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How Digital Marketing Transformed the Tourism Industry

by Yello Oct 17, 2019

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By now we’ve probably all seen and read the plethora of articles, videos, documentaries, etc. detailing just how much the Internet has changed the way we live and how businesses function. There isn’t an industry that has not been affected in some way by the digital age and that includes tourism and travel.

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Travel and tourism are the life-blood of most Caribbean islands and for its continued success, it is important to understand the ways in which the Internet and specifically, digital marketing, has transformed the industry.

  1. Travel Research – Thanks to the Internet, individuals can now extensively research specific locations, hotels, rates, etc. before making a decision about a trip. This has led to the growing importance of online reviews. Popular websites like Trip Advisor, which receives approximately 50 million unique visitors monthly, can sometimes make or break a hotel, tourist destination, etc. just based on a review.
  • Better Targeting Through Optimization – Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) are the foundations of digital marketing. The basic principle is that people can’t know about your brand if they can’t find you. Optimizing your online presence for search engines solves that problem. And optimizing for search engines has forced brands to be more specific in who they are targeting. This has affected all industries, including the travel and tourism industry. In other words, it’s no longer enough to simply push your brand as the best hotel. Hotel is a generic term that billions search for every day. Instead, hotel brands now need to define themselves by their location, main target audience (e.g. are they known for being the most family-friendly and appealing to couples traveling with children), cost, amenities, and activities offered, personalized options available to guests, etc. Therefore, when a married female traveler with two children searches for mid-price hotels in the Eastern Caribbean that are kid-friendly, options specifically related to her need will show up. And if your hotel fits that description and you’ve effectively optimized your online presence, your business should show up.  
  • Increased Ability to Share Travel Experiences – Digital marketing, particularly the rise of social media, has made the ability for individuals to share their travel experience, especially in real-time, grow exponentially. And the industry has wisely taken notice and more importantly, taken advantage, with the rise of user-generated content for repurposing across various marketing channels. Many businesses in the travel and tourism industry now use images posted by customers on their social media channels, websites, etc. The benefit of this is that individuals are far more open to trusting the word of an everyday person versus that of a brand, which they are likely to view as just another sales pitch.
  • Use of Social Media Influencers – The rise of social media has also created the rise of social media influencers, i.e. individuals, groups, etc. with a large number of social media followers and more importantly, engaged followers. Individuals whose opinion on various products, topics, etc. is trusted by many. The travel and tourism industry took notice and the last few years have seen a significant increase in individuals being paid to travel the world and post about it. Of course, the concept isn’t entirely new as most travel magazines have long employed writers, photographers, etc. to travel the world and document it. However, the digital world has opened up the concept in a new and extensive way.
  • Neighborhood Storytelling – Digital marketing’s capability of specific targeting with greater reach has allowed for the trend of neighborhood storytelling in the travel and tourism industry. Tourism bureaus across the world are now selling more than just a general location/country and now focusing on specific areas in more specific ways. This has helped to see an increase in what is considered “off the beaten path” locations. Places that may not commonly be talked about but are hidden gems with something unique to share with travelers. These places are now being promoted on a wider scale and thus, being discovered by more people.
  • Evolution of Travel Agencies – The digital space has caused most travel agencies to evolve from brick and mortar stores to more digital and online companies. Most agencies now offer online booking, digital brochures, app versions of their services, etc.
  • Travel Experience Has Changed – With the digital age, particularly mobile devices, changing the way we live, the experience of traveling has naturally also evolved with many airlines now offering onboard web-enabled devices and options, as well as pre-travel conveniences, such as online check-in, etc.
  • Enhanced Customer Service – One of the greatest benefits the digital space has provided many businesses is a wealth of data and analytics about customers and their buying habits. This, in turn, has allowed for greater personalized experiences for customers and potential customers as there is far more information about their individual preferences, likes, searches, needs, etc. The digital space, particularly social media, has also made it easier for brands to interact with customers and by that token quickly respond to any concerns and issues they may have. 

These are just a few of the many ways that digital marketing has transformed and allowed the travel and tourism industry to evolve.

And here are a few tips to nail your digital marketing strategy if you are in the travel and tourism industry.

  • User-generated Content Is a Must – As stated above, social media has made it very easy and popular for travelers to share their journeys with others. And this great content isn’t only being shared by popular influencers. Every day individuals with maybe a few hundred followers can also have some of the most amazing content images and videos of their travels. More importantly, their posts are authentic, because they’re not getting paid for it. Tap into this type of content and share it (with the individual’s permission of course) as part of your social media marketing strategy. People are more apt to trust the word of a normal individual versus a brand. Also consider running contests encouraging individuals to share their content for a discount on their next visit or a package offer in collaboration with another brand, etc.
  • Nail Your Persona(s) – The key to any business effectively targeting its audience is to truly know who they are and what they want. Achieving this requires truly nailing your brand persona or personas and truly understanding your target audience. Where do they live, what’s their income level, interests, are they casual travelers or avid travelers, etc.
  • Make The Customer Journey Seamless – The customer journey basically includes all the steps a potential customer takes from identifying a need or want, searching and becoming aware of a brand, making a decision to purchase what they’re selling, purchasing said product and/or service and the post-purchase experience. Ensuring that every step of this journey is seamless for your customers is very important. In the travel and tourism industry, in particular, this includes things like making the booking and checkout processes very easy, having a seamless system in place for communicating any changes in travel information, etc.

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