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Good news: the Luxury Travel Burble is Bursting. Wait. What?

Not long ago I compared the recent experience of independent high-end hoteliers and luxury resort owners to ‘sky diving into a recession.’ That’s because the last three months of property closings and staff furloughs have felt like one big, risk-laden financial free fall.

To push the metaphor even further, skydiving also offers some sorely needed humour. By way of example, did you know any turbulent airspace a parachutist encounters is called a ‘burble’? It’s a funny sounding word for an unfunny circumstance yet there’s cause for hope. That’s because indicators suggest our industry’s collective burble is about to burst.

Like Spring, the signs of growth are everywhere as turbulence in the luxury travel market begins to dissipate.

In a recent Bloomberg article, for example, a luxury travel consultant reports less turbulence with more bookings and buy-outs closer to the year end. The same consultant points to the inherent viral protection offered by luxury dude ranches or island locations (as several of Wallop’s clients happen to be, one of whom the article refers to by name).

Ditto for ‘Quintessentially’ the global concierge service for affluent travelers which notes a bump in requests for luxury honeymoon destinations in exotic, isolated locations that can offer a safe haven from the virus.

Even more encouraging are the data insights from the reliable hospitality analysts at STR: of four classes of travelers, the luxury class were the least likely to reduce their future travel.

In our own weekly COVID-19 Hospitality Data Report, a monitored analysis of the online performance of nearly 70 independent luxury hotels and resorts in North America, we’re seeing a spike in booking revenue in Texas, California, and New York, three of the four most populous states in the union.

Still, amid all the encouraging reports, travel marketers can get overwhelmed by the dark forests of well-intentioned but endless ‘bulletins’ and ‘advisories’. They’re everywhere it seems and teeming with jargon such as ‘stay in your lane’ (versus pivoting), ‘new normals’ (whatever that may be) and ‘holistic engagements’ (enough already)!

To offset gloom and doom fatigue with a straightforward way out of the woods, we’ve created three-phases of “COVID-19 Recovery Recommendations” as easy-to-understand steps customized to the specific digital marketing strategies of each Wallop client. And to visitors of our website, we offer a generic ‘lite’ edition of the same recommendations.

The three phases have one simple objective for marketers: beat your competitors to market on the eve of the luxury travel sector recovery. Just as ‘preppers’ might line their shelves with food, Wallop clients are loading more arrows into their marketing quivers.

With appreciable relief, many are now able to see the end of Phase One. Though best described as ‘the Great Pause’, it has hardly been a period of inactivity. On the contrary, we’ve been helping clients track search terms, both paid and organic, and are now repurposing the data into new content from blog posts to website updates to ad image choices.

Phase One is also the perfect time to audit ad accounts and monitor performance data against industry travel data, among other useful activities.

Entering Phase Two, we’ll identify the lifting of social restrictions as ‘triggers’ for a series of precise, decisive actions that travel marketers can take. For instance, once website sessions, inquiries or bookings consistently increase for two weeks or more, Wallop specifies three concrete recommendations with their intended outcomes and tracking mechanisms.

As client properties move from one phase to the next, the volume of activity naturally increases: Phase One recommends four preparatory actions; Phase Two, five; and Phase Three, six. And logically, Phase Three zeroes in on establishing competitive advantage via such preparation.

In closing, it’s important to acknowledge certain market facts are immutable. Unemployment is at levels now surpassing those of the Great Depression. Airlines are crashing, though thankfully only in figurative terms.

But the positives are undeniable too. The famous canals of Venice have never been cleaner. Global daily C02 emissions have dropped by -17%. And after a century of being hidden within the polluted haze of Agra, the Taj Mahal has magically reappeared.

Perhaps the final word should come from skydiving. ‘Dirt diving’ is not a reference to a bad landing but to a parachutist rehearsing a jump on the ground as a prelude to a safe landing.

In that sense, may we all be successful dirt divers.

The World After COVID-19: A New Luxury Era?”, Quintessentially, May 2020.
Wealthy Travelers Are Starting to Book Year-End Vacations”, BBN Bloomberg, May 2020.