Article first published July 2017, updated June 2019
The travel and hospitality industry is a trillion dollar industry that’s wildly competitive. When it comes to standing out in the travel and hospitality world, it’s essential for your business to remain keenly aware of the most recent and relevant industry data.
For example, recent research from the Tippie School of Management shows that the majority of travel and hospitality bookings are moving from offline sources to online avenues. In fact, 53% of all travel is now booked online. In other words, if you want to capture the attention of your target market, you have to exist online.
Also, it’s important to remember that existing online is only half the battle. If you really want to stay ahead of the game, you also have to know how to market to your audience. This post will present an overview of the most recent travel and hospitality marketing trends you need to know to help you stay competitive.
1. Mobile marketing is the norm.
Mobile customer experiences are growing in every industry, but especially the e-commerce industry. In fact, mobile has contributed to 94% of year-on-year growth in e-commerce traffic. When it comes to mobile travel and hospitality bookings, growth rates between the years 2011 and 2015 reported an increase of 1700%, accounting for 18% of online revenues. And, as of late, 21% of hotel bookings took place on mobile devices.
The 2017 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook from Deloitte predicts that travelers will start to feel the real power of mobile as more and more industries make mobile marketing a priority. It’ll become more of a norm to be able to book, check in, get itinerary updates, and more via mobile device in 2017.
2. Customers expect personalization.
When it comes to marketing, a surefire way to capture the attention of your customers is to leverage data to personalize their experiences. While infrequency of travel and hospitality bookings can indeed make this difficult, there are still several ways you can personalize the experience. Some of the most effective personalization methods to date include the following:
- Capture and leverage social network data by instituting social logins,
- Personalized relevant marketing messages by automating your email messages, and
- Use information you know about a customer (booking date, check-in information, preferences, etc.) to create a customized onsite experience.
The more you can do to make your customers feel unique and special through personalization, the more effective your marketing efforts can be.
3. Video reigns supreme.
We’ve all heard that content is king but, out of all the types of content pushed out in the travel and hospitality industry, video reigns supreme.
To get a better idea of how significant video marketing content is to the travel and hospitality industry, let’s review a few of the most telling 2017 video statistics compiled by Invisia:
- YouTube has over a billion users (YouTube).
- As of 2017, online video will account for 74% of traffic (KPCB).
- Fifty-two percent of marketers say video is effective for brand awareness (WowMakers).
- Fifty-two percent of marketing professionals worldwide say video has the best ROI (Syndacast).
- Using the word “video” in an email subject line increases open rates by 19% (Syndacast).
- Four times as many customers prefer watching a video about a product than reading about it (Animoto).
If you’re looking to uplevel your marketing tactics this year, then it’s time to invest in video.
4. Real-time or moment marketing pays off.
Twenty-three percent of digital marketing budgets are now set aside for moment marketing. And did you know that travel and transport is the best-performing sector for moment marketing. Why? Because travel and hospitality is one industry where people actually show up to a location on time, and you typically know about it in advance. This gives you the opportunity to have a strong presence on all channels, across all devices, and in your physical location where you can cater to your guest’s persona.
Not only is this an opportunity to strengthen your marketing strategy, but it’s an opportunity to connect in real time with customers, upsell products and services, and elicit repeat business.
5. Dynamic content emails guide the customer journey.
Gone are the days of sending random emails or a generic email blast to all of your subscribers. As mentioned previously, customers in the travel and hospitality industry are looking for personalized experiences, and email is one of the top marketing tools to help you accomplish this. The best part is email personalization pays off with a 2.5x higher click-through rate and 6x more sales.
There are several ways to personalize your content, like addressing your subscribers by name, sending a personalized subject line, and swapping out images to match subscriber preferences. But did you know that, with dynamic content, you can conditionally display content based on custom fields set up in your subscriber lists? In other words, you can switch out whole sections of content based on subscriber data. In the case of the email below, subscribers in France will be shown another destination that appeals to them.
Source: Campaign Monitor
Need another example? Let’s say you know the gender of your subscribers, and you just happen to be throwing a ladies’ night party at your bar. With dynamic content, you could customize a section of your message and write one set of copy that appeals to men and another that appeals to women. Then your campaign will automatically send the right set of copy to the correct subscriber. This helps you hone in on customers and ensure you’re delivering the right message to the right subscribers.
