What are the best ways for hotels, tour operators, and travel agencies to get more bookings in 2014? 2013 saw the introduction and trending of many new optimization, social, and online marketing techniques and technologies. So where should you put your (always limited) marketing time and effort in the New Year?
Whether you market a boutique hotel, cozy B&B, specialty tour company, or vacation activity business, the most effective way to increase your bookings is to focus on your best bets. That is why we are only teaching you about 4 and not 5 or top 10 ways to launch new online travel marketing initiatives this year. Four travel marketing how-to next-actions is plenty for most of us!
1. Join Google+ Travel Communities
The first trend is the growing popularity of Google+. While everyone expected G+ to gain momentum, the biggest surprise is the large engagement on Google+ Communities. For those that are not yet familiar, Communities are simply groups created on Google+ for members to join and participate that share a common interest. Anyone can create a community and invite the world to post, comment, +1 (the same as “Like” on Facebook), and share.
The G+ Communities that are trending in 2014 are travel themed, especially the ones that promote photos. There are already dozens of travel related communities with many more popping up all the time. The topics range from global ones such as “Places to See Before You Die” and “Family Travel” to country and travel-style targeted including “Urban Travel”, “Miami and South Florida Events”, and “Travel South Africa” to name a few.
It only takes a minute to search for travel communities that are similar to your tourism target market. The action to take is to join a few communities and add your expertise to the discussion. The same etiquette applies as for participating in discussions on LinkedIn and other forums. Post photos and share useful content without engaging in direct marketing. By being seen as a helpful resource and source of advice, your travel business will get more followers and ultimately more bookings.
Tip: You can participate on Google+ as yourself (a named individual in the travel industry) or as as your Google+ page (a representative of your tourism brand).
2. Capture Traveler Leads Before They Depart
Learning the most successful lessons from B2B marketing is a key to increasing your look-to-book ratio. Every successful inbound marketer knows that you cannot convert a prospect or lead to a sale right away every time. So the next best call-to-action is to capture their contact information and continue marketing to every lead. Over time and with multiple levels of marketing communication, your lead will be more likely to come back and make a direct booking.
To accomplish this goal, all you need to do is make lead capturing a core part of your travel website. While the “Book Now” button is the most enticing, offer your website visitors multiple ways to get in touch. In addition to your follow us on social media icons, add a link to a special contact form landing page. For sharing their email address you promise to send out useful travel information plus a reminder to come back and consider booking later.
There are many other ways to implement this technique so refer to our popular article on exit page lead capturing and travel email remarketing. Looking for marketing tech solutions to capture contact information? Try out the highly recommended Gravity Forms if you are using WordPress or the stellar email marketing platform GetResponse for travel newsletters and landing pages.
3. Offer Exclusives to Travel Email Newsletter Subscribers
Opt-in email marketing continues to be the most effective channel for getting sales across industries. Launching or optimizing your hotel or tour operator email newsletter is still a safe bet given your limited time and budget. How can you increase not just sign-ups to your newsletter but also conversions? The promise of “Special Offers”, “Booking Discounts”, and “Travel Savings” is still a big attention grabber.
The first step of this technique is to make it clear on your website that subscribers will receive valuable offers by email. This tactic advertises your travel newsletter as exclusive. The next step is to follow through. With every monthly newsletter, include one or two specials that are only available to subscribers. It could be an early booking discount, a percentage off deal, a free bonus for booking direct, or perhaps access to upgrades and amenities. For ideas on what else to include in an email newsletter, check out our recent article on tour email newsletter content ideas (works for hotels too!).
To take advantage of your special offer, always use a coupon code that must be entered on the inquiry or booking system. That way subscribers know the special deal is not offered to everybody. Exclusivity is the key!
4. Embrace The Year of the Travel Blogger
Blogs have been around for a long time and blogs about traveling and destinations are taking off big time! 2014 is trending to be an important year for travel blogs as they grow in popularity as a place to turn for storytelling, advice, and photos. The growth in the number of travel bloggers has increased to the point where they have become an essential travel marketing channel. Just look at the recent Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) conference that was hosted in Dublin, Ireland in 2013 and was full-up with over 600 attendees.
Here is what they think: What Do Travel Bloggers Think of Ireland? TBEX Dublin
The typical strategy is to approach a well-matched and well-connected blogger to offer complimentary hotel stays or tour opportunities in exchange for writing a blog post about their experience. Often the tables are reversed and travel bloggers may reach out to you and propose a win-win marketing partnership. You benefit from more inbound links, published articles with photographs about your business, and social media marketing well beyond your reach.
The next stage of this trend is to go beyond hosted trips resulting in one-time blog posts. Try placing paid banner ads on highly trafficked travel blogs and within their email newsletters. Sponsoring a travel blogger that focuses on your destination or style of trip is a longer term commitment that could convert better than keyword-based search ads.
Ready, Set, Get More Bookings!
I hope I’ve inspired you to pay attention to these trends and launch a new travel marketing initiative in 2014. What do you think of these Top 4 hotel and travel marketing trends? What else is on your list for the year? Comment below if you have additional suggestions and strategies to leverage Google+, lead capturing, email newsletters, and travel blogs to get more direct bookings.