Article first published June 2017, updated November 2019
As travelers crisscross the globe, they’re spending money on flights, accommodations, food, and activities. In 2016, 1.2 billion people traveled internationally and spent $1.5 trillion, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
To help captivate travelers, increase loyalty, and give reservations a boost, here’s a look at ten wildly successful email marketing campaigns that you can mimic this year. However, before we jump into those campaigns, let’s first talk about why email marketing is vital to the travel and hospitality sectors.
Why email marketing matters for hospitality
The travel and hospitality industries are two of the most competitive industries, and, to succeed in these industries, you must make every experience matter for each of your customers. While some marketing professionals may believe that the experience is in the stay, it’s vital to remember that email marketing can and will play an essential role in your customer’s overall experience.
When it comes to driving revenue, email marketing is the single most beneficial channel that can be utilized. With an average return on investment of $38 for every $1 spent, email marketing has the best ROI.
However, to maximize your ROI, you need to make sure that you’re staying on top of your campaign’s benchmarks and utilizing email marketing best practices, such as email personalization and A/B testing before sending.
Source: Campaign Monitor
When it comes to maximizing your email marketing efforts, there are several key things to keep in mind. The first is personalization.
More and more consumers simply expect personalized emails from brands they frequent, and that includes the travel and hospitality industry. In fact, personalized subject lines produce an average 65% open rate in the travel industry, while personalized emails deliver a transactional rate 6 times higher.
Personalization can come in several different forms, including:
- Subject lines
- Personalized travel suggestions
- Itinerary suggestions
- Travel content relevant to the user’s browsing behavior
Source: Really Good Emails
The best way to help you personalize your campaigns to the needs of your readers is through email list segmentation. Email marketers have found email campaigns that have been properly segmented see an average 760% increase in revenue. Segment your lists in different ways, including:
- Browsing history
- Purchase history
- Average spend amount
- Travel time booked and more
While personalization helps to intrigue your email subscribers into opening and skimming your email messages, it’s the design and choice of images that are going to make your emails stand out from the rest of the crowd. The average individual remembers 80% of what they see, compared to only 20% of what they read. To encourage your readers to not only remember your brand, but engage with it, include a variety of beautiful images, videos, and maybe even some interactive content to help them stay interested in what it is you have to say.
10 tips for successful travel and hospitality email marketing campaigns
Understanding just how vital email marketing can be to the travel and hospitality industry is only the first step when it comes to developing your brand’s email marketing strategy. The next step is to start developing email campaign ideas to send to those who’ve opted into your email subscription.
Need help getting started? Here are 10 tips to help guide your planning process:
1. Give travelers a warm welcome.
When a traveler signs up for your emails, it’s time to roll out the red carpet. Send your new contact a welcome email with a warm greeting and information that encourages the subscriber to learn more about your brand.
You can automate welcome emails triggered to arrive in a subscriber’s inbox immediately following their signup. Research shows welcome emails that are sent in real time have an 88% open rate and a 29% click-through rate, which is significantly higher than welcome emails that are sent in batches that garner 52% open rates and 12% click-through rates, according to Experian.
Here’s a great example of a welcome email sent by Fairmont Hotels to its new subscribers. It encourages subscribers to check out destinations where Fairmont Hotels are available:
2. Provide travel inspiration.
With so many places to go, travelers need some inspiration. Research shows a growing number of travelers are looking to visit lesser known areas or non-touristy locales, according to the 2016 Virtuoso Luxe Report.
Create and send emails that showcase exotic places to visit or little cities that are off the beaten path.
No matter what destinations you tout, make sure you include awesome images to go with it. Images not only draw attention, but they also help travelers imagine themselves sitting under a palm tree or touring the streets of a city.
Flight Centre does a great job inspiring subscribers with these newsletter-like emails that showcase great destinations (with compelling images) at a low price.
Pro tip: The secret to success for these emails is that Flight Centre uses data they have about their customers with dynamic content to deliver deals that’ll appeal to preferences, prior purchases, and web browsing behaviors.
3. Personalize travel ideas and deals.
While sending emails filled with fun travel destinations is a great start, you can up your email game by personalizing those emails, like we saw in the Flight Centre email.
A personalized email is more relevant to a subscriber, which makes him or her more likely to open it and click through.
To personalize emails, you should capture information from your subscribers or use data from other third-party apps like your booking app, ecommerce app, or your CRM. Every piece of information you gain provides more insight into your customer and gives you the ability to provide customized travel offers.
