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Perspectives

What people desire from travel brands is radically changing and it’s got nothing to do with price

Joseph Maduma, Strategist

For the last few years, there has been an intense price war in the travel industries. From low-cost airlines to online travel retailers the battle for getting people, and their wallets, from A to B has never been stronger.

For the most part, people have been revelling in this ‘bonanza style culture’. Cheaper flights, cheaper holidays and cheaper last-minute deals, what’s not to like?

Well as it turns out, for brands, there’s quite a bit to be concerned about. The incestuous ‘battle of the bargain’ is quickly getting to the point where the consumer doesn’t recognise price as a differentiator. When everyone is racing to offer discounts, the message that “we’re cheaper than the rest” no longer has such resonance.

This is further exacerbated by the rise of online goliaths such as Google, who can sell flights directly through their search engine, cutting out the price comparison brands completely.

Everyone is competing for people’s wallets, but crucially, not for their hearts and minds.

It’s a dangerous game – with travel being reduced to the lowest bidder, brands values, meaning and relevance to people’s lives is left sorely lacking.

How the culture of travel is changing

Today’s consumer is driven by the desire to be part of a community. However, their traditional ideas of them – how they are formed and by whom – are rapidly changing. Multiculturalism is the norm and individuals are looking to recognise and fulfil their changing ambitions based on new value systems and a globally influenced set of desires.

All societies, past and present, generally share a common set of needs but in a global world, those needs are becoming increasingly complex: they co-exist and need to be addressed both holistically and systematically. As geographical limitations lose relevance, and our ability to experience the world shifts to become infinitely more accessible, we will want to seek and retain a personal sense of community by forming meaningful connections and having more input into and leaving our mark on, the spaces we choose to inhabit.

“It takes longer for society to absorb different changes. It is just in that last 2-3 years that a location-independent lifestyle became widely accepted. At the same time, we still have an infrastructure of long-term leases and utility bills. We have this huge gap and potential opportunity because when you change the structure, you enable people to move around much more easily. It is such a huge opportunity – the confluence of the trends we are talking about, like co-living and digital nomads.” – Expert Interview: Bruno Haid, Founder, Roam

It is clear that co-working and co-living are fast becoming the norm and ushering in a generation of customers for which borderless living is second nature.

The question is, is your brand stuck in the ‘now’, battling for the cheapest deal? Or do you have your eyes on the bigger cultural shifts unfolding around you? This is where tomorrow’s battles for hearts and minds will be won and lost.

What does this mean for brands?

We now have the ability to travel far beyond our origins, broaden our horizons and seek both like-minds and new influence. As our identities shift away from nationality, ethnicity and religion, we look instead to develop our increasingly multifaceted identities by interacting with, and learning from, the varied experiences and interests of the people we now have a chance to meet.

The result is a much more global, connected and open mindset of true understanding. At the same time, it is about going deeper to champion the rich dimensions of who we are as more localised individuals.

In a world where we are no longer able to rely on being in expected places, brands are now tasked with creating new sources of connection; universal systems and platforms of communication that will set the scene for the fresh ideologies of tomorrow.

In order to resonate with today’s desire to roam more freely and to live a flexible, borderless lifestyle, travel brands must be able to not only emotionally connect, but facilitate this lifestyle shift.

Because the brands that create this level of meaning and understanding in their customers’ lives, don’t just win their hearts and minds, they become culturally indispensable. And that is priceless.

Originally posted on Travel Weekly.

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