Article first published in June 2017, updated July 2019
In 2017, the travel industry was predicted to grow by 6%, turning it into a $381 billion industry. Now, travel continues to be commonplace for adults and young people alike, as family sabbaticals are becoming commonplace:
“Given that by 2020 it’s estimated that roughly half the UK and American workforce will be freelance and that 40% more children were being home-schooled in 2017 than in 2014, it’s no surprise that parents will be embracing [freedom to travel].” (CN Traveller 2019)
However, just because people are traveling freely doesn’t mean hospitality marketing should be ignored by travel companies. Competition in the travel and hospitality industry is fierce. Vacationers are savvy shoppers, and they want to visit amazing destinations at a great price.
What is hospitality marketing?
Marketing, as we know, is the process of getting your brand and its products or services discovered by consumers. Hospitality marketing is the same concept: However, it focuses in on the many segments of the hospitality industry, including:
- Amusement Parks
The hospitality industry is often lumped in with the travel sector, which includes:
- Cruise Lines
- Vehicle Rentals
What are the trends in hospitality marketing?
2019 is showing some significant switches in hospitality marketing, moving from more traditional sources of promotion to mobile-focused promotions that include a strong push for direct bookings. This means that those in the hospitality and travel industries should be focusing on optimizing their websites for mobile use with clear calls to action to “book now.”
Another trend that many sectors are seeing is the increase in consumers that desire a more personalized experience. This means more for those of you in hospitality because you’re relying on these consumers to trust you to book them a room, have a vehicle for them, and more. So, personalizing your communications with them, especially through email, is becoming more essential than ever.
Finally, those in the hospitality sector should be paying close attention to augmented and virtual reality. This technology is getting more and more refined and could play a massive role in helping hotels and resorts display rooms and their attractions to those on their websites who are looking to book.
How can I promote the tourism industry?
Let’s face it, with over half of the world’s population online, investing in proper digital marketing channels is a must. Yes, more traditional marketing channels, such as television and radio, are still viable options, but you’re more likely to have someone take action while they’re surfing the internet then while they’re driving down the interstate listening to your radio ad.
With that said, what are the most viable places for those in the tourism industry to promote themselves?
Source: Smart Insights
7 digital marketing tips for excellent experiences & repeat bookings
To help travel and hospitality businesses create excellent experiences and generate repeat bookings, here is a list of seven digital marketing tips:
1. Make it easy to sign up for emails
Research shows it takes the average traveler 45 days to book a vacation. During that time, they’ll search 38 websites before booking a trip, according to research from Expedia.
When a visitor arrives on your site, they should be able to search for accommodations easily—and sign up for email alerts.
If a customer visits your site, the opportunity to collect an email address is crucial. By joining your list, you can make a connection and keep your brand top-of-mind. The emails that you send during the research phase could be the deciding factor.
Make sure your email sign up form is in a highly visible place on the main page of your website. While this might seem like a basic marketing tip, a quick search of ten random travel sites shows just two sites encourage visitors to sign up for emails on their main page.
Take a cue from the Fairmont and add a sign-up form like this to your home page.
Takeaway: Make it simple for consumers to sign up, the easier and more straightforward, the better.
2. Inspire travel through newsletters
There are so many places to travel to, so why not provide a little inspiration to prospective travelers? Create newsletters that focus on specific travel deals that inspire subscribers to take action.
By using a combination of attention-grabbing images, great prices, and links to can’t-resist destinations, you’ll encourage subscribers to make their dream trip a reality.
Here’s an excellent example of an inspirational newsletter sent from Virgin Experience Days. There’s a great list of destinations here with attractive images and call-to-action buttons that practically lead subscribers to the checkout.
The more you learn about subscribers, the more specific your newsletters can get. You can segment your contacts and send specific destinations to specific customers based on their interests, previous purchase history, or expressed preferences.
Takeaway: Grab their attention with a combination of stock & user-generated imagery to show what’s possible.
3. Personalize messages by collecting data from the start
If you do publish newsletters, they should be personalized. This increases the likelihood of subscribers engaging with your email.
Travelers expect personalized messages. That means generating messages for the well-traveled professional and the parent who organizes a family trip once a year.
It’s a tall order, but one that reaps great rewards. Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates, but 70% of brands fail to send them, according to research from Experian.
To start sending personalized messages, you have to get to know your customers. To do so, start collecting information right from the start.
Take a look at the information that Air Canada collects from its new subscribers. Pay close attention to the travel preference section.
