As we arrive into 2024, many tourism businesses are wondering what’s on the horizon, and how they can maximize their marketing dollars to drive the most bookings. As of this writing, I can confidently say (barring any new variant) that COVID is no longer a factor. The post-pandemic travel rebound has come and gone, that pent-up demand has been quenched and many of those workers who left the industry have come back. It’s a lot like 2019 again. Except it isn’t.
Here we’ll look at some of the key trends in the industry, particularly in the adventure travel and luxury travel segments, and how to take advantage of them in your travel marketing.
Marketing Strategy Will Be More Important Than Ever
The seismic shift we’ve seen post-covid means much of what worked before, won’t work now. Spend some time to go back to the basics and do some deep customer research. This could involve questionnaires, guest and staff interviews, and a look at your analytics and demographic data. Even better, do this on your competitor’s guests too (yep, there are sophisticated tools to do that) to create comprehensive pictures of your best guests.
Once you’ve done that, take a hard look at the core messaging and the content you currently have on your website and social channels. Is there a disconnect? Remember, if your prospective guests can’t tell the difference between your business and your competitor’s, they’ll just go with the cheapest option, even at the higher end of the market. It pays to differentiate and figure this out.
Investing in a strategic marketing plan will help you attract the right guests, select the best marketing channels, save money and ultimately get you more bookings.
Boomers are Aging Out
The luxury adventure travel market has traditionally been dominated by baby boomers. Here I’m talking about high-end fishing lodges, eco-lodges, wildlife safaris, and polar expeditions—you get the picture. But a common refrain I keep hearing from those business owners is that their guests keep getting older and there’s not enough new blood coming in.
What worked for boomers won’t necessarily work for Gen-X and older affluent millennials. Your marketing must segment your audiences or you’ll be attracting the wrong guests or no guests at all. It comes down to creating the right content to reach those younger demographics.
Focus on More Direct Bookings
Generally, younger guests are more comfortable booking directly with tour operators, versus older guests who prefer to book through travel agents. If your business model is set up so all your bookings come through agents, maybe it’s time to try a hybrid model and increase your share of direct bookings (and profitability).
Even if you are intent on working only through agents, expect your prospective guests to check out your website, branding, content, and social channels, so having the right strategy is still essential.
The Rise of AI in Tourism
Chat GPT and other generative AIs are already revolutionizing the travel industry (and just about every industry). From trip recommendations and custom itineraries to booking airline tickets and creating and managing Google Ads and Meta Ads, AI will soon permeate every part of the travel industry. Your competitors are likely already using AI, so if you are not, it’s time to get cracking.
For tourism businesses, AI can be a boon for creating content, but if unchecked it will be passable at best, and if done wrong, downright awful.
While AI is great for many things, one thing humans still excel at is storytelling. To show off your knowledge and expertise, you need someone who truly understands your tourism business. Find those great stories that robots cannot. Invite travel writers and influencers on your trips to tell them. Those stories will prove your authority in your niche and help earn your guests’ trust.
One of the best ways to use AI here is for ‘ideas’. Use prompts like ‘create a marketing content calendar for a ‘your niche’ tour operator who runs trips to ‘your destination’ and see what comes up. Then, use that for inspiration and make sure it fits your brand, SEO strategy and of course is super interesting for your potential guests and get to work creating content. Then share it on your website, partner sites, and social media and look for other channels and content forms like video, images, blog posts, and podcasts, to extend its reach.
Sustainable Travel Is Essential
All segments of the tourism industry must demonstrate a commitment to the environment. This is especially important in the luxury travel market. Climate change is real, and on the top of consumers’ minds these days, so if your competitor has a green certification and you don’t they have an advantage and you’re leaving money on the table. But beyond labels and certifications show off what you are doing in your community, how your tourism business is essential to and benefits the local economy. This can be great fodder for stories, so be on the lookout and invite others to tell them too.
Adventure Travel and Nature Experiences Rule
Adventure travel continues to grow in popularity every year. Fewer people are opting for lazy pool and beach vacations and more are wanting to go mountain biking, skiing, scuba diving, hiking, and more. Even if you’re a hotel or lodge, and don’t offer those activities, your guests these days want more than a bed and pool. So work with partner operators to offer outdoor and nature experiences and find stories to tell.
What Doesn’t Change is the Most Important Thing
One of my favorite quotes is this one by Jeff Bezos when asked about the changes he sees in the future. What’s more important is “what’s not going to change in the next 10 years,” he replied. Your guests aren’t buying a heli-ski holiday, fly fishing vacation or wildlife safari. They are seeking a transformation, lifelong memories and oftentimes, the status that goes along with an adventure to a far-flung destination. Ultimately, it’s about the ‘experience’ and you must be able to capture that fully in your marketing.
Nail the strategy and the right tactics will follow. SEO, Google and Meta Ads, social media and email marketing will continue to play a major role this year and beyond. Despite all the industry upheavals, AI and new digital marketing tactics out there, much remains the same.
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 2024, Contact us for a free consultation.