As more people than ever take to the skies and seek new views from foreign lands, travel marketing follows suit. Travel and tourism is one of the top money-making industries on the planet and accordingly is also one of the most competitive.
There is money to be made by marketers if only they know what they're doing.
In this blog, we'll take a look at the travel digital marketing trends of this year to see what clients expect from their marketers and what digital marketing teams must do to win big in 2018.
How do we sell ideas to audiences who are spoilt for choice and for whom the world is, quite literally, their oyster?
1. It's all about the individual
Personalization isn't so much a trend of 2018 as an ever-growing digital marketing tool that has been around for the last couple of years.
With the rise of social media – for travel, Instagram holds most sway – individuals have become acquainted with images and videos that show the 'story' of a person's adventures; the bright and beautiful culinary treats from far off nations, the white-sand beaches, the stunning mountain landscapes. It's all about experience over things. The rise of the experience economy shows exactly that.
This has promoted the real need to tailor travel marketing to the customer on an individual level. The idea that their journey is unique to them ad that in travel there is an intangible value of understanding that cannot be grasped without having experienced it, are focal points for this year.
Big data is becoming more widely used in travel marketing, owing to the broad and deep insights it can offer into an individual's personality, which in turn can be used to customize offers on a micro level.
2. Using video to tell the story
The availability of quality video recording devices such as GoPro coupled with the rise of high-speed internet has resulted in video being the dominant medium in our internet age. Indeed, by 2021, video is likely to account for 82% of all IP traffic.
Video is the obvious choice for travel digital marketers. As a media format, video represents a scene in a way that audio and text alone cannot, and with clever use of editing and videography even lackluster locations can be turned into top destinations.
Like photos, professionally produced videos also have the ability to suggest a lifestyle. In line with the experience economy, it's the lifestyle that travelers are buying into.
Considering the future dominance of video and its fantastic value in showing travelers what they could have, a wise decision for digital marketers connected to travel would be to invest healthily in the video media arm of their organization.
Drones are widely available and cheap enough to now be a real consideration for even small business marketing. The stunning video captures add a level of drama and excitement to any marketing campaign and work wonderfully to illustrate the incredible locations being advertised in the travel sector.
3. Experience-sharing done for you
People – and particularly the tech-savvy current generation – rely far more heavily on the reviews of others than the promises of a company offering a service. Millennials in particular are suspicious of businesses and look to be informed by those like them.
One of the pillars of the experience economy is in the sharing of the experience via social media. When a client has enjoyed the breath-taking views of the Grand Canyon, they will often share their experience via Instagram Stories, or they may chart their entire journey with a vlog.
This user-generated experience is a fantastic way to leverage the trust that potential clients have in their fellow travel seeker rather than that of the travel company. In a world saturated by highly-polished advertising or video content, a lower-key but little more "real" video taken by a previous customer can really win the hearts of other viewers.
User-generated content in written form can also help heighten SEO results. And that's never a bad thing!
4. Different destination finders
The next big thing is only ever around the corner, but finding the next big travel destination – or simply a location off the beaten track – is having a major impact in 2018.
As we mentioned earlier in this blog, more people are travelling than ever before. And that means that more people are seeing the same sights; a situation made clearer than ever thanks to the constant video and picture sharing of the millennial generation.
Travelers now want something fresh and the cunning travel marketer is well-placed to offer just that.
There are some surprising entries into the hot travel destinations of 2018, including Rwanda in Africa, and the city of Liverpool in the UK.
The great thing about these new locations is their freshness. For marketers, there's no difficulty in demonstrating why a traveler should head to these places in an original way; unlike Cancun or Sydney, they haven't been advertised to excess.
Travel digital marketers can really take a new and creative approach when marketing these destinations to win over crowds and increase those bookings.
5. VR comes to the fore
While video marketing becomes increasingly popular, some digital marketers are looking for alternative and improved ways to offer their potential clients a taste of what they could experience. Virtual reality is perfect for this.
There are some major players putting virtual reality to use to whet the appetite of their customers.
UK-based creative marketing company, Visualise, produced Thomas Cook's Try Before You Fly VR experience to offer Thomas Cook clients an immersive impression of the experiences on offer from the company, including helicopter flights over New York.
With an almost 200% rise in successful sales of the Thomas Cook experience, it is safe to say that VR was well worth the return on investment.
Virgin Holidays and Abu Dhabi's Tourism Authority are two other heavyweights that have successfully used VR's characteristics to improve their travel marketing.
2018 is likely to see VR move to the mainstream for travel digital marketing.