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Instant messaging and tourism? Why messaging apps will bring you more happy guests!

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If you work in the travel or hospitality industry, and you're NOT using instant messaging to reach out to customers, you're losing a lot of business! Find out how you can use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and other messaging apps professionally to gain more happy guests.

The times when people found a restaurant only by walking or driving around or called a travel agent to book a standardized trip are long gone. Free time activities have become all about the experience, and people put a lot of research and time into making sure beforehand, that these trips will be unique. 

This involves a lot of digital touchpoints in the customer journey. Potential customers will check out your website, look for your business on Instagram, send you a message on Facebook Messenger to ask for more information, and they'll definitely read your reviews everywhere!

Tourism and hospitality have therefore become a lot less about just providing a service, and more about offering your customers the best time — especially after many years of travel restrictions during the pandemic! And that starts with communication, more specifically, the communication channels you use to talk to (potential) guests. 

Why instant messaging is so relevant for the tourism industry

Almost all of us use instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage to stay in touch with family and friends. It's easy, fun, and engaging. That's why it's not surprising that currently, WhatsApp is the most popular social media network in the world

Favorite social media apps 2023
People around the world love WhatsApp. (Source: Datareportal)

One of the top reasons people give for using instant messaging is that they love the messaging apps as a way to socialize. And this user behavior has spilled over into the way people prefer to talk to businesses. Just on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram Direct alone, one billion people contact a business every month. In the tourism industry, 25% of all customer communication already happens on instant messaging apps

Especially for the travel and hospitality industry, this is extremely relevant because the customer experience is really at the heart of your business. So, it's important to understand how your customers want to interact with you, what channels they want to be reached on, and then meet them there! 

The Boston University School of Hospitality Administration recently conducted a study on how guests prefer to use instant messaging (IM) apps. These are their key findings!

  • Guests prefer to use IM before and after the stay. This means that they're the perfect channel to attract new guests, but also for building customer loyalty (and turning first-time guests into regular visitors).
  • Guests prefer phones for emergencies, but like to use IM for more detailed inquiries. 
  • Guests who often use mobile IM for work purposes in daily life are more likely to expect and to use IM apps to connect with a hotel.

This gives you a good first impression of what type of interaction (potential) guests expect from you on instant messaging apps. Many customers have come to expect travel and hospitality businesses to be available via IM, they like to receive more information before they come to visit you on these channels, and they also like to stay in touch after their visit. 

That's why instant messaging in the tourism industry offers a great additional service for your guests. But it actually goes beyond that. Your business can also greatly benefit! 

Advantages of instant messaging in tourism 

There are several benefits to using instant messaging in tourism. 

Faster bookings

Potential customers usually check out your social media profile or website for before booking a trip, a room, a table, or any other service you might offer. And that's usually when they have questions. "Is there enough room in this restaurant to hold my wedding there?"; "Is the use of the gym included in the room price?"; "Do I need to book day trips before I get to the hotel?" 

The easiest way to help them find answers is to offer them an effortless option to contact you. That's where messaging apps come in! Let people know on your Instagram profile that they can contact you on Instagram Direct. Guide users from your Facebook page through a click-to-chat ad to your WhatsApp chat. Or, include a "let's chat on WhatsApp" widget on your website. 

WhatsApp widget website, Altitude Adventure Holidays
Altitude Adventure Holidays prominently lets website visitors know that they're available on WhatsApp. (Source Altitude Adventure Holidays)

The advantage of instant messaging is: Potential customers get answers very fast, and when they want them. This builds trust, and brings them one step closer to booking! 

Higher conversions

Since IM started off as a personal communication channel, the tone of voice here is very relaxed and friendly, even when talking to businesses. That's a unique opportunity for creating very personalized customer experiences

Easy communication with all age groups

People of all ages use instant messaging apps. Especially with older users who aren't as familiar with digital tools, it's actually the easier communication channel. Having somebody send you a signed contract through an e-mail attachment requires some technical knowledge, and might be a deterrent. However, taking a picture of a signed contract, and forwarding it to you on Telegram or Facebook Messenger is extremely easy! 

Be available internationally

Traveling frequently happens internationally these days. If customers can only send you text messages or call, it makes it more complicated (and costly) for people from abroad to get in touch. By using internet-based messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp, it becomes so much easier for international customers to contact you.

And: if they have to speak to you in a language that's not their native tongue, being able to text rather than talk can also be a great help! 

Multimedia experience

In the tourism industry, people make decisions based on how something looks. Since WhatsApp and other messaging apps have a lot of multimedia features, you can easily provide your customers with videos and pictures that'll be more engaging and convince them faster. 

Save time and effort

Many times, new customers have the same questions around business hours, travel packages, or the menu. Instant messaging apps make it easy to integrate chatbots (if you use a professional solution) that can answer these FAQs automatically and 24-7 (also helpful when dealing with different time zones).  

This gets customers help faster, and improves their experience. And you don't have to answer the same questions over and over again, which saves you time and effort. 

How to use messaging apps in travel and hospitality businesses (with examples)

Offer a superior customer experience

Being close to the customer AND being able to answer questions very fast are two major advantages of instant messaging in tourism. Altitude Adventure Holidays leverages both of them. 

The travel company from West Bengal, India organizes personalized adventure trips in small groups. As adventure travel requires more support and help before booking than an all-inclusive package, Altitude Adventure Holidays makes sure to be available for questions on WhatsApp. 

