Written by Lemongrass Marketing on 26th May 2021
Travel brands – it’s been a challenging 15 months to say the least
It’s been a mixed bag for our clients – UK staycations, outdoor travel and glamping are skyrocketing. European travel is slowly starting to open up, Africa and South America are struggling. It’s been incredibly challenging to say the least.
There’s one thing all travel brands have in common though: their audiences will have changed (and some brands are more aware of that than others). This means that most travel brands should be re-evaluating their marketing mix. With changing audiences, marketing channels would have changed, messaging would have changed and what used to work is perhaps not working as well as before. But how do you know? And what marketing should travel brands be doing right now?
The first step is a big one, because Covid will have changed your audiences. Some audiences will be the same, some of them will never come back, but there are new audiences out there, looking for new experiences.
But how do you find those new audiences – and how can you quickly understand what marketing channels and messages resonate with them?
Look back over your year’s-worth of Covid data – from tracking acquisition channels in your CRM, Google Analytics and booking system.
Look beyond the low numbers Covid caused, and into the bigger picture. If you continued with PR, paid and organic social, PPC or Programmatic , did they correlate with increased consumer interest – such as an increase in web traffic, or higher engagement on social channels?
While your prospective clients may not yet have booked, they would have actively been researching and planning their next trip. An increase in engagement or traffic is a good indicator of whether the content on your website and social channels is resonating. If it gets zero engagement, then stop it.
If it gets good engagement, do more of it.
What about travel PR – was there increased interest in your travel brand after a mention in the media, or after giving expert commentary?
Tip: tag the dates in Google Analytics every time you were featured in the press, and see if you can spot patterns.
This can be done retrospectively. For all future PR and marketing activities, assign UTM codes to every single activity, so you can track what drives traffic.
Yes, it’s time consuming – but it’s the only way to find out whether what you are doing works, and you can assign this to a junior member of the team.
So, what we’re saying is that even if bookings haven’t been great, looking at the data gives you an insight into whether a certain campaign or activity resonated with the audience (new or existing).
And that can give you an insight into what you should be doing more of in the future.
Don’t give up on the channels that still brought the audience in, even if your year-on-year bookings look terrible.
Look at it on balance, and within the context of your other channels. What’s performing right now? Have channels shifted? Has content shifted?
Put more money into those that work. Review on a weekly basis. Stay agile.
Always overlay the data with human insight. Sometimes, those audience and target market shifts can be temporary, so it’s important to compare different date ranges.
We tend to compare four date ranges in Google Analytics:
We often find those date ranges throw up conflicting results – so we then use human insight to interpret which of those audience and channel shifts are likely to be temporary (where we don’t want to spend money) and which are likely to stick (where we should spend money).
Digital marketing for travel is probably going to be your biggest asset right now, even as restrictions ease. This is where you’ll collect the data to gain insight into travel audiences and guest behaviour, and see what they’re really doing online.
If you haven’t already started, now’s the time to check your data.
Look at the traffic you’re getting in Google Analytics. Look at your social analytics and CRM.
These are first party data, giving you an insight into your current clients – the ones who are already aware you exist.
What’s changing? Which sources have grown, which have shrunk – and which posts are driving the most engagement? Remember – comments count more than likes!
See if this aligns with third party data, from sources like Brandwatch. If it doesn’t, you’ll know what you’re missing out on.
In other words, third party data allows you to see what consumers are interested in and actively searching for. Consumers that could be future clients, but aren’t yet.
Target them! Develop packages and products around those interests.
Study Google Trends, and look for changes in search volumes from month to month.
Use your own and third party data as a measure of your audience’s appetite for different types of content.
This is where you can discover new audiences – ones you’d never considered before.
Be smart about it, though. Don’t just jump on a bandwagon because everyone says it’s the latest thing (Clubhouse!? We don’t think that will last). Instead, use the knowledge and fit it to your brand experience, tailored to those new audiences and their expectations.
If you’re running Google Ads campaigns, don’t waste your budget. Check that your PPC campaigns are only running in source markets that travel is allowed from – we’re always surprised by how rarely travel brands adjust this.
Use that saved PPC budget to invest in travel SEO, for long-term benefit.
The same goes for your paid social budget – your ads running for specific destinations or source markets could need a review. Consider working with travel influencers or growing an organic following instead – branching into platforms with growing audiences, or making content for a new platform, like YouTube.
Pull on nostalgia and the uniqueness of your offering. Remind your audience that you’re still there, and that you can’t wait to welcome them back.
Going viral – it’s all luck. Right?
Not necessarily. To find out what makes content successful, you just have to deconstruct it.
If you really do your research, you can strike the perfect idea for a digital campaign. Look for content that achieves what you want. Lots of it.
Find patterns – what made these pieces so shareable? What made them newsworthy? Why did LadBible, Cosmo or The Times pick it up?
This is what spawns the next great idea: yours.
It’s a lot of work. But the payoff? Well, if you get the execution right and nail your outreach, you’ll reap the benefits of wider awareness. A huge, national or even global audience. You’ll generate backlinks for SEO, a new level of brand strength and a dominant position in the market.
These campaigns don’t always go huge, but they do always bring value. They can even provide repurposed content that can last for your entire schedule.
We’re helping travel brands explore this new territory as part of their marketing mix, with exciting results. Let us know if you are interested in finding out more – and we’ll get our audience and insights manager Al to write a post on how to go viral for one of the next newsletters.
While you’re researching campaign ideas, you’ll discover emerging stories and headline news. Can you newsjack, disprove, subvert or comment on these new developments?
Whatever you do, you’ve got to move fast and make the most of every opportunity. Trust your travel PR agency to act fast.
Just recently, we secured primetime BBC news coverage for Martinhal Family Hotels & Resorts, a Portuguese client of ours. They gave an expert, on-the-ground comment about the return of travel to Portugal, watch the BBC interview.
In the same week, we pitched another client, the Langham London, to Sky News and ITV – to talk about how they welcome staycationers ahead of UK hotels opening up for guests.
This only happens when you trust the process and your PR agency. You’ve got to move fast and jump on the opportunity to get your name out there.
Marketing for travel has never felt more important. Get a Performance Marketing Audit and understand your new audiences – based on solid first and third party data insights.