Whether you are looking to buy something or you get suddenly attracted by an ad, you will probably want some information about it before buying, right? That’s exactly what happens to your potential customers too.

Especially in the travel industry, it’s pretty common for people to spend a lot of time comparing hotels, apartments, flights, cruises, etc, before deciding where and how they want to go to their desired destination. But while this planning process is one of the most decisive stages in a customer journey, it’s important for marketers not to ignore the rest of the stages.

So, how can you know what’s the correct message at every stage of the purchase process? Not easy? Well, that’s why you need to work on customer journey mapping. Keep reading.

Understanding the travel customer journey

First of all, you need to understand what are the main stages of the customer journey of a traveler.

In the travel industry, the customer journey differs from the regular journey map in its stages. You need to take into account all the actions that the customer makes, from having the idea of traveling and searching for information, to their final review after arriving home from their trip.

For this reason, we can divide the travel customer journey in three main stages:

travel customer journey
Three main stages of the travel customer journey

Pre-travel journey

In this first stage, the customer hasn’t booked any trip yet. This step includes three different processes:

  • The dreaming or inspiration stage. It happens to all of us. For instance, when you’re going through your Instagram feed and you see a picture of one of your friends vacationing on the beach, when you watch a travel documentary or when you’re checking your camera roll and find photos from past trips. This process can impact important aspects of their travel journey like where to go, when or even specific accommodations.
  • Planning stage. As we explained in the beginning, this part of the customer journey is perhaps the most decisive stage and where companies usually focus most of their attention on. In this stage, competition is in full force and companies try their best to capture the attention of potential customers via different methods and strategies.
  • Booking stage. People have already made their mind about their destination, transport and even additional activities and are ready to make the purchase. It’s important to know how the users make the booking: nowadays, 83% of US bookings are made online, with mobile devices increasing in importance. According to Think With Google, in 2017, 79% of travelers in the US completed the booking process via mobile devices, and this number is most likely higher in 2022.

In-travel journey

Many think that this part of the customer journey is not as important, when the reality is that the majority of travel activities are booked during this process, like reserving a restaurant table or booking tours. But not only that, other aspects like customer service or offering additional discounts or deals are crucial to provide your customers the best customer experience and increase the loyalty to your brand.

Post-travel journey

What happens after customers have enjoyed their trip and are back home? During this stage, marketers need to focus on increasing loyalty, engagement, and, most importantly, retaining customers. That’s why it’s important not to ignore this step so travel companies can ensure returning customers.

After knowing what the stages of the travel customer journey are, the first step in the customer journey mapping process is knowing your audience inside out.

Do you know who you are talking to?

Here is what we already know about your customers or clients:

  1. Most people find ads annoying. Not great news, right? According to research, 47% of people globally use an ad blocker. So, you should probably consider the option to work with more accurate targeting methods or event targeting niches.
  2. Although the customer journey is fragmented, consumers always want to find out: where to find the best trips, its features and prices and also, what other people think about previous booked trips, cruises or hotels. That’s why analyzing searches, social media activity and reviews is basic to understand consumers behavior.
  3. Attention is not enough. Engagement is what you are looking for and, in the travel industry, this aspect is crucial. The year 2020 forced travel companies to focus their efforts in retaining customers by increasing engagement to minimize the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, like offering content that users find interesting or useful and are interacting constantly with their audience. However engagement, trust and reputation are closely related, so travel organizations should work on these three fronts at the same time.
  4. Consumers want personalization and that requires gathering and analyzing data in full detail.
  5. The travel industry is based on providing the best experience to their customers, so appealing to the audience’s emotions is crucial when sending messages to potential customers.
  6. The first interaction that people have with travel companies is via the Internet. Whether it’s for searching for information, recommendations or booking related activities, we live in a digital environment, so being present online and improving digital usability is a must.

Next, let’s focus on the most important factors.

5 top factors of travel customer journey mapping 

1. Individual customers matter

Let’s get back to our first point: people don’t want irrelevant ads. So, mapping all the touchpoints and, in general, all the interactions that individuals have with your brand, is definitely a good start to avoid becoming irrelevant.

By mapping the travel customer journey, marketers can measure campaign and strategy results and design more personalized customer experiences. This way, they will also avoid the risk of ignoring individual preferences and problems that potential travelers may have, not paying enough attention to niches and losing those customers who have not gone through the entire booking and confirmation funnel.

customer experience

2. Not all touchpoints are the same in the customer journey

Identifying critical points is key to optimizing the whole booking funnel. Do you know which touchpoints are crucial to achieve consumer-centric goals and meet customer needs? Well, you should.

Every single touchpoint presents an opportunity to connect with your customers. It is also the first step to start working on increasing engagement. So, all of them are important, but not equally relevant. Therefore, building a solid relationship in the long term requires understanding what is more important to your customers and delivering the experience or the information that they are looking for. This is important in the travel industry, which looks for retaining customers, especially in times of uncertainty.

3. And what about the buying stages?

Like the touchpoints, not all the buying stages are the same. Mapping the entire customer journey will result in a high quantity of data that will ultimately help you and your organization understand how consumers behave throughout the whole booking process. Also, it will help you identify those stages that need to be optimized in order to make things easier for your customers.

In other words: it will be useful to correct mistakes and to validate your work so far.

4. Personalization, empathy and engagement

Understanding individual customers and niches, working on more personalized experiences, making things easier for your customers… All these actions will bring you closer to your customers, while helping to create empathy and therefore, engagement and brand loyalty.

Even if your goal is to improve the booking process, by mapping the customer journey, you will get a better understanding of your customers. This will ultimately result in a better relationship with consumers.

5. But let’s talk about bookings

A well designed, optimized, easy customer journey will mostly result in more bookings and purchases.

Awareness and consideration do not always lead to a booking directly, which is why you will need to work on engagement throughout the whole journey. Understanding where your customers need more support or information will help generate engagement, but also, will make it easier for you to know how to guide users towards the final step of the pre-travel journey.

customer journey mapping benefits

After mapping your customer journey: Are you going in the right direction?

Since mapping the customer journey will help you:

  • Understand critical touchpoints
  • Optimize buying stages
  • Deliver a better, tailored customer experience
  • Create engagement
  • And therefore… guide customers towards booking

Can you also measure whether you are going in the right direction? Is your strategy working? What else do you need to work on? Are you taking into account all the relevant channels?

Feel free to contact us to learn more about mapping the travel customer journey.

What are the stages of the customer journey in the travel industry?

The stages of the travel customer journey are divided in three main steps: the pre-travel stage, where the user gets inspiration, information and books the activity, the in-travel stage that occurs when the trip starts, and the post-travel stage, which begins when the user finish their trip.

What are the benefits of mapping the travel customer journey?

Creating a customer journey map is crucial to understand critical touchpoints, provide a better user experience, improve engagement and optimize the buying stages to ensure bookings.