The travel industry and inbound marketing are two sides of the same coin. One can thrive and grow only through the other, if only because the customer to be satisfied has changed profoundly. The new “tourist 2.0” calls on all operators to change their marketing approach.
As we’ll see, the travel sector and inbound marketing are two elements that are closely linked since they represent a strategically interesting and promising pair for companies that operate in the sector.
On the other hand, as we have already seen in previous posts about digital tourism, traditional marketing approaches are no longer very effective or, in any case, are undoubtedly not sufficient for those who want to work and succeed in a field like tourism, which has been radically changed by digital transformation.
Because the truth is this: the internet and digitization have completely changed the face of tourism and the way people travel.
As a result, you can expect that the techniques and strategies used to reach them cannot stay the same; on the contrary, they are evolving, becoming more sophisticated and effective.
For this reason, over time, marketers in the world of tourism appreciate the inbound marketing strategy: by far, it’s one of the best approaches to engage the “tourist 2.0”.
Digital transformation has changed everything, including tourists
In previous posts on this topic, we looked at the changes that digital transformation has caused within the tourism business. We have seen that no aspect has been spared, from booking a flight to the reviews left at the end of the experience.
An aspect that has perhaps gone more unnoticed, but which is nonetheless of great relevance, is the tourist, the one who has been most transformed by digitalization and is no longer the same as he was 10 or 20 years ago.
C.P. Wolf, president of travel and tourism research agency PhoCus Wright, said: “New travel researching and planning approaches are empowering consumers in unprecedented ways. […] Travelers are keen to take control and find/create the perfect trip, not just the cheapest trip”. (phocuswright.com).
And indeed, this is exactly the case: thanks to the use of digital technologies, the modern tourist has become increasingly autonomous and capable of organizing and managing their own trip.
From this autonomy derives ever-increasing attention on the part of tourists when it comes to personalization. Because they are able to build their own trip, each person can be clear about what they want and the kind of experiences they want to have.
And the same is true when booking at specialized facilities: tourists expect to receive highly personalized treatment that perfectly meets their needs and desires.
But this is not the only aspect that characterizes today’s tourists.
Another element that characterizes today’s tourists is the fact that they are constantly looking for interaction, be it with operators in the sector or with other tourists/users.
For this reason, modern travelers tend to read and leave comments on the internet about their personal experience, describing it and providing useful information to others.
In this way, they create a real network that they can trust and from which they can get real advice and suggestions that are perceived as authentic.
But the differences don’t stop there.
The tourist 2.0 doesn’t just review his experiences, he also shares them through photos, videos, and social content in general, so as to generate reactions and shares, which makes the vacation even more satisfying.
To do all of this, the tourist-user obviously makes extensive use of social networks, the web, and mobile devices, which are now inseparable companions of every digitized traveler.
And it is precisely in the light of this profile – made up of personalization, the search for interaction, sharing, the use of mobile devices, curiosity, and independence – that we can understand why inbound marketing is the preferred approach of players in the tourism sector.
Why inbound marketing for travel industry?
On closer inspection, in fact, inbound marketing is precisely the type of strategic marketing that is best able to meet and satisfy the expectations of these new customers.
Why? If we look at the definition of inbound marketing, you can see how it provides an interesting approach.
The term inbound marketing is defined as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating quality content, designed to attract attention and arouse interest in the company and its products.”
This type of marketing strategy is opposed to the more traditional outbound marketing, which involves the use of one-way communication (such as mass media advertising campaigns) and the interruption of people’s activities.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, aims to attract people’s attention, pushing them to accept and request interaction with the brand.
Basically, if in outbound marketing you tend to put the product forward to acquire new customers, in inbound marketing, the customer and his interests are the central elements.
For this reason, the objective of an inbound marketing campaign in the context of the tourism sector is to ensure that the user is driven independently to access content created by the brand and that he is so enthusiastic about it that he wants to share it and make it known to others, maintaining increasingly close and frequent contact with the company.
However, in order to achieve this result, it is necessary to adapt the inbound marketing strategy to the characteristics and dynamics that are specific to tourism.
From the 4 phases of inbound marketing to the 5 phases of inbound marketing for travel industry
A good inbound marketing strategy consists of 4 main phases, which can be seen as forming the framework of the strategy (hubspot.com).
- Attract, the stage where you reach your target audience with a specific message in the hope of later turning them into a customer;
- Convert, when you start working on the contact, initiating a conversation to understand what they like and what they’re looking for;
- Closing, a very delicate phase, since this is when the contact finally becomes a customer through targeted communications, built ad hoc according to their specific characteristics;
- Loyalty, the phase where the brand implements a series of nurturing actions to keep the newly created relationship “warm,” with the goal of keeping the customer as involved and engaged as possible through offers and personalized communications.
These steps can obviously be applied to any type of business. However, for tourism – and specifically that resulting from digital transformation – a slightly different division has been identified, capable of capturing and highlighting the particular characteristics and needs of this sector.