The company set up a WhatsApp chat option very prominently on their website. This makes it easy to contact the team while you're browsing, and then the team can go from there and take care of the customers in a more personalized way — which is exactly the type of travel experience their customers expect! 

The travel company leads customers through the widget on their website directly into the WhatsApp chat. Here, they've set up an automated text for the customers, which makes it easier to start the conversation. 

A WhatsApp chat with Altitude Adventures Holidays

Automate processes

FAQs are a common time waster. Answering the same questions over and over is tedious, and definitely not fun. Automation can be a big help! 

Take for example the European Commission. Their travel initiative Discover EU helps 18-year-old EU citizens discover Europe by train. As many of these young Europeans are first-time travelers, they naturally find themselves in many situations where they require help on their trips.  

For the staff, it became hugely challenging to answer all these questions on time, in different languages and across different time zones. That's when they implemented a chatbot to take over these questions. As a result, in the first month alone, the chatbot solved more than 700 questions, and handed over approximately 150 questions to a live support agent. 

Nurture your leads

The more you know about a potential customer's preferences, the better you can cater to their needs, and offer more personalized service. That's exactly what Blueserena Spa does. The Italian tour operator specializes in all-inclusive family holidays. Their resorts are located in different parts of Italy, so travelers can choose to have fun in the snow or enjoy a beach vacation. 

Of course, with such a broad offer, it helps to know what travelers are looking for. That's why Blueserena has integrated a chatbot flow into their WhatsApp Business channel. As soon, as a user sends them a message on WhatsApp, the chatbot asks for more detailed information about their dream destination and the type of vacation they're looking for. 

WhatsApp chatbot Bluserena Spa

With this information, users can either click on the suitable website offer, or travel agents can take over, and offer customers the best package. 

Send alerts

Once a customer has booked a trip with you or reserved a table, you can use instant messaging apps to send them service messages. For example, you can send them a reminder that their booking is coming up or send important travel alerts. 

MP + Fly WhatsApp notification

These messages end up on the users' lock screen and be a helpful addition to make sure they have all the information they need. Especially in the hospitality business, this also reduces the number of no-shows. 

Improve the travel experience

Customers are more likely to book their next trip with you again if they had a great time. Messaging apps give you options to make the trip more exciting and engaging than e-mail or SMS ever could. Take for instance the Dutch airline KLM.

It's the first airline in the world to allow family members to receive WhatsApp updates on all important information about a loved one’s trip. Using the KLM Family Updates feature, the airline sends notifications with important information to a specially created family WhatsApp group. This naturally only happens with the traveler’s consent (opt-in). In addition to KLM’s push messages, family members can ask the airline directly about the current status of the flight and receive an answer immediately. 

KLM Royal Dutch airlines WhatsApp
KLM has an excellent understanding of how to improve their service with WhatsApp. (Source: KLM)

That's what offering a superior travel experience is all about!

Cross-sell and upsell

Since it's so easy to re-start a chat in a messaging app, it's also a great opportunity to send interested customers additional offers. Maybe they're interested in a wellness treatment at your hotel. Or, maybe they would like to sign up for your lunch delivery service. Or, maybe they need to rent a car. 

As traveling and entertainment usually involve more than one service, instant messaging provides a smooth and engaging way to cross-sell and upsell. 

Re-engage potential customers

One of the advantages that travel and hospitality businesses have: people love to travel and to go out, and they'll do it again — if they find the right offer. So, even if one lead didn't pan out right away, it's definitely worth re-engaging them in the future. 

Instant messaging apps make that extremely easy! Here, you already have an existing conversation with them, so it's easy to reach out to them again in the future. That's what one of Europe's largest online travel agencies, HolidayPirates, does. 

Interested travelers can sign up to receive regular deal updates from them on WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage (Apple Messages for Business). 

Holiday Pirates WhatsApp message

Before sending out notifications, HolidayPirates has integrated a form in the chat where users can set up a personal profile and define their traveling preferences.

As mentioned, the deal notifications are available on other messaging apps as well. For instance, under the brand Holidayguru, the company also sends out Telegram broadcasts in German or Spanish. 

sector turistico ejemplo holidayguru

The travel company uses a professional messaging solution for their campaigns, Sinch Engage. With the messaging platform, they can easily set up marketing campaigns for different instant messaging apps and different markets, and handle all conversations in one central inbox. 

And: the Campaigns tool allows them to set up very specific target groups to be able to send subscribers more personalized deals. 

✈️ Set up your first travel campaign for free! 

Try Sinch Engage for free

What service can you use for instant messaging in tourism? 

In order to benefit from the advantages that instant messaging has for tourism businesses, you need to use a professional solution that is: 

  • secure and private (after all, you're handling sensitive personal information)
  • easy and fast to set up (so you don't need to spend a lot of money and time for IT resources)
  • convenient to use for all different use cases and several instant messaging apps

Well, Sinch Engage offers all of that and more! Our all-in-one messaging platform complies with the highest security and data protection standards, gives you a solution that works with the most relevant messaging apps, is ready to go in days, and very intuitive to use, so you can get started right away. 

Plus: you also get access to a lot of functionalities, such as a drag-and-drop chatbot builder, our Campaigns tool to scale your marketing campaigns, detailed analytics, and so much more! 

Get in touch, and we'll walk you through it! 

Schedule a live demo

Image of Marinela Potor, editor-in-chief at Sinch Engage.
Written by: Marinela Potor