Following two years of pandemic bust, 2022 was a boom year for many tourism businesses. With massive pent-up demand and a lack of competition (from those operators that didn’t survive) it was for some, their best year on record. But as travel demand wanes, and more people and operations return to work in the industry, what’s next?
Eye-popping inflation, a war in Europe and constant predictions of ‘recession,’ have most tourism business owners feeling a bit nervous right now.
Here are some of the key trends and insights to keep an eye on in the world of tourism marketing for 2023, particularly in the higher end of the travel market.
From Bust to Boom to Long Hard Climb Back
This past week I attended a tourism forecasting webinar from Tourism Vancouver, where they shared their most recent data and research on the tourism market and expectations for 2023 and beyond. Now, this data will not apply to every destination or activity, but it really matched up well with what I’m seeing and hearing lately.
The ‘Economy’ is now more of a consideration for travel than covid.
That’s right, the survey data shows the economy is the biggest thing affecting people’s willingness to book travel right now. So if you’re worried about whether guests will come based on your covid protocols, or the latest variant XBB1.5, don’t be. Instead, worry about those interest rates and inflation numbers.
But, things are not as bad as they seem.
Travel bookings didn’t fall off a cliff at the end of last summer, like some people think. Far from it. Bookings continued to be very strong for the last quarter of 2022, and the first quarter of this year. And they are looking solid right through 2023 and beyond. But what we’re seeing is people tend to be planning further ahead, but booking shorter term as they adjust to prices and grab deals, and this trend may continue for the next few years.
Countries to Watch in 2023
Despite a worsening economy, the US has benefitted from a strong dollar and still has a large contingent of affluent travelers willing to pay for premium experiences. The UK, Australia and Mexico also show good signs of outbound travel recovery. The lingering covid and economic woes in Asia mean major markets like China are still way down, and likely will be for another two years before rebounding. Similarly, the war in Ukraine is having a negative effect on most of western Europe. We are advising clients to focus strongly on the affluent US traveler, especially where currency arbitrage can play a role in making their trips even better value.
Gaining Market Share and New Competition
One of the big changes that came from the pandemic was the rapid rise of new industries in the leisure market, such as RVs and boats. These sectors, and others (camping, bikes) saw massive demand and profits and are now fighting to retain their market share with marketing dollars. So if you think your competition is the other luxury lodge down the road, it might be that you’re not looking far enough.
As the travel industry has reopened, we’ve also seen fierce competition amongst many higher end tourism operators. From 10K discounts on heli ski trips for new customers, to buy-now-pay-later options for luxury tours, these methods are being used by some operators to steal market share from their competitors.
Marketing Strategy and New Markets
Have you noticed a change in who your guests are since covid? If so, you’re not alone. We’ve seen a lot of new demographics really surging, such as multi-generational family travel, which was big before, but has grown in prominence. Solo travel, both men and women, is another market that has grown a lot lately.
So now is good time to work on your marketing strategy. Start by identifying your key buyer personas with some deep customer research. You may be surprised that your clients have changed. If you need help, consider hiring a tourism marketing agency. This process should also help you zero in on those attributes of your business that are most appealing to them and that should play heavily in your marketing campaigns.
What Luxury Travellers Want
Affluent travelers are looking for experiences that are unique and authentic. They want to see behind the scenes, meet locals, and experience the culture in a way that feels real and not staged.
Authentic And Immersive Experiences
Tourism businesses should focus on showcasing the authentic side of their destinations, and highlighting the unique experiences they offer. Travelers are looking for experiences that are immersive and fully engaging. This could be anything from a cooking class to a cultural festival, and you should focus on creating packages that include a variety of these tailored experiences.
As the world becomes more and more interconnected, people are looking for stories that are authentic and relatable. This is the perfect opportunity to use storytelling to create emotional connections with travelers.
Environmental concerns are becoming more and more important to all travelers, and especially at the higher end of the spectrum. Sustainable tourism is now a key trend in the industry. To appeal to this growing market, highlight the sustainable practices of your destination, such as conservation efforts, community involvement, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation options.
Transformational Natural Experiences
Adventure travel, nature experiences, and wildlife viewing and will continue to be in strong demand in 2023. In the luxury travel space, adventure activities such as polar travel, guided sea kayaking, fly fishing and stays at luxury eco-resorts can expect strong bookings. ‘Escape’ and ‘transformation’ are the key themes, so make these a part of your marketing, especially with your visual imagery.
Marketing Channels—Go Niche
By focusing on a specific group of guests, such as luxury adventure travelers or foodies, you can create highly targeted campaigns that are more likely to resonate, and also save costs rather than trying to reach a broad audience through multiple channels. This can help operators stand out from their competitors, provide a more personalized and memorable experience for customers, and ultimately drive higher conversion rates and more bookings.
For people looking for last-minute travel deals, still nothing beats Google Search Ads, so this channel will continue to play a major role in 2023. But for those guests at the top of the funnel, who are just doing research, Google Ads can be very effective too. Just make sure you have a lead magnet like a guidebook, to get them to sign up to your email list and then warm them up and move them along to purchase
Social media, especially for the higher-end of the tourism market, will continue to play an assisting role. For the best engagement, this channel should be used for showing the great community work your operation is doing.
Selling Through Agents
If you’ve heavily relied on agents to get most of your bookings, now is the time to go after more direct bookings. Here a hybrid model can make a lot of sense, so you can keep your agent sales and still get those more profitable direct bookings.
Reach New Markets with PR
If you haven’t invested in Public Relations before, now is a great time.
Travel writers are back traveling and people are consuming more travel stories than ever. Tourism PR can be a great way to unlock some new markets, especially after the pandemic. Here I recommend thinking outside the box, or outside your tour offering or destination. Are you a bike tour operator, but you have a strong culinary component? Pitch food or luxury lifestyle publications. The options with travel press are endless.
Overall, the tourism industry is facing a number of challenges and opportunities in 2023. However, by keeping an eye on these trends and adapting your marketing plan accordingly, you can continue to attract customers and drive high-value bookings.
A Results Driven Marketing Agency
Aventur Marketing is a full-service marketing and tourism PR agency with decades of expertise in the tourism industry. For help planning out your marketing for 2023, Contact Us for a free consultation.