When I joined Nezasa in September 2022, my first action was to go and speak to as many of our customers as possible. I wanted to hear from them directly about their challenges bouncing back from the pandemic, their primary business goals for the year, and how Nezasa can better support them. So with a combination of many short-haul flights and video calls, I embarked on a listening tour of 30 customers in 60 days.
Based on these conversations, I’ve landed on the most important challenges facing our industry today which I’ll share in a series of blog posts – here’s part 2.
In my previous blog post, we explored how travel brands, and our customers in particular, prepared and quickly adapted to the post-pandemic recovery.
In this second part of our multi-part series, I’ll share our customer’s perspectives on some of the biggest challenges facing our industry: the skills gap left by the pandemic turmoil and the need to continuously expand their addressable customer base by targeting new demographics of travellers.
Here’s what I took away from talking directly to dozens of Nezasa customers and witnessing firsthand how they tackle these significant challenges.
Travel is back, but talent in the sector is returning at a much slower pace – or not at all.
Due to the pandemic, institutional knowledge built up over the years suddenly disappeared as travel came to a halt and veteran tour operators left their jobs and pivoted their careers outside of travel.
Fast forward three years, and this has resulted in a very tight squeeze on tour operators and DMCs who are still suffering from a collective brain drain.
While travellers are eager to get back out into the world, tour operators are unable to answer complex questions about destinations and operate legacy technology systems that require extensive training.
This has had an array of negative effects on the industry as a whole, customers, and employees themselves. However, despite these challenges, the new status quo represents a major opportunity for travel brands.
Way to move forward
Are you a travel business looking to minimise the negative impacts created by the skills gap? Well, our customers may just have cracked the code for you.
Moving forward, technology is going to be crucial to the future of the travel industry. And, now is the perfect time to introduce these innovative technologies and transition to more automated processes.
As new talent arrives in the sector, travel agencies have the opportunity to train employees on new systems without the weight of habits formed in the 90s and 2000s.
In fact, one of our customers holds a two-week bootcamp for every new travel agent they hire, and training sessions on Nezasa’s TripOptimizer solution are a big part of the curriculum.
While longer-tenured travel agents may resist change, newly hired talent can quickly become super users, increasing overall product adoption, efficiency and end-user satisfaction.
From what I witnessed, the winners here will be travel companies who can rapidly and effectively recruit and onboard talent, using newly learned expertise to convert more bookings and sell more tours.
It’s unlikely that there will be a better opportunity to retrain and retool within the next few decades.
Demographics and End Customers
It’s no secret that most travel agencies serve an older customer demographic. In many instances, these customers have been using the same high street travel agencies for years and continue to do so today.
These types of relationships are precious – and such a rarity in an industry so dominated by price over loyalty.
In fact, one of our customers, a bus tour operator, has a returning customer rate of 70% with an average age of travel at 72 – incredible brand loyalty!
But, how do travel agencies and tour operators build new lifelong relationships with the next generation of customers in an era of OTA’s and do-it-yourself trip building?
And for travel agencies with an aging customer base, how can they manage the transition from that demographic’s buying patterns and itinerary preferences to those of the online-first Gen-X and millennial traveller?
These challenges are particularly acute for several of our customers.
Most of their clients do end up booking trips online, but their main acquisition channel is still print media. These customers are used to seeing advertisements for tours in print and then typing in a website URL to book the same trip they saw.
For some, being presented with the ability to personalise an entire itinerary is something they’ve never experienced before and can be overwhelming. When some of our customers launch fully personalised tours, they quickly find that their customers need to be guided through the process and informed of the benefits of it.
One of the major advantages of TripBuilder is that it gives travel agencies the option to personalise our templates to whatever extent the end consumer desires, allowing them to satisfy the specific needs of each and every customer.
For example, for those who are used to online shopping and desire a more customised experience, higher grades of personalisation and the “create from scratch” option help travel agencies compete against OTAs and BIY (book-it-yourself).
The key here is to know your customer, balancing the needs of all users by marketing ease and traveller experience to some and personalisation and flexibility to others.
- Gracefully manage the transition from print to digital
- Take opportunities to introduce and implement new technologies
- Find the right balance of templatisation and personalisation for your customers
- Invest in educating the customer about how to personalise/the benefits of customisation
- Start automating upsell and do some AB testing
- Track end customer TX (traveller experience)
- Digital marketing to target new demographics
Stay tuned for the next chapters
The next edition of our series “30 Customers in 60 Days” will be back soon. In the meantime, explore Nezasa’s Blog to get the latest on the travel tech industry.
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