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Few travel companies are faring well in these crisis times. But while carrying on marketing efforts as normal is out of the question, going totally dark is also somewhat of a liability. When travel begins to recover, how does a brand ensure its customers will think of it first?

Event discovery technology company OccasionGenius has unexpectedly found itself helping some travel companies face that challenge in a data-informed and tonally appropriate way.

Before the crisis, the B2B startup was primarily focused on helping brands leverage the power of large events. The company’s patent-pending technology — called the Event Genome — creates a sophisticated inventory of events and festivals, cataloging everything from the basic logistical information to the demographic appeal. Travel companies like hotels and online travel agencies then can use that database to customize offerings to their own customers, informed by data they already have from loyalty programs and past trips and stays.

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The result might be that instead of a potential guest leaving a hotel company’s website to research what country music festivals are being held during their stay, they could find that out directly on the hotel’s website itself — and maybe even extend their stay a couple nights as a result. The Richmond, Virginia-based company raised $3.1 million in funding last year.

Then, of course, the travel world ground to a halt. But CEO Nate Marcus told Skift that amidst all the event cancellations the company was hustling to make sure its online inventory reflected, there was a “strong request from marketing departments to find ways to engage with their loyalty members.” From there, “[OccasionGenius’] data has suddenly taken on this new spin.”

Now, the company is working with travel companies to create future-minded wish lists and bucket lists that brands can use to engage with travelers during the crisis. The events they are highlighting are the kind of large-scale, travel-worthy, annual marquee events that the home-bound traveler may be dreaming about finally visiting one day once they’re out of the social distancing era. It’s a marketing pitch that might sound something like this: Bummed about missing the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? Why not plan a trip to Tokyo’s cherry blossom season in spring 2021 instead?

By asking users to directly indicate their preferences or deducing their interests by what event offerings they click on in marketing emails or an app, travel brands can gauge future interest. “Companies can not only engage with you now, but also when they have the best deals on flights, hotels etc” when recovery finally comes, Marcus said.

Though this kind of aspirational marketing is in theory a way for travel companies to take advantage of all this pent-up travel demand and secure bookings far in advance, that’s not the only purpose it’s serving.

“A lot of times what we’re hearing from these brands isn’t just, [I want] to secure bookings after corona, but also, I want to learn something from my guest.”

The data and insights that travel companies glean from leveraging OccasionGenius’ tech is theirs to keep. If a customer registers a repeated interest in foodie events, specifically those related to Italy, a hotel brand might know they will be interested in a property’s new Italian restaurant opening, for example, and market to them in the future accordingly.

The company is not able to share any specific travel companies its working with in this vein, but it said in addition to hotels, OTAs, and airlines, industries like credit cards, ridesharing, and real estate all have potential use-cases.

For the marketing departments of many travel companies, the holy grail is a customer who wants to engage with the brand not just when they are booking travel. While a global crisis is an unlikely time to do that, nothing about the travel industry is normal right now.

Photo Credit: OccasionGenius CEO Nate Marcus OccasionGenius