Marketing is evolving constantly. Now, more than ever, we live in a commoditized and distracted world, which presents enormous challenges to marketing and selling to an evolving group of consumers. Tourism is not immune to these challenges. Every year we see a new shiny toy – The latest travel industry trends. Unfortunately there are many ongoing trends in tourism industry that are often overlooked, they come up consistently because they don’t get the focus and attention they deserve.
Ok this one might be obvious – but why are there so many businesses that don’t address globalization? You work in a 24/7 world. That means that guests are online researching anytime, anywhere. This trend is especially significant for the global travel industry. The benefit is that you have the potential to attract a massive crop of potential guests. Your branding doesn’t have to be relevant to everyone, nor can you service everyone but Is your business set up to address the varying time zones and immediacy of responses that your potential guests are looking for?
Your potential guests are influenced by influencers, by social media, and what friends, family, and others that recommend online. Did you know that one good review from a guest can lead to 9 future referrals? Online booking sites like Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Viator have figured this out, and reward their best hotel or tour partners with better visibility so that they can make more money. Reviews matter to your guests. What is your strategy for managing and leveraging reviews in your marketing?
Online travel agents (OTA’s) and booking sites are certainly not one of the current tourism trends however their growth is astounding and they are now over 70% of the market. They are the primary source for finding travel services for your guests. These sites are your partners AND your competitors. They skim margins from us, but we can’t live without them because they give you access to a global audience. How do you work with OTA’s in the long run and still improve your margins?
As industries commoditize, anyone can learn skills in business,and this includes sales, marketing, social media, website development and content creation. Anyone can start a tourism business and you probably know many that have, let’s face it, tourism is an attractive and exciting industry to work in. So how do you position your tourism brand to stand out amongst the rest? How do you best communicate to your target guest to win their attention and bookings?
There are plenty of marketing strategies to manage some of the most prominent tourism trends and run a successful business.
Here are a few examples:
Marketing strategy matters, otherwise you end up with a set of tactics that are disjointed and don’t work together to help solve your business challenges nor reach your business goals. An annual marketing plan will vastly improve your results it will also help you work out goals towards your customers, your channels you use and meeting financial targets. Unfortunately, I rarely see a plan in place with clients to reach their business goals.
Reviews and recommendations will grow your business if you have frequent and quality reviews. Having a plan to ask, answer and leverage reviews in your marketing will move considerers of your brand to buyers, and lead to future bookings. Although this is certainly not a new global tourism trends, reviews work to improve your business. This strategy brings potential guests directly to your business instead of just to OTA’s because they learn to trust you and when you have more trust – you get regular guests AND great recommendations.
The Human Approach – You can no longer sell/promote your business only with features and benefits – how you make your guests FEEL is even more important. Consumers have so many choices. – They connect with people that they like, they connect with your story and what you stand for. As the NYT bestselling author Simon Sinek states: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sharing your authentic self and the people behind your business will bring guests to your brand.
The Business Approach – You have a business to run, and you and your staff need to earn a living. This means focusing on the things that drive traffic, improve margins, but not at the expense of the relationship you build with your guests. Developing a pricing strategy and a marketing plan will help you stay focused on these goals.
“The aim of marketing is to know the customer so well, the product or service fits them and sells itself.” – Don Norman
This means making choices on the guests you want to attract to your business. The better you understand your potential guest, the better you can find them and connect with them. This involves understanding your guest so well, that you know how to speak to them, and address their needs and challenges. Consumers are distracted with so many stimuli competing for their attention. If you understand them, to and better meet their needs – they will want to work with you. No longer are the days of trying to compete for the attention of every traveler. – trying to satisfy everyone, ends up pleasing no one.
You might find that the perfect guest that resonates with your brand and likes what you do, but they aren’t ready to buy yet. You haven’t moved them effectively through the buying journey. Perhaps they are still learning about you, or you don’t know their needs well enough yet, in order to build trust – then to buy from you. A great example of this is buying Facebook ads, expecting the travelers will buy immediately after seeing your ad. Helping them through their journey is critical.
Social media isn’t going away, no matter how many seem to come and go, in fact, social media is even more pronounced. Your potential guests not only use social media to find you, learn about you, and relate to you, but they also use it as a customer service vehicle. They have preferred methods of contact, and you will find the phone is rarely used by international guests to contact you. Social customer service (monitoring of social mediums media for content AND customer service) needs to be a regular strategy in your business.
Dorene Wharton is a tourism strategist, marketer, coach and full-time traveler with a 25-year career working in all areas of marketing and sales. She left her corporate job with Fortune 500 hospitality brands to start Travel Life Media to help hotels, tour, attractions and event companies improve their marketing, live their brand with a purpose and make money.