The 7 Effective Travel Customer Journey Mapping Stages

Understanding customer journey map in the travel and hospitality Industry

Last Updated on February 26, 2024 by The Digital Travel Expert

Welcome to the realm of travel customer journey mapping, a dynamic process that transcends mere transactions to create unforgettable memories.

In a world where travel isn’t just a means to an end but an experience in itself, understanding the intricate dance between customer expectations and service delivery is paramount.

But what exactly does it entail, and why is it crucial for travel businesses across diverse niches?

Join us on an exploration as we unravel the layers of effective stages. From luxury escapades to budget-friendly adventures, we’ll delve into how businesses in various niches can craft experiences that resonate deeply with their clientele.

Embark on this journey with us as we navigate through the stages, from the initial spark of inspiration to the post-trip reflections, discovering the pivotal touchpoints that define memorable travel experiences.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler seeking new insights or a business owner aiming to enhance customer satisfaction, this exploration promises to provoke thought and inspire innovation.

Buckle up as we embark on a voyage through the realms of customer journey stages, where every stage holds the potential to transform a simple trip into an extraordinary odyssey.

1. Understanding customer journey map in the travel and hospitality Industry

The travel journey map refers to the process that customers go through while thinking about, planning, and experiencing a trip. It involves several stages, starting with the initial inspiration and research phase, followed by the booking and preparation stage, and finally culminating in the actual travel experience and post-trip reflections.

The 7 Effective Travel Customer Journey Mapping Stages

Understanding the stages of the customer journey in the travel industry helps businesses understand the touchpoints and emotions that customers encounter at each stage. It enables them to provide personalized and memorable experiences that meet the customers’ needs and expectations. Understanding client journey mapping will also allow your travel business to identify potential pain points and areas for improvement to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Importance of understanding unique specificities

The importance of identifying unique needs and challenges as the first step in journey mapping will make a difference. This brings back the need for tour companies or hotels to focus on a travel niche that aligns with their expertise and resources. If you are going for a luxury travel niche, it makes sense to have a clue as to what an affluent tourist will need to have a memorable and exclusive experience.

With the unique needs and expectations of customers at each touchpoint, your luxury travel businesses will tailor offerings and communications for a seamless and delightful experience. The travel industry is different from other online businesses in that it involves an online experience but most importantly, the human touch. 

– Overview of journey mapping structure in the travel industry

This article will again discuss in depth the unique needs and expectations of tourists and how travel businesses can cater to them. It will then highlight the importance of tailoring offerings and communications for a seamless and delightful experience. Next, it will emphasize the customer journey analysis in the travel industry, starting with the online experience but ultimately leveraging the human touch. Finally, the article will conclude by emphasizing the significance of this distinction in the online business landscape. Let’s explore the pre-travel stage now. 

2. Discovery Stage of the Traveler Journey Mapping

During the discovery stage, potential travelers are seeking inspiration and information about their next destination, not necessarily knowing which one. Probably the client read a book about a certain country, studied history at school, or saw a sports athlete from a specific country perform exceptionally well. There are reasons why people choose certain travel destinations over others, and these reasons can vary greatly from person to person.  Some may be drawn to the natural beauty and landscapes of a certain country shown on TV or in travel magazines. Others may be interested in the rich history and cultural heritage that a destination has to offer.

For instance, some avid adventurers who enjoy adrenaline-inducing activities in the USA may have an idea about similar activities in other countries. Similarly, those who appreciate the arts and architecture in one city may be curious about experiencing them in different parts of the world. In a few words, the inspiration stage is an important piece of stages of the client journey.

3. Pre-travel Stage

– Inspiration and research

People travel for different reasons. Whatever reasons and needs lead travelers to think about planning a trip, tourism businesses must understand the challenges their target audience goes through. During the pre-travel stage, tourists seek inspiration and conduct extensive research to plan their trips. They explore various online platforms, such as travel websites, social media influencers, and review sites, to gather information about destinations, accommodations, activities, and local experiences. 

To capture your clients’ attention and stand out from the competition, your travel business must create compelling travel content that sparks curiosity and provides valuable insights.  It’s not enough to draw attention, but being able to deliver on the concrete needs of your target audience will help your tour company or hotel thrive in the long term. Running a travel business is like running a long-term relationship with people. 

– Digital platforms and social media as primary sources of information.

Travelers no longer rely on print magazines as their only source of information. Digital marketing and communication have revolutionized the way travel businesses, destinations, and travelers connect. However, the digital sphere has a lot of options and can be overwhelming to navigate. From social media to influencer marketing and travel SEO strategy, endless digital marketing strategies exist to explore and implement.

