How travel brands can turn 2024’s challenges into marketing opportunities

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Summer travel is just around the corner and expected to
be as busy if not busier than last year.

Not only will
travel brands need to meet the increased demand for such perennial hot spots as
Italy, Japan and, of course, the United
States, but cultural
tent poles like the Paris Olympics will increase pressure across all travel
itineraries.

According to our recent consumer survey from
research company Econsultancy, a significant portion of U.S.
respondents (35%) intend to travel as much as they did in the previous year,
with a notable proportion (26%) also looking to increase their travel
activities.

As a result, travel companies are seeking new
opportunities for growth in terms of new destinations, activities, and even
schedules. What’s more, reaching
prospective travelers this year will be harder than ever. Between the demise of
third-party cookies, which travel and hospitality brands are heavily reliant on, and an
election cycle expected to eat up the lion’s share of available advertising
opportunities, brands of all stripes need to reconsider their digital
strategies.

The solution to all
these challenges is to focus more on triggered messaging based on the unique
needs and desires of travelers, which as we know is vast. The secret to knowing
which messages to send to what potential traveler is a better understanding of
who they are and where they may want to go.

Here are some additional insights from our consumer survey that will help accomplish both.

Travel is a long
consideration process

Booking travel is not like buying a pair of
shoes. Rarely do you see impulse purchases for European vacations. That means
travel companies need to be thinking far ahead of even their customers’
planning process in
order to be at the right place at the right time.

According to our data, 39% of consumers book
domestic travel two to four weeks in advance, with another 29% booking five to 12
weeks out. For international travel, there’s an even longer
window, with 41% booking more than 12 weeks in advance.

Understanding these tendencies can assist travel service
providers in tailoring their marketing efforts and offers to cater to the
booking habits of different age groups.

Travelers research
their trips from multiple sources

Much of the time spent in the aforementioned
consideration process is doing research
– where to go, how to get there, where to stay
and what to do. Knowing where they conduct this research helps travel brands
find their audience and message them accordingly. Here’s where to find
them:

  • Online travel
    agencies are the most popular research channel, used by 50% of U.S. travelers,
    while 42% go directly to a travel company’s site or app. 
  • Online reviews are
    also a significant source of information, with 37% of U.S. respondents
    consulting them, while suggestions from family and friends are considered by
    39% of U.S. travelers.  
  • Only 15% of
    travelers source travel blogs or forums, while traditional travel publications
    like magazines and their online properties do slightly better at 20%. Social
    media beats them both at 24%.  

Where they book, however, is far less fragmented.
Online travel agencies emerged as the preferred
booking channel, capturing 46% of our survey’s business, while directly booking
with a travel brand is nearly tied at 43%.  

When to contact
potential travelers

While travelers are conducting all this
research, it’s important to know when to reach out and when to wait.
Fortunately, they are very clear about what types
of information they’re willing to receive
unsolicited.  

Younger travelers are more receptive to travel
offers, whether directly from the brand or from online travel agencies, while
older respondents exhibit a higher level of
skepticism toward unsolicited offers. According to our data, 54% of the 65-74
age group distrust unsolicited emails or text offers, while only 23% of those
aged 18-24 feel the same.

This could imply that trust-building measures
and personalized communication are particularly important when targeting the
older demographic. Additionally, the data indicates that direct communication from travel brands is generally more trusted across all
age groups compared with offers from online travel agencies.

Explore new tools
to connect with travelers 

As mentioned earlier on, the deprecation of the
third-party cookies by Google at the end of 2024 will hit the travel and
hospitality industry especially hard. Much of the industry’s marketers rely on third-party cookies for
retargeting and staying top of mind for customers and that will no longer be an option in the new year.

Learn more

Find out more about how consumers want travel and hospitality brands to connect with them.

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