Image by Ed Kohler
There was a lot of discussion about how to survive the current economic downturn at the Social Media for Travel conference in San Francisco this week.
Keynote speaker Duncan Wardle of Disney showed the attendees how they are using social media – from recruiting employees and engaging customers to harnessing the power of their brand ambassadors. His closing statement was that brands that do not use social meida and engage with current and potential customers will soon be nostalgia.
In bad times businesses tend to focus on their ‘best’ customer and for many in the travel industry that is the business traveler. However, all is not so rosy in this segment either.
David Grossman writing for USAToday.com calls attention to 10 trends affecting business travel.
- Airline tickets are on sale. U.S. airlines have initiated 25 fare sales since the beginning of the year and prices are back to pre-2007 levels in some markets.
- Flights are being cut. Most airlines have eliminated 10% to 20% of domestic flights. The Air Transport Association projects the seven largest U.S. airlines will cut another 3% to 10% this year.
- Extra fees – what we can’t charge you for upfront we’ll catch you for on the back end. United Airlines expects to earn $1.2 billion in ancillary fees in 2009. Some hotels are cutting perks too.
- Travel budgets are under scrutiny. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives found over 70% of corporations trimming their travel budgets by 10% to 20% this year.
- Focus on business travelers – many airlines and hotels are offering perks to attract more business travelers.
- International bargains are available. A combination of factors have led to deeply dicounted international fares.
- Empty hotel rooms and unrented cars. Forty percent of hotel stays are tied to flights, according to a recent report produced by Promedia Travel. Less flights mean more empty rooms.
- Meetings and conferences are being cut. Meeting Planners International and American Express indicated 7% of 2009 meetings had already been canceled, and meeting attendance is expected to be down by 5%.
- Downsizing to regional jets. Some airlines have replaced larger planes with the small regional jets on short flights – such as Washington to New York.
- Internet bargains are available. There are bargains are available on sites like Hotwire and Priceline. While brands are loathe to disocunt in good times, the current climate has led to an increase in Internet offers.
How can you benefit from these trends?
- Be proactive and innovative. Do everything possible to win customer loyalty
- Encourage business travelers to come back. Offer facilities that they value – like a comfortable work space, free Internet connection, good information about the surrounding area
- Get very visible online. More people are searching online for travel deals than ever before.
- Create excellent content that shows your venue and your perks – in text, images and video
- Optimize all your content for your keywords so it will show up in search
- Syndicate the content with news feeds (RSS) so it can be seen in many more places than just your website
- People are also using social media sites to talk to each other and find out about deals and opportunities Use social media tools to find business travelers. You can check sites like Upcoming and LInkedIn events. Also monitor blogs and Twitter for info on meetings coming up in your city
There are still people traveling. You have to be found where and when they do their research. Don’t restrict your online marketing efforts to search only – there’s a potenial goldmine in the social media sites.