Your travel business needs to leverage platforms and strategies that align with your target audience and business goals and, most importantly, where you can meet your target market. Finding the right sphere where your clients hang out is the key to client journey mapping. Whatever marketing channel you choose, make sure your communications address their problems and challenges.  

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– Influence of reviews and ratings

You know how reviews influence your purchasing decision before buying a product from Amazon or any e-commerce website. The travel industry isn’t different. So, your tour company reviews play a significant role in convincing potential customers about your travel business services. Positive travel reviews and high ratings on platforms such as TripAdvisor tend to boost confidence in customers and increase the likelihood of them choosing your tour company for their travel needs.

However, the way you respond to negative reviews and handle customer complaints can also greatly impact your reputation and potential for future business success. So, in their journey to finding the right tour company, your response and resolution to any negative feedback will play a crucial role. 

Regardless of what reviews and ratings say about your travel company, they are an integral part of the journey. 

– Role of travel businesses

In most cases, your travel business has the power to make the online experience seamless. The role of travel businesses goes beyond just providing services and packages to customers. You need to educate, inform, and assist tourists from the online to the field experience. To do this effectively, tourism businesses( usually travel agencies and hotels) must leverage technology that streamlines not only the booking process but also enhances communication and provides personalized recommendations.

In tourism, there is such a thing as pre-tour customer satisfaction or experience. Digital transformation and human skills go hand in hand for a seamless and enjoyable journey for travelers.

– Planning and booking

This is a crucial stage for both travelers and the tour businesses involved. On the one hand, the tourist goes through stages of gauging if the travel company they find is the right one. On the other hand, the travel company needs to ensure that they provide a seamless and satisfactory customer experience to pass the vetting process. Let’s explore them one by one. 

– Comparison of different travel options

When you want to book a hotel room in a destination, you will need to compare hotel rates. The same applies to your customers. Your excellent online customer experience is not convincing enough for travelers to book with your tour company.  Your pricing strategy needs to take your target audience into consideration. Your clients will email two or three travel companies to make an informed decision and choose the most suitable one for their needs and budget. Your client journey mapping is also defined by your pricing strategy. 

– Consideration of budget and preferences

Budget is not the only deciding factor. Other factors should be taken into account. The travel packages should be designed in a way that meets your target market’s budget and preferences while also aligning with your pricing strategy. The overall customer experience, tour offerings, and complementary services are also important considerations.

– Importance of clear and transparent booking processes

Travelers hate unexpected costs the same way you do when shopping online. They want to know exactly what they’re paying for and not be hit with hidden fees or charges. This should be clearly stated in your offerings on your website; otherwise, a lack of clear information can disrupt the search prematurely. 

– Preparing for the trip

So far, so good; the client has booked the trip with you and is excited about it. The journey hasn’t stopped. Is there any extra information about the trip that the client needs to know, or is everything clear and ready? Whether it is an update about your destination or an event happening during their travel period, the client will be happy to receive this information.

– Gathering necessary travel documents

Is the visa available on arrival, or should it be applied for before their trip? Supplying all required information about vaccinations, visas, and any other necessary travel documents will prove your professionalism. And you want to be known as such.

– Packing and organizing essentials

Just imagine the expectations or fears you had when you traveled abroad for the first time. Traveling overseas can be overwhelming, but with thorough preparation, it can be an unforgettable experience. Nobody wants to carry unnecessary clothes that won’t be worn. 

– Managing expectations and setting goals

On the traveler’s side, before embarking on the booking trip, the client will take some time to manage their expectations and set realistic goals. Even though they understand that not everything may go as planned, they will keep a positive mindset, and being adaptable will make the experience more enjoyable. As a tour service provider, being in the shoes of the traveler will allow you to better understand their needs and provide a more personalized and satisfying experience.

You will be more prepared to help them achieve their goals. Whether it’s learning a new language, immersing oneself in the local culture, or simply creating lasting memories, you have the power to enhance a traveler’s experience. 

4. Travel Stage

– Departure and transportation

If your tour package includes assistance with booking flights and airport transfers, you must provide detailed information about transportation options at the destination. Clear communication alleviates any stress or confusion your clients may have once they land. Picking up your clients from the airport on time is the first impression of the actual tour. It sets the tone for the rest of the tour. A quick briefing about the activities of the following day is something that should be observed at all times. 

– Logistics and coordination of travel arrangements

The best travel management will ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for your clients. This means comfortable transportation to and from airports, hotels, and various tour destinations. This is a crucial moment. If you carefully manage the required logistics, you will minimize any potential delays or inconveniences that may arise during the trip. Again, if things don’t go according to plan, make sure you have a plan B already set. Having a backup plan can help avoid major disruptions and keep everything on track. Remember, the traveler has built his goals based on the detailed itinerary. Your travel business should always strive to deliver on its promises and be flexible and adaptable in case any unexpected changes occur. 

