Adapting to Digital Travel Marketing

Written by Bethany Shelper – Account Executive

With confidence in the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccinations increasing, the looming lift of lockdown restrictions approaching and governmental roadmaps to open countries and travel restrictions being revealed, the post-pandemic era of digital travel marketing is fast approaching.

This upcoming shift in our way of life means its incredibly important as marketers working within the travel sector, destination representatives and everyone working in tourism – domestic and international, are armed with the knowledge and plans to deal with what the upcoming months have in store.

It is no secret that the travel industry has been hit particularly badly by the COVID-19 pandemic – namely international travel restrictions, lack of government support and funding, and overall, a huge halt on the running of the sector. To demonstrate the extent of this hit; in 2019, 330 million people were employed by the travel and tourism industry. If you compare this number to current figures, up to 120 million of these positions having been put at risk or lost (Digital Dialog, 2021). The industry has nearly halved.

It has been estimated that the happenings of 2020 lead to a catastrophic $1.3 trillion loss for the industry, and almost a year into the pandemic, it is still not entirely clear what the full, long-term extent of this damage will be. Following the worst year in tourism history, one thing is certain: the industry needs to be informed and have a clear plan to take back what control we can with regards to the 2021 travel atmosphere.  It is time to adapt to the new normal.

Whilst budgets are likely to be extremely tight – drastically affecting marketing capabilities, our efforts should not come to a grinding halt. It is important that we maximise our brand awareness in these challenging times and prepare for the better times to come.

Despite the doom and gloom of the current climate, there is a huge pent-up demand for travel – with 43% of people claiming their reasons for not travelling are not through a lack of desire, but as a result of travel restrictions. So, for now we must set our sights on identifying these remaining markets. We must focus on creating reliable and authentic communication with our prospective and loyal, existing clients, and set our sights on setting ourselves up for a successful road to recovery, however we can.

Creating strong brand awareness through carefully structured campaigns, paired with the construction of a trustworthy basis for your clients, is critical to be able to make waves when travel gets back underway.

This recovery period is going to be complex and daunting, and with a wealth of information out there, you may be overwhelmed with where to start. Here at Talking Stick, we wanted to highlight our desire to provide support and guidance in this time for our clients and colleagues in the industry. Below, we discuss what we believe are the most important strategies and concepts to prepare for this change.

Market Research – It’s More Important Than Ever

As we know, when developing creative and devising campaigns, it is hugely important to have your target market at the forefront of your mind. The uncertainty of travel restrictions looming has rendered it increasingly more complex to predict the outcome of our travel market, and as a result, to predict how we can produce effective campaigns.

With more positive news of international vaccine roll out daily, there is every opportunity that summer travel can go ahead – but be aware, your typical market may look drastically different to that of previous years.

As to be expected, with talk of vaccine passports and current travel restrictions, these shifts in the target market for international and luxury travel has been hugely influenced by the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s also widely predicted that these uncertainties will lead to a rise in domestic travel, so it’s important to prepare yourself to adapt to this change too. Think high quality content, informed knowledge, and authentic communications to maximise your marketing potential.

As older generations are prioritised in the vaccine roll out in the majority of nations, these age groups are increasingly more likely to be the first to consider and be able to embark in travel. Research supports this, suggesting that the 50+ age group have expressed a huge interest in this possibility – so it is important that your communications take this into account.

These won’t be the only trends, so it’s important to make use of your insights. This is where the importance of fully utilising your digital platforms and channels is key.

The Importance of Digital

Fortunately, market insight is more readily available than ever before. As the world has shifted to remote working, the consumption of digital mediums is at a momentous scale. For this reason, utilising your digital channels efficiently is vital, and this means getting creative.

Whilst spring and summer are the seasons in which marketing campaigns are in full swing – do not let this deter you from planning and launching your campaigns now. As we’ve said, brand awareness is key, and it’s important that your communications are consistent and informed to gain loyalty and trust from prospective customers. This consistency provides an air of stability for your customers to look up to, and you may just be occupying the space that other company’s have left for you by making the decision to scale back their campaigns and communications, which means a wider reach.

It’s time to take action and stand out from the crowd.

Whilst the travel industry is taking a hit, digital platforms are growing from strength to strength. With more time at home brings more time on screen, meaning that digital marketing strategies are becoming much more integral than their offline counterparts. Combine your strategies and platforms and get your name out there – co-op marketing is key. Use your contacts, your colleagues and your business counterparts. Let’s get out of this together.

Unsurprisingly, Instagram and Facebook still dominate the social space, with Instagram reporting over a billion monthly users. It’s important you are making use of all their features – new and old: think stories, reels and shopping. With new users and platform features come new opportunities. Focus on your insights, see what works and what doesn’t, and base your strategy on these features. Your insights and your data are your most valuable assets, and these channel insights will allow you to see where to place your efforts and your budget – be sure not to overlook them.

Be Authentic

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, however you decide to continue with your branding, marketing and communications, one thing we know for certain is that you need to stay optimistic, reliable and authentic. Convey flexibility without explicitly stating as such, as many customers have been stung in the past year with cancellations, disappointments and more. Stay away from negative semantics and provide a voice of security in these times. It’s going to be a challenging year for the industry, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we must adapt.