Travel copywriting lessons from 2020: why honesty is the best travel policy

by Anna Fozzard

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Rail operators could be on the brink of something good. After distrust in airlines has surfaced following 2020’s mass cancellations, rail travel could be on the itinerary in the next few years. There’s an opportunity for rail networks to take a chunk of tourism’s market share, but first, they need to tackle opinions much closer to home.
The daily rush-hour crush, overrunning engineering works, rail replacement buses and unrelenting delays have left the public feeling disheartened in the Great British train journey. To overturn these opinions and set the foundations for a brighter (and more reliable) future, a hefty dose of honesty will go a long way.

Lessons learned: adaptability and resilience

Businesses in almost every industry have had to adapt to Covid-19 practically overnight. Rail is no exception.
We’ve seen travel companies changing timetables to meet different needs. Services have slimmed down to account for a 90% drop in passengers. Yet, trains have been ensuring key workers can get to work, and that food and other essentials are transported efficiently. They’ve shown resilience to the situation and adapted to meet demand.
Rail operators that choose to learn from their experience will need to communicate their commitments to change customer opinions. Here’s where travel copywriting needs to be written with searing honesty – to recognise faults, show learnings and explain what people can expect from now on.

New policy: honesty

We’re sure lots of you did the same as us – wince when we saw that rail fares are increasing in January – despite Covid-19. It comes at a time when many of us are rejoicing over not having to stand nose-to-armpit on overcrowded rush-hour trains. It’s hard to imagine why we’d be rushing back to have the same experience for more money.
As usual, the rising fare price is in line with the retail price index (RPI). The Treasury also needs to recoup money from putting on emergency services.
A spokesperson for The Rail Delivery Group explained, “The best way to support economic recovery now and keep fares down in the future is to get more people travelling by train.”
But, will this explanation be enough to lure people back into buying more expensive season tickets after working from home for months?
When it comes to rail travel’s rising cost, travel copywriting needs to reassure people that the extra they’re spending will lead to better services. Again, honesty should be central to any approach. Overpromise, and the next fair price increase will be an even harder pill to swallow.

Triumph with transparency

The next few years will be challenging for rail operators. Not only will they need to keep adjusting timetables to meet changes in demand as the crisis unfolds, but they’ll need to try and win back passengers. Rail networks expect to lose around 27% of their commuters, with a future of flexible working set to reduce the need to commute.
Wooing customers back will be challenging. Widespread scepticism means people won’t believe shiny ads and messages of ‘guaranteed seats’. A transparent approach – one that’s upfront about flaws in the network and issues they need to sort – will help companies rebuild lost trust.

The other side of travel copywriting

We know from experience that travel copywriting isn’t always about selling dream holidays. It’s often a way of building rapport with customers and taking the stress of out booking and navigating transport.
Plans for the next few years will have undoubtedly changed for many businesses, including rail operators. As you get ready to meet customer demand, get in touch for our help in wording messages with clarity, honesty, and consistency.

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