As you dive into 2019 budgeting, what trends should you be thinking about? Which approaches, platforms, and tools should be top of mind for travel and hospitality marketers?
The team at MDG Advertising recently analyzed a host of recent analyst reports and industry surveys to find out.
What came from that deep dive are these four key trends trends that every travel and hospitality firm should be watching closely in the year ahead:
1. The Power of Search
When it comes to travel and hospitality marketing, search has become the digital workhorse. Newer channels may get more buzz, but it's search that continues to most consistently deliver audiences, engagement, and bookings.
Some 48% of all US travelers say they begin trip planning with a search engine and 57% of travelers ages 18-34 go to a general search engine to check accomodation prices.
In addition, travel and hospitality advertising on search is especially effective: 36% of consumers overall recall viewing a travel ad on a search engine and 50% of consumers ages 18-34 recall viewing a travel ad on a search engine.
Moreover, search is becoming more important, not less important. Due in part to News Feed changes made by Facebook, search engines overtook social media as the top referrer of traffic to content sites this year.
Given all that, make sure to budget well in 2019 for the tried-and-true (and highly effective) approaches of search engine marketing and search engine optimization.
2. The Value of Visual Content
Travel and hospitality has always been an especially good verticals for visual content. What's changed in recent years is that images and videos have become more central to digital platforms, enabling consumers to more easily access these pieces.
Today's trip planners engage across formats and channels: 49% say they look at travel content sites, 30% look at social media, and 23% watch videos.
In other words, it's now highly likely that audiences will encounter—or will even seek out—images and videos related to your brand before finalizing travel plans.
Visuals are also increasingly a key part of advertising: consumers rank images as the most memorable element of online travel ads, ahead of prices/deals and personalized features.
This combination of organic and paid potency makes visual content a win-win for travel and hospitality brands: pieces can be utilized in different ways across different channels, engaging multiple audiences effectively.
3. The Rise of Instagram
Mark Zuckerberg has done many smart things in his life, but the smartest may have been buying Instagram. The Facebook-owned social network has been experiencing tremendous growth over the past few years and now has more than 1 billion active monthly users.
The combination of scale, a visual-based feed, and receptive audiences has made Instagram especially important to the travel and hospitality industry.
How important? A survey of UK travelers found that 40% of respondents under 33 prioritize "Instagrammability" when choosing their next holiday spot, and US consumers rank Instagram as among the most influential platforms for travel advertising (along with Snapchat and YouTube).
Moreover, influencers say Instagram is far and away the social network they use most, as well as the social network that's most effective for posting content.
Put simply, Instagram is a perfect fit for travel and hospitality marketing as it's an ideal showcase for visual content, is prized by younger travelers, has highly effective advertising capabilities, and is where influencers can wield the most weight.
4. The Popularity of Deal- and Impulse-Based Travel
Travelers have always sought out deals and procrastinated planning. However, the rise of digital and smartphones has made it easier than ever to shop around and take last-minute trips.
When Google did an in-depth study of modern travelers earlier this year, it discovered these interesting behaviors:
- Loyalty isn't a given: Just 9% of US travelers "always" know which brand they want to book with prior to researching and two-thirds of US elite hotel loyalty program members say they would pick a different hotel for a better price.
- Instant gratification is on the rise: Some 60% of US consumers say they would consider an impulse trip based on a good hotel or flight deal, and most US travelers plan to take more short getaways (three nights or less) than longer vacations (more than three nights) in the next 12 months.
Again, this behavior isn't new, but it does seem to becoming more widespread. That's why brands shouldn't rest on their laurels next year and assume they'll have loyalty: it'll be more important than ever to compete for travelers' dollars based on price and timely prompts.
Ultimately, the takeaway from all of these trends is that travel and hospitality marketers shouldn't be complacent in 2019. To succeed in the marketplace in the year ahead will require continuing to engage on established channels such as search, investing in fresher approaches such as visual content and Instagram, and remaining ever-vigilant about shifts in travelers' behaviors.