The travel industry is in a state of serious disruption and, as a result, so is travel content marketing. Navigating this upheaval is an ongoing challenge for today’s marketers.
Fortunately, the major trends in this disruption can be readily identified and even offer great opportunities for brands, so creating compelling travel content around them should be within easy reach.
Disruption and travel content marketing
The disruption affecting the modern travel industry might look like a brick wall in everyone’s path. The chaos caused by COVID-19, rapidly changing business models affected by digital, the increasing priority placed on sustainability and more mean old approaches need to change.
Travel businesses are also working in new innovative ways and new digital startups are putting pressure on traditional corporate travel models. For example, Travelperk raised over $160 million to fund its growth. Meanwhile, traditional businesses are also necessarily collaborating with tech businesses; American Express Global Business Travel bought into Lola which uses Kayak’s sales force, while Flight Centre is involved with Upside to access its technology.
Today’s travel-focussed companies are learning to live amid this new landscape and many are thriving. Content is often a key part of their success because how the consumer engages with the travel industry is rapidly evolving too.
Now, the emphasis is shifting in favour of longer-term relationships built on a regular supply of content.
Check out four travel content trends post-Covid.
Travel content and the consumer
The sales process can now involve taking inspiration from digital travel content such as Instagram posts and engaging with it before, during and after a trip. With the average social media user now spending two hours and 25 minutes per day online at last report (We Are Social Digital 2021 Global Overview Report), this is hardly a surprise. A customer might become part of a brand community at any of those stages too, whether consciously or otherwise, and their activity might prompt interest by others as well.
Discover our work on Brand Communities
In this model, the sales process becomes more of a slow burn than a sudden ignition. It can be excruciatingly slow and imprecise – according to Skift:
“The average traveller spends 53 days looking at 28 different websites before they make a travel purchase.”
...but the end result is still a sale. As a bonus, with enjoyable travel content becoming part of a low-pressure routine for the consumer too, the probability of repeat business is helpfully boosted.
The role of travel content
Content’s role in prompting travel in the first place must be understood. Despite digital fatigue caused by the pandemic, content around travel, experiences, hospitality and the prospect of simply switching everything off holds a lot of appeal.
The sentiment of “After what we’ve been through, all we wanted is to get pampered, enjoy delicious and healthy food, and be away from it all” highlighted in Sean O’Neill’s examination of the recovery in the luxury economy is a very understandable one, isn’t it?
But that also means there are opportunities for brands with websites, blogs and social media channels of any kind which focus on travel.
The right mix of relevance, helpfulness and understanding – not just box-ticking ‘personalisation’ by algorithm – can be crucial in helping to create a genuine connection.
Content can be used as part of any acquisition and retention approach and as a useful tool for any sales or customer services agenda. Directing someone to compelling travel content such as a useful resource or an interesting video, for example, may be all it takes to turn a speculative inquiry into a solid sale.
And when it comes to post-Covid specifics?
“Travellers are ready to see images and content of people and groups together and activities that they maybe couldn’t do during the pandemic, people are ready for that tone that is a little bit higher energy,” says Gio Palatucci, director of research at Sparkloft via their 2021 Traveller Sentiment Report.
While safety is important, post-Covid travellers know it’s part of the logistics they will need to figure out in the new world.
Travel content ideas
There’s also a pressing need to recognise that customers look beyond just the travel industry and travel content needs to reflect this.
Sustainability is a relatively recent addition to the vocabulary of the travel sector, but is an increasing consideration for consumers. Being able to provide assurances through well-handled content that a trip will not cause environmental harm and may even provide an opportunity to do good is a worthwhile investment of time and attention.
Millennials and Generation Z in particular place a high priority on environmental considerations, so any travel content directed at these demographics should consider sustainability to be a major priority.
Similarly, older demographics who are now entering middle age or even advanced age should be remembered too and this audience will naturally appreciate travel content that meets their needs. Including coverage of health and wellness as a part of travel, for example, may be a worthwhile avenue for content creators – to be uncomfortable would mar a trip, after all.
Research by Sparkloft suggests that any content must tug on the heartstrings with messages about reconnection, or appeal to solo travellers with images of valuable travel experiences; escapism, spontaneity and the charm of the countryside.
Meanwhile, in a post-Covid world, it's important to address the concerns of potential customers; guides on lockdowns, restricted activities and vaccine legislation would be invaluable (and need to be updated as things change).
Content and subscriptions
If you’re running any kind of subscription service, then content is a vital part of the mix.
Subscriptions and memberships are now being regarded as a compelling way for travel companies to create those longer-lasting relationships with consumers. A package could include not only concierge services like restaurant reservations, local experiences, deliveries and reliable ground transportation but also compelling digital content which brings the city or locale to life.
Only TripAdvisor has really cracked the concept of building a direct relationship with customers over digital platforms on a daily basis - so far - and the Hyatt is innovating within the subscription space, but there’s a real opportunity for travel brands and hotel chains to also make a name for themselves within this space.
Find out more about hotel content marketing.
Change is the only constant, so adapting to the new realities is essential.
It will be necessary to adapt to your brand’s unique circumstances, of course, but creating effective travel content for your brand should now be centred on building long-term relevance.
Exactly what this means in context can be flexible; from a relaxed brand-customer relationship where someone reads a blog or follows a particular affiliated writer for their ideas and advice, to a brand curating a user-generated gallery of fantastic photos or videos via social media.
Whatever the method, keeping a customer within the orbit of the brand for as long as possible is the main objective, not just driving them towards the sales funnel in hope of a transaction. Why sell someone only one holiday when you could also sell them one next year and the year after that as well?
In the end, this evolution of the industry’s approach to travel content is still based on one of marketing’s fundamental principles. While any given sale will have an exact, immediate value, it is the customer’s ongoing goodwill that is priceless.