Blue Monday is here! Festivities are long behind us and the cold winter weather seems to be never-ending. So, what better way to beat the January blues than planning your summer holidays? Deemed the most depressing day of the year, travel bookings are set to surge as Brits have driven a 75% increase in sales since the start of the year, compared to the same period in 2022.
The increase in demand brings with it certain marketing pressures, as travel brands compete for consumers looking to flee the cold. Whilst every traveller has their own holiday plans, hot-weather destinations like Spain, Greece, Turkey and the U.S. see the most of this Blue Monday traffic. However, the current economic climate means that consumers are having to be more savvy with their spending, especially when it comes to luxuries like holidays. This increases competitive pressures within the travel market, forcing brands to rethink their marketing strategies for the year ahead.
Creating a refined travel marketing strategy for 2023 will be challenging, especially with the changing market, which will influence both the messaging and medium. Let’s take a look at the top 5 trends that travel marketers should be aware of to maximise their brand success.
What’s in this article?
As the cost of living crisis takes hold, it’s expected that many UK consumers will minimise their travel spending, cutting back on trips abroad. This will likely mean a decrease in international holidays but will also impact those who do travel abroad, shifting the market’s focus towards more budget-friendly travel.
For those who are planning to holiday abroad this year, the travel industry can expect to see a shift toward budget-friendly holidays. According to ABTA’s 2022 Holiday Trends report, 35% of holiday-makers are opting for cheaper holidays to reduce costs, as a result of the current economic climate.
One effective example of a brand adapting to this change in the travel market is TUI’s ‘Next Summer Sorted’ campaign. This campaign has seen the brand introduce fixed pricing, which can be paid in instalments, allowing budget-conscious travellers to book holidays in a financially considerate way.
Companies can seek to incorporate these themes into their marketing campaigns for the year ahead by focusing on affordability in their USPs. It is also vital to ensure payment solutions are available for customers to spread the cost of their holiday over a longer period of time. A major advantage of this climate is the waning of brand loyalty in favour of budget-friendly options. This highlights the importance of paid advertising to attract new customers, alongside loyalty schemes to retain existing users.
Environmental concerns amongst the public have been on the rise for several years now, with 75% of UK adults worried about the impact of climate change. Globally, the ecotourism market is now worth $200.8 billion, with projections set to grow over the next four years as travellers seek to mitigate their carbon footprint. As a result, consumers are scrutinising companies and are willing to explore alternative brands regardless of loyalty. Ecotourism seeks to address this gap, providing climate-concerned consumers with a range of travel options that will not conflict with their environmental concerns.
Sawday’s is a leading example of this approach with their proudly-held B Corp status. It was the first travel company to become a registered B Corp and one of only 5 majority employee-owned companies to achieve the accolade. Sawday’s plans to become carbon-negative by 2025 and its focus on tree planting is perfectly aligned with the travel industry’s drive towards sustainability.
One major priority for travel companies to avoid is greenwashing. This is a widely condemned approach when companies merely adopt the imagery or language of environmentalism, without actually aligning their practices with the cause. Luckily, mitigating this is quite simple, for example, committing to tree-planting schemes can be an affordable solution.
Travel companies should focus on pushing their eco values as part of their key USPs. All messaging that is output should be aligned with the brand’s eco-friendly pledges. Another option for brands in this space is to partner with influencers that are known for their environmental activism.
However, travel companies should be cautious when partnering with other businesses, as working with greenwashing brands or those with high pollution outputs can be seriously damaging for the brand. In this instance, crisis management may be required and brands will need to work closely with digital PR teams to rectify the damage.
Micro-influencers can be an invaluable asset when it comes to promoting travel brands. Classified as having between 10,000 and 100,000 followers, micro-influencers typically have much higher engagement levels with members of their community compared to larger influencers. Perhaps more crucially, micro-influencers can establish deep-rooted trust with their followers and can impact their purchasing decisions. In fact, 37% of consumers trust social media influencers over brands, with Gen Z most likely to discover products and services this way. Creators like this are often much more affordable than larger influencers and sometimes will even post for free in exchange for a holiday or discount code for their followers.
