Amid burgeoning discussions about reforms in the tourism and hospitality industry, there is a need for brands to not only recover but reimagine the ‘new normal.’
The tourism and hospitality sector across borders were left the most upended by the Covid-19 pandemic. While these industries are usually the most vulnerable to environmental, socio-cultural, and economic crises, the nature of this pandemic and its impact demonstrates that the consequences are long-term and require long-term structural and transformational changes.
Communicate discusses the many possible avenues that brands in this sector can explore with Mei Mei, Global Brand and Product Transformation Director at Premium Group.
Hospitality marketing in the post-pandemic era: What are consumers expecting from brands in the industry now vs. pre-pandemic? What are the consumer emotions brands need to focus on targeting at this time?
In Q3 2022, Dubai International (DXB) recorded 18.5 million passengers, the first time that quarterly traffic has reached pre-pandemic levels since 2020.
Safety and hygiene continue to remain a priority among travelers today however, they are also looking to optimize their overall travel experience. Travelers are willing to pay more for quality experiences, and they want more control over their travel journey, especially at the airport (due to increased levels of anxiety owing to the high number of passengers and longer queues)
Although there is pent-up demand for travel, we’re still seeing consumers feeling a little anxious when traveling due to several reasons: airports constantly adapting to the changing requirements of certain countries, and long queues at the check-in counters, also due to staff shortages). We need to help travelers feel at ease, and we can do that by providing services that help minimize the stress of traveling and deploying the use of technology into our services.
What do brands need to differentiate themselves from the usual branding (emphasis on cleanliness and safe stay) in the hospitality industry?
Travelers are already expecting a high standard of safety and hygiene measures in place (according to the customer experience survey conducted by the Airports Council International on Airport Service Quality – ACI ASQ 2022)
Brands need to deliver a unique point-of-purchase experience. At Plaza Premium Group (PPG), we understand that more travelers are looking to utilize their time at the airport wisely and don’t mind spending on comfort. Our airport hospitality services (lounges, meet & assist, and in-airport hotels) provide value and convenience for those seeking to make effective use of their waiting/layover time at the airport. We also take a holistic approach to deliver high-quality airport hospitality services and facilities throughout the guests’ journey across airports worldwide. We always strive to enhance our offerings across an end-to-end travel journey.
Are there any techniques marketers in this field can adopt to grasp brand loyalty?
We’re reaching out to our potential customers through multiple communication channels (i.e.: e-direct mailers, social media platforms such as LinkedIn, etc.). We’re also targeting young travelers, hence we’re quite active on Instagram through KOL collaborations. We have launched our loyalty program, Smart Traveler, for travelers to enjoy rewards, exclusive offers, and benefits from PPG and its participating partners
Members will be rewarded with points when selecting our brand of airport hospitality services as well as earn through bookings from our participating partners. Members can redeem their points via the Smart Traveler marketplace where we’ve curated a selection of over 1000 travel and lifestyle products. Different products will be available at different airports, and this encourages members to travel to new places to unlock new benefits.
Are there any lessons that the hospitality industry needs to learn after the major fall it took during COVID?
The industry must be agile and be able to adapt to any given situation which is why we’ve had to look out for moments when no one wanted to take a new business risk. We recognized that there are times when we can step forward when others are stepping back, and we did exactly that when we were hit by the crisis. We managed to expand our lounge operations throughout the pandemic, and we now have more than 250 lounges, compared to 160 lounges, pre-pandemic.
While most markets are still recovering from the COVID crisis, the Middle East occupancy rate has jumped by 27%, what do you think the region's done differently compared to these markets?
The leadership in the Middle East and governments have handled the pandemic seamlessly, getting the countries back on their feet in the shortest possible time, especially the UAE. The travel industry was revived quickly, borne out by the massive success of Expo 2020 Dubai which recorded more than 24 million visits in six months. The ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar is also bringing in travelers from around the globe to the region.
High inoculation rates and the lifting of mask restrictions have made travel to the Middle East more attractive and easier, leading to high occupancy rates.