Marketing destination travel has become increasingly difficult in recent years. In the past, hospitality brands regularly advertised in newspapers and magazines and on television, hoping to reach maybe one in a million.
But recent trends have encouraged travel businesses to pursue more personalized marketing methods. Smart destination-travel providers now leverage loyalty programs, customized experiences and technology to drive additional bookings, return visits and sales.
To build a successful business, here are 10 things marketers can learn from some of those popular travel brands.
1. Recognize the phenomenon of the 'invisible guest.'
Many travelers want the option to move their arrangements entirely to online, from booking to check-out, and everything in between. Of all travel arrangements, 57 percent are booked online; plus, 65 percent of same-day hotel reservations are made via smartphone. That scenario is ideal for travel customers who seek to enjoy their vacations, yet want to eliminate unnecessary face-to-face contact with agents or booking representatives. A majority of shoppers -- in any industry -- prefer the do-it-yourself approach to purchasing.
2. Offer loyalty products.
Hilton Honors has created an app for those enrolled in its Honors loyalty program, allowing guests the option to choose their own room when booking. The Hilton Honors loyalty program also awards guests a free fifth night during a five-night hotel stay. Customers appreciate the perks and benefits that come along with loyalty programs, and are more likely to stick with a hotel brand that provides them.
3. Invest in the right software.
The right software system can make managing your bookings, accounting, administrative issues and even your marketing much simpler and more streamlined. If you want to keep your records in order and ensure that guests are satisfied with an easy process every time, implement "vacation rental" software.
StreamlineVRS or ResNavigator are two solutions that feature robust functions and productivity tools. Every industry now has a smorgasbord of technology providers offering apps and programs to help you process information or service customers more intelligently. Take advantage of these tools.
4. Keep your standards of cleanliness high.
All hotel guests are going to desire -- and expect -- a clean space. If you lack the manpower to go it alone, hire a cleaning service to help. Dusting, vacuuming, linen changes, scrubbed bathrooms and more are all essential to guest satisfaction. Non-travel related businesses, too, should focus on keeping the user experience free of clutter. If your firm is short on existing resources, outsource part of the workload.
5. Offer something unique.
Maybe it is a piece of homemade fudge you offer on a guest's pillow most evenings; that two-minute walk you describe, where guests can take in breathtaking views of a nearby lake; or even your "famous frittata" that helps start the day: Whatever you offer, make it unique. When you have something that's one of a kind that guests love and can’t find anywhere else, they will want to come back over and over again.
6. Charge a fair price.
Finding a price that is both competitive enough to attract guests and lucrative enough to drive profits can be challenging. If you are not sure how to reasonably price your product or service, conduct market research to see what local competitors are charging and understand what the going rate is for similar services in other markets.
7. Add a romantic touch.
For couples in love, a romantic destination usually tops their list for vacation hot spots. Add a romantic touch to your lodgings by offering a honeymoon or anniversary suite or a special-occasion dinner or package that includes excursions. You can also boost the romantic ambiance by adding twinkling lights to outdoor spaces and candles and champagne in guestrooms. Regardless of the industry you operate in, or the type of customer you serve, invest in details that will "wow" your users.
8. Be exclusive.
Travelers want to be part of an exclusive crowd. So, it is a good idea to wrap amenities and features in a package that screams “VIP.” This strategy works especially well when used in conjunction with a guest perks plan. For example, making an exception to a special members-only rate can earn you a customer’s lifetime loyalty
9. Think local.
Travelers do not like the label of “tourist,” and many would rather get to know a destination, as opposed to hitting all of the overhyped attractions. Offer advice on what is popular with residents and create seamless opportunities for customers to experience them. They will enjoy exploring the hidden spots you tell them about, participating in local activities and eating traditional cuisine. Marketers outside of the travel industry, similarly, should personalize experiences for customers living in or traveling to local markets.
10. Keep things spontaneous.
Research shows that in the United Kingdom, 19 percent of travelers book their flight and lodgings the same day as travel, and that 59 percent are booking the same week as travel. It used to be that travelers booked well in advance to get the best deals. Now, travelers are more spontaneous and demand last-minute pricing. Cater to these impulsive shoppers by offering specials and promotions they can use right away.
All sorts of non-travel brands can mimic this tactic, by bundling products and services before checkout to increase their own customer average order values, too.