Travel Marketing Trends in 2017

Since marketing trends are so hard to identify, we decided to bypass countless hours of research and the overwhelming amount of theories, and go straight to the source. We performed two marketing research surveys, one targeting consumers and one to travel agents in order to identify 2017 trends in travel marketing across North America. Whether you’re a small agency, large marketing firm, cruise line, tour operator, tourism board, or sole marketer, here’s our top eight trends that we’ve identified to take your marketing to the next level.

1). Traditional marketing is on the decline; digital marketing is on the rise.

As consumers become more digital savvy, they are increasingly using free online methods instead of traditional methods when completing travel research or bookings. In fact, 65% of consumers surveyed do not use a travel agent when traveling to a new destination. Furthermore, 36% of consumers are using the Google search engine when researching a new destination. To grow site traffic, marketers need to capitalize on this by implementing SEM (search engine marketing) pay per click campaigns (PPC) to make sure their websites pop on the first page in search engine rankings. This can be done organically— unparallel with optimization, inserting certain keywords in your website content and including backlinks in articles on others websites or social media. With 20% also using Trip Advisor as a research tool, paying for ads on their website is a smart play that will generate more brand visibility.

2). Consumers are booking through user friendly and mobile responsive hotel websites.

With 16% booking on individual hotel websites, you’ll want to make sure the booking process is as easy and streamlined as possible. If you’re a hotel marketer, you’ll want to use large call-out buttons and simple, large text on the website. Remember- less is more! Since the majority of consumers are also booking on their cell phones, you’ll want to make sure your websites are mobile friendly and responsive to smaller tablet and smartphone display screens. Nothing is worse than a confusing website – and you don’t want your customer’s frustration to turn into booking at another hotel simply for that reason.

In addition, it’s important to have your website accessible to people with disabilities. The easiest way to test to see if your site is accessible is to download an automated testing tool for your browser- such as the WAVE browser extension from WebAIM (http://wave.webaim.org/extension/). Once installed, the extension will flag any problems with accessibility and sort them by priority into errors and alerts. You may find dozens of issues the first time you run the extensions, and the issues should be addressed in order of severity by your website development team.

3). People are taking fewer but longer trips per year.

73% of the consumers surveyed said that they prefer trips that are 7+ days long with 47% taking only 1-2 trips per year. If you are a tour operator or a travel agent, this is information you can use for tailoring to consumers when creating packages. If you are a marketer, keep this in mind when marketing to consumers. Don’t forget to feature these trips on your social media channels, highlight them on your website and promote them with engaging email blasts.

4). People are seeking new and different destinations that are off the beaten path.

When we asked travel agents what type of destinations their clients are looking for most, 41% said new destinations, which was followed by 29% who said sun and fun destinations. Marketers - this is your chance to position yourself as an expert in a unique destination. Whether the destination actually is unique and unheard of – such as the Spanish Tenerife in the Canary Islands or the Portuguese Azores, or even if it is popular such as the Bahamas – this is a key positioning strategy. Even if you are a popular destination and not considered by many as unique, position activities that can be done in the destination as something that you can’t do anywhere else.

5). Always take time to post intelligently on social media channels.

With social media tools increasing, it’s no surprise that 52% of consumers spend 1-2 hours a day on social media and 12% spend 3-4 hours a day. With both consumers and travel agents using social media, posting at least every other day on your channels is crucial. There’s also an option for paid advertising that can help you reach key audiences with certain messages or promotions. According to our survey, Facebook and Instagram took the lead, with 0% using Twitter daily. Even if Twitter is on the decline (we think so), it’s still important to post on it. However, this just means it’s okay to spend less time on Twitter, but not to ignore it completely. If you are pressed for time to post, think about buying a scheduler tool- such as Buffer. Easy and inexpensive, Buffer allows you to post from all your accounts in one place, cutting posting time in half.

6). Webinars, online training portals & sponsored dinners are useful tools.

When asked how travel agents want to learn about new destinations, webinars (58%), online training portals (53%) and sponsored dinners (54%) overwhelming took the lead. If you’re marketing for a destination or Tourism Board (such as www.traveltotenerife.com), you’ll want to add these to your 2017 or 2018 marketing plan and budget. Trade shows were next, followed by office visits and printed materials/ brochures.

7). Email marketing is not dead…it's actually on the rise.

Whoever said email marketing is dead is truly mistaken. 39% of travel agents preferred to be contacted about new destinations through email, and also are the most interested in email as a co-marketing opportunity. HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform says that 75% of marketers are using more email than they were three years ago. In addition, more than 80% of online retailers and marketers agree that email is a core component of success for businesses (Salesforce).

8). Knowing your audience is critical for targeted marketing.

45% of consumers that we surveyed said the most important variable when choosing a new destination is adventure activities. This also suggests that multi generational adventure travel is on the rise. In fact, tour operator Austin Adventures has seen steady growth in this type of travel, with 10% increases each year over the past five years. Surprisingly, only 5% thought family friendly activities and an English-speaking destination was important. Getting to know your audiences’ preferences through things such as surveys, ensures that your marketing is that much more effective. Knowing that your users’ are seeking adventure activities, an entire marketing campaign can be built around different activities- featuring email blasts, webinars, social media, guerilla marketing, contests, etc.

At Traktek, we have years of experience in Travel Marketing and Digital Media - and recently won the 2017 MITX Award for Best Travel, Entertainment and Leisure Marketing and the New England Direct Marketing Association Best Website of the year. Contact us today so we can discuss how we can help you increase your leads/bookings through search engine marketing, your responsive website, social media, and email marketing.