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– Airport procedures and security checks

Airport procedures are usually the same, but not always. It is important to provide enough information about any special requirements when entering or exiting the destination. Are there any airport taxes, fees, or additional charges that need to be paid? If well prepared, the traveler can better manage their time and avoid unnecessary stress. 

-Modes of transportation and their unique experiences

Remember, the itinerary submitted to the traveler is a highlight of the main sites or activities they will do. A well-versed tour service provider will be able to improvise and suggest additional sites or activities based on the traveler’s preferences and interests. This comes from the communication between the traveler and the guide. Those unique experiences usually make the most of their time and create unforgettable memories. They can be anything from exploring hidden gems in the city to participating in local cultural events. Those small details will make a difference and add depth and meaning to their overall travel experience.

– Accommodation specificities

The choice of the accommodation facility is important for the tour experience. The travel company should be able to choose or at least recommend hotels or even unique accommodations like eco-lodges or homestays that align with the traveler’s preferences and budget. The quality of the accommodation and meals plays an important role in ensuring a satisfying and memorable travel experience

– Choosing the right type of accommodation

The right accommodation doesn’t mean the most popular hotel in the city. There is no conventional best accommodation. Great accommodation means finding a place that suits the traveler’s needs and preferences, whether that be a cozy bed and breakfast or a luxury resort. The accommodation should provide comfort, convenience, and a sense of relaxation for the traveler to truly enjoy their trip. 

– Checking-in and room selection

In the same way that some travelers prefer aisle seats when flying, some clients will need a room facing the beach. Hotels often offer various room options and amenities. If you happen to have a client with a specific preference for a room, just inform the hotel in advance so they can accommodate their request. Small details like this can make a big difference in the overall experience. Going the extra mile for your clients is not cheap. 

– Amenities and services provided by the accommodation

Tourists don’t only focus on the quality of the room and meals when rating a hotel. From luxurious spas and gyms to complimentary breakfast and concierge services, these offerings can elevate their stay and leave a lasting impression. They also consider the overall ambiance, cleanliness, and customer service. Your role as a travel company is to partner with hotels and lodges that won’t compromise the quality of your client’s tour experiences. 

– Experiencing the destination

Travelers choose a destination for different reasons. Whether it is an adventure of a lifetime, a cultural experience, or simply relaxation, the goal is always to create memories that will leave a lasting impression. Help your guests go and explore the world, embrace new experiences, and make unforgettable memories. The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating lasting impressions and unforgettable memories.

– Engaging in local culture and traditions

This is a key to gaining a deeper understanding of the place they are visiting. From trying traditional cuisine to participating in local festivals and rituals, these experiences provide a unique insight into the customs and way of life of the destination. Engaging in local culture and traditions not only enriches the travel experience but also fosters connections with the local community, creating meaningful interactions that will be cherished for years to come. That’s where the tour guide’s expertise comes in handy.

5. Online Reviews and Recommendations 

It has become a culture for travelers to review tourist attractions and tour companies they have traveled with.  Reviews and recommendations from satisfied clients greatly impact the reputation of your company. Whether they are happy with your services or not, your clients will likely share their experiences on third-party travel platforms like TripAdvisor and others. You shouldn’t sit and watch. A week or so after the tour, email your clients and ask them if you can write a review about their travel experience.

Sharing client testimonials and reviews strategically is a content creation strategy digital marketers use

Don’t be shy about telling them how it helps your business. While not all satisfied clients will write a review, at least they will know you value them and appreciate their feedback.

6. Offline recommendations: word of mouth

If your company has amazed them, travelers will tell their families and friends where they have been and about the great tour company that treated them well. It is so easy to share a story or a recommendation with others, especially when they have had such a positive experience. The story isn’t only about the destination but everything that goes with it—people, food, weather,…

There are travel clubs where tourists who share a common interest in exploring new places can connect and exchange their experiences, tips, and advice. It could be a club for luxury travelers, hiking, wildlife adventure, and heritage travel. Whatever club your clients belong to, make sure they have a positive experience. Your great (or poor) customer experience will be communicated to fellow travelers. 

7. Loyalty stage: booking again with your travel company

-Repeat travelers 

If you offer services that your clients can book more than once, the happy ones will come back to you for future trips and recommend your company to others. Your travel company must earn their loyalty by providing exceptional experiences and top-notch customer service. Travelers who come back to you will usually value the trust, personalized attention, and seamless planning process that your company offers. Although the journey for a loyal traveler isn’t the same as a first-time one, you should never compromise on service quality.

In the same way you pay attention to small details for new travelers, you should do the same for loyal ones too. If you have a chance of going further, do it. Are there any discounts, special offers, loyalty cards, or rewards your company can provide? Build a loyalty culture for those repeat clients. 

