Mastering messaging in travel and tourism

Why and how every business in the travel space needs to think about SMS for business.
Phone with messages and in the foreground and criss-crossed world map in the background

Traveling comes with a lot of baggage.

In 2023, a survey showed that some of the issues travelers worry about are high prices, long waits, canceled or disrupted plans, and hard-to-find availability. With all these problems that make travel seem like navigating choppy waters, you wouldn’t want poor customer service to be another heavy anchor weighing down your potential customers. (23% of those surveyed are stressed about this even before packing their bags.)

So what do you do to ease the anxiety your guests might feel over, say, changes in cruise embarkation day or cruise port cancellations?

Enter smooth-sailing messaging. The mission: To deliver powerful CX at each touchpoint in a customer’s journey.

Why seamless messaging is a must-have 

Did you know that 77% of consumers worldwide will stop doing business with a company after 1-5 negative experiences? For this reason, it’s best to anticipate customer needs and have messaging strategies in place every step of the way—from the moment your guests are looking into booking to their return home. 

Before the trip: Packing is stressful enough. Let guests easily secure hotel stays, manage reservation details, or get answers to last-minute travel inquiries so they can head into their vacation worry-free.

During the trip: Questions about the amenities? Restaurant recommendations? Room trouble to report? Offer an effortless way to get real-time resolutions and make your guests feel like valued VIPs.

After the trip: Further nurture brand loyalty by keeping communication channels open. Invite guests to share feedback. Welcome their suggestions. And address any pending matters. 

Messaging solutions such as business texting for travel and tourism provide more than just convenience for your customers and efficiency for your operations. At their core, they’re about creating positive interactions that help foster guest satisfaction, stronger relationships, and, ultimately, repeat bookings.

Emerging messaging channels in the future of travel CX

Since 2016, 67% of consumers expected technology advancements to positively impact their relationships with travel and transportation companies; 66% think the same about hospitality and tourism. The good news? There’s a messaging mix that can help you enhance customer experience.

Short Message/Messaging Services (SMS)

Good things come in small packages—or up to 160 characters. By good things, we mean high open rates and near-universal reach. 

What helps drive the demand for business texting for tourism?

  • 72% prefer booking with travel companies that use SMS for plans, updates, and reminders
  • 75% choose texting over other methods when contacting customer support

The simplicity of SMS marketing for travel agencies makes it the go-to for quick communications, such as booking confirmations, flight delays, weather changes, and other important alerts. You can also set up a customer support text line or automate the check-in/out processes and other common guest inquiries. This helps minimize phone calls and reduce staffing strain. Additionally, you can send exclusive offers and discounts via plain SMS texts, the preferred channel for sale notifications from favorite retailers by 15% of consumers.

One of the adopters of business texting for travel is IHG Hotels & Resorts. In 2022, they launched a 24/7 customer care text messaging service, which received the highest satisfaction scores of all their channels, with over 250,000 interactions handled that year.

It’s no wonder the SMS marketing industry is projected to be worth over $12.6 billion by 2025.

Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)

It’s SMS, but better. With up to a 1600-character limit, MMS lets you add captivating images, videos, and GIFs to inspire recipients to take action. In fact, 51.1% of consumers are more likely to purchase if text messages include pictures and media.

How do you maximize the multimedia capabilities of MMS for business texting for travel and tourism?

  • Showcase the unique experiences  offered aboard the cruise ship  
  • Bring travel destinations to life with stunning previews of local attractions
  • Build anticipation with pre-arrival itineraries featuring eye-catching visuals
  • Promote on-site services like spa treatments or adventure activities

The possible result? Higher conversions. 

In Bandwidth’s State of Messaging 2024, a large CRM company reports getting 45x ROI on MMS compared to 37x ROI on SMS.

Rich Communication Services (RCS)

Dubbed “the next generation of SMS,” RCS goes beyond traditional texting to elevate how customers interact with your business. It has a high consumer appeal, with over 70% saying RCS boosts their interest in communicating with a brand.

So, what is RCS, exactly? And how can you use it for SMS marketing for travel agencies?

Imagine combining the best of SMS, MMS, and instant messaging apps—including read receipts and typing indicators—without downloading a third-party app. This means your guests can do all sorts of actions within their native messaging app, such as browsing the amenities, booking a room, adding travel dates to a calendar, and getting directions or maps to the hotel. (See RCS in action here.)

A study forecasts that there will be over 1.1 billion active RCS users globally by 2024 (up from 930 million in 2023). Currently, RCS only works with Android devices. But guess who’s coming aboard the RCS ship by late 2024? Apple.

Set a smarter text strategy this year

Explore the latest State of Messaging report for survey insights, trend analysis, and real life case studies.

Over-the-Top (OTT)

Many users turn to popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram to chat with family, friends, and businesses. WhatsApp alone attracts 2.78 billion active users worldwide. So why not meet your customers where they already are? 

Since OTT messages are sent over the internet, they are cost-effective for travelers who want to avoid sky-high international roaming fees. Some cruise lines have even taken this further, creating proprietary texting apps like the Carnival HUB App and, consequently, a new revenue stream. These OTT apps let guests stay in touch with their travel group while on board. 

One snag with OTT is that you must install an app and have internet service for the app to function.

A smarter channel mix 

Sometimes, it’s not about choosing one channel, it’s about mixing and matching channels to give your guests more options. 

Hilton joined the ranks of hotels-who-text with an announcement that guests will be able to use their choice of SMS, WhatsApp, or the Hilton Honors app to send service requests.

Meanwhile Wyndham is on the AI train with a platform which automatically provides AI-generated responses for common questions, and routes more complex requests to team members.

What number to use in business texting for travel and tourism

Application-to-Person (A2P) text messaging allows you to ramp up your reach through toll-free messaging and short codes. You can mix and match these two (instead of relying on just one) to avoid disrupting all your operations if a particular channel experiences a hiccup.

  • Toll-free uses a 10-digit phone number with an 8XX prefix, which customers already know and trust as a no-cost way to contact businesses. It’s perfect for travel-related updates, surveys, marketing, and support. The best part? Your guests can call the number should they have more complex issues. 
  • Short codes use a 5-6 digit number to send high-volume, high-throughput text messages. The easy-to-remember format makes it well-suited for generating engagement through ads, promos, and text-in campaigns. You can also use them for time-sensitive information, such as alerts, PIN codes, and two-factor authentication.

Still mystified by number types?

Take the Choose Your Channel quiz to match use cases and numbers.

Document with a checklist

How to choose the right messaging provider

Pick a strategic global messaging API partner who understands the dynamic demands of the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry and helps you meet them at scale.

  1. Do they provide transparent industry updates? Your provider should keep you ahead of the curve with an in-depth explanation of messaging trends, regulatory updates, and other changes.
  1. Do they have a dedicated human point of contact? Avoid getting lost in a sea of automated responses when you want to ask questions and seek consultation on messaging and business strategy. Unlike some providers, Bandwidth offers white-glove support for free and boasts a 97% CSAT score.
  1. Are they interested in co-creation and true partnership? Your feedback matters. So look for a provider who actively integrates your suggestions into product enhancements.
  1. Do they practice what they preach? The ideal provider follows the best industry guidelines they recommend. 
  1. Are they proactive when it comes to issue resolution? Choose a provider who identifies and resolves issues like message deliverability before they escalate into problems impacting your business.

The ROI-boosting opportunity is clear as crystal. Whether your A2P messaging goal is notification or conversation and all the sales in between, business texting for travel and tourism or SMS marketing for travel agencies gives you a multifaceted advantage in a continuously changing industry. The destination: customer satisfaction and revenue generation.