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Travel content marketing: How to distinguish yourself in a saturated market

The modern traveller is at the centre of a flood of information.

The modern traveler is at the centre of a deluge of information. They will visit an average of 38 sites before booking, but are likely to pay more attention to a ‘wish you were here’ image their friend posted on Instagram. How can brands use travel content marketing to get noticed?

Ours is the age of the globetrotter. Thanks to advances in communications and transport, roaming afar has never been easier; the wanderlust spirit has never been so strong. Rather than adding to their personal store of material goods, individuals are choosing to spend their hard-earned dollars creating memories with friends and family instead.

The travel industry is feeling the glow. This year, the global online travel growth rate projection is 10.31% on last year, with revenue expected to rise to $629.81 billion. But there’s another side to this story, which puts on these stats a dampener: saturation. Where once travel agencies and brands had a firm, squeeze-ready hand on the buyer funnel, aspiring wanderers are nowadays surrounded by a sea of options. The staid travel column has crumbled, giving way to a flurry of digital snapshots of out-of-the-way paradises that tug at the imaginations (and wallets) of customers en masse. What’s more, the vast share of travel information doesn’t come from brands at all. According to research by Phocuswright, the top sources travellers consider when planning trips are travel reviews (59%), social media images (54%) and YouTube videos (31%). How many rate travel blogs as useful? Just 11%.

Add to this the increasingly complex buyer journey (with travellers visiting an average of 38 different sites before booking, says Expedia Travel Solutions), and the struggle for travel marketers is made that much more real. How can companies use travel content marketing to differentiate themselves in this high-volume, super-competitive market? How can they offer up a destination image that aligns with travellers’ dreams?

Don’t be all things to all people

In other words, be something to a defined audience (or audience set). From day one, build everything you do around them. Does a pub-loving grandpop want to spend his Christmas paragliding above Mont-Blanc? Would a business-minded, luxury-loving bachelor want to spend his holiday visiting a Chuck E. Cheese store in Bellevue, Washington? Well, maybe. But they won’t represent the majority of sales.

Reflect on your identity, so your marketing message of what exclusive, singular experience you offer is made crystal clear. This way, your company becomes the obvious go-to when target audiences begin planning their next trip.

Case study: AWOL, Qantas

AWOL is Qantas’s content hub built specifically for young Aussies eager to venture beyond the beaten track – whether that’s in their own backyards, around their continent or beyond. The site sits on the Junkee Media domain in a savvy brand partnership, making good on the publisher’s millennial mindset and slangy tone. Overall, it proves itself a handy resource offering travel guides, pro tips and crunchy nut journalism. Would read: articles on Queensland islands to rent, treehouses to shack up in, and a peek into the world’s first Dr. Seuss museum.

Leverage the ‘influencer effect’ wisely

The influencer effect, particularly on Instagram, is huge. Marketers can no longer ignore the prestige they have on platforms of choice. If the collaboration rings true, your content can be opened up to a vast new fan base interested in what you can open up for them.

And while ‘influencers’ are often celebrities anyone would recognise on the cover of Rolling Stone or Jimmy Fallon’s couch, there’s a whole host of niche or micro-influencers too who might be a better fit overall. Take notes from influencers, but always think carefully before bringing them on-board. The influencer effect isn’t always cheap, and will only work when brand, influencer and audience are aligned.

Case study: DJ Khaled, Las Vegas

When launching its new Snapchat channel, Sin City got smart. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority went to the best, the so-called Snapchat King. They went to DJ Khaled, the notorious rapper and audacious hypeman, whom VICE has hailed as the “public face of Snapchat [and] the ascendent new social media platform, the guy who finally made ad execs start shitting their pants in their hurry to develop a strategy for the app.”

For one and a half days, Las Vegas gave him a key to the Strip and full reign over the channel, where he bragged and tagged some of the town’s best attractions, from gondola rides at The Venetian to a mani-pedi at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. Why did the campaign work? Because it reached the audiences who would appreciate it: young party-chasing Snapchatters who love to live big. The cost of such star power can’t have been cheap; but for their gamble, Las Vegas’ Snapchat went from a count of zero to 4k views and 25k engagements in less than 48 hours.

Tap into user-generated content

Here’s a stat to take note of: while on the road, 97% of millennials post on social networks and share experiences with friends. That’s a huge amount of content being served up. It is, what’s more, experiential and organic rather than obsessively stylised, and is considered by consumers to be more trustworthy than any other source.

Rather than see it as crowding up a space they could otherwise occupy, brands are finding a new maturity and power in capitalising on user-generated content and transforming it into ‘earned media’. Crafting shareable hashtags and interactive opportunities, marketing is reaching a new, empowering, participatory phase. Top advantage? It’s content with low costs.

Case study: Vivid Sydney

Vivid is Sydney Australia’s prestigious annual light show extravaganza, drenching landmarks and buildings in a shimmering phantasmagoria of color across 23 nights. The #sydneyvivid hashtag was to be seen everywhere, illuminated and embedded as part of the event, and the iridescent angel wings exhibit along the wharf made a ‘snap and share’ compulsive to locals and tourists alike. The Vivid Instagram account was populated by photography and video by hired professionals, alongside user-generated content made easily findable under the memorable hashtag.

Think like a brand, market like a person. There are only so many times a customer can look at a photo of a white-sanded beach at sunset before the glamorous becomes just stock image-style dull. Increasingly, people are chasing authentic experiences and original stories: whether that’s unfiltered images from a local’s everyday life, or a rough-and-ready guide to fishing and camping in a region’s most secretive spots. Our tip: toss out the conventional playbook and take your own advice – chill some.

Case study: City Guides, Airbnb

Airbnb has nabbed a top place in the news recently with their campaign collaboration with Sweden, who in May registered the entire country on the digital marketplace’s map.

Outside of this stunt however, Airbnb has something more stable going on. Introducing: Airbnb City Guides – a useful and often amusing location spotlight that dishes up categories like ‘Locals complain about’, ‘Get around in’ and ‘featured neighbourhoods’. All tags have been curated from suggestions from the native community, bringing to the place a homely touch.

For example, on the web page for Sydney, locals complain about: “People who mispronounce “Bondi” (it’s a long ‘i’), petrol prices, rent prices, alcohol prices, toll prices, traffic, public transportation, Melbourne.” What’s good? “The sea, microbreweries and outdoing kiwis.” We’re a competitive lot.

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