by Patricia Brusha
No hay "parches" para curar la aficiĂłn por las vacaciones y como los
vendedores pueden enfrentar el enlentecimiento de las compras de
viajes, es la propuesta de esta experta en mĂˇrquetin en Internet para
el artĂculo en inglĂ©s.
A discussion about how tourism marketers can reach consumers when slower economic conditions seem to be affecting travel buying.
People like their vacations. They think about their vacations, they plan their vacations; they talk about their vacations before they go, and they talk about it after. The truth is that we are addicted to taking vacations. In addition itÂ’s healthy for us to get out of our normal environment and routine to unplug, relax and unwind.
The transportation department in the US recently reported that Americans reduced their driving in May/08 alone by over 254 billion miles because of the high gas prices. With these economic conditions as they are, staying closer to home or the Â“Stay-cationÂ” has been the new tourism marketing buzz word throughout the summer travel season. In addition, higher airfares and airline route cut backs announced for this fall seems to have those in the tourism business a little concerned!
How has all this news been affecting the tourism industry this summer? Does this mean people have stopped taking vacations simply because they canÂ’t afford it?
It has been my observation that what has been changing is how consumers plan and make their travel decisions when they do take a vacation.
With the current economic environment, you might think once the decision to go away is made, it will have to be somewhere inexpensive and not far from home. My guess is just the opposite!
When consumers decide to spend the money on travel, it will be to celebrate special occasions, such as milestone birthdays, anniversaries and honeymoons, or it will be a once a year trip instead of the shorter weekend getaways. When it comes to celebrating or planning for our time to unplug (especially when we cannot unplug as often as we did before the cost of travel increased) our research cycle is longer and more complex - and not as simple as the price point decision making of the past.
This becomes a challenge for todayÂ’s hotel and travel marketers. As the consumer spends more time planning their vacation, they will spend more time online researching it Â– and they will use many different sources of information to confirm that they are making a good decision.
Although I believe that consumers will be researching longer, I can tell you that they probably will not spend hours reading your website.
We have all been navigating through this new online world that now consists of Social media networks like Facebook and Linked In. We have seen how news outlets have expanded their content online, and how popular video and photo sharing websites such as YouTube and Flickr have become. Your consumers are doing the same thing!
The web is quickly becoming a more complex, interactive environment that is making it harder and harder for static content to attract the attention of consumers who are getting used to updated content and imagery and Â“storiesÂ” about products and services being discussed online every day.
So what does this mean to marketers of travel and tourism related products and services? It is time to engage your consumer and ensure that the right message is reaching the right audience, at the right time, because if your brand message is not engaging, your customer will quickly move elsewhere.
Consider your own web navigation patterns as an example. When you are looking to plan a vacation or purchase a product. Do you read the static monotonous content that reads something like; Â“located just steps away from the beach, our beautifully appointed rooms have all the amenities that you need including luxurious duvetsÂ… Â”
Ugh, boring and old school. The new online consumer is looking not just for your canned advertising message, nor are they reading your web copy like they once read your rack brochures.
The new web savvy consumer is looking for quick descriptions that tell them what they need to know so that they may confirm and compare their choice of purchase by reading reviews, comparing prices and amenities, and looking at images of the property or destination. They donÂ’t have the time or attention span to read about the Â“luxurious European 400 count bed sheetsÂ” anymore!
You have probably already lost interest in this article just reading about bed sheets! But wait there is more! I have recommendations!
Consider that same consumer is not going to make a travel purchase based on price or description alone any longer as they are more likely to research the purchase more carefully to ensure they are making a wise decision.
In my opinion, it is the buying cycle for travel that has shifted and not simply that consumers are no longer travelling.
Consider also that although the Â“staycationÂ” might be happening more Â– consumers are still researching travel online and shopping for price and product very carefully whether their destination is near or far.
So how do tourism marketers reach out to their consumers now to give them the right message at the right time at the right price? Quite simply, being creative and understanding how your consumers use the internet will help you to determine how you should spend your marketing dollars.
Start by creating the story or personality behind your hotel or destination.
What is it that makes you different and what kind of experience will the traveler have when they stay with you. Create a section of your site that tells the customer real stories or testimonials, or publish articles about area attractions and vacation planning tips to keep your consumer engaged and coming back.
In southern destinations like the Caribbean and Mexico, consumers might want to hear about the weather, the beach, local entertainment and places to visit when in a city like San Juan or a destination like Jamaica. Consumers will be leaving your website to go to another source of that information if you cannot provide it, which might just leave you out of the buying process.
Consider creating a place where future and past guests can communicate in a community forum.
It could be a blog or a Facebook group, somewhere for your Â“fansÂ” to get together and talk. Remember word of mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising.
Use pictures with people to help tell the story of your destination, hotel or attraction.
Use real images and not just ones where people look like they are in a state of euphoria all the time. Allow your guests to share their photos within a place on your website, or post images to photo sharing sites as well as on your website. As nice as it is to see pictures of a bedroom it will not satisfy the hungry traveler who has been waiting for this trip of a lifetime or planning carefully for their 25th wedding anniversary.
Also be sure to use analytics tools (website stat reports) to see where consumers are going on your site, where they spend the most time, and when they are leaving.
Enhance the areas that work and update the ones that donÂ’t based on actual user behavior, and make your online marketing decisions based on how your consumers are researching and booking - and not just what the property next door is doing, or what you have been doing for the past 5 years.
Finally, and most importantly, be visible across as many online channels as possible including in the search engines (both in the free search space and in the paid placement spots), with targeted banner ad placement on destination websites, or just with listings and special offers on relevant travel websites that may be more targeted and less expensive to advertise on. Be visible across all points of the buying cycle instead of putting all your Â“eggsÂ” in one basket (pardon the pun!) and you will be sure to capture the attention of those still determined to enjoy their vacation this year.
Perhaps a Â“pent-up demandÂ” will ensue as this Â“chickÂ” is pretty sure that there are no magic Â“patchesÂ” you can put on people to cure the addiction to travel!
About the Author:
Patricia Brusha is the co-founder of www.acoupleofchicks.com - an Internet Marketing Company focused on travel and tourism, and Online Revealed Canada Â– the Tourism e-Marketing Conference produced in association with Yahoo! Canada, and the first inaugural Online Revealed Caribbean Conference to be held this Fall in San Juan Puerto Rico. She has spent 26 years working in the Hospitality Industry in the United States and Canada in the fields of Sales, Hotel Marketing, Internet Distribution and Revenue Management. Together, the Â“ChicksÂ” have published over 25 articles, produced a successful online marketing Blog; www.ideahatching.com , launched www.chicksaway.com Â– a social media portal for women who travel, and have worked with such notable brands as Marriott International, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and Yahoo! Their popular e-marketing workshops have also lead to the upcoming book focused on the Â“ChicksÂ” non-intimidating approach to marketing online.