Fast 5 with Clint Hearne, Head of Marketing, Flight Centre

This month’s fast 5 interview with Flight Centre’s Head of Marketing, Clint Hearne dives into the rise of domestic travel and consumer attitudes to planning alongside a crystal ball look into future business and leisure travel trends as we look to 2021 with a desire to travel again.

With consumer confidence on the rise, and domestic opportunities fuelling our desire to travel, what’s the sentiment that you’re seeing from your consumers?

There is a lot of pent up travel demand, people are ready and the desire to travel again is there. The industry has some work to do to drive customer confidence and ensure that travellers have the confidence to start booking again. To continue to drive travel and tourism, consumers need reassurance that they will be supported in the instance of travel restrictions coming into play as we navigate our way through Covid together.

We’ve been somewhat battered and bruised by snap lockdowns and border closures. As we see travel and appetite for the category pick up, what kind of travel trends are you seeing? Are consumers booking more short-term trips or forward planning and considering overseas travel in the long term?

It has been interesting to watch. Before Christmas, we saw about 50% of all travel happening within 4 weeks of booking with longer trips being planned. As confidence has grown, we have definitely seen the book to travel time increase across domestic holidays, signalling that as confidence rises, consumers are well-positioned to book travel for say 3 or 6 months down the track. This is especially relevant with family holidays, as availability over school holidays has specifically been challenged in multiple locations.

Another sector that has seen a rise in longer lead times is that of international cruises where we’re seeing customers booking for 2022 and 2023 departures. While this is not so uncommon in the cruise sector as bookings are usually done further in advance, there has been amazing deals in market to ensure bookings for the future are still quite high.

How are you reaching and engaging your consumers to maintain confidence post-travel interruptions?

We have a 2 tiered approach to do this. We need mass reach, to inspire consumers, showcase deals, build our brand and also showcase our core brand messaging that we know our customers are wanting to see and hear such as peace of mind for future travel plans.

This is coupled with a more targeted approach of messaging and channel mix to ensure the right information is hitting the right customer where possible.

What predictions do you have on future business/leisure travel trends?

Get out the crystal ball for this one.

It is going to be a very interesting time ahead, being ready and planning as much as possible is needed. Why? We will have some customers that only want to travel locally within Australia and I don’t see that changing. On the other hand, we have others that will travel to an international destination as soon as a border opens, nearly irrespective of the destination.

Flexibility, health, safety and knowledge that a customer can easily access and digest will be more prevalent than ever before. Add to this that some customers will have future credits to use due to movement from previously cancelled plans and will likely look to ‘upgrade’ their holiday, be it a room type, length of stay, class on the airline, cabin on a cruise ship etc.

What can we expect to see from Flight Centre in 2021?

There’s too much to write here. We are literally transforming every part of our business, whilst we ensure our Flight Centre DNA remains. In marketing, we will modernise the brand through creative, messaging and media choices, Investing in both brand and retail advertising. Where possible, we will ensure our customers have a personalised approach that goes back to targeting the right customer with the right message, activated on a mass level. What that means is a stronger investment in data, martech solutions and analytics.

Smart marketing will be the key to future success.

We can’t stop at 5, so 5.1 –finally where’s next on your travel wish list – must ask!

I just got back from Tassie and it was absolutely beautiful. Next will either be Uluru or Whitsunday Island and when NZ opens, I’ll be road-tripping around the South Island ending up in Queenstown.