The travel industry has changed rapidly over the last 20 years, with an increasing amount of travellers and holiday makers looking online to book their trips. Offering more choices on where to stay, what to do and even how to get there all at the click of a mouse, the internet gives consumers a personal and efficient way to book their travel plans, depending on a number of factors including the type of traveler and the type of trip.
However this isn’t the only way the internet has imposed on what is often seen as a traditional industry. With advances in technology, the rise in popularity of social media and an increased number of brands looking to advertise online, there’s a number of unique ways in which brands can look to target the travel market online.
With innovative online technology including analytics and social media, that allows travel marketers and brands the opportunity to study travel patterns, holiday research behaviour and audience types, brands have the opportunity to connect with and market to individual travellers at different stages of the travel process.
Stage 1 – Dreaming
Every single holiday begins with a dream, be it a lifelong dream to visit somewhere through to inspiration through TV ads, films or social media. Whichever it may be once the dreaming has begun, so has the start of the travel process, meaning there’s no better time to start targeting your soon to be holiday maker.
Inspire previous guests or even enquiring future guests with a nicely timed email marketing campaign promoting your deals, your location or the activities available. Featuring dreamy images and encouraging copy you can soon captivate interested customers just looking for the perfect holiday.
These days it’s not uncommon for consumers to head straight to social media in order to gain inspiration for a trip or for somewhere to visit, something brands should definitely utilise. Show off beautiful images of your location on social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook and inspire potential guests to book that dream holiday.
As well as providing inspiration through images and copy, with the rise in popularity of video content it’s hugely beneficial for brands to utilise video content in order to encourage and inspire travels and holidaymakers. With much more fluidity and opportunities available through video you can give potential guest a great idea of what to expect.
Stage 2 – Research & Planning
Once your customers have started thinking about their dream destination, it’s only a matter of time before they start researching and planning their trip. While there’s likely still a long way to go before your customers are packing their suitcases , there’s still plenty of opportunities out there to encourage people to get started.
Search Engine Optimisation
The first thing holiday makers are going to do when planning their trip is search for where they want to go, what they want to do or even when they would like to go, by optimising your website with relevant keywords then your content is much more likely to get found online by audiences looking for your services.
Optimise Local Listings
If you’re looking to target audiences in a specific or local area then it’s a good idea to optimise your site for these listings, for example if you run a hotel it’s a good plan to make sure your hotel is listed accurately on Google Maps, allowing travellers the chance to find your hotel as they investigate locations.
Travellers often spend a lot of time researching their travels and are likely to visit a number of websites while looking for the perfect destination. This is why it’s important to make sure you’re reaching your audience on the best platforms, while you can’t be everywhere online you can create a big enough presence to be competing against huge brands.
Stage 3 – Booking
With the first two stages out of the way it’s time to book the dream holiday! The booking stage is vital and it’s important that your customers are offered the best experience when booking their trip, from finding the perfect hotel, room or location, all the way through to the payment process.
If you’re looking to keep your potential guests happy then it’s important to create an experience that offers your customers easy navigation, a functional search function and a simple payment process. Holidays shouldn’t be stressful, including the booking process, meaning if it’s too difficult then customers could quickly start looking elsewhere.
A Reliable Website
Along with a simple user experience it’s also hugely important that your website is and appears to be completely trustworthy. Holidays are often costly and if your customers are looking to spend a great deal then they want to know that their money is safe. With a well designed site, SSL certificate and evidence of being reliable your customers will know they’re using a quality brand.
Stage 4 – Experience
Your customers have arrived, they’re reached their destination and while for the most part it’s down to your staff to offer a great experience, you can still use digital methods or include digital methods to enhance the experience in a unique manner.
While it’s likely that holiday makers will speak to staff in person to deal with any customer service issues you should also make sure that you offer a friendly attitude on your website and social media, as well as answering questions on these platforms in order to keep your voice consistent online and offline.
Promote Your Social Media
You can take your online media offline by promoting your social media channels to your customers or guests through the real world. By posting links to your social media on guest information boards, on decals and posters or through simply reminding people, you can encourage travellers to participate in your social media community.
Stage 5 – Sharing
From word of mouth to social media posts it’s not unlikely that people want to show off their holiday or trip to other people once they have returned home, something that can not only work for the customers but something that can play a huge role in your online marketing strategy.
User Generated Content
User generated content such as photos, stories, blogs and videos, not only lets guests communicate with your brand but also lets them spread the word about the great experience they’ve had to others who might be looking to take a similar trip. Asking customers to share their own experiences could be all it takes to help establish your brand.
Reviews are everything for the travel and hospitality industry, so it’s important they aren’t forgotten about. Encourage your guests and customers to share their experience of your company, hotel or their entire holiday through reviews on your website and social media, encouraging those doing the initial research and planning to consider choosing your brand!
Collect Contact Information
Collecting information from your customers allows you to reach out to these customers at a later date, perhaps in a bid to encourage them to return at a later date. From collecting data from social media, from the booking process and even collecting information at key parts of the holiday such as at the check in desk, you can start dropping those seeds all over again.
With the summer season approaching and many now looking to start planning and booking this years holiday, it’s important that those looking to target holidaymakers start optimising their websites, updating their social media and creating their email campaigns. Don’t miss out on these huge marketing opportunities, reach out to new and existing audiences and be there to greet them at every step of the process.