Sponsored by Visa, The Customer Effect

Holiday travel is around the corner — is it time for a customer experience refresh?

  • New research finds 41% of U.S. adults are planning to travel this holiday season.
  • Nearly three years since the onset of the pandemic, 40% of surveyed travelers reported changing their travel behaviors.

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Holiday travel is around the corner — is it time for a customer experience refresh?

Travel is having a resurgence, and with the holidays quickly approaching, the pace of travel bookings is only getting busier. While spending is still slightly behind pre-pandemic levels, in the U.S. there has been a 40% increase in travel spending compared to 2021. Now just below half (41%) of American adults are making plans to travel during the upcoming holiday season, an increase of 13% from the previous year.1

As the holidays inch closer, the expectations travelers hold for customer experiences are looking different. In fact, according to new research conducted for Visa by Morning Consult, nearly three years since the onset of the pandemic, roughly 40% of travelers have reported changing their travel behaviors.1 Digital-first options have taken hold widely in the consumer world. Now as they head out, travelers are taking those expectations along with them.

For the travel and leisure space, this shift marks a critical opportunity to ask the question – does our customer experience model align with the digital-first traveler? As travel continues to pick up, travel and leisure businesses will need to turn to the kinds of digital solutions and experiences that will be essential for building long-term success.  

Consumers are rethinking expectations

A lasting effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an increased awareness and emphasis on public health and social distancing. And as a result, digital payment methods like contactless mark an important opportunity for growth. In fact, in Q3 of this year, tapping to pay made up nearly one in four (24%) of face-to-face transactions in the U.S.2 In some travel-related sectors, the digital payment method has quickly become the norm. For example, Visa’s Future of Urban Mobility survey found that 91% now strongly or somewhat expect contactless payments to be an option in their transit experiences.

What travelers ultimately want is one cohesive experience that blends seamlessly across every stage of their journey. From the moment they step into an airport all the way through to their destination, travelers expect contactless options to follow along. Whether it’s digital in-app check-in before the flight or making a contactless payment for a drink mid-flight, travelers want a more connected experience.

The time is right for a customer experience refresh

With so much change in the air, there’s no better time to reevaluate the state of customer experience and digital payment offerings. Contactless and digital offerings run the gambit of possibilities from biometric scans and digital passes to in-app room keys and robots that handle luggage and cleaning.

For travelers, digital, omnichannel experiences are the norm, and those expectations are coming along with them throughout their journey – a factor that will need to be accounted for in any customer experience model moving forward. When building an omnichannel experience for travel, apps and digital profiles can help create a sense of brand loyalty while also making it easier to buy tickets, drinks, or food at a venue. And other options like card-on-file can make shopping in a new city easier.

The benefits of these solutions don’t stop with the traveler. By leading with digital payment options, businesses can streamline their own internal processes and employee experiences. Looking at solutions like digital tipping can make it easier for patrons to tip employees who, in turn, gain instant access to those tips without the need to wait for payroll. 

Preparing for the digital-first traveler

While more businesses start to rethink their approach to customer experience, the answer is clear. Travelers want, and need, digital payment methods every step of the journey. Incorporating the right digital tools and solutions will leave businesses more agile and better prepared to meet these expectations for an enduring, long-term travel resurgence. 

1 The Holiday Travel poll was conducted by Morning Consult, on behalf of Visa, between September 21-22, 2022 among a sample of 2,210 US adults. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of the US general population based on gender, age, race, educational attainment, and region. 

2 Visa Inc. Q3 FY22 Earnings Call

3 Visa’s “Future of Urban Mobility” survey: May 2022 (conducted by Wakefield Research among 11,550 adults who take public transportation in 14 markets: U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, U.K., South Africa, UAE, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

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