How SMS Can Help the Travel Industry Navigate the Age of Coronavirus
- Coronavirus has had substantial economic consequences.
- The travel industry has been particularly hard hit.
- SMS can help travel-oriented businesses navigate the age of coronavirus by improving customer support and increasing customer outreach.
The World Health Organization officially named the outbreak of the novel coronavirus a pandemic on March 11th, 2020. While global anxiety around the virus had begun mounting in the preceding months, it wasn’t until the WHO’s announcement that many governments across the globe began issuing edicts aimed at attenuating the spread of the disease. Still, as pragmatic as national quarantines may have been, they have nevertheless imposed substantial economic consequences on individuals and businesses the world over.
The travel industry has taken a particularly hard hit. Indeed, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky went so far as to say that global travel may never fully recover. He predicted that, in the future, people will be more likely to travel within their own countries.
“I will go on the record to say that travel will never, ever go back to the way it was pre-COVID; it just won’t,” Chesky said, “There are sometimes months when decades of transformation happen.”
Chesky’s consternation is understandable. Indeed, the entire travel industry has been built around Fairweather consumers; nobody likes to turn their imaginations to risk as they’re hopping onboard a 500-mph journey through the lower stratosphere.
So, like most travel businesses, Airbnb has not fared well during the pandemic. The company laid off roughly 25 percent of its workforce and had to raise about $2 billion in equity and debt to bolster its balance sheet.
But again, it’s not just Airbnb, and it’s not just international travel. As the Economist noted, the number of total passengers travelling on all commercial airlines in April 2020 was 94 percent lower than the same timeframe in 2019. This has put the airline industry on track for its worst year on record, with losses of more than $84 billion. The International Air Transport Association, which has 290 member airlines, estimates that revenues will drop to $419 billion in 2020, down a staggering 50 percent from 2019.
How has coronavirus affected travelers?
Now, with the entire world hurting due to the coronavirus, there is a tendency to make light of these losses. Afterall, $2 billion dollars, no matter how its raised, tends to temper the sympathies of those living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Nevertheless, there are consumer losses here, and they’re not simply the unfortunate cancellations of luxurious vacations. Aside from the numerous stories about people getting stranded abroad or people unable to visit sick family members, customers all over the world have been struggling to reschedule travel plans, cancel reservations, get refunds for tickets, and manage other upfront travel expenses that they’ve already paid.
For them, the hollowing out of the global travel industry has meant hours on the phone, waiting in virtual queues, long email exchanges with hotel managers — you name it.
How can SMS help businesses address these challenges?
Of course, for businesses, this is one helluva conundrum. It’s bad enough to lose bookings, but on top of that they’ll have to deal with a barrage of customer support queries, as efficiently as possible, without inspiring customers to socially distance from their services. Indeed, companies will have to invest in new strategies to address these challenges. Chief among these is the deployment of SMS and digital messaging communications.
Why? It’s popular.
Research shows, for instance, that WhatsApp and other OTT messaging solutions experienced a substantial uptick during the global lockdown.
Moreover, despite the arrival of coronavirus — or perhaps even because of its arrival — SMS messaging for businesses is expected to hit 7 percent growth in 2020. According to a new study from Juniper Research, SMS messaging traffic for businesses will reach 3.5 trillion messages in 2020, up from 3.2 trillion in 2019.
Now, beyond its popularity, we’ve already written extensively about the value of SMS for businesses of all sorts. Check out these articles:
- Eight Ways SMS Messaging Can Improve Your Business
- Pareteum Messaging | SMS Engagement That Gets Results
- Crisis Management | A Pareteum Messaging Success Story
If you don’t have time to peruse these pieces, there are two key takeaways:
- SMS is insanely popular among consumers
- SMS is just about the best way to conduct customer outreach
So, with this in mind, we thought we’d briefly discuss two ways SMS can help businesses, especially in the travel industry, address customer support issues and successfully navigate the age of coronavirus.
- Free up your customer support lines
There’s nothing worse than spending hours on hold with customer support. No matter how many lines you’re able to accommodate or how easy it is for customers to interact with your automated responses, the simple fact of the matter is people don’t like to call customer support.Indeed, according to EZ Texting, some 69 percent of consumers across all age groups, as well as a staggering 75 percent under the age of 44, want the ability to contact businesses via SMS. Moreover, 54 percent of the study’s participants admitted that they become frustrated when they are unable to reach a business via text and must instead reach out through email and voice calls. So, considering that the current pandemic has driven the travel industry into disarray; considering that this has increased the burden placed on customer support; and considering that a second wave, and therefore a second round of lockdowns, is by no means out of the question, there is perhaps no better time than now to invest in bolstering your customer support system with A2P- and P2P-enabled SMS messaging.
- Keep your customers, passengers, guests, and employees informed
The second way the travel industry can leverage SMS is to engage with customers, consumers, and employees. Airlines can keep passengers informed about flight schedules, potential cancellations, and rescheduling opportunities; government tourism offices can notify travelers about changes to customs or border policies; hotels, airports, and companies like Airbnb can inform their employees and hosts about updated health and safety policies — the list goes on.
Consider the following:
- SMS messages boast open rates as high as 98 percent, while email languishes in the 15-25 percent range.
- It takes an average of 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text, compared to 90 minutes for email.
- According to Pew Research, more people own phones than computers — 96 percent of Americans own a cell phone, compared to roughly 75 percent that own laptops or desktops.
Thus, you will be hard pressed to find a better method of engaging with constituents than SMS.
To Learn more about Pareteum Messaging and our SMS offering, be sure to check out our website or reach out to our team. We’ve also written a white paper discussing how businesses can boost their loyalty programs via Wi-Fi as a benefit and SMS outreach. You can READ THE WHITE PAPER here.