APAC travel has spiked but customer behaviour has changed and Medallia’s Denise Miura says it is crucial that travel brands have a well thought out CX strategy to build customer trust and meet the strong demand.

Tourists in Asia Pacific are back with a vengeance this peak travel season. After years of lockdowns and border closures, travellers are jumping at the chance to explore their dream destinations.

In August, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines reported an astonishing 821% increase in international passengers. Popular holiday destinations – Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan – are also seeing a spike in tourist demand since easing border restrictions.

This rising travel demand, combined with brands’ inability to cope, has led to sky-high airfares, hotel stays and other travel experiences. The stakes to make up for revenue lost during the pandemic have never been higher for brands.

However, this peak in travel will not last forever and brands need to act quickly to tap into this huge demand. The key to doing so is understanding the needs of today’s new age travellers to build unmatched customer experiences (CX). Failing to capitalise on this demand is simply not an option with Asia’s travel and tourism market set to reach US$227.5 billion this year.

Understanding today’s new age traveller

While APAC travel has spiked, travel brands are facing immense challenges to meet this demand – operational capacity is strained, hiring issues are widespread, complaints are up and service quality has dropped.

Customer behaviour has also drastically reset. Travellers are less forgiving of brands that fail to meet their expectations and are more open to switching brands. According to Zendesk, a vast majority (75%) of APAC customers are willing to take their business elsewhere following a bad experience.

Fortunately, a survey found that 84% of Gen Z respondents in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines are willing to forgive and support a brand again after a mistake if the brand takes action and accountability.

This demonstrates how crucial it is for brands to understand customer expectations and respond effectively to customer feedback to avoid a non-recurrence of the issue. Most importantly, a strong and well thought out CX strategy is essential to build customer trust and confidence once again.

Key trends to drive customer conversion, experiences and loyalty

Innovative solutions are helping brands understand who their customers are and their needs or concerns, and discover insights that can drive customer conversions and elevate overall experiences.

These are three key trends brands should consider:

1. Personalisation at every step

Travellers expect a personalised brand experience across every channel and at every step on their customer journey – from research and booking, to post-travel. A recent survey revealed that 71% of Singaporean consumers are more likely to buy again from brands that treat them like an individual, rather than any other customer. This demand is mirrored across Asia Pacific – in India (77%) and Australia (63%).

Travellers also want companies to put forth intelligent, personalised communication, offers and experiences in exchange for their data. Take Holiday Inn Club Vacations, for instance. The company relied on digital surveys and analytics to safely reopen its resorts when COVID-19 lockdowns were lifted. Responses revealed guests’ readiness to travel and associated concerns. This helped it plan which resorts to open first and understand which services were key to travellers, like room inspections and check-ins.

2. Digital innovation and real-time engagement

Today, customers are more in control of their shopping journey. Brands can build lasting relationships with customers by understanding their needs and reaching them on their terms. This includes engaging with customers in real time on the channels they choose to interact with you.

Brands also need to capture customer signals across every aspect of their footprint, whether it be on the website, mobile app or even in physical stores. Such an approach has helped leading hospitality brand Hilton empower over 54,000 employees in 90 countries with real-time guest feedback and actionable insights. Hilton uses the insights to better serve its guests, increasing guest loyalty and linking it to revenue growth. One Hilton brand found that happy guests or “promoters” return three times more frequently and spend over 58% more than detractors.

3. Consistent and connected journeys

76% of customers expect consistent interactions across departments, yet 54% say it generally feels like sales, service and marketing teams don’t share information. This is a situation many of us can relate to. Customers’ top frustration is having to repeat themselves to different people, across various channels and calls going unanswered. The frustration builds further when they are unable to switch seamlessly between different communication channels.

Brands should take the time to understand the customer’s view as a whole, not in silos or segments. This allows for a seamless experience even when the brand’s stakeholders were previously disconnected. Additionally, brands should capture insights at potential points of friction throughout the journey, enabling people and technology to proactively intervene to solve issues even before they crop up. This increases the likelihood of conversion, reduces churn and improves overall CX.

Building long-term customer trust

Travellers’ expectations and needs have drastically reset. Brands are competing like never before for travellers who shop around, prize personal convenience and desire a tailored experience. As such, businesses need to take a holistic view of the customer journey and partner with CX experts to connect with guests in real time, maximise their experiences and build trust.

In doing so, brands can better position themselves to capitalise on the lucrative travel demand and deliver great CX that will capture travellers’ hearts for the long run.