By collecting this kind of information, Air Canada can send emails that are personal and relevant to the traveler, like the one below. Notice that all of the deals that are offered are from the departure airport that the subscriber entered when signing up for emails, which in this case is Montreal.
Takeaway: Give users more control by offering them a preference center. This will not only make them feel as if their interests are your priority, but the information you gather will help you better personalize your message to them.
4. Create a loyalty program
To retain travelers and generate more loyalty, reward programs are becoming popular. They’re a win-win for many businesses as travelers earn rewards and businesses learn more about individual customers.
Seventy-five percent of travelers are willing to share their personal information in exchange for tailored promotions, priority service, or loyalty points, according to ZebraTechnologies.
Brands can reach customers by sending a variety of emails to their loyalty members. For instance, you can send a monthly email that provides a points balance, a newsletter providing industry news, and exclusive offers.
British Airways sends its new loyalty members an email that contains reward information along with links to travel deals and program details. It’s personalized yet informative.
Takeaway: Treat loyal consumers with special perks to show that they matter to you.
5. Impress customers as they travel
When a customer books a flight or a room with your company, it’s your time to shine. It’s important to impress your travelers with relevant, timely information that’s important to their trip.
You can create a series of emails that arrive in a traveler’s inbox as they work their way through the trip.
Here’s a list of potential emails to send at various points:
- An email reminder with travel details
- Upgrade opportunities
- Exclusive offers for loyalty members
- Encourage travelers to download your app
- Check-in reminders
Day of departure
- Updated flight, gate, or room information
- Newsletter that focuses on new in-app features
- Events and activities available in their destination city
- Flight and gate information
- A customer service survey
- Update on rewards points
- Thank you for choosing your company
- Book your next getaway now
You can automate these kinds of emails, so they arrive in a customer’s inbox as they travel. Finding an email service provider with easy-to-use automation features is crucial to impressing travelers.
Takeaway: Email automation is worth the investment because it helps to simplify not only the marketing team’s jobs, but gives consumers faith knowing that you’re helping them stay on top of their travel plans. When you personalize your consumer’s itineraries, they will be more inclined to engage with the emails you send them.
6. Focus on mobile
You won’t be surprised to hear that smartphone use is growing. As of 2019, 81% of Americans owned a smartphone. That means the travel and hospitality industry must elevate its mobile marketing or be left behind.
The ability to check-in, review your itinerary, and pick your seat via apps or email notifications is great, but consumers want more.
Delta travelers can now track their bags via a RFID chip through the app. Travelers don’t have to worry if their bags will make it to their final destination. Virgin Hotel’s app, Lucy, lets guests control the temperature in their room and order room service.
Source: Delta News Hub
These examples point to the growing demand for mobile experiences that complement services provided by an airline or hotel. Some of the most popular apps downloaded by smartphone users are those used for travel purposes. In fact, travel apps have a 95% success rate among Android users.
Apps and email go hand-in-hand. You can send emails to encourage app use, like sending an email that highlights new features or gives subscribers an in-app promotion on their next trip.
Takeaway: Mobile-friendly is everything as more individuals move away from the use of desktops and begin relying more on cellphones and smartphones. Take the time to optimize your website for mobile viewing and don’t be afraid to explore the idea of an app for users to use for their travel needs.
7. Use social media as an engaging digital newsletter
During vacation research, 55% of soon-to-be travelers liked social media pages related to their upcoming trip, according to Internet Marketing Inc.
If a potential customer swings by your Facebook or Twitter page, it’s your chance to make a first impression. Consider treating social media like a digital newsletter, where you keep new and existing customers up to date with promotions, company news, achievements, interesting announcements, and fun contests.
On Air Canada’s Facebook page, for example, you’ll find a great mix of promotions like a mention of additional flights from Vancouver to Melbourne and an informational post letting LAX travelers know that flights are now leaving from a different terminal.
Posts that keep travelers engaged, like this contest that encourages fans to vote for their favorite video, also make a great impression on new and existing customers.
Every email you send should also contain social media buttons to make sure your email subscribers are getting in on the social action too.
Takeaway: Social media is a valuable tool that shouldn’t be left out. Consumers turn to these brands for recommendations, and if a brand has positive reviews on these sites, they are more likely to book.
To successfully market to travelers, a combination of digital marketing techniques is a must. Travelers use a variety of platforms to research and reserve flights, hotels, and activities, which means brands must have a strong online presence that utilizes a combination of email and social media tactics. By using the seven tips above, travel and hospitality brands can create top-notch customer experiences while increasing repeat bookings.
Ready to take your travel email marketing campaigns up a notch? Check out these 5 tips for stellar travel email marketing campaigns.