Travel brands, specifically resorts and hotels, are increasingly positioned to leverage consumers’ self-sufficient outlook on travel planning. It’s no secret that more and more consumers are bypassing travel agents to make their own travel arrangements online, either directly with hotels, resorts, airlines, and cruise companies, or through third party booking websites like Travelocity, Expedia, and Priceline. But when the leisure or business travel consumer heads online to do his planning, he is met with a sea of tempting options. At any one travel destination, there may be dozens of competing hotels and resorts–all with beautiful photos of their facilities, great copy about their amenities, and similar pricing models–vying for the consumer’s attention. How do you make your resort or hotel stand out?
The answer is to develop a smart, targeted online advertising and marketing strategy. Target specific demographics that would best enjoy your facility and wow them with creative that makes a strong, direct appeal to their needs and desires.
Of course, this is all much easier said than done. How does your travel brand’s marketing team go about meeting these lofty goals? Here are 7 tips for making your hotel’s online advertising and marketing efforts a hit.
Know Your Audience
Before anything else, identify your target audience. Who would you like to reach out to? Is there a specific traveler that your resort or hotel caters to? Whether your hotel is particularly family-friendly, a romantic hideaway for young couples, offers a central location for business travelers, or a relaxing spot for retirees, your job is to resonate with your key demo online. Depending on who you’re trying to reach, there are particular online outlets where your messaging will play loudest (i.e. “mommy” blogs, wedding planning sites, business news websites, online mature lifestyle magazines, etc.) It’s also important to review data on different traveler segments and their preferred destinations and decide whether it’s a wise use of your budget to try to attract them. Female solo travelers, for instance, are a fast-growing segment in the travel industry, but there’s evidence to suggest that they prefer cultural holidays in Europe to beach vacations in the Caribbean. If you’re marketing a beach resort, your online advertising dollar would probably be best spent appealing to another type of traveler.
Be Strategic About Timing
With every online ad spend, consider your peak and off-peak seasons and calculate when consumers are beginning to make their travel plans for your particular destination. To take advantage of flight deals, travelers most often plan their summer vacations in January and February, while they typically book their Christmas holidays in early October. You want to make sure your messaging is contextually relevant at just the right time.
Offer Promotions, Promotions and More Promotions
A great way to get ad clicks is to offer online-only promotion codes and deals. If you’re trying to attract families with small children, for instance, run promotions for all-inclusive packages offering 3 meals per day on high-traffic mommy blogs. If there’s a convention or major event coming to town and you’d like to attract large groups, advertise discounted group room rates on event planning websites.
Spring break, summer, and Christmas/New Year’s Eve are peak travel seasons. But there are plenty of people looking to get away year-round, often trying to escape inclement weather in their own regions. Geo-target your online advertising campaign. If you’re in a destination that’s warm from December-February, up your ad spend in the American Northeast, where it’s bitterly cold, and make sure your creative emphasizes fun in the sun!
Know Your Strong Suits (And Advertise Them)
Your hotel or resort certainly has special features that appeal to specific audiences. Be sure you know what those are and you integrate them prominently in your creative. Whether you are marketing an eco-friendly resort, a hotel in a prime location, or you offer fabulous amenities like pool, sauna, steam room, or spa, make sure your creative team is featuring your strong suits in what may be your first touch point with a potential consumer–your online advertising.
Replace the Travel Agent
Once an ad click brings consumers to your website, make sure you keep them there as long as possible. The best way to do this is to make sure that your site is rich with helpful content that’s informative and valuable for potential travelers. Remember that the traveler who is booking accommodations directly online is forgoing a travel agent, who would ordinarily help with other travel arrangements. The more advice and information you can offer for a smooth, hassle-free travel experience, the more likely your site visitor will click “Book Now.” Offer a site full of colorful, professional pictures and videos of not just your resort, rooms, amenities, and restaurants, but visuals of your destination and its main attractions. It’s also important to keep an up-to-date, robust blog full of information about local events, activities, nightlife, dining, shopping, culture and attractions. Offer tips on everything from day trip excursions to the best places for currency conversion to restaurant recommendations to the best ways to get to and from airports, train stations, bus terminals, and ports. No detail is too small for the DIY travel planner.
Let Your Guests Do Your Advertising For You
Encourage guests who’ve had positive experiences at your resort to write reviews and testimonials on your website and social media platforms, as well as on travel review sites like TripAdvisor, Oyster, and VirtualTourist.