If you want to know why content works so well in the travel industry, just look back in time.
“Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan explorer from the 14th century, has this great quote: ‘Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.’”
Think about the last trip you took. You researched and read reviews, you sought ideas and opinions and suggestions and you weighed all of those things before made a purchase. Millions of travelers do that same thing every day.
eMarketer found that 70% of Americans insist on reading online reviews before they spend money. A TripAdvisor survey showed guests who are considering reserving a hotel room read up to 12 reviews before booking. More than half of the people in that same survey (53%) will not book a hotel without reviews.
Want more proof? Consider these stats, courtesy of Blue Magnet Interactive
– The average traveler visits over 20 different travel websites before booking
– 62% of leisure travelers use the Internet for researching their trip
People who seek travel ideas are signaling that they plan to eventually book travel, and the industry has taken note.
“People go online to search for travel ideas, and actually book travel online,” observed Fran Golden, a veteran travel writer who is chief blogger and an editor for Porthole Magazine. “The travel industry gets that there are more than just ‘seekers,’ there are actual ‘buyers’ looking for ideas and reading content.”
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Content also beats older forms of advertising, especially in travel. “A well-told story or a compelling video is much more effective than a display banner on a crowded media page,” noted Veronica Stoddart, an award-winning editorial executive and travel journalist. “Because travel can be a large, costly and even daunting purchase, travelers have always been hungry for information to help them plan the perfect trip at an affordable price.”
For those in the travel business, it’s not a question of if they should use content, but how. We decided to explore that question. Here are six tips to get the most out of your travel content.
1) Mix It Up
The number of ways travelers can document and instantly share their travel experiences is unprecedented. YouTube has 1 billion users each month, Instagram has more than 200 million users, Twitter has nearly 300 million users and that’s not even counting Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, Reddit, Vimeo and many more. Your content strategy needs to reflect that reality.
My Trip to Thailand | Lana
by lana via YouTube
You don’t need to be all things to all people, but you should be aware of the different mediums. (This article offers some useful tips on how to tailor your message to have the most impact on many different sites.)
“Content – web content, email, newsletters, blog posts, reviews, photography, travel videos, social media – is, hands down, one of the most effective ways to drive web traffic and ultimately, travel bookings,” Raub said.
It’s also worth considering podcasting as a way to reach travelers. That approach can help reach travelers who are short on time or even already on the go. Remember, 53% of travelers have used a mobile device to find travel-related information. Do some research on your target audience and determine how else they consume content.
“You don’t have to publish content on every platform out there, but the ones you do choose — and psst, choose the ones where your target market congregates — should be done well,” Raub noted. “Success in travel content marketing is not measured by how wide you fling your net; it’s about how well your net, however small, captures interest and drives bookings.”
2) Ditch the Hard Sell
By the time someone has made a decision to go online and look at travel options, they’re likely in one of five stages of travel as identified by Google. Those stages are:
Four of those five stages include people who are not deciding if they will travel, but instead where they’ll go, when and how — and who will get their money. If your message is simply, “Buy now! Save money!” then you will not succeed — with any of those groups.
“Delivering valuable information that makes a consumer a smarter and better traveler drives inbound traffic and leads,” Stoddart emphasized. “Content that is overly promotional or that provides little consumer value, will fail to engage and boost sales.”
3) Embrace User-Generated Content
Travelers love talking about their trips, and that presents travel companies with an enormous opportunity. The last two items in Google’s five stages are people who are already taking their vacation. Do not forget about these people, they are very valuable.
“Consumers actively want to see beautiful photos, watch inspirational videos, and read about the fantastical places they could visit next,” Raub said. In fact, as Blue Magnet reported: “49% of leisure travelers enjoy reading about others’ online experiences, reviews, opinions and more.”
Give your audience every opportunity to share their experiences. Make it extremely easy and, if possible, offer them incentives. Simple hashtags that drive collections of pictures, videos and posts mixed with some social integration and polling can transform your audience into an engine of content creation for you.
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“Harness the power of travelers and social media ‘influencers’,” Stoddard suggested. “Marriott is experimenting with Snapchat and YouTube, as well as developing original films, episodic digital and TV series, and articles posted on the blogging platform Medium. It’s even handing out GoPro cameras to guests at select hotels and inviting them to document their travel experiences for use on its website.”
