Consumer Behavior Shifts and the Future of Travel — PMG’s Price Glomski on the Biggest Questions Surrounding Travel Recovery
Abby Long is the Senior Managing Editor at PMG.
PMG’s “Big Questions” series features commentary from industry leaders on some of the biggest questions facing brands in the digital economy. In this month’s Big Questions, we (virtually) sat down with Price Glomski, PMG’s executive vice president, to discuss what he sees as the biggest challenges and opportunities for travel marketers.
There are quite a few we could dive into at length, but let’s start with the most pressing, which is the challenge hoteliers are facing in finding and maintaining talent. Recode reported that over 1.7 million jobs were currently open in the leisure and hospitality industry, equating to ten percent of the total number of jobs in the sector. Wage gaps in leisure and hospitality will continue to be a material concern despite positive news coming out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics concerning economic recovery and unemployment rates.
Labor shortages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies leisure and hospitality in the lowest wage-earning tier, which is likely why hoteliers and travel companies are finding it difficult to fill open roles. Childcare challenges, competitive pay outside the industry, and other employment factors will continue to deter the state of recovery for the travel industry throughout the next year.
Vaccination. Next, I think disparate vaccination requirements seen across popular domestic destinations are adding complexity to the overall recovery of the travel and hospitality industries. Vaccination requirements at the city, state, or federal level could further limit cross-border, or even interstate travel, in the months to come as mandates and the severity of the pandemic fluctuate. This may be market-specific, as domestically, for example, New York City is more stringent on vaccination requirements than, say, Atlanta but there’s no doubt that local public health and safety precautions will continue to impact travelers in some form or fashion. Global vaccine passports have emerged as a potential one-size-fits-all solution to standardize cross-border travel, although implementation may limit travel for the unvaccinated to a more local presence.
Range of Travel. In many ways, these trends translate to the rising popularity of near-stay or lodging within 200 miles of home, thus adjusting typical vacation routes and in-market experiences. For some hoteliers, this could simply be a shift in demand versus a loss due to new or nearby customers booking closer to their homes rather than flying to another destination. With upwards of 60 percent of the U.S. population vaccinated, I feel confident that long-range travel will come roaring back in the months to come.
Traveler expectations. The pandemic not only drove massive traveler behavior shifts but also changed travelers’ expectations for future experiences. These shifts equate to operational costs including demands like new cleaning methods, touchless locks, digital check-in options, and room amenity updates. Eventually, these upgrades will require less capital investment over time, but the near-term investment is high and directly impacts the bottom line and a travel operator or hotelier’s ability to spend those dollars elsewhere.
I continue to encourage executive stakeholders, including the CMOs I speak to, to double down on their investments in audience research and consumer insights. Consumers have rewired themselves, and travel expectations have dramatically shifted since the pandemic began. Any consumer research conducted in 2019 is partially relevant; however, significant changes have resulted from the past 20 months, particularly around customer experience expectations that must be considered before establishing any go-to-market plan for 2022.
In lockstep, business leaders should be pushing for a more in-depth annual customer audit. The next 36 months will make for an opportune time for a brand to reposition itself in the market or redefine its value proposition for both business and leisure travelers. Don’t be surprised when we see several brands reinvent themselves for the future of travel in the months to come, and for sustainable, digitally-native, safety-first, customer-obsessed travel experiences to become the norm.
As the digital transformation continues to unfold, it will be important for business leaders to de-risk their long-term customer acquisition and retention strategies by properly investing in customer data platforms and best-in-class measurement solutions. This doesn’t mean six- to seven-figure initial investments, but rather advocating for flexibility within travel businesses to test theories and ensure CRM best practices are in place to highlight current customers’ behavior and demands. Reward programs are essential to improving brand loyalty, and investments in those areas — both loyalty management and consumer insights resources‚ will pay dividends over the next few years when done right.
This has been an easy and consistent answer over the years. Patagonia. The brand’s core values have always resonated with me, albeit, many times they punch a hole in how “Price Glomski” the consumer continues to fail the earth. I’m attracted to that subtle irreverence and the lifestyle behind the brand. Patagonia started with gear, and the Pacific Iron Works folks partnered with Yvon in the 70s, and now with a much broader purview on the environment and even industries like winemaking to ensure sustainability is at its core.
Complacency is boring and Patagonia’s values prove that out. The company’s value makeup is:
Build the best product
Cause no unnecessary harm
Use business to protect nature
Not bound by convention
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Patagonia unites the things that I’m most passionate about, including the outdoors, sharing nature with family and friends, top quality gear to assist the experience, unique style, and design, and the heart to make change and never give up. Recently, Birgit Cameron, co-founder with Chouinard of Patagonia Provisions, described their business model as “looking at business through a solutions-based lens.” All companies should have a bit of Patagonia’s ‘culture’ at their core. The desire to always be solutions-oriented, while a bit hard-headed, is powerful ‘fuel’ for future generations and brands that understand the importance of the many things we take for granted.