Without any doubt, the travel, tourism, and hospitability industries have been majorly affected by COVID-19. In fact, 217 countries have imposed travel restrictions very early on in an attempt to limit the spread of the pandemic.
According to the International Air Transport Association, airline passenger revenue is estimated to decrease by 55% compared to last year, which adds up to a $314 billion loss.
As a direct consequence of travel restrictions, hotel occupancy has dropped considerably.
Now that travel restrictions have been relaxed and air traffic is slowly increasing, we decided to take a retrospective look at how travel agencies managed their email marketing campaigns during the pandemic.
In this blog post, we analyzed Opodo and Skyscanner’s travel email marketing campaigns during and post* Covid-19.
*We are considering the period in which travel restrictions have been lifted to be the post-Covid-19 period.
Opodo is a UK online travel agency that offers travelers cheap deals in low-cost airlines, hotels, cruises, car rentals, travel insurance, and holiday packages.
The beginning | 📉 Price Drop – Best time to book
At the beginning of the pandemic, flights’ prices crashed overnight. When governments announced travel restrictions, all flights got canceled, and demand plummeted.
This had a direct consequence on flight prices. Opodo capitalized on this unexpected change and adapted their communication.
The online agency encouraged its customers to book flights while the prices are at their lowest: turning a catastrophic scenario into a positive opportunity.
Adapting offers 1.0 | FREE rebooking included!
As travel restrictions and closed borders remained, Opodo anticipated their customers’ reaction and offered them a free rebooking option with every purchase.
It would be ridiculous to offer flight discounts seeing that prices are extremely low, to begin with. However, it’s pertinent to address customers’ new pain point.
The “Unprecedented Times” Email |Important message from Opodo
Almost every company out there has sent this type of email during the Covid-19 peak. When the lockdown was established, Opodo sent out an email to update customers and promote their built-in flexibility options, which include cancellation and rebooking options.
The email is almost a plain text email, which is okay. However, Opodo didn’t include a CTA. They send out a message leaving customers not knowing what to do next.
It would have been better to create a blog post or a landing page that details Opodo’s Covid-19 measures and offers. And then redirect readers to it from this email.
Adapting offers 2.0 | Book Now, Fly Later
Lockdown, week 7. Travel restrictions are still in place. Air traffic is almost nonresistant, and people are #stayinghome.
No point in trying to advertise low prices. Instead, Opodo shifted its communication to focus on the future.
They launched an email marketing campaign around the hashtag #wewilltravelagain.
We will travel again: a message of positivity and optimism, that encourages customers to start planning their next holidays and taking advantage of the current situation because it won’t last forever.
Here are the emails that were sent out by Opodo as part of the #wewilltravelagain campaign.
Email 1. Who will you visit first when this is all over?
Notice how they always include key messages that reassure customers and address their fears about the cancellation:
- Free rebooking included
- Free cancellation
- Book with flexibility
- Book now, fly later
Email 2. Sunny days heading your way
Email 3. We know this is a tough time
Encouraging Local Travel | Great deals close to home – explore the U.K. for less
When local travel restrictions started to get a bit loose, Opodo jumped in and sent an email to encourage UK based customers to discover their country.
Local tourism is expected to boom this summer. People are still afraid of the pandemic and want to minimize the risks of exposure.
Traveling locally is therefore the perfect compromise.
In their email, Opodo advertised cheap local flights from London to Manchester, Belfast, and other near location.
The email header “Explore the unknown close to home” is both catchy and intriguing. Opodo’s customers can still have the tourist experience, without the risks.
The Return | COVID-19 Insurance
Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, Opodo went back to advertising cheap flights and low prices. They maintained the same reassuring tone and offers in their emails (free cancelation and rebooking).
Email 1. £60 off, just for you
Email 2. Feel like a kid again this summer…
Opodo has also updated its offer to include customized Covid-19 insurance, which serves as an extra guarantee for safe travel.
Email 3. ✈️ #TravelTuesday Deals! Save big on this week’s special destinations
Skyscanner is a travel search engine and Edingruh-based travel agency. It is owned by an online traveling agency in China.
The travel website is translated to over 30 languages and is used by 100 million people every month.
The Beginning | January blues? It’s time for your next trip…
When Covid-19 started, Skyscanner, like many other brands, didn’t directly acknowledge it. Their travel email campaigns were still focused on low prices and booking flights for the future.