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-Referral programs

If you are more serious and ambitious about your travel business, you should understand a referral program as part of the stages.  While some travelers will recommend your services to friends and colleagues without any compensation in return, it will make more sense for most travelers if they can get a reward for their referrals. It could be an Amazon voucher or a commission on bookings made through their referrals. Referral is a practice you will always find in an e-commerce customer journey.

The referral program works well with travel bloggers and influencers. It is a great way to incentivize loyal customers to refer your services to their friends and family. When you offer discounts or rewards for successful referrals, you not only encourage repeat business but also expand your customer base through word-of-mouth marketing. 

FAQs

What is Customer journey mapping?

Customer journey mapping is a strategic tool used to understand and visualize the entire experience a customer goes through when interacting with a brand or product. It helps businesses identify pain points, opportunities for improvement, and areas where they can enhance customer satisfaction. You can find a free customer journey map template but you should always personalize it.

Example of customer journey map

One example of a customer journey map in the travel industry is the Out-of-market Stage, where potential travelers become aware of different destinations and start dreaming about their next vacation. During the Awareness Stage, they begin researching and gathering information about various travel options. In the Consideration Stage, they narrow down their choices and compare prices, itineraries, and reviews. The Intent Stage is when they make a decision and start planning their trip in detail. The Purchase Stage is when they book their flights and accommodations.

How to create a customer journey map

The first step involves understanding your target audience and their pain points to find a solution to their travel needs.

What are some common challenges faced during journey mapping and how can they be overcome?

Some common challenges faced during journey mapping include limited access to customer data, difficulty in identifying all touchpoints, and resistance from stakeholders. These challenges can be overcome by conducting thorough research to gather customer data, using techniques like customer interviews and surveys. Additionally, involving stakeholders early on in the process and addressing their concerns can help mitigate resistance and ensure their buy-in

What tools or resources can assist me in conducting effective journey mapping? 

There are several tools and resources available to assist you in conducting effective journey mapping. Some popular options include customer journey mapping software, such as UXPressia or Smaply, which provide templates and visualization tools to help you map out the traveler’s journey. Additionally, conducting customer surveys, and interviews, and analyzing customer feedback can provide valuable insights for journey mapping. It is also helpful to consult industry research and case studies to gain a deeper understanding of best practices and successful strategies in journey mapping. 

How can journey mapping benefit my business?

Journey mapping can benefit your business in several ways. Firstly, it helps you gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ experiences and emotions throughout their journey with your company. This allows you to identify pain points and areas for improvement, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty. Additionally, journey mapping helps you align your business processes and strategies with the customer’s needs, resulting in more effective and targeted marketing campaigns. Ultimately, journey mapping can lead to increased customer retention and business growth.

What are the frequent challenges to travel journey mapping?

They include accurately capturing all the details and experiences of the trip, as well as organizing and presenting them in a visually appealing and informative way. Additionally, incorporating subjective elements such as emotions and personal reflections can be challenging, as they may vary from person to person. 

What makes travel company or hotel journey mapping effective?

Travel company or hotel journey mapping is effective because it provides a comprehensive understanding of the customer’s experience throughout their entire travel journey. It helps identify pain points, areas of improvement, and opportunities for delivering exceptional customer service.

Customer journey maps for travel agencies

It includes several stages. First, the customer becomes aware of the travel agency through various marketing channels, such as advertisements or word-of-mouth recommendations. Next, they research different travel options and destinations offered by the agency. They may also compare prices and read reviews to make an informed decision. Once they have chosen a travel package, they book their trip through the agency and receive confirmation of their reservation. During the trip, the customer may encounter any issues or challenges that need to be resolved by contacting the agency’s customer service. 

Wrapping up

The common understanding of the travel customer journey involves the initial inspiration and research phases, where customers may seek inspiration from various sources such as friends, family, or online platforms. Once a destination is chosen, customers move on to the planning and booking phase, where they search for the best deals and accommodations that match their travel preferences. 

Despite the many customer journey mapping tools, travel companies need to understand their clients to provide a personalized and tailored travel experience. During the trip, customers experience the actual travel phase, which includes transportation, accommodation, and activities. Whatever customer journey map templates you use, remember that tourism is about a personal journey and creating lasting memories for individuals, always keeping in mind the unique experiences and preferences of each traveler. In a few words, customer journey map examples will give you inspiration on how you can build yours according to your travel niche. 

Keep in mind these seven stages: Out-of-market Stage, Awareness Stage, Consideration Stage, Intent Stage, Purchase Stage, Post-Purchase Stage, and Advocacy Stage. These seven stages are essential for creating a successful travel niche.

Additional resources of templates

Client journey map templates

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