6. Booking retargeting is effective.
It’s no secret that one of the biggest challenges in the travel and hospitality industry is driving more direct bookings. In the hotel industry, reports show numbers of up to 81% of booking abandonments. Imagine how much your numbers would improve if you could either land the sale the first time or ensure that you have a second shot at landing the sale.
Thankfully, there’s a way, and it involves beefing up your booking funnels to include second chances. In other words, focus on booking retargeting.
When a customer abandons your booking funnel, all doesn’t have to be lost. Instead of wishing them farewell, you can retarget them and catch up with cart abandoners on other marketing platforms. For example, if your customer showed interest in a booking but left your booking funnel before sealing the deal, you can redirect their attention back to you on other online marketing platforms. This includes paid search ads, on-screen prompts, and more.
7. Invest in and serve millennials.
It’s important to remember that millennials are the number one generation invested in the travel and hospitality industry. Yes, an important and current hospitality trend is that millennials are much more prone to travel than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers—for both business and pleasure.
Additionally, once millennials find a brand they love, they show their loyalty and want to participate. This means loyalty programs are a great way to reward millennials and foster continued engagement and repeat business with your brand.
Bonus: 3 Trends for 2019
With technology changing, the way people search for and consume content is also fast changing. Let’s take a look at some of the travel marketing trends you need to be familiar with in 2019.
8. Ride on the wings of earned media.
When it comes to marketing, there are two types of media marketers should be using. The first and most common is owned media or the marketing material that brands and marketers create. While it may have been effective in its day, it’s now waning in comparison to the second type of media: earned media.
Earned media is made up of user-generated content. So why is user-generated content important in successfully marketing your travel and hospitality business? According to research, more than 50% of millennials trust earned media more than they do owned media.
One of the best ways to employ user-generated content in your hospitality marketing is by implementing a robust social media marketing strategy. Visual platforms like Facebook and Instagram are the most visited by travelers. Harness these and allow your customers to share their stories on your feed.
Another great way to create user-generated content is by allowing your customers to write reviews on your website. Make sure to include images and videos with these.
9. Voice search
One of the fastest growing trends, as far as searching for answers on the internet, is voice search. With devices becoming more sophisticated, the norm is quickly going to untethered devices where consumers simply ask a question and assistants like Siri and Alexa give a verbal answer.
For travel and hospitality marketing practitioners, this is actually good news—particularly to the hospitality arm of travel marketing. By creating content that’s location specific, you can drive traffic to your website, and, ultimately, your hotel or any other location-specific hospitality services you offer.
How can you use voice search in your hospitality digital marketing campaigns?
- Create conversational content: Since people don’t talk the way they type, it’s important to create content that follows the way they would “voice” a query.
- Use long tail keywords in your content: Long tail keywords are more specific, targeted, and transactional in nature. The reason this is important is that it leads to quality traffic being driven to your site, resulting in more bookings.
- Be specific about your location: According to research, most voice queries are location specific, and so should your content.
10. Run a contest or giveaway.
Everyone loves a good contest, especially if the prize is something that can help you enjoy your next trip. Running a contest is one of the best ways to reward your loyal customers and, at the same time, attract new ones.
Source: Really Good Emails
For a brand, a well-run contest is a great way to:
- Boost brand awareness
- Increase customer engagement and drive excitement
- Grow your email list
Another great benefit of running contests is that they give you opportunities to forge relationships with other businesses. By offering them exposure in exchange for a prize, you create powerful alliances that can help you spread your reach and amplify your voice. They, too, will help advertise your promotion to boost their own brand. It’s definitely a win-win situation.
The travel and hospitality industry is growing, and brands that keep up with current marketing trends will have a competitive advantage over those that settle for old-fashioned marketing and advertising. Remember, as you look to attract more business, it’s vital to adjust your marketing strategies to meet consumer expectations.
One travel marketing trend that’ll never lose its impact is email marketing. Make sure to check out our tips for creating travel email marketing campaigns.