It’s halfway through 2021, and all eyes are focused on the horizon. The travel floodgates have opened, and demand to explore the world continues to increase exponentially as people yearn to make up for lost time.
A recent study by TripAdvisor found that 51% of U.S. respondents plan to take a domestic summer trip, and 22% plan to take a trip abroad. Now the question becomes: How do travel providers give people the type of trip that they want?
While the world continues to change so rapidly, creating a marketing plan that anticipates travel trends can seem fruitless. However, there are some ways you can think ahead to build and market trips just right for your members.
Know Your Audience
Before you can start to capitalize on people’s pent-up desire to travel, you must know what types of trips to offer. That starts with knowing your members: You need to find out how far they want to travel, the ideal length of the trip, how much they are willing to spend and what matters to them on a trip.
Some travel planners ask only where their members want to go. That is an important question, but discovering more about their preferences is also crucial. You can’t plan a trip to every place your members name. But if you notice trends in the types of trips they want, you can use that information to create enticing trips to destinations they may not have previously considered. For example, if you see trends toward more luxurious destinations or culturally important places, you can note those commonalities rather than just adding up pins on a map.
You can gather this type of detailed information in two ways. First, survey all your members regularly. If your loyalty program gathers for non-travel-related events, hand out a survey sometime during the meeting.
Send out surveys in emails to members as well so you can reach clients who don’t usually come to events. Even better, send personal emails or call members to discuss their preferences. This personal interaction will not only strengthen the loyalty those members feel toward your travel program but also help you gather important information about your members.
Some travel planners create a group of top clients to meet and discuss their ideas about future trips. This loyalty-driven subgroup not only rewards the travelers who spend the most with you, it also delivers research on future trip ideas directly to you.
Keep all information you gather about travel preferences in an Excel file or other document so that you have reliable information on your members. Look for the trends. Once you have enough information, create three to four common traveler personas. Then build your marketing strategy around those personas and the types of trips they might like. This will appeal to your members on a more personal level than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Know When To Sell
Researchers already know some common travel buying trends that you can use in your marketing strategies. For example, the online search volume for beach trips is highest from winter to spring. Travel planners can take advantage of this by promoting beach itineraries during the cold of winter when people are most likely to think the beach sounds too tempting to pass up.
Market cruises in January when the demand for cruises hits its yearly peak. June is the best time to market trips to national and state parks.
Though many group leaders release a year’s worth of tours all at once, knowing these trends can still aid your marketing efforts through targeted promotions. Members may be aware of all your trips, but reminding travelers in June of an upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon will make them more likely to book it.
To know when to market various other destinations, use research from Google to determine the search volume patterns of particular destinations. In that way, you can seasonally target your marketing messages to when members are mostly likely to respond.
These seasonal marketing strategies can work with social media posts or email marketing. Specific, time-limited offers often pair well with these promotions by giving members a sense of urgency to book a trip.
Know the Trends
You can always go on the same few trips you know your members like. But to grow your group, add a few experimental trips to your offerings. Even if you try just one outside-the-box trip a year, you will gain a lot of information about what types of trips work and which don’t work for your group.
You shouldn’t choose these trips based on where you want to go. Start with the traveler surveys but also consult experts like tour operators. These travel professionals spend a lot of time monitoring which destinations are popular now and which will be popular in a couple of years.
Other places to closely consider are destinations that are part of the current pop culture. When “Downton Abbey” aired, those destinations received a lot of travel enthusiasm not just from those who watched the show, but also from those who were influenced by its effect on society.
Magazines such as this one can also help you stay abreast of hot travel destinations that cater to groups instead of the more mainstream magazines that target individual travelers.
Even today, while everything is changing around the world, there are travel trends you can take advantage of, such as escape-themed getaways, outdoor destinations and exclusive resorts. Market these types of trips to your travelers and watch your travel group grow.