The travel industry is soaring once more, and these travel marketing tips can help you continue to grow in 2023.
Here, you’ll find:
- A brief overview of travel marketing
- The essential elements of an effective travel marketing strategy
- Tips for building a travel marketing strategy in 2023
- Insights to keep your business growing in any circumstance
There’s no question that the travel industry hasn’t quite been the same since the start of the pandemic. While the industry faced some rough years, it seemed like 2022 finally started to bring some relief.
Now, it’s time for travel businesses to get back into gear. With the return of business trips and regular vacations, travel companies will have to ramp up their operations again after cutting back for the last couple of years.
Travel and leisure are just as essential and fulfilling as ever, but travel businesses and their customers alike should approach travel with a more conscious and thoughtful mindset than in years prior.
Travel marketing is particularly important now, as many businesses are still trying to regain their pre-pandemic success. Here, we’ve got your complete guide for creating or revamping your travel marketing strategy for 2023.
What is travel marketing?
Travel marketing is a broad term that covers marketing strategies used to grow revenue by all sorts of travel companies, including hotels and lodging businesses, transportation companies, tourist destinations, travel agents, tour operators, and more.
You might also hear the terms “tourism marketing” or “destination marketing” in the travel industry. All of these facets of travel marketing point to the same goal: appealing to tourists, trying to get them to visit a particular destination, and improving the travel experience.
Travel marketing can take many different forms. There are plenty of avenues for digital marketing, including social media marketing and paid advertising. Of course, marketing efforts can also extend to the physical world with materials like flyers, brochures, and the like.
What does a successful travel marketing strategy need?
The world is full of incredible destinations, so how can you convince travelers to come to you?
All marketing campaigns, regardless of the industry, need a properly defined target audience. Who are you trying to reach with your messaging? Market research can help you define your most likely customers. You should aim to learn:
- Your customers’ demographics, including age, income level, gender, location, etc.
- The typical travel habits of your audience, including favorite vacation spots and preferred seasons to travel
- Your audience’s pain points surrounding travel, such as difficulty planning activities, budget concerns, etc.
Don’t be surprised if you find more than one target audience you’re trying to reach. If so, you can create buyer personas to represent each segment of your audience.
For instance, first-time visitors to a travel destination will have different needs and expectations than those who return year after year. On top of that, targeting new customers will require different strategies than retargeting cold leads. Segmenting your audience will help give direction to your campaigns and ensure you’re properly serving all potential customers.
From travel agencies to hotels to attractions and more, every travel business has a competitor. The key to drawing business is establishing how your company beats out the rest.
Your company should have established its USPs, known as “unique selling points” or “unique selling propositions.” Communicate your USP clearly and quickly in your marketing campaigns. Customers should be able to tell, almost instantly, how your business is different from others and how you can best help them solve their pain points.
Once you know who your audience is, you’ll need to figure out where to reach them. Your marketing channels can span everywhere from social media to email marketing to paid ads on Google or other search engines.
Your marketing channels allow you to share your own content, sure, but you can also take advantage of user-generated content (UGC). Are travelers already talking about your brand on their favorite social media platforms? You can share others’ social media posts, pictures, reviews, and more to get people talking.
You can’t market inside a bubble. Partnering with relevant companies or engaging in influencer marketing can help get the word out about your business and lead you to audiences you might not have previously reached.
When you work with other big names in your industry, you’re establishing your business as an authority. If an audience sees your company associated with someone they already trust, they’re likely to start extending that trust to you.
A marketing mix, a concept that originated with the Four Ps, refers to the four key elements of any marketing plan: product, price, place, and promotion. Your marketing mix can help focus your strategies and ensure you’re covering what really matters to the customer.
Even beyond these Four Ps, you can incorporate three additional Ps: people, process, and physical evidence. Who is your audience interacting with when they deal with your business? What’s the process for delivering products or services to the customer? Finally, where do customers interact with your company? All of these elements can help shape any marketing campaign you run.
Best practices for building a travel marketing strategy in 2023
The tourism industry has a particularly tough challenge to face when it comes to marketing: the constant shifting of the market itself. This industry changes quickly, but with a solid marketing strategy in place, your business can be prepared for anything.
When you’re outlining, updating, or expanding your strategy, keep these marketing tips in mind.
1. Don’t oversell
Vacations should be about fun times with friends and family, and your company should work to provide that laid-back feeling. But we can’t ignore the realities of life, and travel companies shouldn’t oversell their area for the sake of a booking.
With a bit of care and forethought in your marketing efforts, you can strike a balance between authenticity and excitement. Highlight popular attractions in your area and encourage visitors to explore your destination like the locals do. You might even recommend nearby day trip destinations if your city is on the smaller side.
You can go a step further by creating unique content and ad campaigns for vacationers and for those embarking on business trips. What kind of attractions or amenities are these travelers looking for? Find them and highlight them in your messaging to provide helpful resources for any type of traveler.
2. Center the customer
When you’re marketing for your brand, the focus shouldn’t actually be on your brand. It should be on the customer. Think about it this way: customers don’t just want to know what you can do. They want to know what you can do for them.
