I recently attended a webinar by Destination Canada, our national tourism board, on the major changes coming as the tourism industry moves beyond covid. They’ve been collecting data and doing a lot of research, and while most of their findings are not unexpected, seeing them in black and white really confirmed what I’ve been noticing anecdotally for a while now.
So let’s go over some of the key findings as they relate to the luxury adventure travel market.
The rich have gotten richer during the pandemic and they have pent up demand for travel. Spending on travel is the number one priority for affluent households this year, with 39% pegging it above all other major expenditures. Domestic travel will lead the way and people expect to spend on average 19% more post-covid than before.
So if you’re in the luxury tourism space, expect there to be stronger demand for your premium offerings.
The past two years have been brutal for workers in the tourism and hospitality industry, and many have permanently left to other fields of employment. No one wants to be the ‘mask police’ anymore and most of these jobs never paid a lot to begin with. From ski resorts that can’t fully open, to hotels that can’t find enough staff to service rooms and front desks, this has put a huge dent in supply, and as we know from economics 101, when demand goes up and supply goes down, prices tend to go wayyy up.
Throw in some covid supply chain problems and lack of workers returning to the industry, and it seems prices will stay higher for some time to come. But does that mean it’s a ‘seller’s market’ and people will pay anything for one of your tours? No.
What Destination Canada is seeing on a macro level, is many destinations are opening quickly, and putting big government money and resources into marketing and propping up their tourism sectors, going after market share as the industry reopens. So your competition is no longer the luxury lodge down the road, but the ones in Norway, New Zealand and other emerging locales.
In the past two years just about everything from school, to ordering food, to learning piano and Pilates has gone online. People now expect a great online experience. If they don’t have one with your business they’re gone. Instantly.
From inspiring content, to trip planning itineraries, and a seamless booking process, guests will go to the tourism businesses that make things easy. So if you know there’s a weak link in your customer’s online journey, fix it now.
As things go back to normal, your guests will expect things to be more difficult, with varying covid testing requirements, flight delays and cancellations, and protocols like masking continuing for some time.
People will deal with all the crap, if they know what to expect. What they won’t deal with is uncertainty. The risk of being stranded, quarantined or out of pocket for canceled trips won’t be tolerated. Again, make things as seamless as possible if you want high-end bookings.
Health and safety is now a major consideration for affluent travelers, and people are choosing travel destinations based on their covid cases and country vaccination levels. Canada is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in the world, and affluent travelers are taking notice.
Guests also want to know that you’re taking covid seriously, from having fully vaccinated staff, to following stringent cleaning and disinfection practices, they will choose operators and destinations perceived as being healthy over those that are not.
Concern for the environment is top of mind and guests expect their impact to be minimal, with carbon offsetting used when needed, and their dollars contributing to the local communities they’re visiting. Indigenous and First Nations experiences and authenticity in travel are also ranking highly according to Destination Canada.
As we’ve already seen, the past two years have produced winners and losers in the tourism industry, with guests choosing small group, nature-based experiences over just about everything else.
Adventure, nature, and escape should continue to be major themes in your tourism marketing.
Okay, travel will be more difficult and more expensive and to some extent, your guests will expect this. But that doesn’t mean they’ll tolerate high prices and shoddy service. Here’s where I see a real opportunity for luxury tourism operators to add value. One thing I’ve noticed about the true luxury operators out there is that they provide a ‘concierge’ experience. And that means every step of the journey, from booking to getting there to and then back home.
For example, over the years I’ve worked with remote lodges that use small planes or helicopters to transport guests in. As you may know, these can often be delayed by weather and other reasons, but your guests may not know that. The operators who have that concierge experience never leave their guests in some remote airport for hours without telling them what’s going on. They keep them informed, well-fed and if need be, doing something while they’re waiting for the weather to improve so they can fly.
With all the headaches and changing rules around covid, help your guests navigate and make it easy for them to book and travel to your destination. So if you’re in the luxury adventure space, think about how you can improve your ‘concierge experience’ and make the entire process better or more seamless. That will be a true competitive advantage.
I’m amazed how many journalists are traveling right now, and it’s getting really competitive getting top-tier media on FAMs. Now’s the time to start telling your stories to the press, so get pitching media. If you wait, your competition will beat you to the punch, so work with a PR agency to find your stories and tell them. The results from press and the awareness it generates can give your luxury tourism business a big lift.
So as things rapidly open up, there will be challenges but also limitless opportunities for those luxury tourism businesses that are prepared for The Big Shift.