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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Tim Charlton, Singapore
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Ante Pamukovic

Establishing a sense of normalcy in the travel and hospitality industries

BY ANTE PAMUKOVIC

The travel and hospitality industries were some of the hardest hit industries during the 2020 pandemic, but not all is lost. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently announced that Singapore will enter Phase Three of its reopening from 28 December onwards. Social gatherings will allow groups of up to 8 people, and there will be increased capacity limits for places like shopping malls and attractions. This will make it easier to hold family get-togethers during the festive season.

However, the road ahead is not an easy one. Many businesses will still need to re-engage loyal customers, as well as find new ones. Uncertain times call for empathy, relevance, and connection in all communications. Travel and hospitality brands that communicate using the right frequency and channels enjoy higher consumer goodwill and foster customer loyalty in the long run. Here are some best practices to help brands restart, rebuild, and make a successful return to the new normal.

Restart: Staying Top of Mind

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced that it has set aside $320m in credits to encourage Singaporeans to “rediscover” the little red dot and support local tourism brands. On the first day the scheme launched, STB reported that appointed booking platforms – such as Changi Recommends, Trip.com and Klook amongst others, received approximately $1.86m in vouchers and payments.

Whilst the uptake is encouraging for many brands in the travel and hospitality industries, it can quickly turn into a challenge with many players competing within the same space. To stay ahead and top of mind, brands should consider curating a personalised list based on customers’ previously viewed items, wish lists as well as search and booking history.

With the help of digital tools available today, travel brands can still transport people virtually whilst grounded, and restaurants can still give a taste of deliciousness to customers who prefer staying at home. Singapore Airlines, for example, announced new experiences curated to engage customers on the ground, including a three-hour lunch in the economy class cabin of its Airbus A-380. The recommended approach at this stage is to inspire customers by feeding them with always-on content and initiatives. This will make them want to take action when they feel a bit safer, or in this case, once we are allowed to travel overseas.

Rebuild: Proactive vs. Reactive

The push for domestic tourism will favour brands that have kept in touch with their customer base during the Circuit Breaker and beyond. Brands should use this opportunity to get to know existing customers and prospects to understand their revised preferences and keep them engaged with personalised content. For instance, customers may have developed a new inclination for food delivery, even when some restrictions have been lifted. Where possible, we advocate leveraging data to tailor offerings to this group of individuals. With the festive season approaching, expect families to be on the lookout for packages and delivery bundles.

In addition, a centralised customer engagement hub is key. It is capable of generating large data sets across multiple channels and keeping customers updated and inspired. Relevant data includes customer research, planning, price comparisons, actual bookings and reservations, itineraries, fare charts, enquiries, and customer feedback, amongst others. Unifying that data to create customer profiles can help brands deliver more targeted services, better pricing strategies, and tailored travel and dining experiences. Hotels, airlines, and restaurants with extensive loyalty programs will benefit from the data they have captured over the years and use them as opportunities to help disgruntled customers, whilst keeping in touch on a proactive, not reactive basis.

A customer engagement hub also makes it possible for brands to segment loyal customers and encourage them to return by sending them personalised messages with critical information. For instance, information on when hotels or restaurants will be open and why they can be confident that they are safe to visit. Loyalty-driven price promotions and just-in-time offers featuring popular items or personalised favourites can help woo back customers who moved to competitors or started cooking at home. Restaurants can take their customer engagement a level up by notifying customers about their new timings or how they’re making dining a safe experience, along with offering promotions to customers who opted for takeouts during the lockdown period.

Return: The Road to Recovery

As Singapore gradually eases restrictions in preparation for year-end festivities, businesses are tapping on a myriad of digital tools that help them safely and successfully return to normalcy.

From menus to contact tracing, Quick Response (QR) codes have become a key tool for the travel and hospitality sectors. SafeEntry QR codes, for instance, helps businesses reduce manual efforts needed to log entry and exit of each and every visitor for a smoother track and trace journey. QR code stickers on tables can also enable access to restaurant menus, allow customers to order in advance, avoid the queue, and minimise contact where possible. QR codes are also a great way to collect data on popular timings, so brands can better prepare for when restrictions are further lifted during Phase Three.

Whether a brand is restarting or rebuilding – to create an impact in a timely and cost-effective manner across digital platforms and regain customer trust – it is vital to invest in an omnichannel customer engagement hub. It does not have to be a challenge for brands to establish a sense of normalcy. As 2021 approaches, this could be an exciting time for brands in the travel and hospitality sectors who wish to not just survive, but thrive as well, in the new normal. 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Ante Pamukovic

Ante Pamukovic

Ante is Infobip's Sales Director APAC and the driving force behind the company's strategic growth and sales operations in the APAC region. He leads a dynamic team of over 170 colleagues across 14 APAC offices to reach the full potential and efficiency of all existing and new partners. Ante has over 8 years of experience building and leading the sales team with significant operating scale and complexity.

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