The global tourism industry is enormous, generating over $1.3 trillion in revenue each year. In 2019, digital travel sales are expected to reach $755 billion, accounting for more than half of total receipts.
The tourism and travel industry is fiercely competitive, with such a large audience and massive potential profit. As a result, in order to stand out, brands must employ innovative digital marketing strategies.
In the first part of this article, we’ll look at five key tips and strategies for success at the crossroads of travel and digital marketing.
Keep the target audience in mind at all times
This may sound like a marketing 101 lesson, but it is one that is frequently overlooked. It is impossible to create a successful campaign without first determining who it is intended to serve.
This is true for companies in the travel and tourism industry just as much as it is for any other industry. Because the industry is so focused on user experience as a metric of success, marketing campaigns must be tailored to the right audience or they will fail!
Determine Your Ideal Customer
The first step is to determine who your target customer is.
Consider the travel products you sell: are they aimed at families, young couples, solo adventurers, senior travellers, or a mix of all demographics? From there, you can start to elicit characteristics that will comprise your brand’s buyer persona.
Make a Specific Statement
Assume, for example, that the majority of your products are geared toward young couples. With this information, you can begin to target specific customer characteristics right away.
People under the age of 35, those without children, and newlywed couples may fall into this category. Because the honeymoon market may be a good fit for what you’re offering, it makes sense to direct some of your marketing efforts toward that specific niche.
It’s also a good idea to put yourself in the shoes of your target persona.
Consider yourself as a mother or father planning a vacation for your family. Which destinations would offer the best combination of activities, entertainment, and value? And how would they learn about your products? In addition to the standard Google search, parents may check Facebook reviews or gather ideas from a discussion forum.
Before you begin any other marketing activities, you must first establish a profile of your target customer. Every other marketing process is influenced by this persona.
Make Use of All Aspects of Social Media
We don’t need to tell you how important social media has become in digital marketing.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest help travellers find inspiration for their vacation destinations, find the perfect hotel, and discover exciting activities and attractions.
Throughout, there is meaningful engagement
Prospective customers are already on social media, so it’s critical to be present where they are. Brands in the travel/tourism industry must have a purposeful social presence.
It is not sufficient to simply create an account and regurgitate content that has already been posted elsewhere. Businesses should be prepared to engage their audience meaningfully by starting discussions, responding to comments, answering questions, and providing exceptional customer service.
All of these activities are components of a larger digital marketing campaign, when viewed in terms of how they help a brand achieve its objectives.
Responding constructively to comments on a Facebook video, for example, may not appear to be a critical marketing task, but it is an activity that improves the appearance of a business and demonstrates its ability to engage constructively with its audience. Put yourself in the shoes of a traveller who is torn between two hotels.
The decision could be influenced by something as innocuous as witnessing a positive social media interaction. Every interaction has the potential to be the motivating factor that converts a visitor into a customer. In that context, it is a crucial aspect of marketing.
Make Use of Visual Media
There is a lot of competition on social media, especially in the travel and tourism industry, but there are some creative ways to use this to your advantage and stand out.
Travel has the distinct selling point of appealing to others’ wanderlust, so images and video can work wonders.
Travel Alberta is an excellent example of how leveraging video can expand your reach! Their YouTube channel demonstrates this by showcasing the experience and atmosphere that can be had.
Another great example is the Instagram account @VisitCalifornia, which regularly shares images of the ‘Californian lifestyle.’ They also have hashtags dedicated to showcasing the best travel photos for that extra boost of social proof.
Paid Advertising Campaigns
Brands can, of course, advertise directly on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Setting up an account on each platform is simple, and running a campaign is also simple. You’ll also have access to engagement data and insights that will help you fine-tune your content and strategy in the future.
Although the cost per click for a specific brand varies depending on several factors, the average CPC for the travel and hospitality sector on Facebook is $0.63, making it one of the least expensive across all sectors. It’s also less expensive than Google, costing around $1.5 per click.
