The global tourism market is huge, generating over $1.3 trillion in revenue per year. In 2019, digital travel sales are set to reach $755 billion, more than half of the total receipts.
With such a large audience and a massive potential gain, the tourism and travel sector is fiercely competitive. As such, brands must use innovative digital marketing strategies to stand out.
In the first part of this article, we’ll explore 5 key tips and strategies for success at the intersection of travel and digital marketing.
1) Keep The Target Audience Front And Centre
This might sound like a lesson from Marketing 101, but it’s one that is often forgotten. It’s impossible to create a successful campaign without knowing who it’s designed to serve.
This is just as true for companies in the travel and tourism space as it is for any other industry. Particularly as the industry itself is so focused on user experience as a measure of success, marketing campaigns need to be tailored to the right audience or they won’t succeed!
Identify Your Target Customer
The first step is to identify your target customer.
Think about the travel products you sell; are they geared towards families, young couples, solo adventurers, senior travelers, or a mix of multiple demographics? From there, you can begin to pull out characteristics that form your brand’s buyer persona.
Let’s say, for example, that the bulk of your products cater best to young couples. Knowing this information, there are some customer characteristics you can immediately begin to target.
This might include people under 35, those without children, and couples who are recently married. The honeymoon market may be a good fit for what you’re offering, and so it would make sense to focus some of your marketing strategy on that specific niche.
It can also be helpful to put yourself in the place of your target persona.
For example, imagine yourself as a mother or father planning a trip for your family. Which destinations would provide the best mix of activities, entertainment, and good value? And where would they find out about your products? As well as the standard Google search, parents might check reviews on Facebook or gather ideas from a discussion forum.
Before you undertake any other marketing activities, it’s critically important to have a profile of your target customer pinned down. This persona informs every other marketing process.
2) Utilize All Aspects of Social Media
We don’t need to tell you how profound an impact social media has had on digital marketing.
In the travel sector, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest help travelers find inspiration for their holiday destinations, choose the perfect hotel, and discover exciting activities and attractions.
Meaningful Engagement Throughout
Prospective customers are already using social media, so it’s important to be where they are. Travel/tourism brands must have a purposeful social presence.
It’s not enough to simply set up an account and regurgitate content that’s posted elsewhere. Businesses should be prepared to engage meaningfully with their audience by starting discussions, replying to comments, answering questions, and offering exceptional customer service.
All of these activities are facets of a wider digital marketing campaign, taken in the context of how they help a brand achieve its goals.
For example, responding constructively to comments on a Facebook video might not seem like a crucial marketing task, but it’s an activity that enhances the appearance of a business and demonstrates an ability to engage constructively with its audience. Put yourself in the place of a traveler agonizing over which of two hotels to book.
The decision could come down to something as seemingly innocuous as witnessing a positive social media interaction. Every exchange might be the motivating factor that turns a visitor into a customer. In that context, it’s a supremely important facet of marketing.
Leverage Visual Media
Social media is rife with competition, particularly in the travel and tourism industry, but there are creative ways to use this to your advantage and stand out.
Travel has the unique selling point that it can play on the wanderlust of others so pictures and video can work wonders.
Travel Alberta are a great example of how leveraging video can increase your reach! Their YouTube channel proves that by showcasing the experience and atmosphere you can experience.
Another excellent example of this is @VisitCalifornia on Instagram who regularly shares images of the ‘Californian lifestyle’. They also have dedicated hashtags to showcase the best travel photos for that extra push of social proof.
Paid Ad Campaigns
Obviously, brands can also advertise directly on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Setting up an account on each platform is simple, and running a campaign is relatively straightforward. You’ll also have access to engagement data and insights that are useful for finessing your content and strategy, both now and in the future.
Although a specific brand’s cost per click varies according to several factors, the average CPC for the travel and hospitality sector on Facebook is $0.63, one of the least expensive across all sectors. It’s also cheaper than Google, at around $1.5 per click..
The combination of cost-effectiveness and customer relationship-nurturing properties make social selling pretty bankable.
