By Tony Evans | Head of Planning at BJL , United Kingdom | firstname.lastname@example.org
It's hard to believe that just 20 years ago, booking a holiday required a visit to a travel agent, ordering and studying a pile of brochures and making several phone calls to ask questions, check availability and ultimately book.
Even just 12 years ago we couldn't access all the video content for inspiration and information online because YouTube only launched in 2005.
By contrast, today we can all access so much information about the travel possibilities available to us from the providers themselves as well as from reviewers and travellers who share their views about their destinations and experiences, good or bad. Whatever we need to help us make a choice and a booking, whether it's inspiration, the size of the swimming pool or the perfect room location, we can get it.
Moreover, it seems that travel is more important and more appealing than ever. A GfK research project for AirBnB revealed that the majority of 18-34 year olds in the UK, US and China consider travel a higher priority than saving for a home.
This context is fuelling the rise of the savvy, informed and critical traveller.
Their expectations are getting higher and higher - not just because of rising standards in travel, but rising standards in all walks of life. For example, the convenience provided by services like Uber and Amazon set the standards for brands in all categories, including travel.
They evaluate and judge their experiences at so many levels - from the online booking right through to geopolitics and the perceived safety of destinations. The free access to information makes it very easy for people to reject options where something - anything - from soggy lettuce to the risk of being dragged off a flight, puts them off, because they know there will always be other options available.
Their travel choices are the result of a process rather than a single decision (represented by the diagram below from BDRC Continental's Travel Trends 2017 Report), and at each stage of the journey the importance of factors such as price, place, product, logistics, familiarity, climate and politics varies.
Travel brands selling their wares to this increasingly savvy audience have to meet their needs across this whole process and beyond. They have to deliver on all aspects of their offering to keep prospects interested and customers coming back for more, from an inspiring and intuitive booking process right through to how the eventual travel experience matches or indeed exceeds expectation.
As a result travel brand marketers have an awful lot on their plate. There are so many ways they could spend their budgets to inspire and fulfil the desires of their audiences - so many choices and balances to strike.
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