Henk van der Velde, trip.com regional director Southern Europe, says the effectiveness of one-size-fits-all approaches has been diluted by the COVID pandemic
The rules of the game are changing. How travellers think about their next trip has altered beyond recognition and the way brands sell holidays is changing faster than ever before.
Globalisation is changing and we are seeing a need for a localised approach. The pandemic has seen restrictions brought in for different locales and the complexity of these rules has meant the need for a localised approach has grown exponentially.
Couple the local restrictions around COVID-19 with cultural differences as well as the general characteristics of supply and demand, and we are starting to see a need for a more tailored approach.
Trip.com is a leading international online one-stop travel service provider, available in 21 languages across 31 countries and regions.
At Trip.com, we have always seen the need for a localised approach and that’s why our teams are set up to meet that need.
We have teams all over the world who are empowered to add value through relevant local and regional market insights, data and trends.
In practice this means that our teams have local relationships with airline and hotel partners which enables us to be locally relevant and serve travellers better.
For example, we had bespoke summer campaigns across different European countries this year including; a domestic push for Spanish residents to travel to the islands, in the UK we ran a domestic travel campaign plus VFR to India and Pakistan, and in France we ran a sales push domestically as well as focusing on Spain, Greece and Portugal where we could see there was demand.
Each country is different and that’s how we believe they should be treated. The one size fits all approach runs the risk of becoming diluted and irrelevant.
The travel environment has dramatically changed, and strong recovery requires targeted alignment between market supply and customer demand.
Being close to the market gives Trip.com valuable insight and enables us to detect needs, trends and opportunities much faster and subsequently react quicker.
Trip.com also puts a huge emphasis on local through its customer support. The customer service team, with European headquarters in the UK, speaks 21 languages.
Trip also offers a wide range of product to suit local needs. For example, payment methods are tailored to locale with the award-winning app supporting 25 currencies and all international credit cards.
Innovative payment methods are also tailored by country; with Apple Pay (Europe and North America), KakaoPay (South Korea) and iDEAL (Netherlands) to name just a few.
Trip is also working with local governments to support country specific promotions such as the Spanish islands residents discount, and Japan’s Go To travel subsidy which aims to spearhead local travel recovery.
From a technology perspective, we take advantage of economies of scale and of our global developments, such as NDC, but tweak these to be relevant to the local markets.
The platform of our sites in Europe are the same with customisable settings for language and currency.
Based on these traveller settings, the content shown is adapted to the local demand of that specific market.
Encouragingly, in our 21st birthday year, we are seeing some strong signs of recovery in our flights business, specifically in China, South Korea and Japan.
And we are seeing the domestic hotel market in some parts of Asia has almost recovered to pre-COVID levels.
We believe our focus on local is supporting this recovery. In Asia for example, our insights tell us that live streaming sales are gaining momentum.
Piggybacking on this trend, Trip.com’s innovative live streams, often anchored by its Chairman on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, offer viewers access to flexible booking and discounted hotels.
The live shows have seen incredible success to date with millions of travellers tuning in and generating sales of over USD $255 million.
In Europe, we are about to launch our Partner Portal.
With free access to local market search data as well as airline specific insights, it has been developed to offer local airline partners 24/7 access to trends and information that will assist in commercial decision-making to support recovery.
We are seeing travel trends move to domestic and regional trips as well as VFR.
This aspect of demand will likely continue into next year, therefore a local focus with local insight and support will be key for recovery.
We are certainly not saying it’s the end of globalisation, but with post pandemic travel trends shifting towards local and complex country specific restrictions, there’s clearly a need to understand unique local market dynamics and how these fit into the wider global picture.