The last months of the year are the right time to slowly summarize your business results and create a strategy for the next year.
If you’ve been thinking about what would be good to apply next year to attract more tourists at a lower price, then it will surely be useful for you to know the key things that will present the crucial difference in market competition in favor of those who apply them.
These are, in my opinion, eight most important trends and key changes that you need to implement in your internet marketing strategy to effectively promote and sell the tourist offer in 2018.
1. Virtual Tours
People believe more in virtual tours because, with them, they can take a glimpse of every corner of the hotel and the destination itself, giving them a much more realistic impression than simple looking at the photos.
It is a well-known fact that websites of the hotels with virtual tours have a significantly longer duration of website visits – 5 to 10 longer time spent by the visitors on the site.
The advantages of virtual tours:
– They provide better visual information to potential guests than static photos
– They make a difference compared to the competition
– They increase trust among the potential guests, so the chances of booking are much higher
– They give tourists the opportunity to imagine their stay in your hotel and to make a reservation based on this rather than on the price
– They are equally suitable for all types of accommodation objects, destinations or attractive locations.
Addressing a guest by a name, prepare a meal for him/her in the way he/she only wants or reserving his favorite room has always been a good practice in the hospitality industry. That’s why personalization is nothing new to what tourism workers are not accustomed to. However, now it is more important than ever to apply this concept to marketing and sales, and the Internet has made it possible!
In 2018, the advertising prices on the Internet will be increased, even in this area. The time you could reach a few thousand people for 1 Euro on Facebook is years ago from now.
We will pay more and more for ads, which will additionally burden the budgets. However, both Facebook and Google will reward those advertisers who fully adapt their ads to the needs and desires of individual users. This is where personalization matters!
Showing the right message, to right people, at the right time and right place is the primary goal of one successful internet promotion.
If you have made a campaign for business guests and successfully targeted them, do not tell them in the advertisement that you have a game room for children with an animator in your hotel.
If you mention the New Year’s celebration in the advertisement, do not send people to the home page of the hotel, but exclusively to the one dedicated to the New Year’s Celebration. If the target group are Germans, then the ad itself and the page itself must be in German. If the target group are smokers, tell them that in your hotel you have the rooms where smoking is allowed.
This is the personalization that internet marketing enabled us: displaying the right message (creating an ad), to the right people (targeting) at the right time (you choose when the ads are running) and in the right place (you choose locations, but also the devices where the ads are displayed).
Personalization is the key to success in tourism, and especially in online travel marketing.
3. Instagram Stories
Users like Stories because they consider them more authentic, immediate, and more natural than planned content that is set in the form of a post.
Stories are great for creating spontaneous content and present an excellent match for tourism. Use them to record any moment – morning coffee at the hotel, preparing a meal, sunset, moments from some event, horseback riding experience, paraglide flying, and everything else you can catch at the moment, which can be interesting to your followers.
Stories are particularly suitable for displaying situations that are “behind the scenes”. Use Instagram Story to tell the story of preparing some food directly from the kitchen; or to show how a maid makes a bed at the hotel; or to tell an interesting story by a local guide. Possibilities are endless, and you need only imagination, little creativity, and goodwill.
4. Email marketing automation
Email marketing is, without a doubt, one of the most effective promotional channels. If it’s done correctly, email marketing can bring many reservations, without spending a single Euro in any advertising.
However, creating and sending messages, segmentation of lists and analyzing campaigns requires a lot of time. Fortunately, the trend that will definitely dominate in 2018 is marketing automation, which you can efficiently apply to various business segments, including email marketing.
Email marketing automation will save you time by sending specific messages for you. You just have to set everything up, then relax and monitor the effects. Here are some examples…
Imagine that the travel agent sells arrangements for the Greek islands of Thasos, Lefkada, Corfu, and Skiathos. A well-done strategy would be that the agent creates guides for all four islands, for example: “All you need to know about a holiday on Thasos” and so on for all four islands. These guides are offered on travel agent’s website for free, and it is necessary for visitors just to leave their email address.
Once a user enters his/her email address, the automated, a previously prepared email marketing sequence is initiated for the user, that is, a track of pre-defined actions. So, for example, after downloading a guide to Thasos, the visitor is first being sent a guide to the email address he/she left. A few days later, the email with the agency’s offer for Thasos is automatically sent to the user. If the user clicked on the link in the email and looked at our offer, he will receive the next custom email in two days. If, however, the user did not open the previous mail, he will be sent a different customized email.
All this happens automatically according to the system that the agency had previously set up. Sounds good, right? Prepare to apply this strategy in 2018!
5. Content marketing
Content marketing is nothing new in tourism, but the original and authentic tourist content in 2018 will be more important than ever. Not only the original content, but also exciting and diverse, and of course, regularly posted.
The variety in content is especially crucial in tourism because tourists are looking for good and inspiring video of a destination, a virtual tour of a hotel, excellent photos of rooms, author posts about experiences from the destination, and good and useful content in their email box.
High-quality content will help you to strengthen your brand and come to mind to potential tourists. Seeing that the loyalty of tourists towards brands is getting smaller, the great content must be in your focus in 2018! Why? Because it’s 25 times cheaper to keep an old guest than to get a new one!