3) Identify Key Moments on the Booking Journey
Travel isn’t generally an impulse buy. Whilst many of us know someone who has suddenly decided to book a ticket, pack a bag, and escape on an adventure, it’s certainly not the norm.
In fact, the process of arranging travel – from initial interest through to thorough research, price comparison, and booking – has a tendency to be prolonged and thorough.
Understanding the travel customer journey is incredibly useful for marketing professionals in the travel/tourism sector. Google breaks it down into four stages:
During the initial phase, prospective travelers are open to all possibilities. They haven’t made a firm decision about where to go and what to do, and they’re looking for ideas.
At this stage, travelers have pinned down a destination, but they’re still flexible about dates, hotels, and activities.
Dates, flight times, and accommodation preferences are all confirmed. It’s time for travelers to make reservations!
Travelers are on their trip and sharing their adventures online. At this stage, they may still be searching for ad-hoc activities and experiences while in-destination.
Think about the ways in which you can target potential customers at each stage. For example, if your products are city tours, you’ll have the ability to influence visitors into choosing one of your destinations, advise them which times of year are best to visit, highlight how easy your booking process is, and offer the chance to purchase tickets flexibly while they’re in-destination.
Airbnb has done a great job of providing a resource that naturally feeds into their product. In collaboration with local hosts, they’ve put together Airbnb Guidebooks, which are packed with insider knowledge from major destinations.
When a visitor finds an attraction, activity, or dining spot they’re interested in, they simply click ‘Add to your plans’ and it’s put into a virtual scrapbook. And of course, towards the end of each page is a section with nearby Airbnb properties for travelers to choose from. It is an ingenious mix of Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, and their own booking site.
Every part of the process holds the potential to guide travelers into your sales funnel. Again, utilize your buyer persona to create digital content that targets the right people on the right platforms at the right time.
4) Know Which Devices They Use – and When!
The multi-stage travel booking process can often take place on more than one device. With researching, comparing, reserving, and purchasing travel products it’s unlikely to all happen at once.
For example, an initial search for destinations – at the dreaming phase – might take place on a mobile device during a dreary morning commute. Comparing hotels may be undertaken on a tablet, while a customer might prefer to make their final booking on a laptop.
Optimize your content, its design, and its placement for every stage of the traveler’s buying journey. Turning again to the example above, content that’s designed to appeal to visitors at the dreaming and planning stages may be most effective if tailored to mobile devices, while special offers for the booking phase might be better optimized for desktop.
And during the final stage, when customers are looking for things to do in-destination, your best bet is to return focus to mobile, as this is what your prospective customers are most likely to use.
Although, as always, this depends on the preferences and behaviors of your target customer.
5) Welcome ‘Social Proof’
Travelers are routinely using review sites such as TripAdvisor, Google, and Yelp to guide their buying decisions.
Be proactive by providing review sites with high-quality images and videos that show off your brand and its products. This helps you to direct – to an extent – the impression of your business.
Of course, with impartial review sites, the bulk of content available is outside of your control. That doesn’t mean you’re excluded from the narrative. Respond to all reviews your brand receives, good or bad.
Address The Negative
If you receive constructive criticism, provide a courteous response that addresses each point made by the reviewer. Demonstrate that you have the ability to take advice on board, and if you are able to demonstrate remedial work already undertaken, share it.
Not only will this help to counterbalance the impression of the reviewer, but it’s a clear sign to prospective customers that you listen and take prompt action. Remember, a seemingly small action can make the world of difference in a buying decision.
Positive reviews are more of a pleasure to receive! Respond to each of these, and acknowledge aspects of your service that really impressed each reviewer.
Reviews and social proof form the influential part of your marketing campaigns. Nothing sells like the good recommendations of others!
So, let people do the marketing for you by offering incentives to those who give feedback or testimonials.
These first set of digital marketing tips for the travel and tourism sector should help get you thinking about the campaigns you are currently running and new ones to promote products or services.
Keep tuned for the remaning 6 tips to follow next week….