August in Europe is known for its many ‘Black Saturdays’. Extremely long traffic jams on the highways heading South. I’m lucky not to be a part of that, as I have returned late July from a hiking holiday in the green oasis of the Vosges, France. Just like millions of other people all over the world, I am part of this annual ritual of the massive exodus to escape our daily routines. To clear my mind, I love to take a hike. Different setting, different language, a plate of food that looks different and being surrounded by nothing but green helps me to escape. Relaxation through exercise. Love it.
According to the UNWTO we spend 1.4 billion US dollars on tourism globally per year. That’s a lot of money. It’s only natural that the travel industry spends millions to seduce you and me to visit their destination or buy their product or service. Whilst hiking however, my thoughts were meandering to yet another strange phenomenon. ‘After sales’ – or rather the lack of it. 99% of all of those holiday takers that will leave to their destinations will face the same fate upon arrival back home as I did. That euphoric feeling that you have leading up to and during your holiday, will disappear as soon as you get back home. You will be lucky enough if you can make that feeling last longer than two days after returning home. We spend a reasonable amount of hard earned money to escape for a week or 2-3 and return to the office fully recharged, only to lose that feeling the day after. When buying a television-set, I’ll be able to enjoy that for the next ten years: holidays are pretty ‘evaporative’ products in comparison. Snap your fingers and gone is that happy feeling.
Why? Why doesn’t the travel industry start to seriously investigate how the holiday feeling can last a little longer? The average cost of holiday justifies this question. Pre-holiday fun is easy to achieve – the prospect of taking that well-earned holiday, reading up, bragging about your destination of choice, packing your suitcase – it all adds up to the pleasant forecast of cutting loose from the office and home for a while.
While the travel industry is definitely innovating – especially technology-wise – it appears that the ‘how-to-keep-that-holiday-feeling-last-longer’ aspect is not top of mind in our industry. 99% of the attention goes out to marketing tools such as product, price, place and promotion, but as soon as the customer gets home, he/she is lost out of sight. Money cashed, holiday well-organised and that’s about it seems to be the general attitude of travel companies. Shouldn’t a part of the marketing/PR budgets be spent on that after-holiday-feeling? Of course, the holiday taker himself could do lots of things him-/herself to maintain that holiday feeling. Continuing to use the same sun block helps, so I’ve heard. We all know that sinking feeling that comes with our first day back in the saddle. Regardless of how great our holiday has been, it’s hard to remain positive when you’ve got a mountain of washing and ironing, an inbox full of ‘urgent’ emails demanding replies and two weeks of work to catch up on.
So there seems to be a great opportunity for the travel industry to start offering a service that helps that holiday feeling last a little longer. By this I mean of course more than just an evaluation form upon returning home. No. I am thinking more along the lines of sending a couple that has just returned from an exotic holiday, a package with a recipe of that terrific tropical cocktail they’d enjoyed during their trip, including the ingredients to make it. I’m sure they’ll be enjoying their drink and winding back down Memory Lane. Offer them a nice discount on their next holiday and chances are that they will book next year’s holiday with the same travel organisation.
Because losing that wonderful holiday feeling is one thing, but losing a customer is a second Black Day.