The entire industry has suffered as a result of the pandemic, but it has given many travel brands the opportunity to take time to re-evaluate their strategies. In some cases it has proved beneficial, resulting in more efficient campaigns, with many marketers imagining a more equitable and sustainable future. Due to the restrictions that have been in place on international travel, airlines are feeling the impact from the pandemic more than many other travel brands. However, we spoke to Elly Politou, Senior Executive Destination Marketing at Aegean Airlines, and she shared with us how a selection of these six trends have helped accelerate AEGEAN’s recovery for 2021 and beyond. Elly talks about the importance of partnerships and how the pandemic helped the team see the benefit of implementing more flexible plans based on real-time data.
“The pandemic helped us see the benefit of adapting our strategy in line with real-time data. The more often you use data to drive marketing decisions, the more effective the algorithm becomes, learning and optimising as the campaign goes on. It is no longer us who sets the limits and most suitable target audiences, it’s better to let the data do the job”. – Elly Politou, Senior Executive Destination Marketing at Aegean Airlines
Before we get to the trends, here is some background on how business for Aegean Airlines looks compared to 2020. Last year bookings went down to almost zero, except for a small spike in the summer period when Greece was open for tourists. Then came a strict lockdown from the start of November, continuing on until March 2021, so bookings dropped considerably again. There have since been signs of recovery from May 2021 onward but it still varies on a daily basis. Elements such as the speed of rollout of vaccination programmes in Greece, decisions on lockdowns, and restrictions implemented by key origin markets impact the speed of recovery. With all of these hurdles in place, Aegean Airlines have been able to adjust their strategy based on real-time data, ensuring they are in the best position to recover when borders fully reopen.
So which trends have Aegean Airlines been focusing on?
As with many travel brands, AEGEAN had to shift their messaging to have more of a domestic focus in 2020, and into 2021 as international travel restrictions remain in place. However, AEGEAN found that flexibility was key to creating a successful strategy, and that using data to make decisions proved imperative. This meant that they could adapt to the needs of the consumer, domestic or international, and be present when they were searching for their trips. “We analysed travel intent data on a regular basis and when a country opened its borders, we used promotions to target visitors from that country,” said Elly.
Although one of the most noticeable changes in traveller behaviour was the shift to domestic travel, and promotions were a great way to try and drive travel from international markets, there were other changes that came as a result of the pandemic. Lead times got considerably shorter, travellers wanted more assurance that airlines were implementing necessary hygiene measures, and COVID-safety became a huge part of everyone’s travel planning. Many shifted their focus to less crowded destinations, travelling in smaller groups more privately. With all of this in mind, AEGEAN shifted their messaging to cater for these requirements, reassuring customers that they were ready to welcome them onboard when they wanted to travel again. However, where the message was adapted slightly to align with these new consumer needs, the ongoing goal remained the same. AEGEAN wanted to raise awareness of Greek destinations, inspire people to dream of and begin planning their next trip to the country, and drive travellers to visit when they could. This is now the key focus of their campaigns.
Not only did AEGEAN adapt their messaging as a result of changing consumer behaviour, they also changed the way it was communicated. With shorter lead times, competition from other destinations and airlines, and consumers searching across multiple channels, it was important to get the message across effectively and as quickly as possible. Aegean Airlines combated this by creating ads with less images which meant the consumers got the message much quicker.
One of the hurdles presented by the pandemic was the reduction in budgets and resources. Advertising budgets at the airline were cut by around 80%, meaning a creative solution was required. This is where collaboration was so critical for AEGEAN. Co-Op campaigns mean that resources could be combined to achieve a common goal. Elly said “Co-Op has been the main focus for us over the past 18 months. Our ongoing partnership with the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) allowed us to almost double our available budget. With the joint goal of driving visitors to the country, we could easily tie our messaging together and reach a wider audience than either of us could have alone.”
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