Do you want to be on the first page of Google? Content is the most important thing here again! Unfortunately, in tourism, and especially with travel agents, this is the biggest problem. Someone writes a single description of a destination or a villa, and then everyone else just copies it. Travel agents in generally download not only photos but also complete descriptions and place them on their sites. Small agencies do not understand how much they harm themselves because not only that they will not have the original content that is relevant to SEO and ranking, but they will also be labeled as plagiarists by Google for copying content and further diminished in search results.
The content is equally important in all stages of the sales funnel, from inspiring videos so that travelers can even hear about you, all the way to the reservation form. Good content requires time and serious investment.
Content marketing is not a one time job! You need to have a strategy for creating content that must be in line with a broader marketing strategy. Everything must be operationalized, and it must be known who is in charge of creating each type of content. Of course, you have to measure the effects of content marketing.
6. Direct booking
Hotels and apartments are more than ever dependent on online agencies and online booking sites. The cost of a commission significantly reduces the profitability of the business and burdens the budget, especially for smaller accommodation facilities.
For many, this situation becomes unsustainable, and something must suffer – whether prices are rising or the quality is being lost. However, the ideal solution is actually in direct reservations, which is why they are essential in 2018.
Hotels often have a high percentage of occupancy, but a small share in direct reservations. That brings the problem of less profit because the profit margin is significantly reduced by the percentage of commission that is given for each reservation.
For example, if a room in the hotel costs 40 Euros, this means that approximately 5 Euros will go to the commissions. If hypothetically speaking, ten rooms are sold daily on average, this means that the hotel must allocate 50 Euros for commission costs, or 18,250 Euros a year!
However, that cost is, in fact, even bigger. Why? Because we need to consider something called Customer Lifetime Value, which indicates the approximate value the guest can bring to the hotel from the moment he first arrives until his last visit.
If the service in accommodation is good, the guest will return. The problem, however, is that guests have a routine in their booking habits, and when returning to the property, they will often make a booking in the same way as for the first visit. That means that those who book via Booking.com will always re-book via the same site. This hotel has the cost of the commission not only for the first time when the guest arrives but every next time.
On the other hand, guests who book directly and get positive experience when booking and later staying in the accommodation will surely return to the same hotel with a direct booking. Therefore, there are no commission costs neither the first nor the next time.
That is why guests who come by direct booking are much more profitable for the hotel.
7. Dynamic remarketing
Dynamic remarketing is, let’s say, smarter remarketing that can not only deliver much better effects but can also save time.
But let’s first see what’s the “ordinary” remarketing.
Remarketing or retargeting (small difference), is a technique that allows us to, for example, re-display ads to our website visitors.
You have to bear in mind that buying travel arrangements and booking accommodation do not fall under the domain of impulse shopping. It’s not something people will buy “at first sight” when they first visit your site and look at the offer. It is, therefore, necessary to remind them of this.
With the help of small codes that are installed on our site, we can track visitors and later show them ads through Google Adwords, Facebook or Instagram. Surely you’ve already seen this – you visit a particular website, and later the advertisements from that same website are displayed to you all over the web.
Now, with remarketing, we can show the ads to all visitors of our site, regardless of which pages they viewed. However, this means that we will potentially display a holiday offer for Montenegro to people who looked at the arrangements for Greece, which is not exactly what they are interested in, or some general advertisement of our agency. It would be much better for us to show them an ad about the destination they were looking at on our website.
So it’s important to make specific remarketing audiences for each offer, or for each arrangement. This is how we will show specific ads to past website visitors with the offer relevant to the pages (destinations, hotels) they have visited on our travel agent’s website.
Making special audiences for each arrangement requires time. If you have only a few arrangements or rooms / apartments in your offer, this is ok, you can do it. But if you have 30 or more destinations in your offer, and for every destination 3-4 accommodations, this makes quality remarketing almost impossible. Except if you don’t turn to dynamic remarketing.
Setting up of dynamic remarketing is not easy, but once you do that, ads will later generate themselves and people will be shown exactly what’s relevant to them.
I’ll try to simplify the process. First, you need to make some little changes to the tracking code on the site, and then create a catalog of your offer, in which you will clearly insert all the necessary elements (name of the tour package/hotel/destination, URL address, photo URL, price, etc.) and then create ads and link them to the catalog.
Dynamic remarketing is more complicated but also a very powerful technique that delivers exceptional results! That is why in 2018 you should try to apply it in your business.
8. Chat platforms
You need to put a chat on the hotel website, to be present on Facebook Messanger, Viber, WhatsUp and all other chat apps your audience uses. You have to do it right now!
We live in time when people do not have time to fill in the contact form and write an email. They want a quick answer and want to contact you somewhere they know they will get a fast and reliable answer.
Don’t think everyone will call the hotel’s number. On the contrary, there are fewer who will do it, and especially not the younger generations of the millennials that everyone is talking about. Sometimes people just do not have the opportunity to talk, and it’s easier for them to write. Sometimes they just may be in roaming, and it’s easier for them to call you via Viber.
Make it easy for people to contact you; it’s in your best interest.
Experience has shown that the number of direct reservations has increased significantly when some of my clients became present on all of these platforms.
Be always there for your guests!
In addition to the trends mentioned above, you should also pay attention to Facebook Live as well as Instagram Live, then to Chatbots and the application of structured data.