Travel Recovery Promises More Surprises Ahead

In a preview of their general session at HSMAI’s upcoming Marketing Strategy Conference, MMGY Global’s Clayton Reid and Katie Briscoe explain why they’re so optimistic about the outlook for hospitality and travel.

By Christopher Durso, Vice President of Content Development, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

Throughout the pandemic, MMGY Global has been optimistic about the outlook for recovery. From the first HSMAI Customer Insight that MMGY shared in May 2020, the marketing communications and technology company has carefully but consistently made the case that hospitality and travel would return — sooner and better than many other analysts thought.

“Traditional economists hedged conservative, and I think some of the travel researchers relied too heavily on traveler sentiment of the moment,” said MMGY CEO Clayton Reid. “Where there are flaws in both of those was, one, economists were using models of past recessions, most notably ’09, where they looked at analysis that predicted a recovery on metrics that they’ve seen in the past. We never believed that that was the case, given the nature of the recession. It was not necessarily an economic recession. It was a recession of confidence and opportunity.

“Two, I think our competitors in travel research relied too heavily on surveys where travelers at that very moment were very negative on travel and couldn’t see that once things opened up, they would really want to get back at it,” Reid said. “So, we weren’t necessarily following the data exactly. We were applying our own lens of how we thought behaviors would play out.”

Reid and MMGY President Katie Briscoe will apply that same lens to a general session presentation at HMSAI’s Marketing Strategy Conference in Dallas on Sept. 28, 2021. Focused on the topic “Travel Recovery Promises More Surprises Ahead,” Reid and Briscoe will explain why they’re so optimistic about both leisure and business travel over the next 12 to 18 months, discuss some of the surprises waiting down the road, and explore what needs to change about how hotel companies talk to travelers. In a recent interview with HSMAI, they offered a preview of their session.

Can you share one of the reasons why you feel so optimistic about the outlook for hospitality and travel?

Clayton Reid: Well, this shouldn’t be a surprise to our industry, but it’s still the second-highest discretionary spend item for anybody who makes over $50,000 of household income a year. Second, most destinations and economies have put a premium on using travel as a recovery tool for jobs and economic recovery, so there’s a lot of money being put into encouraging travel, both domestically and internationally. And the industry is bringing back supply as quickly as they can to provide the labor to support it, so there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for people to travel again, whereas they maybe didn’t believe that six months ago.

Katie Briscoe: On the softer side, we have some data points and are excited to share those around the fact that consumers’ mindsets have changed. That’s part of the headwind for labor recovery — people have reevaluated how they’re spending their time in their lives and the idea of travel and togetherness is a sought-after experience. And we have to be there to meet that as an industry.

What is one of the surprises ahead that people should be thinking about?

CR: This notion that cruises are suddenly out of favor, that people would never get on a cruise ship again because the flu virus and/or COVID exists there more than anywhere else — it’s just not supported in the data. It’s not supported in intent data; it’s not supported in r-booking pace. There are things like that — patterns in travel that are not consistent with the narrative today — and we’ll highlight some of those things.

KB: That’s even an industry that’s mandating vaccination to board. The thought is that’s going to be a headwind for people returning to a type of travel, but the thing that we’re seeing broadly among consumers is that mandating is one thing, but taking something away from them that they enjoy, that coveted life experience — they’re willing to go that extra mile and potentially get vaccinated if that’s a requirement of the cruise ship.

How should hospitality marketing professionals be thinking about what they do within the context of recovery?

CR: There are other things we need to be thinking about around brand purpose — specifically, a sense of purpose, not only coming out of COVID but coming out of the Black Lives Matter movement, coming out of what we think is a social awakening. Brands have to put more emphasis on what their values are and live those values, especially in the travel industry. That’s incredibly important now on a go-forward basis from a marketing standpoint.

KB: We’ve been through a traumatic experience over the last 18 months. We’ve seen colleagues leave the industry, some not to return. There’s been a fear factor in marketing product, and now with labor shortage issues that fear factor has extended, but we see that as an opportunity for better brand alignment with consumers that drives loyalty for future decision making. What we’re excited about is that there is extraordinary opportunity out of this life experience we’ve all shared to do work in a better way, to connect with travelers in a more meaningful way that then will pay dividends in our business recovery and the growth of our businesses in the future.

Learn more about the 2021 Marketing Strategy Conference: An HSMAI Commercial Strategy Event, being held in Dallas on Sept. 28, 2021.

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles