FEATURE13 May 2016

Agility, staycations and steak: insights into travel and tourism

Features Leisure & Arts Trends UK

The travel and tourism industry represents 9% of global GDP, and one in 11 jobs can be linked to the sector, so its influence shouldn't be underestimated. Here’s some of what we learned at the travel, tourism and hospitality conference hosted yesterday by the Market Research Society (MRS) in London. 

Aeroplane crop

The way we travel, and the reasons we do so, is changing

Short breaks and ‘staycations’ (holidays in your home country) are on the rise: Sharon Orrell, head of insight at Visit England and Jim Eccleston, director of travel and tourism at TNS, explained that in 2015, an estimated £85bn was spent on tourism in England: over 75% of this by GB residents. We're also now taking almost as many city breaks as seaside holidays. 

Lesley Dusart of Exterion Media and Helen Rose of the7Stars presented findings from a survey of 11,000 ‘urban’ Britons and revealed that they primarily go on holiday looking to ‘escape everyday life’ ( 57%). But this doesn't necessarily mean escaping technology: 70% admitted to checking messages (email, text, social media) while on holiday, and for 63%, WiFi availability was one of the key factors in choosing accommodation. 

Agility is key

A recurring theme throughout the day was the importance of agility: both in gathering guest feedback, but also responding to it. For Samantha Horsman of Wellcome Collection, agility included training the museum’s visitor experience assistants as ethnographers in order to gather insight on visitors. "Start with an end in mind, but be prepared to be agile in the middle," she said. 

Debra Walmsley, head of customer research and insight at BA, talked about the agility that had been enabled by the airline’s new Pulse survey, which allowed employees to respond in real time to guest feedback. She revealed that satisfaction scores were often higher from customers who had complained via Pulse and had their issue rectified, than from customers who had not had experienced an issue at all. 

George Davidson, director of consumer insights at InterContinental Hotels Group, pointed out that the constant need for speed could sometimes make life hard: "The biggest challenge now is moving at pace. When I started in research 20 years ago it was a deliberately ponderous industry. We were supposed to take time to think and reflect. Now there’s no time."

The long customer satisfaction questionnaire lives on

While many organisations working within the sector have innovated some of the ways in which they gather feedback, many have struggled to move away from long questionnaires. Keith Bailey of Transport Focus, the independent watchdog that covers transport and road users, was one who acknowledged the usability challenge of this approach. Karen Bilsborough, senior insights manager at TUI UK, explained that when a company is wedded to a system – especially if its KPIs are tied to bonus payments – it can be a challenge to move away from it. 

People talk about salad, but want steak

In going through findings from a project that the company conducted with Delta Airlines to improve the airline's understanding of its passengers, Northstar’s Noah Roychowdhury revealed that once again, you can't always believe everything that people say. He explained that while during research customers claimed to want more fresh food during flights – "everybody wants salad. Fresh is cool" – the item that actually tended to run out first on flights was steak. "People say they want fresh food, but flying is an indulgence. It’s important to get the balance of these things right."