By: Arialdo Piatti, MD and Head of Product, travel audience
Even as economies around the world begin to roll out vaccination programs, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon the travel industry has been profound. The number of available destinations can change daily depending on where you are traveling from, and visitors may wish to shorten or extend their stays depending on changing travel regulations. Destinations Marketing Organisations (DMOs) hoping to attract visitors to their region have found that visitor demographics have changed, requiring new strategies to capture visitor interest.
Throughout the pandemic, looking at the search and booking data from online travel agents confirmed that many people still had a desire to travel and were searching for new travel experiences, even during lockdowns. This same insight allows destination marketers to target potential visitors who have searched for specific destinations with highly targeted online advertising; this can help to grow the demand for these destinations, and the advertising campaigns can also be used to provide up-to-date travel information directly to the visitors.
Inform, Then Attract
This is illustrated by a campaign that travel audience, an Amadeus company, ran for Marketing Greece, the DMO for Greece, in the summer of 2020. The campaign began raising awareness of the country as a holiday destination by targeting visitors through digital advertising with a #StaySafe tagline, reminding them to stay at home while travel was still impossible due to lockdowns. This messaging was changed to a #SeeYouSoon message once international borders were opened to tourists, reinforcing the guidelines set by national authorities.
After this campaign, Greece received more attention from prospective visitors in the autumn than it had in past years. Greece’s peak season is usually the summer season but in 2020, searches for holidays in the autumn months showed that the relative demand share that Greece held among European destinations was higher than it was in 2019. The campaign generated a 0,26% Click-through Rate (CTR) for the display ads. The video ads fared even better with an amazing 0,73% CTR across 7 weeks. This resulted in a 25% market share increase for Greece when compared to other destinations in Southern Europe.
The success of the campaign was confirmed as 43% of travelers booking a trip to Greece did so within two days of seeing the advertising outreach, ultimately helping to sustain the destination and reduce concerns about overcrowding by targeting different segments of travellers at different times.
The online search data was helpful in identifying interested visitors for online advertising, but it is also extremely important in helping destinations to identify the markets they are competing with. As part of this campaign, travel audience was able to analyse visitor search behaviour to identify top search markets. This analysis showed that different Greek islands were competing against each other for a dominant market share, rather than other countries, allowing Marketing Greece to plan their strategy accordingly.
Divide and conquer
travel audience also recently worked on a campaign with Courmayeur, a town and holiday resort at the foot of Mont Blanc in the Italian Alps with streets lined with culinary hotspots and luxury boutiques. Although it usually attracts visitors all throughout the year, its peak season occurs between December and April, when ski season is at its height. Between December 2020 and January 2021, travel audience and Courmayeur teamed up to launch an awareness campaign for the destination, aimed at attracting new visitors to the region. Similar to the campaign that was run by Marketing Greece, the focus of the campaign was shifted towards keeping potential visitors’ interest in the destination high after a pandemic-related travel ban was imposed.
An analysis of online search behaviour showed that there was still a lot of interest in the prospect of travel, but pandemic travel restrictions in 2020 had increased competition between destinations to attract visitors when borders were open. travel audience was able to establish Courmayeur’s competitors by using online search data to identify audiences interacting with destinations with similar offerings online – mainly other mountainous regions known for skiing and hiking. This data was then used to identify targets for online advertising, encouraging prospective visitors to choose Courmayeur for a holiday.
travel audience used data to identify different segments of potential travelers based on the reason behind their travels. Both video advertising and display advertising were aimed at prospective visitors with an interest in winter sports, ski lovers, those with an interest in adventure and sports more generally, as well as those who were already searching for travel to the Italian Alps.
Relatively early in the campaign, regular monitoring of performance data showed that the video advertising was performing better than the display advertising when it came to click-through rates. This prompted the Courmayeur DMO to shift the focus of the advertising campaign towards video. The video advert ended up receiving approximately 1.4 million impressions, with almost 758 thousand of those identified as unique impressions. The video itself had a viewability rate of 89%, and 60% of those who were targeted with the video watched it in its entirety. Overall, the campaign was extremely successful in terms of building brand awareness for the destination and enhancing Courmayeur’s competitiveness as a destination.
Above all, the data shows that despite the difficult circumstances of the past year, consumers continue to dream about travel. Having been grounded for so long, many will jump at the chance to travel again. But in order to capture their attention and stand out from the competition, destinations need to ensure their marketing strategies are up-to-date, respectful of the travel environment, and highly sensitive. Digital marketing can help achieve this.