5 Strategic Decisions for Your Travel Company 

As a highly competitive industry, we constantly think about how we can best reach our travel clients' target audience and targets. Here, our senior digital strategist Pearse Moran shares some of the key factors that he considers when preparing a digital strategy for our travel clients.

Define audiences by culture & language

When marketing an international travel product or service, the first step is to understand how much capacity you have to segment your marketing by language and culture.

For example, if marketing to non-English speaking countries, what level of local language can your business service? Consider your advertising copy, website, service centre and emails - If you can’t ensure local language across all of these touchpoints, then the question becomes which countries can reasonably be expected to have an understanding of English (or your native language) and to what level?

Next is culture, which can broadly be grouped by religion and geo-specific social patterns. For example, when marketing to the Middle East and Asia, it is important to understand Muslim and Buddhist religious holidays, what is involved in each and how long they last for.

All of the above also depends on your specific product. If you’re selling flights, some of the cultural differences can be overlooked; if you’re selling tours, language becomes the all-important factor; if you’re selling accommodation, understanding the types of travel in different cultures informs your promotional strategy and peak booking times by audience.

Promote products/services by season

It’s important to add another layer onto the above and that is to understand the seasonality of travel. Wet seasons, winter, school & work holiday periods will usually align with travel intent.

As you can see, defining your marketing audiences can be a never-ending process, and depending on your business’ resources could be an unrealistic expectation.

Therefore, the most important thing is to understand what you can segment by, and what the business is capable of servicing. Once you have that understanding, create simple criteria in which to organise your audiences into, such as:

  • Language (english primary, english secondary, native)
  • Travel duration / type (longterm, short-term, multi-destination, single destination)
  • Travel destinations (continents, key countries, climates)
  • Peak travel l periods (winter, summer, religious holidays, school/work holidays)

Understand the travel lifecycle

Once you have defined your individual audiences, the next step is to understand their travel lifecycles. Unlike most consumer products, travel typically has a much longer lifecycle from awareness to consumption, in some cases being longer than a calendar year depending on the product.

Because of this, it is incredibly important to have good data attribution and touchpoints which can help to identify what stage a particular customer is in the product lifecycle.

Your lifecycle can be defined according to the business’ model, however an example would be:

  • Dreaming (no plan to travel, likes travel content)
  • Planning (wanting to travel, deciding where)
  • Booking (knows where, deciding what)
  • Traveling (on trip)
  • Sharing (post-trip, talking about trip)

Understanding this pattern allows you to tailor your tone of voice and advertising language to the appropriate stage. For example, if you know that your American customers typically travel during their summer holidays, and prefer Europe or South America to Asia - you can start to raise awareness and interest in these destinations ahead of the typical booking window for this audience. This could mean softening the tone of advertising copy to create engagement, rather than to convert someone (e.g. using video, social media and articles). As someone shows more intent, you slowly change your message towards urgency, scarcity or ‘buy now’ themes and remarket promotions.

Use content to create intent signals

After you have your audiences defined and a good understanding of their travel lifecycle, it is important to create intent signals which can indicate a customer is preparing to travel.

This is easiest done through a combination of content pillars and regular communications based on the lifecycle stages. For example, if you believe an audience or segment is in the Dreaming/Awareness phase, you can validate this by serving them content which matches the intent, and reviewing against traditional engagement metrics (CTR, Time on Site, Pages per session, open rate etc.). It is also important to promote content from the second stage of the cycle, in this example Planning, and track when a user begins to consume more of this content; indicating they are more intent on purchasing.

Engagement metrics becomes a priority here, helping to create segments based on intent signals, allowing you to tailor marketing campaigns to the right audience at the right time.

Lastly, plan an annual budget strategically

As travel consumption is usually booked far in advance, it’s important to plan your media & content production budgets with enough time to capitalise. Understanding your individual markets and travel lifecycle allows you to budget around each market and their likely behaviour.

When budgeting, it is important to have a full-funnel strategy which covers all stages of the travel lifecycle, and then tailor this budget to each individual market. This might mean spending more budget in advance of a peak travel period, in order to raise brand awareness ahead of your ideal conversion window (and then convert using promotions, discounts & sales).

As you can read there is a lot to consider in travel marketing - Especially if you are speaking to international audiences. As you prepare your strategy for the months ahead remember: 

  • Define audiences by culture & language
  • Promote products/services by season
  • Understand the travel lifecycle
  • Use content to create intent signals
  • Plan an annual budget strategically

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