How Skyscanner is helping consumers navigate the COVID-19 world of international travel

Gary Flood Profile picture for user gflood June 29, 2021 Audio mode
To provide transparency and improve trust for Summer 2021 holidaymakers, Skyscanner has turned to CRM, personalized email comms and created an interactive dashboard


Travel marketplace Skyscanner helps millions of people in 52 countries and over 30 languages find the best travel options for flights, hotels and car hire every month. Available on desktop, mobile and web, the Skyscanner app has been downloaded over 100 million times. Working with 1,200 travel partners, the Edinburgh-based organization sees its mission as to "lead the global transformation to modern and sustainable travel".

But as the company's Director of Lifecycle Marketing at Skyscanner, Martin Allen, points out, there hasn't exactly been a lot of that travel over the past year or so, as a consequence of the global health crisis. What it sees, though, is a lot of building demand, with EMEA travellers last month purchasing 43% more trips than they were in April 2020 - demonstrating a clear appetite for travel, as we hopefully emerge from the pandemic towards greater sense of normality.

However, that desire to travel is being matched by confusion as to exactly where customers might dream of jetting off to. The UK seems to change regulations weekly, with a constantly changing mix of "red, amber and green" countries and rules on testing and quarantine. Allen says:

Many people simply don't understand the complexity of the rules, especially as they are often subject to change. In fact, according to research we just commissioned, only 47% of UK consumers understand the rules governing international travel and 55% find quarantine rules, COVID-19 vaccine certificates, testing requirements, and the traffic light system confusing.

Allen and his team see their job at Skyscanner as being there to provide clear and informative information to travellers about where they can go in a way that is easy to understand. To do that in these confusing end-of-COVID-times in the UK, he's commissioned a live, interactive COVID-19 restrictions map that highlights all the necessary information required to travel anywhere in the world. He adds:

We've seen a rise in open and click-through rates that are 3-4 times higher than our usual average'

Personalized outreach

To create this digital customer resource, Skyscanner worked with a US cloud vendor called Braze, which markets customer relationship management software that brands can use for multichannel marketing. But that asset is far from the only fruit of the contract: the marketplace has also used its platform to issue emails to alert travellers to any changes in rules or circumstances for their destination country.

There was a customer support aspect to this, but also a commercial angle, he adds:

As the global travel situation continues to evolve, we require an agile solution that could send relevant and timely communications, triggered whenever restrictions change. Our data shows that 34% of global travellers would consider booking with another company if they didn't get the communications they expected.

And they want it via email, it seems: 43% of travellers prefer to get updates via email, versus 21% who prefer a call and 16% who prefer texts/direct messages. These alerts are tied to the interactive map as part of what Allen has named the "Where Can I Go" messaging campaign. Allen says: 

The map email alerts have led to increased engagement from our customers, who have been eagerly awaiting a return to travel. Given the timely and highly relevant nature of the alerts and messages we send to customers, we've seen a rise in open and click-through rates that are 3-4 times higher than our usual average.

Allen also says that benefits of using a personalized outreach approach like this have been significant, allowing the brand to develop real-time, cross-channel experiences and relationships with travellers across email, push, and in-app. He adds:

The ability to send targeted and personalized communications to travellers is hugely important in travel to ensure relevancy. We can also now run complex global campaigns at scale and in multiple languages, including travel restriction updates, newsletters and deals for flights, hotels and car hire.

Clear, transparent and timely  

This is just the beginning of personalization work at the company, however. Allen told diginomica that the brand's ultimate ambition is to deliver a seamless cross-channel experience for travellers, whether they are looking for flights, hotels or car hire options. Offers will need to focus on domestic travel, he acknowledges, but as international travel finally starts to come back, relevant, timely and personalized communications on travellers' preferred channels, ranging from things such as destination inspiration to advice on when is the best time to book, as well as price alerts, will continue to be rolled out.

Allen stresses that there is a huge pent-up demand for international travel, so organizations in the travel sector need to be prepared to both meet that welcome resurgence in bookings, but also provide travellers with clear, transparent and timely communications when restrictions change. He says:

There is a huge amount of complicated information that can seem overwhelming, so brands must help travellers navigate the complexity.

It's now up to brands and travel operators to ensure that customer communications are clear and transparent, in order to reassure people about the rules and safety measures in place, as well as giving consumers confidence to book a trip this summer.

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