Taking (A Little) Stress Out Of Holiday Travel

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Packed flights, fully booked rooms, gift card purchases, and so on. As with the retail industry, many in the travel industry rely on smart holiday season strategies to help finish their fiscal year in the black. 

With the tremendous focus on meeting sales and capacity goals, however, one thing tends to get lost: The customer. With airports at their frenzied peak of activity and families pushed beyond weariness by long drives, delays, or simply the challenges of traveling with young children or elderly relatives, it’s an incredibly stressful time for travelers. A recent Huffington Post article reviewed some ways airports are trying to reduce traveler stress – but how many families will use “Zen rooms” or nap rooms at busy airports (not to mention some of the other admittedly awesome perks they describe)? 



Like many others, I spend a lot of time in airports and on highways, sleeping in hotel rooms away from my own family far more often than I’d like – and during the holidays, my family and I make the occasional pilgrimage to distant family members as well. What always surprises me is that, while I occasionally get a thank-you email and/or a survey after a stay, flight, or rental, or even a response to a tweet about a trip, there’s never any variation in this messaging from season to season. With so much travel taking place during the holidays and so much frustration around that travel, why aren’t more of us making the effort to specifically give special thanks to those who choose to travel with us during this time? 

A few ideas for to consider for travelers who choose to travel with you: 

  • Acknowledge them. Recognize that travel during the holidays can be an Olympic event, and thank them – genuinely and personally – for staying or traveling with you. After a stay at a Kimpton on the West Coast last holiday season, I filled out an email survey on my stay and got an almost immediate response from their regional director, referencing my answers and thanking me again. That is exceptional service that makes you want to book again. While this specific model isn’t easily scalable, delivering a genuine “thanks for trusting us during the holidays” with personalized content, when possible, will go a long way. 
  • Listen to them. Is your social team ready for the rush of holiday travel comments? If you had to hesitate before answering, you might have a problem. Make social listening and responding a top priority for the holidays and answer all comments – positive and negative – as quickly as possible (consider adding staff if need be). Acknowledge the craziness of the holiday travel season and thank them for choosing you – or promise to get it right. Offer to incent their next stay or trip if you can’t reach a quick resolution. 
  • Reward them. It doesn’t have to be big. A simple, holiday-themed “Relax – you’ve made it!” note with a bag of cookies in their room upon arrival, for example – or a $5-10 coupon for the minibar or hotel store (which Kimpton does year-round for its loyalty members). As we discussed a few months ago, travelers are visiting an average of 40 sites before booking their vacations; if you can stand out in the smallest of ways, it’ll help them remember you. It’ll cost you very little and mean a great deal to them. 

Recognizing holiday travelers can pay significant long-term dividends. With a little effort and care, you won’t get just the warm and fuzziness of giving thanks; done well, you can improve your Social profile, your customer long-term value and retention, and other metrics as well. And that is something to be truly thankful for.

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