Turning Vacation Influencers Into Brand Ambassadors
By David Bilicic , Senior Vice President
Prolific vacation travelers have been there, done that. But there's a certain breed of US traveler that does more than go and do. They talk. They tell family, friends, colleagues and even strangers about their trips, and their power of persuasion influences the vacations others take.
For travel-related brands, SVTIs can be amazing assets or dangerous detractors. Their passion for sharing discoveries makes them an audience travel marketers need to decode, monitor and efficiently target. With smart marketing and a little luck, SVTIs can become powerful advocates for the experiences you offer within the Travel, Hospitality and Leisure ecosystem. They can help you forge loyalty while building brand equity and revenue.
Before the experience begins
The first step in converting influencers into advocates is to understand their "getting away from it all" mindset. SVTIs embrace every part of the journey, starting long before Day 1 of vacation.
GfK research shows it is important to make the research and planning of vacations easy, informative and fun. SVTIs are considerably more likely than typical travelers to say they love doing research on a location before going (55% vs. 28%) and to think that planning a trip is just as much fun as the trip itself (28% vs. 13%). All percentages shown are for agreeing "completely" with the psychographic statement – the level of highest agreement.
Cents and sensibility affect their plans. About one-third (32%) of SVTIs like traveling to places they have never been before. But they also like familiarity; 29% return to favorite vacation spots whenever they can.
SVTIs are more willing than typical travelers (21% vs. 12%) to put their money where their preferences are, agreeing that high-quality hotel accommodations are worth the price – good news for the many hotels brands desiring to create an experience beyond the bed and shower. Still, money matters: 27% of SVTIs say travel and hotel discounts have a strong influence on where they travel and stay. In your marketing, balance quality with value to appeal to this small but important group.
How they do it
Influencers favor online reservation services over brick-and-mortar travel agencies. More than four in ten (43%) prefer booking trips via the Internet over meeting with a travel agent, compared to 29% of typical vacationers. And they book in advance – 36% of SVTIs usually book their trips 3 to 6 months before traveling.
Their love of research and planning, however, does not mean they cannot be spontaneous. One-quarter of influencers say last-minute travel deals are great ways to get bargains.
SVTIs even spread the word without having gone on some trips. They are more likely (46% vs. 22%) than typical travelers to say that, when they learn about a great vacation, they often recommend it to others.
Influence your influencers
Marketers need to court their SVTIs. One way is to encourage them to advocate for your brand through ambassador programs. Our data show that SVTIs already participate in loyalty programs, and they are more likely than typical travelers to do so: 55% (index 186) are members of frequent flyer clubs and 42% (index 158) are enrolled in a hotel rewards program.
Incentives that reward SVTIs both for vacationing with you and for creating positive buzz about your brand should be built into your marketing plans. Personalize messages to influencers by keeping track of their preferences and reminding them of past vacations with you. Then reward them for sharing experiences and upcoming plans across their social universes.
Creating great experiences for customers is essential in every service sector. In travel, giving your customers (especially SVTIs) something great to talk about – and multiple ways to share their good vibrations – will expose your brand throughout their social circles and beyond.