Marriott + GoPro: Adventures in Aruba
by marriottlatam via YouTube
4) Be Proactive With Critics
Part of encouraging customers to share their experiences is dealing with negative feedback. Trying to “fix” your experience by ignoring or deleting criticisms is a major mistake. You don’t need to promote bad experiences, but you do need to address them. Consider what a survey reported by Hotelmarketing.com found:
– 87% of users say an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the
– 70% say an aggressive/defensive response to a bad review “makes me less likely to book that hotel”
– 62% say seeing hotel management responses to reviews generally “makes me more likely to book”
Not every criticism is a valid one, but the best thing you can do is to answer them as reasonably as you can. Remember, the idea is not to “win” every time but to show potential customers that you take these things seriously.
5) You Don’t Need a Big Budget
If you have a concern about resources, stop worrying. There are many affordable options to produce content and the nature of the travel industry gives you lots to create — with an audience that’s ready to consume it.
“No matter your location or offering, there are dozens of compelling topics to write about, beautiful photos you could share, and inspiring videos you could create (or curate),” Raub noted. “Add to this the fact that travel is something people love to hear about — an email about five bucket-list adventures is more fun than one about five ways to improve heart health — and you have a recipe for ready acceptance of content as a marketing tool.”
Part of the trick is in figuring out what you’re good at and what kind of content your part of the travel industry lends itself to. Poll your current customers, read studies, look at what your competition is producing and consider what you would like to see as a customer.
“Content creation doesn’t have to be expensive,” Raub said. “Anyone with the desire and time to learn about content marketing can understand — and execute — the basics. Look to where your talents lie: if you love photography, why not snap photos of your destination or hotel to upload to Instagram (and photo blog)? If you like writing in your free time, blogging may be your ideal medium.”
It’s important that whatever you publish is something you’re proud of, but don’t let that become an obstacle to publishing at all. If you’re not creating content for people to find, your competition will and you will be much worse off because of that.
“I always tell clients that some content is better than none at all,” Raub advised. “It’s important to remember that four blog posts a month, or two email campaigns a month, or six videos per year, or whatever is better than zero: done well, even small-scale content will boost SEO, fuel conversions, and create interest in your product. So be realistic. Create a doable content schedule, and stick to it. But whatever you do, do do content.”
6) Look to the Leaders
You might not have the budget to create movies like Marriott or fly people to your location, but you can take valuable lessons from market leaders and from those with more limited means. Pay attention to what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t work.
“There are plenty of big-budget companies doing compelling things with travel content: just look at Tourism Queensland’s Best Job in the World or Marriott’s new content marketing studio. But little guys are doing great things, too: one of my clients, Costa Rican Vacations is so great with content,” Raub observed. “They’ve created an in-depth online travel guide, publish engaging and inspirational videos, and run a bang up Facebook page, complete with – how’s this for bang for your buck? – review raffles.
Every month, Costa Rican Vacations asks their recent guests to write reviews and post them to their Facebook page: at the end of each month, all reviewers are entered to win a $100 Amazon gift certificate. The result: for a very small investment, the company sparks engagement, gets great reviews, and gains powerful social proof and word-of-mouth.”
Not everything you produce needs to be in-house either. This article offers some tips on finding and working with partners to produce and distribute content.
“Visit Florida has contracted with 100 writers and 12 ‘Florida Insiders’ to produce editorially driven content for VisitFlorida.com and its multiple media partners,” Stoddart noted. “There are outstanding examples from cruise lines to airlines to tour operators and others. The most successful are all inspirational and helpful to the consumer in some way.”
7) Quality Over Quantity
You need to create content to be successful in the travel vertical, but creating sloppy, poorly produced content is harmful. Today’s consumers are savvy and if you produce low quality content, they will not come back.
“The road is littered with tales of websites going cheap and then not finding the results they expected,” Golden said. “The public responds best to good content, at least when it comes to travel.”
You need to plan for content as well. Marketers who fail to establish and follow content plans see far less success than those who do.
“In travel, high-quality content can give you the competitive advantage. All things being relatively equal, travelers are more likely to book with a brand that has incredible reviews, offers in-depth travel guides, publishes regular (and interesting) blog posts, or is active on social media. To be effective at this kind of content – the kind that actually influences bookings — you have to commit.”