My working years began in the travel industry, and for every booking I processed I heard twice as many grumblings from older consultants about how the industry had changed. Fast forward a decade and that’s an understatement. Gone are the days of paper tickets and people making the trip to pick up a brochure. Enter the modern world of e-tickets, interactive online brochures, discount websites and reviews at the click of a mouse.
Sure, some enhancements have made the booking process faster and more efficient. But with that comes a new world of marketing techniques that some older agencies struggle to keep up with. Consumers have changed the way they research and book holidays. It comes down to sink or swim. Consider these simple, cost-effective travel marketing ideas and you’ll be swimming your way into online bliss.
1. Take a good look at your website…or build one!
Your website is the cornerstone of your survival. Some agencies argue that they have an older client base with no use for a website. That may ring true now, but how will you service the tech savvy travellers down the track? Sink.
Got a great website with no traffic, or a website that needs work nut you’re not sure where to start? Start with the foundations. Look at some of the bigger competitors and take heed of their moves. Sure, you might not be afforded a whizz-bang white label flight booking engine, but you can mirror their specials on a weekly basis and make sure potential clients have a reason to book with you over them.
Offer an enticing reason for people to sign-up to your newsletter. Include a travel blog (discussed below) and Facebook ‘like’ buttons. Have a competitions page to encourage people to interact with your site, post reviews and come back again. Assign a staff member to update the site regularly. Search engines love fresh content, and keeping it updated will drive your organic search engine ranking up. A little effort will go a long way with websites. Swim.
2. Spice up your printed marketing material with QR Codes
. Whilst you can’t beat the big guys with expensive glossy brochures, you can bring your travel marketing material to life with QR codes – barcode technology. Say you’re a travel agency that specialises in niche walking tours. No doubt you spend some of your limited marketing budget printing tour flyers?
Add a QR barcode to your flyers, and potential travellers with a smart phone can scan this barcode and be directed straight to an informative video, testimonial or webpage about the tour or destination. Swim!
Scan the barcode to the right for an example.
3. Think video. Learn to love Youtube
Reading about travel destinations is one thing, but viewing video brings a destination to life and has the ability to send your business viral. Youtube has a plethora of useful tools that can improve your video popularity. Set up a Youtube channel for your business. Get creative or outlay the funds to brand your videos. Encourage your staff to film snippets of famils, run a video competition through your database and award a prize for best travel video. This exercise does not need to cost you a lot of money, just a little time.
A great example of an agency engaging Youtube as a marketing tool is the STA World Traveller Internship. Do a Youtube search for STA World Traveller Intern and the results speak for themselves. You don’t need to get this fancy, but it’s a great example of how a little creativity can go a long way. Swim.
Choosing the correct social media platform will depend upon your objectives. Facebook is great for building a community of like-minded travellers to share their experiences and reviews. Facebook has many features that allow you to make the user experience very engaging.
Encourage your fans to share their holiday photos and tips, and run competitions to build momentum for your brand. Must read article - Travel Market Report.
Used correctly Facebook can build momentum and interaction with your agency, although I must stress that there are pitfalls for poorly managed social networks that lack strategy. Sink
Twitter allows you to send byte-sized messages, links and ‘twitpics’ in an instant. Not only is it great for networking and keeping abreast with suppliers, it’s a wonderful customer service tool. Time poor travellers want instant answers and instant access.
Let’s say your client is overseas and wants to change hotel. Phone calls are costly, and the time difference has got them confused. Their consultant may not answer an email, but they know you have a number of staff who manage your twitter account, so they tweet their concerns instead. Almost instantly someone has replied and the client feels assured that you are within reach, even from overseas.
Used correctly Twitter can eradicate jammed agency phone lines and waiting times. As an agency you can share useful destination tips, passport information, DFAT updates, visa regulation changes, flight schedule changes and encourage chatter about destinations. Swim
I suggest following @travellr to familiarise yourself with the advantages.
If you’re time poor engage your staff members to blog. Your blog entries need not be long, but need to be interesting. Use this tool at every opportunity to let people know where you staff have been on familiarisation trips, and what their recommendations are. Run a competition to encourage your clients to blog and then post the winner to your website. Swim.
Completely foreign to some people, but a wonderful opportunity to do something slightly ‘outside the square’ with travel marketing. Foursquare allows users to ‘check-in’ to venues when nearby and have promotions sent directly to their iphone or smartphone.
Use it to offer users value-ad for booking with your travel agency. Pick and choose offers that don’t hurt your bottom line too much eg. A discount on travel insurance with their next booking. Foursqaure may not reap instant bookings, but not getting on board could mean you are handing an advantage to your competitors. Sink.
8. Leverage your suppliers
Nothing new here, but how many of you are not using your suppliers to their full potential? Lock in information nights and ask your suppliers to present. Push them for exclusive value-ads valid for bookings made within a week of the event. Wheel and deal for giveaways to share with your newsletter subscribers on a monthly basis. Swim.
9. Choose your battles…
Choose your battles wisely. If you’re niche is discerning travellers with deep pockets then stick to it. Don’t start marketing budget products because monthly sales are down. If you’re a cruise agency, bundle other packages with cruise components to value add and parade your expertise.
Travellers love to share their experiences. Embrace this and reap the rewards. Swim.
10. Mobile Marketing
In Australia our mobile phone subscriptions surpass our population, indicating a large number of people with one phone for business and one for work. This is incredible when you think about it, and the opportunity for business is endless.
Whilst there is an increase in the uptake of smartphones, one thing you can be guaranteed as a small business is that each and every handset will have SMS capability. Look into SMS marketing and be first to reach your clients with specials and updates.
Consider bluetooth proximity marketing. Blast messages to all Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones within the immediate proximity. It is a permission based technology, so users must accept the message, thus easing privacy concerns. Messages can be basic SMS text messages communicating a call to action or media-rich content including videos and TV commercials. Travel agencies based in high traffic shopping precincts are the perfect candidate for this technology. Swim, swim!
If anyone has anymore travel marketing ideas, I would love to hear them. Alternatively if you would like to discuss my suggestions in reference to your travel agency please feel free to contact me.