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Five Travel Marketing Trends For 2014
By Feature Writer Frederic Gonzalo
I recently shared with you what I expected as five key social media marketing trends to look out for in 2014. Since I have been working in the travel & hospitality vertical for the past 20 years, I figure it would be equally interesting to try to figure out what we ought to look out for in 2014 from that industry perspective. So here it goes!
1. The Automated Passenger
On a recent trip departing out of Montreal-Trudeau International airport, I realized how travel processes automation holds tremendous potential to make passengers' lives so much easier. 24 hours prior to departure, I had received the automated email from Air Canada allowing me to register for pre-boarding, ensuring proper seating and avoiding getting bumped due to over-booking, had I arrived with last-minute folks. On the way to the airport, running late and stuck in traffic, I used the new "SecurExpress" system whereby you can now reserve your time slot for going through a security checkpoint. Again, a fabulous way to not only gain peace of mind, but also to skip the line-ups of folks who, in some cases, may miss their flight because of sheer volume during rush hours. Lastly, I presented my mobile phone throughout the process, since I had opted for paperless with the QR code option.
Arriving from an international flight recently, I was also able to skip the traditional queue at customs and go through an automated checkpoint rather than dealing with a custom agent. Not to mention programs such as Canpass Air or NEXUS that allow frictionless passage at most US-Canada customs, based on prior pre-approval and payment of an annual fee.
We're seeing similar frictionless, automated processes taking place in larger hotel chains, rail companies (mostly in Europe and Japan), car rentals and many attractions and events, in particular with RFID technology taking hold with some of the big festivals, i.e. Coachella, Osheaga, etc. From email, to SMS and e-passport, it will be interesting to see how fast travel companies embrace this sea of change for an enhanced traveler experience.
2. Mobile Bookings
At the end of 2012, Google Travel estimated that 25% of all travel-related searches online came from a mobile device, whether it was a smartphone, tablet or wifi-enabled device. While they estimated this figure would reach 40% by end of 2013, it seems we were all under-estimating mobile adoption on a global scale since we reached that point... back in May! We will end most likely the year 2013 at 50%, which means 1 out of every 2 online travel search now comes from a mobile device! And we can only expect this trend to get stronger in 2014. But are people simply looking, or are they booking as well?
Source: HeBS Digital
As can be seen in the results of this survey conducted earlier in 2013 by HeBS Digital, a New York based agency dealing with a client portfolio of top-tier hotel brands, mobile has been increasing year over year not just in terms of page views and visits, but also in terms of room nights generated and, most importantly, in revenue. This is specially true with tablets, seeing triple digit growth comparing Q1 2013 with Q1 2012. Desktop is getting less traffic overall, but the decrease is not as substantial in terms of room nights and revenue. Yet. So expect mobile to definitely grow strong...
3. TripAdvisor rises to the top
Many experts and industry specialists have been wondering if and when Google can become a travel industry powerhouse, menacing the distribution landscape as it stands. Earlier this year, I even wrote How Google Plans To Dominate The Travel Sphere! But perhaps we're not looking in the right direction...
Ever since TripAdvisor was spun off from Expedia back in December 2011, the ever-popular review site has been gaining steam at a steady pace. With its integration within the Facebook graph, traffic has been growing and the site now boasts 260 million unique visitors per month! Among some of the novelties that make it a contender to consider in any travel marketing strategy in 2014:
4. DMO vs collaborative economy
Segueing from the last point, the sharing economy, also known as peer-to-peer (P2P) or collaborative economy, should hit mainstream in 2014, meaning big travel brands will move into the equation. Avis recently bought the car sharing service ZipCar, and we can expect some more movement by other known big brands. For Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO) though, this new reality poses mostly a threat to their existing model. To understand why, read on Collaborative Economy in Travel: The Big Disruptor.
With more and more people turning to these platforms for information and transactions, what role will destinations take? In the State of New York, confrontation seems to be the path taken right now with AirBnB, while other destinations are turning a blind eye to the phenomenon, perhaps thinking (and hoping) it will go away. Wishful thinking. I expect we'll be seeing some discussion, negotiation and perhaps some strategic alliances between DMO and some of these platforms. Can it be through some kind of label, or seal of approval by the destination, giving added credibility to a given partner? Time will tell, but expect some action on this front.
5. Niches are where it's at!
This trend has been surfacing for years now, but we should expect it grow even more in 2014: working with niches. Instead of mass publications and mass campaigns trying to appeal to mass public, travel marketers had better understand the various niches, tribes and communities of interest to whom different messages will echo differently. For examples:
About the author
Senior marketing and communications expert & speaker with 18 years expertise in the travel and hospitality industry. Consulting since early 2012, I provide strategic planning, social media & mobile development counseling to small and medium businesses alike. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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