As the unofficial kickoff to spring and summer travel season starts with Spring Break, colleges and many private schools have gotten 2022 off to a start this week. Over the next 12-16 weeks, DMOs, resorts and attractions can expect to see a robust travel market. According to a recent Allison+Partners survey, more than half (56%) of Americans are planning a trip this Spring and 37% are planning to travel during Spring Break specifically—an increase from the 29% who were traveling for spring break 2021. As the US and the world manage both a pent-up demand for travel and an element of “revenge,” it is important travel marketers have a visitor data strategy in place to take full advantage of the market’s return.
Last year, many travel marketers we spoke with were ecstatic to see visitors returning to levels not seen since 2019. However, they were caught off guard and many failed to have data capture strategies in place. Let’s not make that mistake again! According to Destination Analysts, among upcoming Spring Break travelers, just under half (48.2%) have selected the specific destination they will visit, marking a notable opportunity for marketers to reach and convert those who are still in the destination decision phase. When asked which types of destinations they are likely to visit on Spring Break, in good news for urban recovery, 42.9% will head to cities. Meanwhile, 37.3% plan to visit beach destinations and 28.4% will be visiting small towns or rural attractions. This research tells us that travelers are coming and you have a chance to learn a lot about them. Here are four best practices we recommend for the upcoming return of travelers in your market that can kick-off your 2022.
1) Invest In A Central Data Resource – I don’t mean monetarily, although depending on your level of data capture and maturity, that’s not a bad idea. I mean invest in the sense of your time or staff time in creating a central data resource regardless of budget or sophistication. Whether you keep visitor and inquirer data in an Excel spreadsheet, Google Docs, store data in Dropbox, use Mailchimp or Constant Contact or invest in a formal CRM like HubSpot, Marketo or others. It’s 2022, there are countless options available to you and NOW is the time to get serious about data capture. I joke with clients, you can be a good marketer regardless of whether you have a digital shoebox of names or a premium version of SalesForce. It’s time to get serious!
2) Segmentation – as Seth Godin says, “everyone is not your customer”. With data capture comes the ability to segment and message. It allows you to understand the who, what, where and why of consumer behavior. Understanding the interests and demographics of your visitors helps allocate marketing expenses and better measure ROI. We’ve got way too many marketing channels at our disposal to not be efficient and effective with our strategic and deployment resources.
3) Personalization – There is overwhelming evidence of the value of personalization in tourism marketing; increase in occupancy by 20%, increased engagement by 15% and increased marcomm ROI by 150%. How? By deploying tailored recommendations across social media, targeted emails, personalized text and retargeting, just to name a few. According to data from Sabre, 83% of customers expect relevant information and recommended products based on their personal preferences. 36% of customers are more likely to pay a higher price for travel experiences based on their own behavior profiles (source: Think with Google). It’s time to recognize the value of personalization and integrate it in your marketing plan.
4) Test & Learn – How many times have you heard this one? Well, have you done it? While many may shudder at the mere mention of OTAs in the travel sector, their growth has been predicated on a key methodology – Test & Learn. Test and learn is so ingrained in Expedia’s culture, its brand marketing team leader describes her campaign activity as “science experiments”. “We are very test and learn, and everything we do has an ROI and focus in mind,” says Expedia marketing director, Louise Crompton. “We use that as a lens to make our decisions. “We will set a hypothesis, record observations, and build a methodology framework for how we test that.”
While many DMOs and hospitality companies have assembled countless data points about their customers, they haven’t figured out an actionable understanding of the data. Regardless of where you stand on the adoption curve, there is no denying we all have data, and it’s time to turn it into meaningful insight for your customers and to help you make better decisions. It starts by embracing the four best practices above and making 2022 your best year ever.