slowing down as we enter 2020, it is our expectation that brands will take an increasingly vocal stand in communicating their values, executing initiatives that reflect social issues that are of growing importance to their audiences. OOH advertising , with its unmatched creative canvas and recognised ability to build trust and confidence among consumers, will remain an important and unmissable vehicle to help brands raise awareness of what they stand for.

Over-tourism and the path less travelled

Global passenger traffic is forecast to reach over 17 billion by 2037 (double that of 2018) according to Airport Council International (ACI).  As well as the undoubted benefits increased tourism brings, we are now seeing the birth of a new substantial issue known as ‘over-tourism’.  From the queues witnessed on Mount Everest earlier in 2019, to images of parked cruise liners blocking the idyllic view of Venice (and more worryingly now, believed to be harming the surrounding ecosystem), there are a growing number of popular destinations that are subject to the impact of ‘over-tourism’.

Over-tourism is a very real issue, one that some destination marketing organisations (DMOs) are tackling in increasingly innovative and creative ways, with the view to bring about more sustainable forms of tourism.  Amsterdam is one such city focusing on smarter forms of ‘tourism distribution’ and management, using the travel app, “Discover the City”, to subtly redistribute tourists by sending notifications warning when attractions are busier than usual.

The city has also renamed more far-flung destinations to encourage visitors to travel further. For example, Zandvoort, less than 20 miles from the city centre, has been rebranded ‘Amsterdam Beach’ and included as part of the city card offering.

Effective management of tourists in overcrowded city hotspots will become key in 2020, as tourism brands and DMOs continue to make better use of data and travel distribution to make tourism more sustainable. A greater need for effective marketing of ‘undiscovered’ areas (those less affected by current tourism) will cater to travellers hunting unique and unexplored experiences whilst supporting new market destinations.  For brands looking to reach these audiences, there is value to be unlocked by tapping into the zeitgeist of culture and data to identify these emerging new destinations.

Global transformation through OOH automation

The rise of digital OOH, which now accounts for 53% of all OOH revenues in the world’s most developed markets, has unlocked a new wave of possibilities for advertisers across the world.  From flexible media buying and more targeted audience engagement strategies, to dynamic creative and messaging, technology is enabling more sophisticated, automated planning and buying of OOH inventory, which is delivering more relevant communications, and better creative opportunities, fast and at scale.

Key to the way advertisers can continue to leverage these opportunities will be the use of richer, and more effective, location data (historical and real time).  And whilst the accuracy, consistency, and scalability of this data hasn’t yet received the attention it deserves, we predict that 2020 will see better use of location data paired with increasingly responsive and agile OOH infrastructure to accelerate the transformation of OOH, continuing to expand the solutions and roles the channel can deliver for brands.

A brilliant example of a brand using technology to produce more creative and engaging marketing in 2019 was seen from Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.  Their campaign utilised a bespoke “dynamic purchasing system” (DPS) across Spain, which used several different data feeds to determine where and when relevant audiences were in proximity to digital out of home screens, in real time.  When specific audiences were seen to be concentrated around a frame, the DPS identified this, and dynamically served the relevant creative associated to that location and audience.

The hyper personalised travel experience

As in other walks of life, travellers now expect more personalised experiences, driven in large part by mobile technology.   The travel app ecosystem is becoming an ever more complex battleground as thousands of apps look to carve out and enhance individual stages of the travel journey. 

2020 will continue to see more established traveller apps leveraging their dominance, broadening their offering to cover more of the end to end passenger journey, taking market share away from travel competitors. For example, Airbnb has seen a successful launch from solely accommodation booking to tailored in-market experiences, while Google continues to develop and offer multiple services under its platforms such as Google Maps, Google Lens and Google Travel (which brings together Google Flights and Google Hotels ).

We expect 2020 will see these so called ‘Swiss Army knife’ apps continue to shape the mass personalised experience in the travel industry. In addition, the persistent rumours of Amazon entering the travel space in a more aggressive way could become a reality in 2020.

One such travel brand that continues to see substantial growth as a result of its approach to mass personalisation with its tailored content offering is Culture Trip. Natalie Malevsky, VP of Product Marketing at Culture Trip remarked:

“Personalisation at the point of a transaction has been the staple of the online travel sector for years. The capabilities are quite established. But it’s not widespread for the inspiration phase. With the help of machine learning, Culture Trip is able to customize the user journey at the very top of the travel funnel as our algorithms determine which articles, photography, video and illustrations surface from more than 70K+ pieces of original content.”

2020 will see growth in both niche hyper personalised travel apps along with consolidation of travel services by larger players. As a result, travellers will be able to take advantage of enhanced personalised service offerings throughout their journey from beginning to end, and, along with this, new opportunities for brands to connect with them along their journey will emerge.

Connected at 35,000 feet

The rise of on-board personal devices and connectivity through increasingly focused and powerful satellites is making on board streaming easier and more effective.  As this technology is rolled out across more airliners during 2020, the potential for airlines to drive ancillary revenue will grow. 

According to Inmarsat Aviation, inflight retail accounts for a mere 5% of travel spend with only one in ten passengers making an inflight duty-free purchase, and this figure is falling year-on-year. In addition to sales, airliners are overly conscious about their weight, and everything from the in-seat catalogues to the heavy shopping carts are adding to the operation costs. The solution could be the digitalisation of the inflight experience through better connectivity.

Better connectivity will unleash huge potential for airliners, retailers, duty-free operators, onward travel services, hoteliers, and car rental brands to create a new retail window to engage with consumers in a high dwell time environment; previously a dark spot in the global travel corridor. 

Demand for inflight opportunities from brands will only increase over the next 12 months and the challenge will be how they take an enhanced digital retail experience to 35,000 feet.

In 2020, consumers will continue to demand more personalised experiences whenever and wherever they travel in the world, but in a more socially and environmentally responsible way.  Brands will be able to leverage increased connectivity to communicate with these audiences more frequently and in new ways, but those wishing to build deeper and more meaningful relationships will need to demonstrate their ethical values too.

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