The combination of cost-effectiveness and customer relationship-nurturing properties makes social selling a viable business model.
Identify Crucial Stages in the Booking Process
Travel is not typically purchased on the spur of the moment. While many of us know someone who has unexpectedly decided to book a ticket, pack a bag, and embark on an adventure, this is far from the norm.
In fact, the process of planning a trip – from initial interest to thorough research, price comparison, and booking – tends to be lengthy and thorough.
Understanding the travel customer journey is extremely beneficial for marketing professionals working in the travel/tourism industry. Google divides it into four stages:
Prospective travellers are open to all possibilities during the initial phase. They haven’t decided where to go or what to do yet, and they’re looking for suggestions.
At this point, travellers have decided on a destination but are still open to changes in dates, hotels, and activities.
Dates, flight times, and lodging preferences have all been confirmed. It’s time for vacationers to make their plans!
Travelers are on the road and documenting their experiences online. They may still be looking for ad hoc activities and experiences while in-destination at this point.
Consider how you can reach out to potential customers at each stage. For example, if your products are city tours, you’ll be able to persuade visitors to visit one of your destinations, advise them on the best times of year to visit, emphasise how simple your booking process is, and offer the option to purchase tickets flexibly while they’re in-destination.
Airbnb has done an excellent job of providing a resource that feeds naturally into their product. They’ve created Airbnb Guidebooks, which are packed with insider knowledge from major destinations, in collaboration with local hosts.
When a visitor discovers an attraction, activity, or dining spot that piques their interest, they simply click ‘Add to your plans,’ and it is saved in a virtual scrapbook. And, of course, at the bottom of each page, there is a section with nearby Airbnb properties from which travellers can choose. It’s a clever combination of Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, and their own booking site.
Every step of the process has the potential to direct visitors into your sales funnel. Again, use your buyer persona to create digital content that targets the right people at the right time on the right platforms.
Understand the devices they use – and when they use them!
The multi-stage travel booking process is frequently carried out on multiple devices. It’s unlikely that you’ll be researching, comparing, reserving, and purchasing travel products all at once.
For example, during a dreary morning commute, a mobile device could be used to conduct an initial search for destinations – the dreaming phase. Comparing hotels on a tablet is possible, but a customer may prefer to make their final booking on a laptop.
Optimize your content, design, and placement for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Returning to the previous example, content designed to appeal to visitors during the dreaming and planning stages may be most effective if tailored to mobile devices, whereas special offers for the booking phase may be better optimised for desktop.
And, finally, when customers are looking for things to do in-destination, your best bet is to return your attention to mobile, as this is what your prospective customers are most likely to use.
However, as always, this is dependent on your target customer’s preferences and behaviours.
Say hello to ‘Social Proof.’
Travelers frequently use review sites such as TripAdvisor, Google, and Yelp to help them make purchasing decisions.
Proactively provide high-quality images and videos that showcase your brand and its products to review sites. This allows you to influence – to some extent – the perception of your company.
Of course, the majority of the content available on unbiased review sites is beyond your control. That doesn’t mean you’re not a part of the story. Respond to all reviews, positive or negative, that your brand receives.
Deal with the Negative
If you receive constructive criticism, respond politely and address each point raised by the reviewer. Demonstrate your ability to take advice, and share any remedial work that you have already completed.
This not only helps to counterbalance the reviewer’s impression, but it also shows prospective customers that you listen and act quickly. Remember that a seemingly insignificant action can make or break a purchasing decision.
Positive feedback is more enjoyable to receive! Respond to each of these, and emphasise aspects of your service that wowed each reviewer.
Incentives for Reviews
Reviews and social proof are important components of your marketing campaigns. Nothing sells like other people’s positive recommendations!
Allow others to do your marketing for you by providing incentives to those who provide feedback or testimonials.
This first set of digital marketing tips for the travel and tourism industry should get you thinking about current campaigns and new ones to promote products or services.
To be continued in Second Part…..