This division, proposed by Solimar International, an agency specializing in tourism promotion, involves 5 phases:
- The dream, which is based on the fact that most of the time the idea of the trip is inspired by content that is seen on the internet and on social media specifically;
- Planning, which always takes place on the internet thanks to the tools made available by digital transformation, such as aggregator sites for offers, dedicated Facebook pages, and so on;
- Booking, which now takes place in a completely autonomous and automated way, always through the internet and without the need for interaction with human operators (cmo.adobe.com);
- The experience, i.e. the stay or in general the use of the service. Compared to the normal dynamics of inbound marketing, this is undoubtedly a phase of enormous value. In fact, it is necessary that the service offered is memorable, so that the tourist not only wants to relive it but is driven to want to share it with others. Even in this case, digital tools are able to improve the experience, making it more immersive and efficient. For example, think about the IoT integrated in rooms or in the development of specific applications to manage check-in, check-out, payments, and much more.
- Sharing, which is actually a fundamental part of the experience, since most of those who travel publish at least one piece of content related to their vacations, consciously or unconsciously influencing other users (martech.zone).
Through this structure, we can ask ourselves which tools are needed to build an effective inbound marketing strategy for tourism.
On closer inspection, there is not just one tool, there are several, sometimes wide-ranging and sometimes specific to the five phases outlined above.
Content to imagine: social media and blogs
For the first phase, the one more related to an aspirational component of the journey, there are two main tools to use: social networks and blogs.
Both are useful in creating a clear digital identity that is easily recognizable by the user.
In addition, both of these tools are extremely effective when it comes to attracting the attention of tourists, enticing them to find out more about a particular destination.
On social networks, for example, you can open an Instagram profile and collect the photos of customers who have visited your facility over time, or use it to share little-known aspects of your area in an emotional way (in this sense, VisitScotland and Airbnb are two great examples).
As far as the blog is concerned, you can imagine writing a series of useful articles that give advice and suggestions to a certain target of travelers that you have previously identified.
Clearly, even in the case of the blog it is necessary that the articles create curiosity in the user, so that the same is driven to discover more, thanks to the strategic use of themes, phrases, or keywords of interest to the audience.
In essence, the keyword is relevance: You will need to create relevant content that is perceived as useful by tourists-users, so that they want to read more and more.
In this way, even when you want to include more commercial information in your article or post, this will not be perceived as invasive, but rather as a natural enrichment of the topic you’re discussing.
If you do it yourself, you must be found
Since the search and booking of flights and hotels now takes place independently, it is essential for all operators in the sector to be easily found by users.
This is why it is essential to put in place an appropriate SEO strategy in order to make your website and content more findable to those who search for products or services on Google.
This requires, first of all, an analysis phase to understand how searches are made, which are the most used keywords, and the hottest topics on the web.
Next, you need to insert the right keywords in your content, so that it is more easily “recalled” when these words are searched on the web, remembering to insert meaningful Title Tags and a short but effective Meta Description.
Add to this the care of the content itself, which must be built in a simple and authentic way, using relevant and traceable information through a link to improve the indexing of the page.
Another way to improve indexing is to insert multimedia content, such as videos, accompanied by interesting descriptions: this will not only make the site more pleasant, but will increase user engagement, which can increase the reputation of your brand.
Being interesting is not enough for a booking
Obviously, SEO optimization and publishing interesting content is not enough to be noticed by users: for this reason, a good inbound marketing strategy should also include the activation of a Google Ads campaign.
Through this tool, you can create advertisements that allow your business to appear among the top search results.
You can tie the appearance of these ads to the use of certain keywords or to the tracking of user searches in order to reach only those users who have shown interest in a certain destination or a certain type of experience.
Google Ads is a fundamental tool for developing a consistent and pervasive online presence, but while it may seem easy to use, it actually requires considerable experience, a long-term strategic vision, and a thorough analysis phase.
Not everything ends with the journey
As mentioned above, a key phase of an inbound marketing strategy is the journey, which must be made unique and memorable.
In this way, good memories are created in the mind of the tourist, and in doing so the tourist is encouraged to share their experience with others, becoming, in a sense, an “ambassador” of a brand or business.
For this reason, it is necessary to put in place a series of actions that support this behavior. If you have a blog, for example, show guest comments; if you have a social media profile, repost and share the content made by users, and insert a specific CTA that invites tourists to publish using hashtags or special tags for your business or brand.
Keep in touch
Obviously, loyalty doesn’t happen only through social networks. An acquired customer must always be followed and reached cyclically by relevant content that is able to increase engagement and keep the interest alive.
That’s why, within your inbound marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to also include email marketing activities, to let users know about offers and new services available.
It is essential, however, that the emails with which you contact customers are highly personalized and appealing, in terms of graphics, message, or offer: this will make the tourist feel important, a positive connection that will create a strong bond with the business.