Imagine getting lost on the way back to your hotel in a small town in Argentina, where only 6.52% of the population speaks English. You don’t speak their native language and you can’t remember your hotel name or address. What do you do?
Your first answer probably involves pulling out your smartphone (let’s hope you have international data). Are you checking your GoogleMaps’ Search History for the address? If it’s not saved, you can simply open your translation app and ask someone on the street, right? Now, imagine yourself in the same scenario, but it’s 2002. Again, you’re lost, but now what? Smartphones weren’t invented yet.
Clearly, travel today is unrecognizable from what it was 30 years ago – for consumers and businesses alike – thanks to digitisation. Almost every single aspect of travel, from booking a flight to translating a foreign language or finding the best nearby restaurant, can now be done on your smartphone. The travel sector has adapted to this new tech culture quite well through the use of digital marketing. What are some digital marketing trends that have transformed the travel industry?
Mobile Website Optimization
Next time you walk through campus or downtown, try to notice just how many people are looking down at their phone – a lot of them. The world today is incredibly fast-paced: everyone expects information on-the-go and everyone multi-tasks, using their smartphones to complete tasks while on the train or bus. However, websites can be difficult to navigate if they’re identical to what you would see on your laptop; so, companies began making their websites mobile-friendly, including the travel sector. Long-term travellers often change plans or even make plans mid-trip. Some of these updates need to be made immediately. If your travel company’s website is not optimized for smartphones, you will lose that consumer to another company whose website is easy and efficient to use on-the-go. Desktop versions usually require much more attention and effort; for example, zooming that modifies the page configuration or glitchy drop-down menus. I recently used my phone to book a hotel room last-minute and, honestly, I would not have booked the hotel if it only offered a desktop version.
My father always had a routine to prepare for an upcoming family vacation: if we were driving, he took out the 15-pound Atlas to find the fastest route; he consolidated all necessary information into a little notebook to be carried everywhere; and he reserved and/or bought all necessary tickets for places like museums or ziplining. I would say it took him, on average, an entire day to finish. Today, I can do all of that (and more) in only 15 minutes and entirely on my phone. Smartphone applications have drastically transformed the travel industry. Today, Airbnb allows homeowners in popular destinations to rent their entire homes out to travellers. People even use Airbnb as a source of income, owning multiple houses/apartments in varying locations. Triposo offers “interactive travel guides” (Triposo) to hundreds of places and includes information like the location’s currency exchange rate, a safety guide, and top attractions by category. You can also use Triposo to book hotels and hostels, plus every guide is downloadable, meaning you don’t need an international data plan to access it. I personally used this to plan my trips abroad, often at the last second and, obviously, always on my phone.
A few lucky people have the best job on earth: to stay at luxury hotels and spas in the most beautiful and unique places on this planet, Instagram and Tweet while there, then later blog about their experience. Yes, they are getting paid to do this, and yes, they are staying for free.
Digitisation has opened a new avenue for travel marketing. Hotels could simply post photos of their decor and room service, but that can lead to a boring Instagram feed. A more effective approach includes hiring an experienced and social-media-famous adventurer to stay at one of their locations and write a review. The traveller’s followers get live updates plus a critique from someone they trust. This unaltered visibility was not available a few years ago, let alone the actual job to provide it.
Point is, digital marketing has both created completely new areas within the travel industry and removed others, while dramatically altering the rest. People travel completely differently than before the digital world emerged. In today’s world, I can plan out a 10-week trip to every single country in Europe – all on my phone.