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During the email sign up process, Air Canada asks new subscribers to tell them their home airport and what destinations they’re interested in. Using this information, the company sends promotions that are relevant to the subscriber’s interests.
The flight deals depart from the subscriber’s home airport—which, in this case, is Montreal—and go to destinations that the subscriber is specifically interested in.
4. Provide gift ideas on holidays.
When a holiday rolls around, send travel ideas. People are always hunting for a great gift, so why not encourage them to think outside of the gift-giving box?
Flight Centre sent its subscribers an email on Mother’s Day that said, “Brunch is nice, but a trip is better.” It’s humorous, timely, and, most importantly, it could encourage two bookings—not just one.
In this example, subscribers can enter to win a Mother’s Day trip by giving feedback. You can try that, or just send a promotional email on a holiday of your choice.
5. Provide testimonials.
Travelers aren’t just scouring the web for the most affordable trip; they’re also reading reviews. Ninety-three percent of travelers worldwide say their booking decisions are influenced by online reviews, according to research from TripAdvisor.
Since travelers are so dependent on reviews, why not help them out? Consider creating an email that has several testimonials from happy customers and give subscribers a link to read more.
Fairmont Hotels sends this testimonial email with a CTA that leads subscribers to read stories from real guests.
6. Encourage travelers to join your loyalty program.
Loyalty is a hard nut to crack in the travel and hospitality business. Travelers tend to search for the best deals rather than favor a specific brand. However, if you have a rewards program, you can use it to encourage loyalty and repeat business.
Research shows members of a loyalty program generated 12 to 18% more revenue for a brand than non-members did in 2016, according to Accenture.
Send current subscriber’s emails that focus on the program and its benefits. Include a call to action that leads subscribers to an easy signup form. Here’s an email from Fairmont Hotels that does exactly that:
7. Give loyalty members incentives to travel.
After attracting subscribers to your loyalty program, you can send emails that are specific to this niche. Consider segmenting this list into smaller groups based on buying behavior, popular destinations, or location.
By segmenting your list, you can provide relevant travel ideas and incentives that encourage travelers to take action.
For instance, you can email subscribers in Los Angeles a travel deal that departs out of LAX or give members double points for making a reservation.
British Airways offers its loyalty members a chance to double their air miles by booking a flight in the next 45 days. The email even includes the member’s points status in the email.
By using email to promote its loyalty program, British Airways can incentivize more travelers to book a trip.
8. Provide access to experiences.
Travelers are looking for an experience, not just a destination. That’s why it’s important to promote activities that are available to travelers. By focusing on the journey and not just the destination, you can create memorable customer experiences.
For instance, don’t just promote great rates on a room; promote all of the services that are available at your hotel as well. Appeal to the business traveler with an email promoting your business center or tell families about the Olympic-sized pool that’s sure to keep the kids entertained.
Think of ways to give travelers a unique experience like Virgin Experience Days does with this email that offers a chance at virtual reality skydiving.
9. Offer a limited-time deal.
Seventy-six percent of business travelers and 70% of leisure travelers book with a specific brand because of price, according to Google.
Considering the priority of great pricing, send emails to your subscribers that give them the chance to take a great trip for an unbeatable price. Show subscribers how sweet these deals are by putting a time limit on them.
The tight deadline should encourage subscribers to act fast. Flight Centre used this idea in a recent email that offered cheap deals to New York City. To convey this limited time offer, Flight Centre added a countdown clock to the bottom of the email.
10. Give travelers a chance at spontaneity.
It takes the average traveler 45 days to book a vacation, according to research from Expedia. However, not every traveler invests that kind of planning time.
In fact, some travelers are looking to get away quickly. Give subscribers the chance to take a spontaneous trip with a can’t-resist email offer. Flight Centre sent this email to subscribers with a link to last-minute vacations that start at $530. Read all about how Flight Centre increased their click-throughs by 57%.
While competition in the travel and hospitality industry is fierce, all of these tips are designed to help you attract and retain subscribers. Sending a variety of emails that focus on deals, destinations, fun experiences, and loyalty programs gives you a competitive edge and keeps travelers coming back for more.
Some email marketing campaigns that you should consider adding to your email marketing strategy can include:
- Welcome series
- Travel inspiration
- Personalized travel deals
- Gift suggestions for the holiday season
- User testimonials
- Loyalty program invitations
- Loyalty programs incentives to travel
- Access to experiences
- Limited-time deals
- Offer chances for spontaneity
Ready to take your travel and hospitality email marketing to the next level? Schedule your live demo today and see what Campaign Monitor can do for you.