Low Prices | The best value trips this week
The next batch of travel emails sent out by Skyscanner had also the same goal: promoting cheap flights, at the lowest price ever.
Here is a compilation of these emails.
The “Unprecedented Times” Email | A message from Skyscanner
Remember the heartfelt message that all brands sent out at the peak of the coronavirus? Skyscanner wasn’t the exception.
Their email started with a huge “We’re here for you” headline, accompanied by a beautiful illustration that warms the soul.
The email body contains reassuring messages and an update for customers. The email also contains a CTA that redirects readers towards the Covid-19 new measures and offers.
Adapting communication | Stay at home, we’ll bring the world to you
Once the lockdown began, Skyscanner shifter their communication completely. They no longer sent any promotional emails about cheap flights. They instead sent out blog newsletters featuring travel-related news and articles.
Here a few of those emails.
Email 1. Stay at home – we’ll bring the world to you
Email 2. The great outdoors, indoors
Email 3. Something for your little travelers
Other emails include:
- Explore Sydney this weekend 🇦🇺
- How many of these Wonders of the World have you visited?
- Broaden your mind with these travel podcasts 🎧💭
- You won’t believe these places exist
- There’s another Venice, and it isn’t in Italy
- Step into the future of travel
Skyscanner also sent out a Pride Month email campaign.
Encouraging Local Travel | 10 magical staycation destinations 🌳
Very similar to Opodo and other travel agencies, Skyscanner encouraged its customers to travel locally. This is the first email after the lockdown where they actually promote their offers.
The Return | Post-lockdown destinations to add to your list
When the lockdown was lifted, Skyscanner sent out this beautiful email template preparing customers to return to normality.
More tips and best practices
Look Towards The Future
We’re all living through a time of extreme stress and uncertainty. If your customers can’t or don’t want to book your services right now, focus on building trust and encouraging them to get excited about their future travel plans.
Booking.com does a great job of this on their website homepage as well as in their recent email marketing campaigns.
As pictured above, they’re offering customers discounts on hotel bookings for the rest of 2020, targeting those who are beginning to travel again as well as the inevitable holiday season market. Booking.com is coupling their travel offer with eye-catching imagery and headlines to get people inspired for their future vacations, whenever they may come along.
If you work in the hotel industry, you can target canceled or postponed bookings by offering flexible rebooking options. Encourage customers to rebook by offering them perks and you might be surprised by the business you’re able to recuperate. This can be easily managed by tracking customer information through email or using specialized tools like cookie trackers and management softwares.
Keep Your Focus Local
Sadly for travelers and travel-focused businesses, 2020 has seen a lot of travel cancellations and postponements.
Travel is slowly starting to become possible again, but many people currently feel more comfortable staying close to home and traveling locally.
This might not seem as exciting as long-haul travel to exotic destinations (and certainly isn’t as flashy from a marketing perspective), but it still provides people with a great opportunity to explore their own backyards and boost their regional economy.
Many new getaways are also popping up as people are heading to vacation rental website builders to promote local properties. This provides a great opportunity for targeted email marketing. Respond to demand and give customers great ideas of amazing travel experiences they can have in their own countries (as well as deals to back up those ideas).
For example, popular travel search engine Skyscanner has sent customers location-based emails with links to blogs suggesting fun travel ideas for the summer.
Stay In Touch & Be Transparent
Communication is now more important than ever. COVID-19 has caused anxiety for many and customers don’t like feeling like they’re being kept in the dark.
Luckily, email marketing is one of the best ways to keep in touch with customers, help solve their problems and keep them engaged with your services.
When putting together emails and other communications, ask yourself: “How will this message benefit my customers?” Make sure you’re sending out information that’s genuinely helpful to them.
Circumstances are still changing quickly across different regions, countries, and continents, so use email marketing to provide customers with up-to-date information about new policies and regulations as they come up. Always make customers feel heard and provide them with a clear call-to-action.
Airbnb has done a great job with this as of late. They’ve been sending out marketing communications with a link to a dedicated “COVID-19 Resources” page on their website for both hosts and travelers.
Travel email marketing has been tested during the pandemic. But as we witnessed from brands like Opodo and Skyscanner, with the right messages and a pro-active approach, any crisis can be managed.
You can create similar campaigns for your customers. All you need to a little empathy, a clear customer understanding (comprehension of their needs and pain points), and a beautiful responsive email template.