Earlier this year I made the jump from agency world to take an in-house position with Clipper Vacations to hone in on pursuing travel marketing full-time. In the past, I had the pleasure of working with clients such as the Illinois Office of Tourism, Washington State Parks and the Gates Foundation Visitor Center. I loved the work. Travel and tourism marketing centers heavily around using smart and strategic storytelling and smartly timed content to help guide the travel buyer journey. Mix that goal with helping a brand position as the Pacific Northwest travel experts and you’ve hit my professional sweet spot.
As I’ve settled in and shifted my focus to doubling down on the travel industry, a few key trends have popped out in my mind that will be particularly important in the year ahead.
1. Personalized Travel Itineraries and Dynamic Website Experiences
Past research has shown that travelers may visit up to 38 different sites before booking a vacation package. We browse quickly, we pop open multiple tabs, we research a bit now, put the computer to sleep and come back to our research hours/days later…maybe at home, likely at work or even on our phone while waiting in line for our beloved cup o’ joe. While some find the travel planning process fun and exciting, most find it to be laborious and time intensive to figure out the best places to go, things to do and places to stay.
The Seattle-based startup has honed in on using online artificial intelligence to help craft the perfect itinerary for a traveler based on number of travel profile criteria such as destination, budget, desired pace and various activity interests. Brilliant. A digital concierge at your fingertips to be used on your time and based on your terms. Watch for others to follow suit fast as it will soon be our expectation to interact with dynamic, personalized content with any travel booking site.
2. Emotive Multi-Media Storytelling
It goes without saying that most people purchase based on emotion. When deciding upon a destination or choosing a similar travel experience that is offered by two competing brands, the brand with the strongest creative storytelling, content or engagement tactic usually wins out. Hello marketing.
In 2016, I’d bargain to say that you’re going to see brands small to large double down on smart brand publishing models and content marketing strategies that elevate beyond the basics and are rooted in highly emotive storytelling. Moving beyond simple brand blogs and properly utilizing more robust brand publishing models and advanced editorial operations to mine audience data and insights. Stop thinking you’re just a brand. Start thinking and operating like a media company. And if you want some great storytelling inspiration, revisit this article and bookmark this Google Doc.
3. Explosive Influencer Engagement
In a past life, “influencer engagement” was a beast of a topic to address. Quite frankly, getting the right influencers to engage with or on behalf of a brand, with the right content, at the right time is a tough formula to crack.
In travel, the formula is a bit simpler, especially when you have good product and a great destination (thank you mighty PNW). With the progression of mobile camera technology (thank you Moment Lens) and explosive growth of Instagram, high quality visual storytelling has reached an all-time high. Keep a sharp eye out for brands (kudos Destination BC) smartly engaging influencers beyond one-off activations to building out power communities of ambassadors.
What else are you seeing in the space that you think will be hot for travel marketing in 2016? Cheers to a fun and exciting year ahead.