Earlier this month, I attended the 2011 ATME conference on trends and predictions in travel marketing for 2011. The panelists, ranging from hotel chain representatives to destination marketers to airline executives, shared their new tactics and best practices, but mostly reflected on their use of social media, viewed as a tool that effectively combines public relations, sales and customer service, as well as mobile marketing.
The panelists looked at the following travel marketing trends for 2011 and beyond:
- Offering a one of a kind experience: Hugh Riley of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) shared a new social media-based tactic to promote their destinations. To increase the total number of visitors and combat the issue of dropping revenues, they introduced the ‘Whispers from locals’ initiative, offering travelers a chance to immerse into the Caribbean culture and discover “local secrets.”
- Flash Sale Sites: While most attendees knew of such sites as LivingSocial, Jetsetter and Groupon, James Zito of the Morgan Group stated that he preferred to focus the flash sales on such ancillary services as hotel spas and lounges, instead of simply offering discounted hotel rooms.
- Credible Reviews: A new study revealed that only 14% of viewers trust traditional ads. 78% trust peer recommendations and user feedback. Millions of us rely on the Zagat guide for our dining experience. The CTO recently introduced the TVS guide, an innovative approach likely to become a trend. The Total Visitor Satisfaction offers comprehensive reviews and visitor feedback for the ultimate Caribbean experience.
- Social Media-driven Sales: The issue of social media ROI was not properly addressed, in my opinion. Marketers have to realize that engaging customers in a conversation is of utmost importance to any brand, leading to brand loyalty and repeat sales. Highlighted in a recent ITB article, Airasia.com stated that 13% of their sales are now generated through the Facebook page that has over a million followers.
- Mobile: Surprisingly, mobile was not given its due credit, although it was noted that mobile was expected to be 25 times more significant than social media in the future. In our recent campaign for an airline client, we launched a mobile-friendly site specifically based on the analytics that a large audience number accessed the Internet from their smartphones.