What: To investigate shifts in global travel behavior for the most recent quarter, travel audience engagement platform Sojern analyzed search and booking data from October to December 2016. The final report revealed interesting insight about how Latin Americans are planning to spend their Semana Santa vacations, and how US marketers can entice them.
Why It Matters: LATAM travelers are researching and planning very early for a holiday that is tailor-made for families, but there are still last-minute bookings taking place. Travel marketers should address last-minute deals while offering incentives for early bookings, and find ways to offer tangible services and variations on discounts for increasingly budget-conscious travelers.
Semana Santa ‘Tailor-Made’ for LATAM Family Travel
Traveler audience engagement platform Sojern analyzed trends in April travel among LATAM travelers, revealing valuable insight into shifts in consumer preferences and the effect of current political and economic conditions on people’s ability to travel.
In LATAM, the week of Easter, Semana Santa, takes the place of Spring Break for children, and schools close the week that follows Easter Sunday. “Families see it as a ‘must-travel’ time of the year because there is so much time off, so many look to take longer getaways,” said Andres Franklin, Sojern’s Commercial Director for Latin America.
And as employees in the region — especially in Mexico — tend to get less time off than they do in the United States, people are likely to take advantage of the vacation days that this entire week affords them. Some are even taking an additional week off so that they can have a rare, full two-week vacation: The study revealed that April 1, 7, and 8 are the top departure dates in April.
Franklin commented that trip durations searched for Semana Santa also reflect this trend: “43% of those looking for long-haul travel are planning trips of 12 or more days, and nearly a third of short-haul travel is also for 12 or more days,” Franklin said. The study also suggested that while people plan in advance for this holiday, last-minute bookings are still taking place. Marketers would be wise to address those who are making reservations late through last-minute deals.
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LATAM Travelers Budget-Conscious but Seeking New Experiences
While each country in the region has its own idiosyncrasies, they are generally sensitive to prices as exchange rates and their purchasing power does not always favor international power. But currency exchange across the region is at a 10-year high, and “Latin Americans still travel, but they are more budget conscious than before, so variations on a discount resonate a lot better with Latin American travelers than, say, offers of free wifi or additional features,” Franklin explained. “Tangible services, like airport pickup and free breakfast resonate well, too, as does quoting room rates in local currency instead of the US dollar.”
There are also ways to acknowledge the fluctuating economic conditions and turn them into an enticing deal: “If you really want to be smart and hit home with Latin American travelers, you may want to offer, instead of a 20% discount, an offer to ‘pay for it in 2010 currency exchange,” Franklin suggested. While a deal like this is essentially a monetary discount, he assured that it “strikes a different chord” with consumers in Latin America.
It is also important to recognize that while LATAM travelers are budget-conscious, they are on the lookout for novel experiences when they travel. “They might scale back on ‘retail therapy,’ but events like a concert, a broadway show, or a major sports game all are still appealing to the Latin American traveler to the US,” Franklin said.
Marketers Should Go Out of Way to Welcome LATAM Travelers
And it’s not just economic conditions that are shaping LATAM travel decisions. LATAM travelers — especially Mexicans — follow the news in the United States closely, and understandably do not feel particularly welcome in the country. To alleviate LATAM travelers’ worries, marketers should focus on “warm and inviting” messages that are heavy on video. “Creating short videos that welcome Latin American travelers, especially in Spanish, would be a great way to get your brands in front of new travelers and inspire them to visit your destination,” Franklin noted.
Another way to assuage travelers’ worries about how welcome they are in the US is to focus on the type of American experience that LATAM travelers want. “When Latin American travelers come here, they seek that ‘Americana’ that is not accessible in their home countries, with respect to both brands and the experiences,” Franklin said. Marketers that can give LATAM travelers the customer experience that they expect from their trip — full of American culture, food and nostalgia — will be well positioned for success.
Semana Santa a Unique Opportunity to Solidify Relationships with LATAM Travelers
Marketers wondering whether Semana Santa is a good opportunity to attract LATAM travelers should rest assured: it is most likely the busiest time of year for traveling, since many people stay in their countries for Christmas so they can be close to family and friends. Plus, since North Americans escaping the cold tend to drive up prices over the holidays, “Christmas is not a great time for Latin Americans to travel, at least not to beach resorts or most of the USA, where it’s winter,” Franklin said.
And since the North American summer months have no family-centric holidays, Franklin added, “kids are usually enrolled in some form of Summer program or camp, so it is family travel time, whether parents in LATAM want it to be or not!”