Keeping the customer at the center of your marketing efforts is a surefire way to make your campaigns stand out. Rather than simply focusing on the specific products or services you offer, highlight the problem your business aims to solve.
If you’re stumped on how to go about this, start by asking questions like:
- What does our target audience want from us?
- How do we improve someone’s quality of life?
- What is the mission at the core of our brand?
- What do happy customers say about us?
Your business practices are inherently focused on the customer experience, so your marketing efforts should be, too. Just keep in mind that your target market could change throughout the year or as your business grows, so it’s important to perform regular market research to keep your customer profile as accurate as possible.
3. Keep wiggle room in your plan
If it wasn’t obvious before, the pandemic has only highlighted how quickly things can change in the travel industry. So while you certainly want to go through 2023 as prepared as possible, keep in mind that your best-laid plans could very well go out the window.
There are a handful of ways to account for the unexpected when creating your travel marketing strategy, including:
- When calculating your key performance indicators (KPIs), create both regular goals and stretch goals.
- Make a note of any algorithm or industry changes that could affect your Google Analytics as they happen.
- Focus on search engine optimization (SEO), which is less vulnerable to hiccups than pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.
- Regularly reassess your target audience to see if their demographics, budget, or needs have changed.
4. Double-check your keywords
When it comes to both paid search campaigns and SEO strategies, keywords are, well, key. And, for better or worse, keyword research isn’t a one-and-done job.
Especially with how much the travel industry has changed over the past couple of years, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re on the right path and know what keywords people are using to find your business.
From there, you can make sure your keyword list is optimized and in line with your budget. You can also ensure that your pages have high-quality content to help them rank highly on search engines and find their way to your most promising potential customers. Last but not least, don’t forget to create a negative keyword list to exclude your ads from popping up in conjunction with irrelevant search terms.
Pro tip: There are plenty of keyword research tools at your disposal, both free of charge and for a fee. Check out sites like AnswerThePublic, Ahrefs, and Semrush.
5. Pay attention to industry trends
Along with the keyword tools above, travel marketers can also benefit from sites like Google Trends. That’s because factors like region, seasonality, and time of year play a huge role when it comes to travel.
Dig into your data. What keywords are people using and when? What time of year do certain pages get the most traffic, and why?
Once you have a firm grasp on how these industry trends affect your travel business, you can be more intentional about how, where, and when you position your offerings through marketing. Research marketing trends often and update your strategy at least every quarter to reflect the latest happenings.
6. Lean on visuals
The tie-dye sky of a Hawaiian sunset, the bright blue water off the Amalfi coast, the breathtaking exterior of the Taj Mahal – sightseeing is one of the top reasons people choose to travel.
No matter what your travel offering is, don’t make visuals an afterthought. Having professional photos taken – whether you’re an all-inclusive resort, a travel agency, a transportation service, or something more – can benefit several aspects of your tourism marketing strategy.
Include photos and video content in your social media posts to make them more engaging. You can also create a “virtual tour” if it makes sense for your business. Video marketing strategies like these add legitimacy to your brand and help people feel more confident in knowing what to expect before making a purchase.
Visuals can enhance your marketing efforts on any platform from Facebook to LinkedIn to TikTok. You can even take things a step further with unique strategies like virtual reality, which is particularly appealing to younger travelers like Millennials and Gen Zers.
7. A/B test ads and landing pages
“Set it and forget it” may be an appealing tactic to take with your digital marketing. But if you’re not regularly testing and monitoring your performance, you’re more likely to get scooped by the competition.
Taking the time to A/B test your ads and landing pages will give you peace of mind that your campaigns are optimized and speaking to your target audience as intended.
You can play around with copy, page layout, calls to action (CTAs), imagery, and more to see what resonates most. Don’t forget to test your pages on desktop as well as on mobile devices; nearly 60% of today’s total internet traffic comes from mobile browsing!
8. Keep the content coming
Back to SEO – with all the ups, downs, and unknowns that remain when it comes to travel, investing in SEO and content marketing can add a helpful dose of consistency to your travel marketing strategy.
As booking software company Checkfront explains, “With a well-maintained blog, you can establish authority as a destination expert, attract more visitors to your website, and best of all, boost SEO.” Consider creating content ahead of time and using automation software to keep your posts consistent.
If you’ve got the bandwidth, you can take things a step further with social media partnerships. As we’ve mentioned before, travel is one of the top-performing industries on social media. You can explore partnering with a complementary brand or travel influencers who can boost your brand awareness by telling their subscribers about your business.
People are finally feeling comfortable enough in 2023 to plan those big getaways they may have been putting off for the last couple of years.
Though the future remains uncertain, travel brands can look at this as an opportunity to zoom out on their plans and initiatives to make sure they’re hitting all the right notes with their marketing.
By keeping the customer at the center of your marketing campaigns and being strategic about how you position your travel offerings, you can set your business up for success, no matter what the future of travel brings.
HawkSEM can help you adjust or revamp your marketing strategy to adapt to any circumstances and keep your business growing. Our industry experts can help set up and launch your campaigns, and our proprietary ConversionIQ technology turns real-time data into actionable insights you can use to improve future efforts.
This article has been updated and was originally published in November 2021.