Of all the industries sent reeling by a global pandemic, the travel industry has had its fair share of obstacles.
Shuttered borders, quarantine measures, vaccine requirements, and differing restrictions across every region in the world made even the most seasoned traveler balk at the idea of taking a vacation.
Travel + Leisure offers travelers an innovative accommodation offering.
While some travel-related businesses were forced to close their doors, Travel + Leisure (formerly known as Wyndham Destinations) took the opportunity to broaden its view, expanding as a leader in vacation ownership, to becoming a trusted authority in leisure travel. The company now offers a broad portfolio of travel services, technology and engaging content to appease a new generation of wary (and weary) pandemic-era travelers.
To build further on its strength as leaders in vacation ownership, the company made a move to acquire Travel + Leisure, the award-winning magazine that has been a staple for travel aficionados since 1971. Under the deal, the company would change its name to leverage the Travel + Leisure brand, as well as access a new audience, and build a solid portfolio of leisure travel experiences and services.
The company also focused on making it easier to put its guests and owners on vacation, adding the use of PayPal as a flexible, convenient payment option for its resort rental customers.
“It has been a whirlwind,” said Heena Patel, SVP of global rental operations at Travel + Leisure Co. Patel was with the company before the acquisition and said she was confident the business would come out on top, after its reinvention.
“If you would have told me six years ago that we would buy a publishing brand, change our name and start new lines of business, I would have thought you’re dreaming,” she said. “But that’s the power of our global portfolio and leadership. We are visionaries who want to be at the forefront of driving the change in international travel and leisure industry.”
The pandemic motivated the company to pivot quickly, and to reflect on the transformation that the global travel industry was facing. Travel + Leisure invested in subscription technology, creating Travel + Leisure Club, and elevated offering short-term products such as condo-style resort rentals with Extra Holidays, and home swapping with Love Home Swap. They expanded their digital presence, hired influencers, and developed educational and aspirational content.
They also revamped their payment strategy, integrating PayPal’s Braintree platform to seamlessly offer their customers the option of paying via a digital wallet of their choice. They also began to offer their customers a “Pay in 4” option, discounts through Store Cash and promotional efforts through Venmo, again all via PayPal.
“Altogether, those options were the perfect way to help stay connected with our customers, amplify our services and expand our reach,” Heena said.
The dual-branded Club Wyndham Atlanta and Margaritaville Vacation Club resort.
The change in strategy paid off. Pre-pandemic, the company was processing about 10% of its rental revenue through PayPal, and so far in 2022 they’ve already processed more payments through PayPal then they did in all of 2019.
“With travel, and travel expenses in general, you think of it as a luxury but it’s also something people save for, want to do, need to do to feel connected to those they love. We want to give our customers a well-rounded and comprehensive suite of choices to make it easy to book their vacations, and with PayPal, we’re providing them the right tools,” said Heena.
Giving consumers flexibility and choice in not only how they pay but how they travel was a priority for the company as they recognized travelers’ expectations had changed.
“This pandemic put a lens on what travelers needed in order to feel like they were having a truly relaxing vacation experience even before their vacation began,” she said. “Our commitment to their satisfaction has always been there but now we set ourselves apart by anticipating what the customer needs and a big part of that is flexibility. Being able to cancel anytime and rebook when they feel more secure is very important.”
Educating the public about Travel + Leisure’s getaway options and subscription memberships was also an important part of their strategy.
“It’s all a part of what makes a business relevant to the individuals,” said Heena. “Not everyone is going to want to own their vacation venues but we try and give them an awareness of what they could do and how they could do it. How do you give them content that lets them dream?’
More ways to pay, new ways to travel, and a renewed focus on flexibility have helped turn the travel industry’s pandemic bust into a boom– one that is poised to surpass pre-pandemic levels.
A recent survey by Deloitte found six in 10 Americans plan to travel this summer with 46% staying in paid lodging – an increase from 41% in 2021.
While only 27% of American travelers said in that survey they are ready for international travel, the poll found that 67% were preparing for US hotel stays and 16% were looking at stateside vacation rentals.
The “Getting Back to Getaways: 2022 Deloitte Summer Travel Survey” also found that travelers on average planned on taking two trips this summer and slightly more planned on taking road trips rather than hopping on a flight.
“It’s amazing to see how many people are back traveling and willing to do more to travel,” said Heena. “Revenge vacationing is a real thing! Before, our repeat guests tended to take one vacation or two a year. Now they are taking shorter vacations, multiple times a year. If they only have a long weekend, they’re going to take it.”
Heena pointed out that the travel industry has always had to evolve to keep up with different consumer trends and preferences. In the ‘80s, having a travel agent was the norm and then in the ‘90s, travelers flocked to websites that offered last-minute deals. Today, people want curated itineraries and personalized experiences, she said.
“We always have to stay ahead of our customers and anticipate their needs,” she said. “It all starts with our mission - to put the world on vacation.”
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