Online Marketing: The Best Way to Market to Travelers

The Covid-19 pandemic was just the latest in a series of blows to the travel industry. With travel restrictions put in place by many countries and the self-quarantine measures people have adopted, leisure travel is on indefinite hold. Shifting to more affordable and more environmentally friendly forms of transport, such as rail and air travel, are certainly desirable from a long-term perspective. But the need to keep the businesses afloat during this transition remains a major challenge.

For those businesses that rely heavily on leisure travel, such as hotels and airlines, this represents a major blow. After years of growth, leisure travel is expected to take a sharp nose-dive, with travel restrictions limiting the opportunity to grow. But while the short-term pain is immense, the long-term opportunity is just as substantial.

Hotels have a major role to play in this new normal. Not only are they providing hospitality to people who, with the rise of the ‘stay-at-home’ lifestyle, have plenty of free time, but they also have the ability to market effectively to this ‘new’ group of customers.

This article is an overview of the travel industry, focusing on the importance of digital marketing and the hotel industry’s role in shaping travel behavior in the post-pandemic world. We’ll also discuss the challenges and opportunities that this new world presents, as well as the strategic approaches that hoteliers can take to position their hotels for the future.

The Importance Of Digital Marketing

With traditional marketing focused on getting people’s attention through TV commercials and billboards, the rise of digital marketing has enabled marketers to target the right audience, wherever they are, with whatever platform they choose.

While TV ads can reach a large audience quickly, they require customers to pay attention to the message and remember it later in order to have an impact. In contrast, a hotel’s digital marketing strategy involves continually bringing the right message to the right audience throughout their entire journey. This is especially important for leisure travel buyers who, as we’ve established, may not be as engaged as they once were.

Digital marketing is an ever-evolving field, with new tools and platforms being created to target consumers’ minds. With the right combination of content, engagement, and targeting, brands can ensure that their marketing dollars are only spent on customers who are most likely to buy their product or service.

Digital Marketing Specialties Are Endless

Once a brand has established a presence on social media, they can begin to expand their reach to other platforms. Video content is particularly influential on social media channels, so establishing a presence on platforms such as YouTube or Instagram can help brands achieve their goal of reaching a digitally engaged audience.

YouTube, in particular, is a popular choice for content creators, with over 1 billion daily active users generating over 4 billion hours of content each month. And that’s just YouTube. Adding other platforms, such as Instagram, provides a massive opportunity to reach even more people.

Why Hotels?

Hotels are in a great position to benefit from the rise of the ‘stay-at-home’ lifestyle. As people are spending less time traveling and more time ‘at home’, the demand for luxuries are on the decline, while the demand for comfort and quality are on the rise. This represents a huge opportunity for hotels to expand their customer base.

Hotels can also capitalize on customer data that they have already collected. Through online reviews and loyalty programs, they have access to a valuable pool of information about their guests’ preferences, which they can use to improve the service they provide.

This is why, for the past few years, hotels have heavily invested in digital marketing. The field is constantly changing, with new platforms being released and old ones evolving, but the need for marketing expertise only grows.

The Growing Opportunity In The Post-Pandemic World

While the need for travel restrictions is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future, the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably changed the way we will see tourism and hotel industry in the future.

The industry’s key players have emerged from the pandemic in stronger positions, both financially and digitally. The number of people traveling internationally has plummeted, with tourism becoming a purely digital pastime. The demand for luxury goods and services are also on the decline, with people looking to save money and stay at home as much as possible. As these customers become more accustomed to spending time online, getting their attention through traditional forms of advertisement is more challenging.

Even prior to the pandemic, hotels have seen a steady decline in leisure travel. The industry’s revenue, measured in American dollars, will fall by nearly 7% between 2019 and 2025, from $27.9 billion to $24.6 billion, according to North America Destination Marketing Association (NDMA) research.

The travel industry’s revenue, measured in American dollars, will fall by nearly 7% between 2019 and 2025, from $27.9 billion to $24.6 billion, according to North America Destination Marketing Association (NDMA) research.

Strategies For Future Growth

Hotels have to keep up with the evolving digital landscape and keep their customers interested in what they have to offer. This is no easy task, as customer interest can fluctuate rapidly, particularly in the digital sphere. But by leveraging data analytics and inbound marketing, hoteliers can identify customer motivations, draw out key pain points, and create compelling proposals to improve their guests’ overall experience.

Inbound marketing, also known as conversion-focused marketing, focuses on attracting, engaging, and delighting customers rather than marketing to them. Its roots can be traced back to the early 2000s, with marketing pioneers such as David Meerman Scott and Michael Portway making the case that traditional approaches to marketing, particularly TV commercials, were ineffective and that inbound marketing, which involves gathering and analyzing customer data, creating compelling content, and engaging with potential customers through social media, was the way forward.

Hotels have always been seen as an effective means of marketing, and the data back this up. According to the American Institute of Stress, roughly 70% of American Express survey respondents cited “not having enough money to pay my bills” as the number one cause of stress. Naturally, travel worries (51%) and worries about health and safety (48%) followed close behind.

The American Institute of Stress surveys 200,000+ customers about their demographic, psychographics, purchase behaviors, and more. They use this data to shape and refine marketing programs and the kind of products (and services) that they’ll be developing in the future.

In fact, American Express’s research has found that customers who have had a positive experience while on vacation are 33% more likely to recommend a brand and 18% more likely to buy a product or service from that brand.

Navigating The New Normal

The hotel industry has altered considerably since the start of the pandemic. The changes are monumental and will continue to affect the field well into the future. We’ll now examine the major challenges and opportunities that this new world presents, as well as the strategic approaches that hoteliers can take to position their hotels for the future.

How To Market In The Post-Pandemic World?

Hotels can, and likely will, continue to see a decline in leisure travel, particularly internationally. While this is likely to affect the short-term, the long-term outlook is incredibly positive.

This presents a massive opportunity to market to a new audience and expand the hotel’s customer base. The challenge is, ensuring that these customers travel internationally and remain engaged with the brand, becomes more difficult. As customers become more accustomed to relying on digital resources for information and guidance, brands must continue to evolve their marketing strategies and ensure they stay fresh.

The Digital Consumer

Hoteliers must keep up with the changing landscape and understand the types of customers they have now, as well as the types of customers they’ll need in the future. The traditional marketing methods for reaching consumers, particularly through TV commercials, are, for the most part, ineffective in a digital world. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t still exist and are still effective for some brands.

According to HubSpot Blogs analysis of 2020 American Express Travel survey data, TV commercials still rated highest in terms of consumers’ recall (19%), followed by search ads (17%), radio ads (10%), and magazine ads (7%).

People are now more likely to research products and services online rather than via traditional advertising. This can make it more difficult to gain their attention due to the increasing competition.