Personalization in the travel industry is undergoing a major evolution. New tools and technologies enable travel brands, particularly online travel agencies to create a unique experience for every traveler.
However, creating those experiences rely not only on the technologies that enable personalization, but also on the traveler data that’s used to power these systems.
The Marketing Information Data Transfer (MIDT) is a treasure-trove of information for travel brands. Collating billions of air booking signals from across the three GDSs – Travelport, Sabre, and Amadeus – the information reveals key traveler booking behaviors across the globe.
In new research published this month, Travelport has analyzed MIDT data from the last 12 months to produce a new report on traveler personas for OTAs.
The report investigates the six dominant traveler personas that make up global travel bookings – solo travelers, families, business travelers, couples, weekenders, and groups.
Why build traveler personas?
For OTAs, keeping up with travelers’ personalization demands can be a challenge. Despite travel brands collecting more data than ever before, extracting insights is easier said than done.
And with personalization now a critical component of virtually every online retailer’s sales and marketing strategy, travel brands must keep up and offer customers the tailored experiences they both want and expect.
Great sales and marketing strategies start with knowing the customer and what makes them tick. Building personas – fictionalized profiles of target customers – is a critical first step in getting to know your customers better.
This involves combining the data your business has captured (existing user behaviors, intent, and habits) with wider market data to identify new customer acquisition opportunities and present more relevant offers to your users.
For example, at a minimum you can start to personalize your OTA’s search result based on the persona you have identified, such as:
- Prioritizing flights with the shortest flight time rather than the cheapest price for families, who value keeping the kids happy above all else
- For weekenders, presenting flights that arrive early and depart late, so they can maximize their weekend away
- Showing premium economy and business class fares to business travelers
Here, we’ll look at the highlights of Travelport’s research into the six primary traveler persona profiles and how your OTA can use this information to refine your personalization strategy.
Travel Personas For OTAs
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Making up around 18% of global bookings, solo travel is becoming ever more popular and has increased by 7% in the last year alone. Solo travelers typically take longer trips than the other traveler personas at approximately 19 days on average.
Travelport’s new research also incorporates finding from recent end traveler surveys and identifies the following key trends that OTAs can use to optimize their offerings for solo travelers.
- Mobile-first approach: 46% of solo travelers have booked hotels via mobile and 59% believe it’s important to be able to add extras to their booking while on-the-go. In addition, 62% use mobile to research and plan the non-air parts of their trip like hotel, car, and rail.
- Inspire with personalized offers: 43% of solo travelers also want to receive inspiration for their next trip based on their personal preferences. This shows the importance of tailoring your inspirational content – like blogs or social posts – to your target personas.
On average, almost a quarter of global air travel bookings are made by families. This persona group is one of the largest segments globally and has unique requirements, centered around child-friendly activities.
Family personas are easy to identify in your existing workflow, as they will include a search with combinations of adult and child or infant passenger type codes.
When looking at your family targeting strategy, here are some key points to remember:
- Convenience is the name of the game: Families are driven by keeping the kids happy – make sure your marketing efforts are packed with in-trip activities to entertain the whole family.74% would be likely to book a trip with an OTA who offers the ability to book everything in one place.
- Tailor your hotel and car content: You can appeal to the family persona by showing family-friendly hotels and cars that are suitable for the number of passengers on the itinerary. Travelport research shows that 30% of those who primarily travel as a family search for car rental through online travel agencies.
Most OTAs focus on leisure travelers in their targeting and leave business up to travel management companies.
However, this is an enormous missed opportunity, considering the fact that 83% of travelers surveyed said they book at least some of their business travel through OTAs.
So, whether you’re tracking it or not, business travelers are booking through your OTA; however, by not capturing this data you’re missing a valuable opportunity to truly personalize your offering with tailored search results.
- Don’t treat business travelers like leisure travelers: Business travelers have different requirements to leisure travelers. Identify business travelers from your own customer data by finding solo traveler itineraries that are short in duration, happen mid-week, and are booked close to the travel date. Alternatively, you can ask travelers to identify if they’re traveling for work during your search or booking flow.
- Create rules to filter your search results for business travelers: Show the shortest flight times first and highlight premium economy or business fares.
Those traveling as a "couple" made up 14% of global bookings in the last 12 months.
Many of those who travel as a couple may also fall into other persona categories when booking other trips – like business traveler or family.
For OTAs, it’s vital to identify the trip context from the outset to present the most relevant options for a particular persona at a given time.
The hotels you suggest to someone traveling with their spouse alone will vary greatly to the family-friendly option you present to that same customer booking an itinerary that includes three kids!
Key areas of focus for couple personas include:
- Package holidays: One-third of couples have booked package holidays through online travel agencieS
- Social media is key for trip planning: Social media’s influence on vacation planning can’t be underestimated and this is particularly true for couples. 30% of couples say they have used social media to research or book a trip.
According to MIDT data, ‘weekender’ bookings have grown by 6% in the last 12 months and make up 25% of global bookings.
Of these bookings, only one-third are international, with the majority choosing to travel domestically when taking a short trip.
Weekenders have two key priorities:
- Make the most of the short trip: With only a few days to sight-see, the weekender is looking for the flight options that will allow them to make the most of their time away. Often the cheapest fare can also result in a shorter weekend, so showing the lowest price first may not be the right option for this persona.
- Hotels close to key sights: Given the short trip duration, weekenders want accommodation close to major sight-seeing and restaurant hot spots.
The final traveler persona we’ll look at is those who travel as a group. If there’s one thing we all know about group travel, it’s that organizing everyone can be a challenge.
The websites that will win out in this persona’s eyes are those who can offer good deals, has an easy to use interface, and allows friends to share ideas.
Despite relatively short trip lengths of less than a week, group travelers book the furthest in advance than any other persona group.
Group travel is most popular in Asia, making up 16% of bookings in the last 12 months.
Some key findings on group travelers from Travelport’s traveler surveys include:
- Groups want the ability to pay by installments: 72% wanting OTAs to offer this capabilitY
- Online chat support: Booking group travel can be a complex business and 43% of group travelers would choose "online chat" as their preferred method of contacting an OTA during the booking procesS
- Desktop is the preferred booking channel:While 65% have used smartphone apps to search flight options, 83% usually use desktop when looking for flights
Getting started with traveler personas
While this article has portrayed only a snapshot of traveler personas, you can find further information in Travelport’s full eBook.
Developing the right personalization strategy can take time and more data than your online travel agency has available.
The booking data and customer details you collect, while a good place to start, is just one slice of an overall bigger picture.
Combining your agency’s shopping and buying dynamics with wider data from the market, and your competitors, will allow you to gather insights and take action.
By doing so, you can identify new target audiences and build your own persona-driven marketing strategy – with the ultimate goal of driving conversion and ROI.
Travel Personas For OTAs
Get the full research report.