While attending a session on travel by the Advertising Club of New York’s Vertical Series, three marketing experts from TripAdvisor, Celebrity Cruises and Hawaiian Air discussed trends they are seeing as 2016 approaches. As the second half of the year unfolds, here are four trends travel marketing professionals are paying attention to (and so should you).
Trend #1: The Rise of “Bleisure” Travel
You could blame rule-bending millennials or the increasing importance workers are putting on a work-life balance. But these days, business travelers are combining more leisure into their business trips. Consumers are extending trips over the weekend, often bringing the family along. They arrive at the airport early and hit the lounge longer. They are always connected, thanks to in-flight Wi-Fi. Plus, they aren’t stuck in some nondescript hotel business center; while on the road they are getting work done in a café, at a restaurant, in a park – basically anywhere. The trend of mixing business and pleasure is really taking off, and marketers would do well to recognize how to cater to those who want more “life” out of work. Astute companies across the travel landscape should start adopting lifestyle messaging in their marketing in 2016.
Trend #2: Travel Is Getting More Mobile
Mobile is becoming bigger and there’s no turning back. It’s wonderful and convenient and provides access to consumers the travel industry has never experienced before. Celebrity Cruises VP Lisa Kauffman says keeping its passengers connected is key. Connected passengers not only have a more enjoyable experience, but they also share more of their trip with friends and family while acting as influential brand ambassadors. Increasingly more vacation destinations are offering mobile companion apps that enhance and open experiences by providing additional content and, according to David Elkins, senior director of advertising for TripAdvisor, ways to stay connected with their traveling companions. Mobile also enables brands to create more immersive and tailored experiences with their consumers.
Trend #3: Experiential Travel Marketing Is Exploding
Segmentation is more sophisticated than ever, moving marketers closer to the coveted one-to-one marketing holy grail. Experiential marketing not only helps brands become more personal, but it also lets them stand out. Hawaiian Airlines has hosted hula-dancing shows in New York City, built artificial beaches in the middle of bustling Beijing, and produced other pop-up performances in unexpected places. According to Avi Mannis, SVP of marketing at Hawaiian Airlines, these initiatives have helped the company cut through the noise and compete with bigger airlines. It’s more than creating a message. It’s about crafting an authentic experience that leaves people wanting more.
Trend #4: It’s All Seamless
Researching, planning, booking venues, cars and excursions, inviting friends, cataloging, remembering – people are completing the entire travel experience on one site, according to Elkins. With the explosion of mobile and on-the-go consumers is an expectation of a comprehensive, seamless experience when booking travel plans. But keep in mind that it takes 80-plus days for the average consumer to make just two travel decisions. Thinking that the last touchpoint is the selling point is outdated. The entire experience is the selling point. Booking opportunities are everywhere.
Whether you’re in the travel and leisure business, or simply want to get in front of travelers, it’s important to remember how challenging this landscape is. It’s never-ending and continually changing. All told, in order to stand out, travel marketers must create moments of human relevance and authenticity in unexpected places. They must craft seamless, mobile experiences for consumers; and most important, knowing where the trends are headed is sure to keep the guesswork out and produce a media plan worth remembering.