Many industries felt the brunt of COVID-19. But few felt it quite as drastically as the travel and tourism biz.

Omio is Europe’s leading travel platform for travel via bus, rail and flight. Shortly after having rebranded from GoEuro, and having scaled into the US and Canada at the start of the year, the Berlin-based unicorn had to put their ambitions to the side – and focus on staying afloat. For our latest edition of our Marketer’s Snackbox webinar series (if you missed our last edition with the South African fintech Yoco, you can find the recap here), we spoke to Marie Demont, Head of Brands and Campaigns at Omio. She took us on a deep dive through the company’s challenges and successes since COVID-19 hit.

We found out how Omio pivoted their marketing strategy this year, how they told their users not to travel with the ‘stay safe, stay home’ campaign, plus a few key takeaways from their time under lockdown. Enjoy!

Here’s what we found out:

1) Throughout the entire period, Omio focused on making sure that their users had all the information they needed.

Up until March 11th, their marketing strategy had all been focused on the anticipated Easter holiday surge in Europe. This all changed with the lockdown. With a surge in cancellations, and revenues close to zero, Omio had to focus on ensuring their customer service could keep up with the number of queries and cancellation requests. This was their main focus as the whole situation exacerbated in March and April.

Marie explains how Omio's cancellation rates increased exponentially during COVID-19

They also focused on ensuring they had updated policy information from their 800+ local providers on the site – whether airlines, rail or bus providers – which gained a lot of media attention. This focus on updating relevant information for travellers was also pivotal to their communications, social media and content strategy.

This wasn’t just something they pushed at the start of the lockdown either: “We clearly understand that customers are looking for brands they can trust,” says Marie. “That’s why we launched the Open Travel Index, a tool that helps you to understand what places are open and where you can go.” The Open Travel Index provides resources about responsible and safe travelling as well as a traffic light system for restrictions for all travel destinations.

2) They pivoted to a more human approach with their marketing strategy

How Omio adapted their marketing strategy to keep users inspired but informed

Marie explained how, while focused on keeping their users informed was key, they also wanted to keep things human and fun. This resulted in a shift towards user-generated content on their social media channels: whether it was photos from user balconies, or links to virtual guided tours and recommendations of books and films around travel. “It was an attempt to keep up some travel excitement during this time,” says Marie.

3) Not everything worked in their marketing strategy

How some parts of Omio's marketing strategy didn't work

Take the Vacay Replay Challenge, a social media competition where followers could recreate their favourite holiday photos at home. “While we received some great entries, this one didn’t work out,” said Marie. Why?

With many customers still waiting for refunds, there was a social media backlash on the comments. “As we couldn’t answer the biggest pain point – which was ‘when am I getting a refund’ – the campaign was suffocated by the negative noise,” Marie admits. “We weren’t able to keep up with the pace.”

4) The situation brought the team closer together.

In order to avoid layoffs, many people in the company were put on Kurzarbeit – the short term work program used by the German government, similar to furlough in other countries. This coincided with the majority of the company working from home. But this didn’t see the company becoming distant, far from it. 

“It was incredible how fast people adapted to this work from home approach,” Marie says. “We saw the company come together and make the most for our users.” Furthermore, she noticed how she began to feel closer with their overseas employees, particularly in China – who had gone into lockdown much earlier than the European colleagues.

5) There is a big shift in the future of travel.

First and foremost, the optimistic news! “The organic demand is coming back, people crave travel. And more and more bookings are coming in,” Marie says. But there are some big shifts afoot.

She expects demand to be more local than long-distance and international, more last-minute too and with a shift towards ground transportation over flights. “The fastest to recover will be the train, bus and car rental companies,” she claims. The downside for customers, possibly an upside for the environment: “And less onboard consumption on flights – whether it’s shopping or food purchases – will result in higher ticket prices.”

COVID-19 and the ensuing chaos has left a lot up in the air. If your marketing strategy needs a rethink, get in touch with us here.