Travel Digital Marketing – Key Learnings ITB Asia 2017

travel digital marketing

Our Managing Director Dr. Amaliny Hasselbeck visited ITB Asia and gained some great insights on travel digital marketing. ITB an annually held three-day B2B trade show and convention for the travel industry. ITB Asia is designed to become the primary event for the Asia Pacific travel industry, much like its parent event – ITB Berlin. 2017 was the eleventh year in Singapore. With more than 11,000 attendants, the event took place at Marina Bay Sands.

During her visit, Amaliny attended several conference speeches and gained some valuable insights and stats on digital marketing trends for the travel and hospitality industry. She shares 4 key travel digital marketing learnings from the event:


Create a Seamless Data-based Travel Digital Marketing Strategy

We gained some valuable insights from Sojern’s talk on How Data Creates a Seamless Travel Marketing Strategy. Today’s travelers have instant access to all information. They are constantly reminded of others’ travel experiences and satisfaction. They have the ability to travel further and more frequently than ever before and to shop without thinking – they buy anywhere, anytime. Also, travel planning has changed. Travelers visit an average of 38 sites before making a booking a vacation. They visit 140 sites in a 45-day path to purchase, which is an increase of +268% in 3 years. In the report The Modern Traveler’s Path to Purchase, Sojern shows different travelers approach to travel—with unique trip motivations, as well as different ways of dreaming, planning and booking travel across verticals, regions, and devices.

Facebook promoted several solutions to reach the traveler in the travel booking journey, during the entire funnel. In the upper funnel, when the customer has no clear travel intent, targeted creative content optimized to the travel intent is a way to target the potential customer. In the mid-funnel, the potential customer has expressed his or her intent for specific destinations but has not visited your website yet. Instead, the customer has researched further and has visited multiple travel sites. Dynamic Ads has been the most effective Facebook product in this phase and it works great for travel advertisers. One of the great things about Dynamic Ads for Travel (DAT) is that it captures flight data from your website. If you are selling both, hotels and flights, on your website, you will be able to use flight signals for your hotel-level retargeting. This becomes even more important in the low funnel when the customer has been on your site. Facebook leverages a broad collection of travel intent signals, such as liking friends posts of certain destinations, clicking on destination-based facebook ads or researching attractions in a potential destination. The algorithm analyses whether the behavior has the same pattern as someone who recently purchased the travel.


Chatbots are Transforming the Travel Industry

Not only Facebook stressed the rising importance of chatbots for the travel industry and travel digital marketing. Chatbots are artificial intelligence programmes that conduct conversations with humans through chat interfaces. A chatbot is basically a personal assistant who can respond to inquiries or give recommendations on a certain topic in a real-time manner. Research shows that more consumers are using messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Messenger, compared to social networks, and this trend is fast extending to the travel industry, where we are seeing chatbots as messenger apps being rolled out as a new interface for customer interaction. The combined number of global monthly active users of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are approx. 3.5 billion, which lags compared to the combined active users of messenger apps including WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber and Messenger, at around 3.7 billion. For the travel industry, mostly customer-centric businesses and destinations, chatbots are ideal. Ideally, they serve as 24/7 front-end customer care specialists. Hotels and travel companies do not have to respond manually to comments and inquiries in blogs, websites, and social media channels. Humans are quite open when it comes to using chatbots. One of the major advantages of chatbots is, that it is market research as you go. You can collect rich qualitative data concerning your customers, based on which you can change, refine and develop travel products as you see trends emerging. Furthermore, chatbots are multilingual and enable you to reach diverse markets. Post-trip, bots can send out feedback forms that can generate valuable information on how your business could further improve a guest’s travel experience.

Travelers are Becoming Less Loyal

A global average 70% of loyalty program members are likely to book with a different airline or hotel for a better price. In an effort to keep up with changing customer behavior, premium hotel chains such as Marriott were changing their rewards program. Marriott Hotel “Points are not the point anymore,” Thom Kozik, Vice President of loyalty at Marriott, told USA TODAY. “We weren’t keeping track of how consumers were changing their behavior.” The goal of this move: offer more flexibility to travel customers, who, don’t always want to use their points to get a free hotel stay. Marriott is just one example of how many companies in the tourism and travel industry today are scrambling to update their customer loyalty programs to keep up with customers.

The customer service plays a crucial role when thinking about increasing traveler loyalty. During their trip, in-destination, 84% of the travelers expect to access information anywhere while they travel. 85% of travelers decide on activities only after having arrived at the destination. 50% of travelers use smartphones to look for things to do once they have arrived at the destination. Improving the travel experience itself is a major cornerstone to reach higher customer loyalty.


Influencer Marketing is Powerful

Influencer Marketing is becoming more and more an effective destination, hotel and travel digital marketing method. In a panel discussion several travel bloggers, who were part of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association, shared their tips and secrets for a successful collaboration with travel bloggers. The travel bloggers stressed the importance of making sure that they a great experience in the hotels and destination, during the collaboration. They would hesitate to share untrue information an would be honest when sharing their experiences with their followers. These days Travel Influencers are acting more like brand ambassadors. So, when you work with them, it is your company as a whole which will be promoted via breathtaking footage. Influencers know how to create fantastic visual content to promote your brand image. Start building personal and authentic relationships with famous travelers in the social space, and make sure both of your brand values are aligned for maximum benefit. This will result in great content and a mutually beneficial relationship. This way your brand is promoted and influencers are given the resources to create even more engaging content for their audience.

Working together with social media influencers is a good way to drive engagement and sales, however, it is important to choose the influencers carefully, as some of them might have values that do not match that of your company’s. For a better, genuine content, a good relationship with influencers is essential, in order to avoid creating a negative impression around the content, such as, ‘the influencers are only doing this for the money, hence they do not put in an adequate amount of effort into their content’.


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