Content Marketing Institute recently released a great piece on content marketing in the travel and tourism industry space. It caused us to pause just a second to reflect on the past two years. You see, over the previous two years, we’ve lead tourism marketing for a small, charming Texas town at the top of the Hill Country called San Saba. (Shameless self-plug, definitely check out this charming town next time you want to escape for a night or two of hospitality.) The article dead on with our internal observations.
“With so many different touchpoints to engage with, so many ways to facilitate and enhance the travel experience, and so many pain points to help customers overcome, this field offers tremendous opportunities to create content-based connections, build trust, and add value for intrepid world travelers, road-weary business travelers, and everyone in between.”
Building trust in the travel industry is, naturally, a slow process. However, when a town buys into a new marketing plan collectively, we’ve seen them accomplish significantly more much more quickly. Why? Travel experiences that are seamless, consistent and meet (or, preferably, exceed) expectations create the organic trust that encourages word-of-mouth advertising that now is predominantly a web of peer-to-peer experiences. Because these subjective first impressions are incredibly accessible and prevalent, it’s imperative that marketers are controlling, or at least encouraging, content that aligns with brand voice and sells without over-promising on what they can deliver. Naturally, this can be a little difficult with so much competition. How do you tell your story and shine alongside the rest of the markets clamoring for increased tourist activity?
When you’re competing with other Hill Country destinations like Fredericksburg, Austin and Dripping Springs, marketing a tiny town successfully means getting creative. We focused heavily on experiential content for the first two years. We’ve generated video, photography, look books, blog posts and more to be shared and boosted through social media.
This content allowed us to create an experience for our target audiences (and bolstered organic search rates with cohesive SEO strategy). The strategy resonated with measure impacts: hotel taxes are up over 75 percent; sales tax revenues have increased; and, citywide event ticketing has consistently increased.
A large focus of our advertising efforts shifted the city’s advertising efforts away from traditional to digital and social media outlets. Travel is no longer inspired solely by the Travel Channel or magazines. Today, the world lives online. Instagram and Facebook – and the savvy influencers who pioneered those channels — are the leading influencers. In March 2017, Entrepreneur published “5 Ways Social Media Has Transformed Tourism Marketing” illuminating some of the dramatic effects that social media has had on the tourism industry.
“Social media has fundamentally changed the way that many companies communicate with and market to their target demographics. For the travel and hospitality sector, in particular, the rise of the Internet and the increased popularity of social channels have altered travel marketing. From the way that travelers research potential destinations to the activities that they participate in once they arrive, the new ways that consumers use social media to make purchasing decisions has influenced tourism marketing from start to finish.” – Entrepreneur
The article mentions the power of social media reviews, which have proven to have a profound impact on the industry with 89% of millennials choosing their travel plans upon peer-reviewed content streams. These reviews, which are highly accessible, provide an experiential preview of tourism activities, one that is partially out of a marketer’s control. A third party marketer loses control both with subjective content posted by users, but also in their limited capacity to influence business practices. This is the point at which client buy-in becomes gold; as you see themes that need to be addressed to increase organic positivity, a client who has bought into the strategy will implement necessary changes. When the majority of businesses in the town share the “we’re all in this together” sentiment, change occurs and problems are mitigated. Having a strategy for controlled engagement is also necessary (more on that coming in our next post). Another cornerstone of social media is the facilitation of a social sharing phenomenon. Today over 97% of millennial share photos and videos of their travels in social media forums. This network creates an organic “web of peer-to-peer content” that is both authentic and free for the business.
“Travel-industry marketers must go the extra mile to create content to earn bookings, not just lookings.” – Content Marketing Institute
Though a downside to the social nature of tourism marketing is voluminous din, social media is advantageous in that it offers concrete data. Use these analytics, insights and social media listening to hone messaging, increasing campaign efficacy and build trust with your audience. With time, your owned content and strategic engagement will enable you to leverage the peer-to-peer based content (like reviews and influencer impressions) to inspire audiences past lookings to bookings.