With the 2019 Leaders in Travel: Digital Summit around the corner, we decided to launch this special panel blog on the future of digital marketing in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.
Never have travellers been more informed, or more open to trying new brands and destinations – wherever UK travellers are in their booking journey – from planning a holiday, setting out an agenda for sight-seeing or sharing their experiences with friends – they’re doing it online, and across all devices.
For ambitious travel, tourism and hospitality brands, the challenge is to create an integrated, multi-channel experience that captures the interest of travellers to drive bookings in the most cost-effective way possible.
Sharing their insights in this blog as well as on stage at the British Library for Leaders in Travel on the 25th of September, we’re pleased to present our panel:
"Instagram is only going to get more relevant to travel marketers"
For HolidayPirates, social media channels continue to be the most efficient and cost-effective channels for growing our business.
Instagram is a key focus for us in 2019/20 and we can only see that channel growing and becoming more relevant.
"Paid search as a strategy in travel will increase at the expense of organic."
Paid search will increase whereas organic search will decrease.
This reflects a broader shift as Google increases its ad depth, the number of queries your ads match against and the improvement in ad formats. This will all be at the expense of organic which will have lower click-through-rates as a result.
"Paid channels are very saturated."
Content marketing continues to grow at pace. The increased use of video and interactive content will continue to engage customers and social media will play a key role in this.
Paid channels are very saturated so the smart businesses in the industry need to find new ways to reach audiences through these.
Also marketing automation and personalisation remain key to success and businesses with strong data and communications capabilities will be able to take advantage of this.
"Content could be key in driving top of funnel awareness"
Paid search for acquiring in market users. Paid search allows for the ad copy and user journey to be controlled to drive the best conversion rates and greatest booking values.
Organic search and organic social should be considered in the longer term. Travel is a high consideration purchase and naturally lends itself to interesting content.
Content could be key in driving top of funnel awareness and keeping your brand within your market's consideration set. You will need to invest in a team capable of creating unique and engaging content but the longer term benefits should easily provide a positive return.
"Brand advocates are cost effective"
At HolidayPirates, we only pay for 8% of our overall traffic because we believe that having the right content strategy to appeal to our target audience via social media allows content to go "viral".
Brand advocates that support your product and share content for you is extremely cost-effective.
"SEO, email and social remain very effective."
SEO, email and social media remain very effective channels for marketers on a tight budget.
The reach that can be gained through effective use of these channels and the content associated with them can mean significant gains for very limited spend.
"Regulations and the sharing economy will make their mark"
The travel industry is a dynamic one. New players, consolidation and aggregation have changed the landscape many times in recent years.
I expect this to continue and to bring new challenges and opportunities for all players. Regulations around the sharing economy also will make their mark as the balance is developed between consumer demand and society impact.
Local businesses will be best placed to provide effective solutions for consumers whilst providing quality outcomes for local areas.
"External facors can't be underplayed"
External political and economic factors are the biggest threat.
Because travel involves customers visiting at least 1 different country to their residence, the chances of external factors affecting user's decisions is effectively doubled!
"Travel products are becoming more personalised."
I think as travel marketing becomes more sophisticated, travel products are becoming more personalised for the general consumer.
This progression towards tailoring the product and experience according to the individual is democratising and I think it's quite exciting.
On the other hand, environmental and sustainability concerns are very real and we, as an industry, need to make sure that people can experience destinations in a responsible way.
"Market conditions have presented challenges in 2019"
At the risk of sounding too cliche, it has been a number of market conditions that have represented challenges for travel marketers in 2019.
The multiple postponement of the final Brexit date, well publicised job losses and business closures in the service sector, political uncertainty, the Pound falling to its lowest value in over two years and record temperatures have not been conducive for consumers to purchase overseas travel.
Again, demands for eco-friendly options, will push the travel industry.
"There are many changes impacting the industry"
Quite a broad answer but technology. Why so broad? Because there are many disruptions in this space right now.
From using VR and AR to augment experiences to AI chatbots and digital payments, there are many changes impacting the industry. Using smart pricing, effective content strategy and well set up customer service teams ensure businesses can ride these trends to deliver positive outcomes rather than being threatened by them.
"Customers have been thinking twice before going on vacations"
Brexit has been a serious headwind for UK businesses. The drop in the value of GBP means customers think twice before going on vacations.
Brexit also has made it harder for businesses to focus on marketing investment as they plan for the various permutations and timings of Brexit.
"Effective personalisation is key"
Lead generation remains a key focal area for attracting the right decision makers through content and highly relevant messaging.
Effective targeting and personalisation ensure the right people see the right messages at the right time.
"Make sure your content is relevant and personal"
We believe that the most effective methods of digital marketing are content related. The "spray and pray" approach is not efficient or sustainable.
Instead, making sure that your content is relevant and personalised is key. It then allows you to be more targeted in channels such as social media.
"Use Google Analytics to understand traveller intent"
Google Analytics is a great tool for analysing data sets to understand who your decision makers are. Google Analytics can not only identify who the decision makers are through analysing conversion paths, but can even show what content they reviewed on the path to their purchase.
You can also use functions like site search to flag content gaps and understand what questions your customers are asking of your site.
"Your attribution models need to include both online and offline bookings"
Using a balanced attribution model is key to tracking ROI. Consumers don't have separate online and offline worlds - they view your business as one channel which should be seamless. Your attribution models need to include both online and offline bookings to provide an accurate level of credit for each channel.
To do this you will need to either utilise a comprehensive call tracking solution or create a conversion passback process. This additional data will then be fed into your attribution model. You can then fully understand channel ROI and make informed channel investment decisions as a result.
"Every lever is examined"
We review effectiveness of every channel across the full funnel from awareness through consideration and purchase funnel. Enquiries, conversion and new business of course remain the key metrics but every lever is examined, tested and tweaked to maximise the end result.
"Investigate the social media 'halo effect'"
There are ways in which we can attribute a direct ROI on paid activity from the value of a click out compared to spend. However, as most of our traffic is organic, we place more emphasis on the 'halo effect' that is associated with social media and therefore place value on the virality of content measured by shares and likes etc.
When setting out their plans for the rest of 2019 and looking ahead to Spring and Summer 2020, travel marketers have a significant challenge to select the right channels, with the right investment to deliver maximum results.
At Leaders in Travel 2019, our panellists will get into the details of the risks, challenges and opportunities in front of travel marketers, telling their stories and presenting rich data to help you develop your own strategy to increase traffic, engagement and bookings.
From the rise of sustainable travel, the increasing expectations of family, group and solo travellers and the increased focus on ‘experiences’ rather than passive enjoyment, to the strategic challenges of how to intercept travellers as they research their journeys, early in the customer journey through SEO, PPC, programmatic and other digital channels – theirs a lot to consider.
If you can’t join us at Leaders in Travel to explore the trends, tools and techniques raised in this post, our experts always love to talk travel – contact the team.