Travel Forward session at ATM Virtual discusses rise of online communication 

ATM Virtual

During the debut of Travel Forward at ATM Virtual, experts revealed that, in light of COVID-19, consumers have been turning to messaging to interact with all forms of travel brands.

Throughout the month of March 2020 alone, messaging increased by more than 50 per cent in many of the countries hardest hit by the global health crisis, according to the latest data from Facebook, with over 20 billion messages currently exchanged with businesses every month on Messenger.

During the Travel Forward session Conversational Commerce for Travel Brands, Facebook’s head of destinations and events, Sara Gentile, and head of aviation and hospitality MENA, Ameen Malhas, provided insights into what travel technology will have to offer beyond 2020, including the potential c-commerce will have in helping travel and hospitality brands to connect and transact with consumers.

Travel Forward 20

Gentile stated: “Travellers value personalisation from brands and this trend is only likely to heighten in a post-COVID-19 world, with around 54 per cent of travellers who opt to book with online travel agents (OTAs) seeking on-location recognition from brands. Adding to this, the top three engagement travellers seek from aviation and hospitality brands are live updates, discounts and helpful tips.

“By combining chat with automated and AI-driven systems, brands can target information and offers precisely to individual travellers. This increases relevance, which is exactly what people want, with an overwhelming majority more likely to buy from brands that remember who they are and that provide relevant recommendations,” she added.

Personalisation isn’t the only factor driving the popularity of messaging in today’s society, as convenience, immediacy and scalability also make it well suited for engaging with travellers. However, the execution must be right to succeed.

“Ultimately, messaging must be responsive and sophisticated to meet consumers’ needs – especially during these challenging times when travellers want interactions to be fast and efficient,” said Malhas.

“A messaging system which is executed correctly with a clear strategic role anticipates what consumers want to talk about with the help of innovative technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), and is built around a strong ecosystem.”

As governments begin to lift lockdown restrictions across the Middle East, businesses are cautiously reopening workplaces with strict social distancing measures in place and asking employees to travel again.

Exhibition director ME, Arabian Travel Market (ATM), Danielle Curtis said: “As we look ahead to restarting and rebuilding the global travel and tourism industry, exhibitions such as ATM and WTM London will be a crucial platform for kick-starting global economies.

“The debut ATM Virtual has been a huge success and has further underscored ATM’s mission to support and guide the region’s vast travel and tourism industry during and beyond COVID-19,” she concluded.