3 Travel Marketers Break Past ‘Fun in the Sun’

Traveling the world is a thing so many aspire to do, and usually from a young age. And that exciting and romantic notion is something travel marketers have capitalized on for decades (understandably). Who doesn’t want to market something fun, sexy and exotic? Except, as of late, some travel marketers have set down the piña coladas and brochures of smiling families to instead focus their advertising creative and brand messages on their values and politics.

Traveling the world, even your own country, is a thing so many aspire to do, and usually from a young age. From Spring Break in some sunny locale, to backpacking across Europe before heading to college or honeymooning in Southeast Asia for a few weeks, the notion of travel is exciting and romantic.

Travel Not to Escape LifeAnd that notion is something travel and hospitality marketers have capitalized on for decades (understandably). Who doesn’t want to market something fun, sexy and exotic?

Except, as of late, some travel marketers have set down the piña coladas and brochures of smiling families having fun to instead focus their advertising creative and brand messages on their values and politics.

1. Airbnb’s ‘We Accept’

https://youtu.be/5qUTYHnLz2g

I briefly mentioned this commercial from Airbnb during my “What Were They Thinking?” episode about Super Bowl LI’s ads. This 30-second short proclaims simply that no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. “The world is more beautiful the more you accept,” it states, as faces from various cultures, ages and sexes are shown.

As a disruptor to the traditional hotel industry, you’d figure Airbnb’s ads would be more about finding that perfect, unique accommodation (a houseboat in Copenhagen, perhaps?), but in this case they remind us that our hosts (or our guests) are as much like us as they are not.

2. Hyatt’s ‘For a World of Understanding’

https://youtu.be/vOwVmRM9mIM

Like the Airbnb commercial I mentioned above, I also covered Hyatt’s ad in a recent “What Were They Thinking?” episode, applauding the hotel chain’s promotion of cross-culture connectivity. A 30-second version of this ad ran during The Academy Awards in late February, as part of its “For a World of Understanding” corporate brand campaign. As you watch the ad unfold, you see travelers who are in unfamiliar places, interacting with locals who, with a gesture of kindness, help make a connection and bridge a gap between cultures and languages. All the while, the ad is backed by Andra Day’s cover of “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” a hit originally by Dionne Warwick.

As someone who has been in another country, alone, who couldn’t really speak the language, this ad hit home for me. And like the travelers in Hyatt’s ad, I too had locals reach out and help me as needed, and to this day it’s always a part of the story I tell when I talk about travel — making connections and memories.

3. Expedia’s ‘Train’

This commercial from Expedia first aired on CNN on Jan. 20 during the presidential inauguration, and is the most politically charged of the three, in my opinion. The visuals Expedia chooses to show, from military checkpoints to raft-bound refugees and humanitarian protests, all the while ending with the message to “travel the world better.” In a time of such division, the marketer speaks of coming together globally, reminding us that we’re the key.

AdWeek spoke to Expedia about the commercial, and Vic Walia, senior director of brand marketing, had this to say:

We believe that travel has the power to transform you and shape your views of the world. We believe that the more each of us travel and peek over our neighbor’s fence, we learn that we have more in common than we have different. Our hope is that everyone can take this day to reflect on how they can connect to their neighbors across the country and around the world.

Now, if you look at the YouTube comments on these videos — and honestly, I rarely recommend that — you’ll see some people were not into the idea of these marketers sharing these messages. And maybe this causes them to lose some business from folks who believe there’s no place for politics in travel. But then you have TripAdvisor’s CEO Stephen Kaufer standing up against Trump’s first executive order on immigration (aka the “travel ban), making it very clear where they stand.

To me, travel is a means to making connections … connections across cultures, across languages and across borders. Sure, perhaps there’s a Mai Tai in there somewhere, or a little sprinkling of good-natured sightseeing, but when you travel, you’re entering someone else’s world. Be present. Be respectful. And as Airbnb, Hyatt and Expedia all show, be a connection.

‘Travel’ Is a Terrible Thing to Market

The oft-used statement “I like to travel” is generally a lie. The act of traveling sucks. But the places you’re going and the experiences you’re going to have are magic. That’s what people really love about traveling. And that’s a lesson all marketers should learn.

