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The Travel Rebound: Are Brands Ready to Capitalize on the Current CX Climate?

2022 is the year consumers release their pent-up energy and rediscover the joys of traveling after more than two years of pandemic-related restrictions. Airline CEOs across the board are seeing soaring air travel demand. Hotel bookings in two of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, France and Spain, are at 109% and 117% of pre-pandemic levels. And in its latest quarterly earnings report, Target noted that luggage sales were up a whopping 50%, indicating that vacationers are ready to hit the land, air, and seas again. 

But with relaxed travel restrictions and the influx of stir-crazy travelers returning, do businesses have the resource infrastructure in place to capitalize on the current customer experience (CX) climate? 

Let’s explore how, despite their enthusiasm, holidaymakers are expressing an overall negative sentiment toward travel, and how brands can proactively counter this trend by prioritizing investment in their CX strategy. 

Pessimism: A fruitful opportunity  

Travelers are itching to book some time away from home, and yet, their fervor is somewhat blunted by pervasive negative sentiment. Perhaps it has something to do with the soaring price of gas (we’re now at ~$5 per gallon across the United States), worldwide airline cancellations, and sticker shock hotel and Airbnb costs. 

Or maybe it has to do with reports of boorish behavior of fellow travelers, which can undoubtedly put a damper on vacation vibes, or, in some cases, prevent travelers from arriving at their destination altogether, as passengers of American Airlines’ Flight 38 experienced firsthand. 

Combined with the predicted chaos for this year’s summer travel season, experts are describing this situation as “the perfect storm. Suddenly we all want to travel, but airlines and airports had laid off staff during the pandemic, and are struggling to recruit replacements. Put simply: They can't handle us.”

An analysis by McKinsey also found that hotel customer sentiment has become intensely more negative as we exit the pandemic, suggesting that the consumer is sending mixed signals: While they’re excited to travel, there’s also a troubling undercurrent beneath the surface of the enthusiasm; one of, perhaps, guarded expectations where consumers are bracing for dissatisfaction

But through the cracks, a silver lining revealed itself as an opportunity for travel brands to get ahead of the mayhem, before trouble in paradise strikes, to exceed customer expectations and bring back the magic of travel. 

All roads lead to language

From car rental shortages, to understaffed crew, to preflight positive COVID tests, things are bound to go wrong during any trip — that’s just life. But brands can help control the negative narrative via the content they deliver to guests, pre-booking, through to the customer service tactics they implement during and after travel.

It can be challenging, however, when multiple languages are involved. And perhaps no industry has to consistently surmount language barriers more than the travel and hospitality industry, seeing as their customers frequently hail from countries all over the globe. With that in mind, brands would be remiss not to prioritize native-language support to propel their CX strategy.

Enhance the usefulness of your marketing content 

Let’s take a page out of EasyJet’s playbook, in which they leveraged social media to promote England loosening its travel policies, coupled with their Big Orange sale to drive European adventures. Jet2, Thomas Cook, and Ryanair also displayed similar tactics in their social media campaigns, highlighting the changes in COVID-19 restrictions, and convincing guests to take advantage of those destinations, precisely with their brand. 

And on top of tailoring content to resonate in a post-pandemic travel era, it’s important for brands to properly account for their audiences’ local market or language. For example, if you’ve ever enjoyed in-flight entertainment and felt delighted at the option to switch to different languages, you can thank Anuvu, the leading provider of in-flight entertainment content for more than half of the world’s largest airlines, for their investment in a multilingual strategy that was implemented across 67 airlines.

Optimize your CS strategy

Imagine being a Chinese speaker trying to recover lost luggage from an Italian airline, and reaching out to a customer service agent in a call center across the world in India. (Whew!) A bad start to a vacation just took a nosedive. Not all globetrotters speak lingua franca (English), so it’s imperative that brands catering to travelers must provide native-language customer support

But with dozens of widely spoken languages, does this mean your business has to staff a roster of human translators to support the array of inbound inquiries? Short answer: No, thanks to the power of multilingual AI for CRM integrations. 

Global travel app, Hopper, was able to successfully leverage AI to launch native language customer service in international markets. With seamless integration into their CRM system, their English-speaking agents now have the ability to serve customers in all the key markets they support, while maintaining CSAT scores at record levels.

Destination: AI 

With travel back in town, brands are taking the wheel when it comes to providing their travelers custom experiences in a post-pandemic world, and are now, more than ever, relying on language operations platforms like Unbabel for a scalable CX solution. With 64% of global customers acknowledging they would pay higher prices for products or services from brands that spoke their language, we see loyalty truly lies in language. 

From delivering high-quality global support that is integrated into your existing CRM workflows, to creating meaningful content for every target market, Unbabel helps travel brands build better connections with their customers at every stage of their journey.

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About the Author

Diana Afonso is Head of Customer Happiness at Unbabel. With over eight years of experience in the customer support field, she has a strong history of success in empowering and engaging customer support teams, driving quality, and acting as the voice of the customer to deliver a rewarding customer experience.

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