More than 148.3 million people use the Internet to make reservations for their accommodations, tours, and activities. That’s more than 57% of all travel reservations each year. No surprise that most travel is being researched and booked online today.  Destinations and hotels alike have an obligation to make it easy for people to find them, decide if it is right for them, and ultimately move towards booking.  

Compelling advertising, especially compelling destination advertising, doesn’t just tell you about a place – it intrigues you, moves you, makes you daydream. It pulls you to that place. It should create an image, or in some cases transform people’s perceptions, of a destination.  It should move people enough so they want to experience the location for themselves. 

Because a destination advertiser is offering a journey – the end of which is an experience that should transport you from ordinary life – the advertising must convey a certain sense of magic. It must have that power to occupy a piece of mental real estate within the minds of the target audience, encouraging that audience (long after they’ve seen the advertising) to make the journey. 

Equally as important as having a compelling message, is laser targeting. This has been made easier by the availability of data.  Things like AI will continue to enhance the ability for marketers to get their message in front of the right people. 

Finally, there are some exciting new technologies, such as Virtual Reality, that are tailor made for travel marketers.  You can now put prospects into the environment and give them the opportunity to “try before you buy.” 

Here are some things to consider as you begin planning your digital strategy for next year.

  1. Content Marketing:

Expedia found that consumption of digital travel content is on the rise with a growth rate of 44% in the U.K., 41% in the U.S., and 18% in Canada. Travel content is also widely consumed in each country by 75% of digital users in the U.K., 70% in Canada, and 60% in the U.S. 

Thirty-eight percent of travel bookers in Canada and the U.S. and 30% of travel  in the U.K. were influenced by advertising when considering more than one destination.

  1. Social / Reviews

 Ninety-five percent of consumers read reviews before booking, according to Tnooz, and HuffPost reports that over 95% of leisure travelers read at least seven reviews before booking their holidays. 

Nielsen research found that travelers spent an average of 53 days visiting 28 different websites over a period of 76 online sessions, with more than 50% of travelers checking social media for travel tips. Over the next 10 years, travel industry experts predict that the digital travel space worldwide will expand at an annual rate of 3.8% to reach $11.4 trillion.

According to Sprout Social, 52% of travelers said that social media influenced a change in their travel plans while 80% are more likely to book a trip from a company “liked” by a friend than a conventional Facebook ad (Eye for Travel).

  1. Mobile

 Smart Insights found that 43% of travel companies named “targeting and personalization” as the top priorities in their digital strategy. Twenty-five per cent of companies are focused on mobile optimization of their online properties.

Today’s always-online travelers already rely on their phones to research local information on trips, including 94% of TripAdvisor customers.

An Idea to Begin Testing: Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

 New analysis of 321 million social engagements by Adobe Digital Insights (ADI) has found that large hotels have tested some kind of virtual reality (VR) experience during the past six months. Most of these experiences were programs that paired VR devices with consumers’ mobile devices.

ADI found that social mentions for travel and AR/VR-related experiences have increased 13% year over year (YoY). Social mentions about travel-related wearables also increased (44% YoY).

It’s an exciting time to be a marketing a destination, accommodation, or attraction. Think beyond the ordinary in your messaging, like a coastal destinations showing a tranquil shot of a beach.  And, find ways to offer people more direct windows into the experience you offer either through great one on one interactions online or something like a VR experience.