Though the snow may be melting and life beginning to return to normal, summer still feels like a distant dream. Now is the perfect time for people to fuel their escapist desires by searching for their summer holiday, planning their next weekend getaway or even designing a longer adventure overseas. With this in mind, there is no time like the present for brands working in the travel sector to roll their travel marketing strategies into action to capture the attention of these eager audiences.
Here are three tips for crafting a strong travel marketing strategy bound to win the hearts and minds of those still reeling from last week’s big freeze
1. Step away from the TV
Although it is easy to presume that long winter nights make TV your best bet for grabbing the attention of your audience, this thinking could be misplaced when it comes to travel marketing.
According to a recent article by Econsultancy, research has shown that ‘50% of travellers use online video before they book a holiday, largely for decision-making purposes on where to go, as well as researching accommodation and activities.’ When this is combined with the huge appetite for travel-related blogs, vlogs and Instagram accounts, Econsultancy believes that ‘thinking like a publisher’ and generating social media content can prove hugely successful as a travel marketing strategy.
One example Econsultancy references is Booking.com, which has used its YouTube channel to ‘creat[e] a series of local travel guides about popular places such as Lisbon, Barcelona, and Amsterdam.’ Smaller businesses have adopted a similar strategy, with LikeALocal using their Instagram to post eye-catching, street-style photographs of out-of-the-way locations that ties into their unique brand offering of ‘helping travelers to skip the tourist traps.’
2. Search ads still have value
Although the trend towards booking holidays on third-party sites, known as online travel aggregators (OTAs), continues, this does not mean that a well-placed paid advert does not have value. Given that most customers begin their travel research on a search engine, whether this is accessed via desktop or mobile, Marketing Land argues that search ads can still influence purchasing decisions.
Marketing Land points to a study conducted using Bing Ads (Microsoft’s answer to Google search) to explain this. The study examined the booking activity of two groups of online searchers that booked via OTAs; the first group was exposed to a hotel’s advert on Bing before clicking through to the OTA, but the second was not. The study found that the ‘searchers who were exposed to a hotel’s ads were more likely to visit the hotel brand’s property page on the OTA.’
By creating brand awareness and recognition, the paid-for advert was able to drive better brand engagement even when the customer was using a third-party site to make the booking. With so many brands to choose from and so much information available, building that all important trust makes paid-for adverts a worthwhile element of your travel marketing strategy.
3. Keep on top of the trends
As a seasonal industry, travel marketing is highly susceptible to trends that come and go. Keeping on top of these changes can be tough, but with some careful tracking your brand can better build insights to feed your strategy.
One way to do this is to track which destinations are trending at any given time, as these can often provide inspiration for your campaign or might tie into your existing offering. Marketing Land explains that the Maldives, Iceland or Rwanda ‘have made the list of top 25 trending destinations, based on year-over-year search volume growth.’ This could be due to practical considerations (think new airline routes, like Ryanair’s announcement that it will start servicing cheap flights from Europe to Jordan) or the role of social media in boosting the popularity of less-traditional destinations.
Another way to stay up to date is to look out for industry events that can often be a great place to pick up insights and learn from competitors. Networks like the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)’s Travel Group host regular events and panel debates ‘to keep up with new thinking and developments within our industry.’ Their most recent event in London brought together a range of travel marketing experts and some of the biggest brands in the industry to explore the role of personalisation in reaching target audiences.
By choosing the right platform, spending on advertising wisely and staying up-to-date with insights to craft your strategy, your travel marketing strategy will turn heads. Whether you’re in the hospitality or travel sector directly or can tie your offering to the holiday season, starting now will ensure you reap the rewards when summer finally arrives.