A great example of this approach is British Airways’ ‘UnGrounded’ campaign, in which the airline flew 100 technology experts, including a variety of micro-influencers, from Silicon Valley to London. During the flight, they brainstormed concepts for a new platform to help technologists like themselves address social issues globally, demonstrating the power of bringing people together in one room. This campaign effectively illustrated the value of flying whilst also getting coverage from several tech news outlets, enabling them to hone in on tech industry business travellers.
Companies can work with micro-influencers regularly by directly reaching out, as many do not have agents. The key is to select influencers that embody certain aspects of your organisation’s USPs. Another option is to use the content created by these influencers in your own campaign. This can be effective to generate buzz around your brand, as you can display many different influencers positively discussing your brand in high-quality audio or video clips, which can make an effective advertising campaign.
Personalisation is a key factor that will determine a brand’s success in the travel industry in 2023. Since the global pandemic in 2020, regional market nuances have become more distinct, which can be seen from their varying responses to the cost of living crisis. Travel brands should seek to localise their content and messaging with this in mind, combining an intimate understanding of their core audience with an affiliate publisher’s local knowledge.
Airbnb uses personalisation effectively by offering their app and website in over 60 different languages, while also going above and beyond by translating user-created content like reviews and listings. This gives users a more intimate experience with the brand, contributing to their global success.
Personalisation is an invaluable tool, allowing brands to explore new markets and can be hugely rewarding, especially when partnering with local publishers. According to research from Salesforce, 52% of consumers expect offers and promotions to be personalised, illustrating that companies must use customer data insights and behavioural science to appeal to users. A whole host of demographic insights can be harnessed from Google Analytics, allowing for endless personalisation in Paid Media ads, organic and user-generated content for businesses looking to invest in diversifying their approach.
Video content is an invaluable tool in travel marketing, enabling your brand to entice consumers through emotional connections, in a way that simply cannot be matched by other types of content. In the UK, video ad spending is estimated to reach $11.26 billion during 2023 and video content gets over 45% more engagement than similar posts with just images. But why is this?
Unlike other types of content marketing, video content can trigger mirror neurons within the audience. This allows them to experience the emotions of the people they are watching, and, therefore, vicariously experience the holiday. It can make a very powerful impression in such a short period of time.
A good example of this approach can be seen in Visit Scotland’s 2021 video: “Scotland, Yours to Enjoy. Responsibly.”. This video highlights the serenity and natural beauty of Scotland, while also advocating for environmental concern from travellers. As a result, the full impact of Scotland’s natural beauty can be absorbed by the user and the underlying message remains significant throughout, especially with younger audiences.
Creating video content for your brand is thoroughly worthwhile and is often not as expensive as businesses might fear. Compiling a series of pictures to tell a story and recording an experience using body cams and drones can be cost-effective solutions, creating equally powerful content. It can then be atomised further into captioned pictures, short-form video and GIFs to further aid in dissemination.
This year is expected to bring with it a myriad of changes for the travel industry, from the consolidation of existing trends like video content and ecotourism to new trends, such as prioritising value-based marketing and personalisation.
However, all travel marketers must define their goals to reflect these market trends if they wish to meet their KPIs. Carefully constructing your brand’s core messaging and planning your content in-line with this will provide the foundations of success in 2023. Travel marketing is typically emotionally-driven and offers consumers an escape from an increasingly stressful world. Leading with an emotional connection and focusing on the sense of ‘freedom’ will play into your brand’s USPs.
In 2023, travel companies should build new and maintain existing relationships with consumers. Travel brands will need to go the extra mile to capitalise on the lack of brand loyalty that is driven by cost-conscious purchases.