The removal of travel restrictions was of course great news for the industry. And with the return to travel came the realisation that people not only need to take trips, they also need experts to help make those trips as perfect as they can be.
For a while, all we were doing was cancelling trips and putting our plans on hold. Then, we were able to travel again, first with restrictions in place and then, gradually, it all returned to how it used to be.
But are things really the same? We’ve all been changed by the pandemic in one way or another. Practically no one had ever been through a lockdown before, or had such limits put on what they could and could not do. Unfamiliar scenarios lead us to reassess our lives and priorities.
When it comes to travel, absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. But as well as this fondness returning, we developed a newfound appreciation for what we had once taken for granted. The idea of (for instance) the family holiday being something that came around every summer as regular as the changes in the seasons had been challenged; we had to go without, and so had to think about what that break really means to us. And what many people realised was that it is too risky to take any chances on something that was pulled away from us – and so could potentially be again.
So holidaymakers are being more selective when they plan their trips. Add in the context of fragile finances due to the cost-of-living crisis, and we have customers who don’t want to take any chances with their holiday.
This has created the desire for wraparound, end-to-end support, as consumers opt out of extensive self-planning and look to experts for advice and guidance. Experiences that are distinct and highly personalised are becoming more of a priority – both in terms of the product itself and the service that surrounds it. And so there is far greater recognition of the invaluable knowledge, connections and financial protection that industry specialists can provide.
Concierge-style service is now the consumer’s aspiration in general, from restaurants to hotels, gyms, stores and beyond. They are seeking elevated experiences shaped by innovations in delivering expert recommendations, on demand information and services, exclusive access and personalisation.
There are new and exciting opportunities for businesses to serve this form of advice and expertise to an increasingly receptive audience.
Enhancing the employee experience as well
It’s safe to say that people who join the leisure and tourism industry put helping people high on their list of professional priorities – specifically, they want to give customers the perfect travel experience.
Self-service and digital customer support tools are getting smarter and routine issues are being solved by technology. This is great for the customer, but it is also music to the ears of colleagues in the travel and leisure sector – it means that they are freed up to place more emphasis on those more human values and skills.
By moving away from routine tasks, colleagues can offer more involved, in-depth services and tackle complex issues that require a creative, empathetic, nuanced response. This brings more opportunities to deliver one-on-one human interaction where and when it is truly needed.
So of course, all this is valuable not only to the traveller who is seeking humanised input and support at points in their customer journey, but also for the motivation and engagement of the person who is helping them.
Providing the human touch
Travel and leisure is an industry where you’re almost guaranteed to have some degree of human contact – even if just a fleeting interaction with a food delivery driver. These moments of connection are important and as the customer experience becomes increasingly reliant on digital, it still needs to be infused with the human touch.
Consumers want to be treated with empathy and flexibility – and no matter how advanced technology gets, it still cannot completely provide the subtleties of human contact. However, innovations such as digital humans highlight the possibilities, offering the best of AI and human conversation; but the place for humans is still very much secure.
Empathy and a more human touch fuels connection. As people’s expectations of brands rise, emotional connection has never mattered more – and a link to someone who has the knowledge, experience and will to take the time to identify exactly what we are looking to spend our precious leisure time doing.
But as the cost of living potentially deepens, there will be those that can’t afford all of the above mentioned services – and therefore business must see how they cater for everyone, as wallets tighten even more and priorities inevitably (and regrettably) must change.
Capita’s new report Transforming travel & leisure has identified three key trends that are shaping the future of the global travel and leisure sector: digital empowerment, expert economy and collective conscience. To read more, download the full report via the button below.