The travel industry's secret weapon: Vacation glow


Executives in the travel industry are shelling out top dollar to enhance the interaction with their guests but, according to branding experts, it's the "before" and "after" glow which truly makes a difference in a guest's overall experience at a hotel or resort.

Haveseen | Getty Images

"An emotionally connected customer is worth nearly twice as much as a customer who's simply satisfied," said Rick Wise, CEO of creative consultancy firm Lippincott, at this year's Skift Global Forum.

According to Wise, anticipation of travel is typically better than the travel experience itself. He described a scenario where a guest daydreams of lying on a secluded beach versus actually being on the beach, sunburned and uncomfortably sandy.

The same is true when a customer looks back on a trip. At Skift, the creative business forum in the global travel industry, Wise said customers rarely remember their travel experiences as they occur, which is why it is so important for the trip's final memory to be a good one.

Uber more popular than taxis for biz travelers

To capitalize on this perception, luxury travel company Black Tomato provides its customers with a credit for laundry and takeout service upon returning from a vacation to ease weary travelers back into the everyday grind.

The combination of looking forward to and back on an experience is what Wise calls a "happiness halo," that is often overlooked by industry executives. Consider this: 95 percent of companies believe the experience they deliver is important, and 80 percent of those companies believe they can deliver on that experience, according to research firm Forrester. This is a stark contrast to the 8 percent of customers who agree with them on these two points.

Jeremy Jauncey, founder and CEO of the world's largest travel influencer on Instagram, Beautiful Destinations, said Instagram is a great, though underutilized, tool in the travel industry to try to entice travelers with photos of what could potentially be their next vacation.

Shakira to Leonardo: 7 celebrity-owned islands

"People are turning to Instagram in droves to find out where to go," said Jauncey. "But the travel industry has been the second slowest industry after financial services to adopt Instagram."

Jauncey said the average Instagram user spends about 21 minutes per day on the app, so it is confusing why the travel industry is hesitant to use Instagram as a tool to increase customer engagement. He also stressed that it is imperative for every brand to be active on the platform. And, once they are on Instagram, travel companies need to post unique, authentic content rather than photos that are clearly advertisements.

"If you are in this industry and you are not using Instagram to spread your message, you are going to be behind the curve," said Sasha Hoffman, a Skift attendee and CEO of the travel start-up Fuzzy Compass, that connects travelers to travel influencers behind popular Instagram accounts, blogs and websites. "There is a lot of power in visual storytelling and travel is, of course, highly visual," she said.

When Fuzzy Compass first launched, Hoffman promoted her business by creating a contest in which users had to pinpoint the exact location of 15 photos of destinations all over the world. If users guessed the origin country depicted in the photos, they would receive a credit with Fuzzy Compass.

"Some people started going on trips to these destinations after seeing our photos, which was great because customers will remember if your pictures are the inspiration for why they take a vacation," said Hoffman. "Travelers will come back to you to book future trips for that very reason."