By Joseph Franklyn McElroy
The travel industry is booming by almost any measure; according to Tourism Economics’ Global City Travel: 2019 to 2025 report, 630 million international travelers are expected to visit the top 300 cities around the globe in 2019, an increase of 4.6 percent over 2018.
Yet, despite continuing marketing growth, the battle for revenue and market share has never been fiercer. That’s all the more reason to study the latest online travel marketing trends to ensure you are adapting your efforts to remain relevant and standout. Adding some of these eight strategies to your travel Internet marketing plan will help attract targeted traffic and build your business.
1. Discover the Magic of Micro-Moments
More travelers are using mobile devices for their online activities. In 2018, mobile use accounted for 52.2 percent of all web traffic. Smart marketers are leveraging micro-moments to grab the attention of target audiences who want to make fast decisions.
Travelers use mobile devices to find nearby accommodations, events, stores, parks and recreational opportunities. Use these micro-moments to develop targeted content that inspires searchers to take immediate action. Advanced technologies are making it easier to personalize these campaigns as if you are reaching out to a friend rather than a potential customer.
Micro-moments are broken down into four components that matter – wanting to know, wanting to go, wanting to do and wanting to buy. Consumers crave these things immediately and are attracted to brands that meet or exceed their expectations.
From “near me” searches to considering the intent of searchers, the goal is to get into the minds of travelers to make them choose your brand on-the-spot. Informative content, special offers, and savvy keyword research help generate more leads.
2. Leverage User-Generated Content and Influencer Marketing
Memorable travel experiences (MTEs) inspire people to experience new places, talk about their journeys and plan future excursions. Travelers discover immersion in local culture makes a destination uniquely different than any other place in the world. The sights, sounds, flavors and feelings become part of the traveler’s current pleasure and upcoming plans.
User-generated content (UGC) is one of the simplest ways to share MTEs that make other travelers want to do it, too. When real people make online recommendations, people listen and take action. About 95 percent of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase – and displaying these reviews can boost conversion rates by up to 270 percent. Emotional travel stories are one of the best ways to improve conversions.
3. Embark on a Personal Journey with Travelers
Today’s travelers expect a personalized approach from travel companies. A standard travel process is generic and blends in with the crowd. People crave something extraordinary and different, based on their specific preferences. With more than half of travelers booking trips online, they are seeking that special place by searching the Internet.
Accomplishing this requires a close examination of traveler personas, in-depth keyword research, attention to detail and a technology-friendly approach. And it’s imperative to capture travelers on-the-go as they search for one-of-a-kind experiences.
Travel businesses are creating a personalized buzz with strategies such as account-specific emails and messaging to offer customized services to clients based on their activities, past purchases, and interests.
Augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) encourage interactive communications with potential customers. AI is being used to weave personalized content into messages, chatbots and other automated communications. Travel brands can make an impact by providing the customized details travelers want on-the-spot, including in-destination services.
4. Become an “I Can’t Wait to Hear More” Storyteller
Consumers are clamoring for true stories about brands, travel experiences and products. Authenticity builds trust and encourages visitors to take action. When people relate to a brand’s story, they become personally motivated by it. Craft compelling stories that keep visitors on the edge of their seats and make them want more.
There is no shortage of media for sharing stories. Besides the company blog, share on a variety of sites to build an audience and get more leads. Share a short version of your blog at Medium, with an original image and link back to your site. And take advantage of the array of storytelling features at social media sites.
Take advantage of multiple marketing channels. Snapchat Stories reach out to millennial travelers. YouTube videos are an ideal way to show the potential enjoyment of having unusual experiences around the world. Also, LinkedIn will be launching Student Voices to appeal to this younger demographic. Clearly, storytelling is an integral part of the future of travel Internet marketing.
5. Explore Innovative Imagery and Virtual Reality
Travelers want to see places before they book a trip. Visual elements are essential to inspire travel enthusiasts to book an excursion. Once they see the alluring possibilities of a particular venue, they want to go there themselves to view everything in-person. Original images help to set your travel business apart from the competition.
Visual elements, such as videos, keep visitors at your site longer – which increases the likelihood they will convert into paying customers. People spend about 2.6 times longer at pages with video than those without videos or images. Content with pictures and video typically ranks higher on Google so that people can find out more about your travel opportunities.
Virtual reality allows marketers to create immersive experiences with consumers – without ever leaving their seats. Hotels, lounges, airports and other venues can provide a virtual experience to wow travelers and make them want to book now. Once they get a taste of being there, travelers are ready to go.
6. Understand the Connection Between Travel and Google
Google properties now own over 90 percent of all searches on the Internet. While Yahoo, Bing and Amazon remain viable search engines, Google is the mighty engine to consider when optimizing travel content. More than ever before, marketers must be aware of updates, algorithms and best practices.
Beyond travel SEO, Google is also becoming a mover and shaker in the travel sector. Currently, Google is one of the leading sites for hotel reviews around the world and is ahead of other industry leaders such as Facebook and TripAdvisor.
For years, travel marketers buzzed about Google evolving into an online travel agency. Features such as Maps, Flight Search and Google Trip mobile app reinforce this theory. Last year, Google consolidated Flights, Hotels and Trip products to create a single online travel booking portal. Google’s trip-planning portal is streamlined and comprehensive enough to be highly competitive.
While Google has the lion’s share, travel SEO experts must also focus on up-and-coming Amazon, another potential player in this competitive playground. Discussions among travel leaders should focus on the potential of these two mega-entities and how that will impact the way travelers search, plan and book their trips.
7. Recognize the Robots are Coming… and Have Already Arrived
One of the hottest travel Internet marketing trends is the use of robotic technology. The robots are coming to the travel sector – and in increasing instances, have already arrived.
Machines are performing physical and cognitive functions in the travel industry. As people demand self-service opportunities, robots slowly are taking over. All types of travel businesses are finding ways to use artificially intelligent robots. When creativity and technology come together, the possibilities are boundless.
From chatbots and robot-assisted travel agents to robotic greeters, there are countless ways to use this technology for marketing purposes. Information assistance and targeted suggestions are just two ways to put robots to work as promotional agents for hotels, monuments, recreational venues and more. Two significant stumbling blocks are the cost of robotics and ongoing maintenance as well as a lack of emotional contact – and emotive reactions are essential to reach out to travelers and get them to want more.
8. Maintain and Enhance Social and Mobile Connections
Localized searches continue to be a top way to connect with travelers on-the-move. As they travel through foreign lands, they want to find places in the area. Mobile connections and social media are two ways to hone-in on these localized requests and reach travelers looking for something in real-time.
More travelers are booking an entire travel experience via mobile devices. And social media continues to be a resource for information-seekers who want to find out more about brands, experiences and what others are saying about them. Connecting with consumers is a golden opportunity to build trust and your brand as well as gather information about their preferences through surveys and interactions.
Creating, maintaining, and enhancing social and mobile connections continue to be leading travel marketing strategies. Another tactic to add to the travel SEO toolbox is browser push notifications, to reach leads powerfully as well as retain existing customers and improve conversion rates.
The only constant is change, both in the travel industry and in Internet marketing. Best consumer experiences and popular trends are continually evolving. Staying on top of what’s hot and what’s not is crucial for connecting with your target audience. Failure to stay ahead of the curve could risk your business getting left behind.