Put yourself in the shoes of one of your customers planning some travel. We know travel inspiration can come from everywhere and the shopping process can take days, months or even years.
So say you find the film The Way on Netflix - suddenly you find yourself embarking on a travel shopping experience, whether you’d call it that or not. You might start with a search for the Camino, you might look for guided trips, you might be worried about what to take and how to get there. You might also be planning out a year in advance.
Google tells us people can spend up to 13% of their time thinking and planning a trip. So we know what happens - the shopper picks up the closest device and starts the process. Every traveler has an underlying need when they start this process. It could be a holiday for a young family, it might be a short romantic getaway or in this case, let's say it’s a journey of spiritual discovery.
So your customer's journey starts. It’s all search-based and it’s done over a long period of time. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/travel-experience-marketing/
Greenberg research shows that in the 12 weeks leading up to a trip, there are 3X more experience searches than hotel searches and 8X more experience searches than air searches. And while hotel, air, and car bookings peak six weeks prior to a trip, Greenberg found that experience searches remain stable in volume throughout the 12 weeks leading up to a trip.
Even after making a purchase people carry on research in the hope of finding something better. So from the marketer's point of view, this is chaos. The things marketers rely on to help their planning just don’t exist. We don’t have a standard customer journey, we don’t even have a standard customer most of the time.
Lots of travel and experience providers deal with this by working with the Online Travel Agencies and Aggregators but this has its limitations. You are one of many when often what you do is highly targeted at a specific niche, and it’s pretty expensive after you pay a commission.
Fortunately, digital marketing tools have been built for the local business with something special to sell. These tools are made for small local businesses. They have changed the game because they are aimed at a business like yours - local and a specialist. Google allows you to ensure that when someone does a search for a specific term - for example where can I find cheap accommodation in St John Pier du Port, private kayaking safari on the Limpopo - your business can be presented to that customer.
When that person looks at your business they may or may not convert to a booking. Often this is because they are just not ready. Facebook and Google provide the tools to remind the customer you exist. They also give you the opportunity to show reviews of happy customers. Let's assume someone buys from you. You have the opportunity to get their email and communicate with them over a long period of time. The marketing tools available to travel business to get direct business at an effective cost - often less than the commissions you are paying and because they have been to your site they are less likely to cancel - they know exactly who you are and what you do.