As with every other marketing strategy, the same travel tactics that worked this year will lose their steam in the coming year. Don’t ask me why, that’s just the tradition in marketing—for travel and even non-travel brands. Methods that rake in sales one year become old hat and must be replaced with innovative marketing campaigns that awe and dazzle consumers in new ways. There was a time keywords were the only ranking factor for travel brands on search engines. That’s changed now. Guest posting was also once a huge marketing strategy. It still works for some travel providers — but only with a solid plan. Trends change in marketing. And travel marketing is no different. Here are the marketing trends in the travel space to look out for in 2018:
#1 Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
We do many things because of the data we possess. You impress your boss because you know she holds your promotion keys. You feed your dog because you know he/she needs food for survival. Data informs actions. And it will keep staying relevant in the travel industry in 2018.
If as a travel marketer you know where your target customers would love to go for a vacation during the holidays, you’ll run marketing campaigns inspired by that data and you’ll be getting travel customers like never before.
But how do you get your hands on such data? The truth is, travel providers have access to a plethora of data. In a recent survey, travel marketers share how they get data from the information travelers scatter about:
Travel providers have access to up to zetabytes data. The problem lies in how to extract relevant insights from the data ocean to inform travel marketing campaigns. This is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes in. Earlier this year, Forbes contributor Laura Parker sat with the sales director at Hotelbeds Group, Sam Turner, and asked about the role of data in the travel industry.
“Having clean data – data that is accurate, collated, quantitatively measurable, and easily analyzed – is half the battle… AI will help us find useful and applicable patterns that humans alone could never have the time to do, even with computer assistance – in this way we might come closer to analyzing 100% of available data,” he said. That’s what AI will continue to do in 2018. For example, a traveler can tell Alexa (a voice search service) to ask Kayak where s/he can go for vacation with $3,000. As data and AI (voice search, for example) remains relevant, they will keep shaping the travel space as well.
#2 Selling experiences over travel packages
What do you travel for? Travel packages advertised by travel providers or the experience you hope to enjoy? Chances are high you’re traveling for the latter. “The future travel brand isn’t therefore just about moving people from A to B, unveiling new destinations, or organizing trips. Instead it is about a thoroughly progressive, completely 360-degree view of the traveler and everything that goes into creating special, unique, memorable experiences.”
People will always continue to prioritize travel experiences over actual travel packages. They’re not looking to buy your advertised travel packages, they’re looking to buy the experience you’re promising. You don’t patronize a travel brand because you see well packaged travel services. Instead, experiences like this one may convince you to buy the services:
Travel brands have been seeing travelers preferring experiences over well-packaged services for years, and that’s a trend that will most likely continue in 2018.
#3 Paid ads
When asked how giant tech companies like Google and Facebook will impact the travel industry in the coming years, Turner says: “…the big technology firms will play a bigger role in the travel industry going forwards, but not as travel providers. Instead, their role will be that of the gatekeeper, helping lead consumers towards making the travel booking.” And rightly so. Potential travelers are constantly scouring the Internet — search engines and social media platforms in particular. Meeting them on these platforms is a great way to grow your travel business. Travel providers have been using paid ads for a long time and it’s a trend that will also continue as these ads continue to generate bountiful results.
#4 Influencer marketing on Instagram
Influencer marketing on Instagram is great for a lot of businesses, but it’s been extraordinarily rewarding for travel businesses especially in these past few years. When celebrities or influencers go on vacation and start sharing their experiences on Instagram, people engage with those pictures — because they show an adventurous and at times, more personal side to the celebrities they adore. Many travel brands have started taking advantage of celebrity vacations since many celebrities tag or mention brands in the pictures they share on their accounts (with their thousands and millions of followers).
Nigerian TV Star Bolanle Olukanni, recently went on vacation and started sharing a series of pictures about her experiences on Instagram. On most of her posts, which gets up to 4k likes each within 24 hours, she mentions her travel provider Travel Beta.
More influencer marketing (especially on Instagram) may be surfacing in 2018 — considering the level of engagement and brand awareness influencers can gain for travel businesses on Instagram.
Let’s wrap up here
While there’s no assurance of the exact travel marketing strategies that will be dominating 2018, the four above are a good bet. They’ve proven effective for travel brands over time and their marketing magic isn’t relenting anytime soon.
There could be several other marketing tactics that travel brands will use more in 2018, but you can expect the four above —to stick around. Use at your will to remain relevant.