This morning we recorded our next Marketing Garage podcast with Lauren A. Koenig, one of the founders of TWIP — “Travel With Interesting People.” (She’s also going to be on our Travel and Hospitality roundtable on April 6, click here to be a part of it.)

I’m not going to spoil much of the interview, which you’ll be able to listen to next week. But one of the things she said has been on my mind all day:

“Saying you like to travel is like saying you like to breath air.” It doesn’t say anything. How do you travel? Where do you like to go? What do you like to do?

Lauren’s point is that to understand travelers — and to connect them, which is TWIP’s main business — your focus shouldn’t be on “travel,” it should be on how they travel and what they want from it.

Travel Doge This is a lesson all marketers should learn.

Travel vs. Experience

The oft-used statement “I like to travel” is mostly a lie. Who really likes to spend hours trapped in a pressurized metal tube, crammed in like sardines breathing recycled air and praying no one’s kid starts crying? Are buses, trains or cars any better for long trips? Even boats are fundamentally uncomfortable things to be stuck on for long periods of time.

travel-uncomfortableThe act of traveling sucks. But the places you’re going and the experiences you will have are magic. That’s what people really love about traveling. And that’s what marketers try to capture in travel marketing.

Traveling is just a means to an end. The word “travel” gets emphasized as the name of the industry and often as the hook for the marketing because it’s a catch-all word that describes the ordeal one goes through to have the great experience.

So when you’re describing what you do, or what you like or what you’re marketing, should your focus be on the ordeal, or on the magic at the end of it?

Travel Not to Escape Life

Hostel Marketing 101: 4 Tips for Success

I love to travel, so the opportunity to work on more travel and hospitality-specific marketing content has been a real treat. One thing I have not done yet, however, is stay in a hostel. And before you wave the idea off, hostels have come a long way since the 1970s AND not every hostel is like Eli Roth’s movie. That said, our awesome Target Marketing Group intern, Jaclyn, HAS experience with hostels and suggested a piece on them. How could I say no?

Travel DogeI love to travel, so the opportunity to work on more travel and hospitality-specific marketing content has been a real treat. I’ve met some cool people, attended a great conference focused on NY travel and helped put together a virtual panel dedicated to travel marketing in the Internet Age, hosted by one of those really cool people I met (Hint, it’s Kae Lani Kennedy and she’s seriously awesome.)

One thing I have not done yet, however, is stay in a hostel. And before you wave the idea off, hostels have come a long way since the 1970s AND not every hostel is like Eli Roth’s movie. That said, our awesome Target Marketing Group intern, Jaclyn, HAS experience with hostels and suggested a piece on them. How could I say no? So here she is, rocking your minds with four ways you can improve the marketing of your hostel.


Hostel Meme
Honestly, don’t watch it. And stop worrying, you’re going to be fine.

As a business built around low budgets and minimalism, a hostel requires crafty solutions to marketing and advertising challenges. Target prospects don’t access typical marketing channels in the same patterns as the general consumer (which is probably good news for the locals!), and cost of acquisition would most often exceed revenues from conventional tech-aided conversions.

As an avid hostel-goer, I’ve seen a lot of hostels struggle to increase guest turnover and profits because of these challenges. But I’ve also seen a lot of creative, successful marketing solutions along the way, and have become quite familiar with the backpacker/hostel-traveler demographic.

Here are four marketing ideas to help generate more business for your hostel — or offer a little inspiration for your other low-margin business.

1. Connect With the Community

Those looking to stay in hostels are looking for authentic, community-oriented, cultural experiences (jellied moose nose, anyone?). Connect with individuals and local businesses in your area and build relationships with them, so that you can later share these connections with your guests to improve their customer experience.

Use cross-promotional tactics to achieve greater word-of-mouth velocity. Your guests need to eat and want to explore your city, so offer these details — perhaps via the savvy use of well-placed fliers or a custom guidebook.

But don’t advertise these other businesses for free! Instead, approach eateries and other relevant businesses to see who’s willing to cross-promote your hostel to their customers, or recommend you to travelers getting into town.

2. Capitalize on Environmental Appeal

Environmental issues and conservation are higher priorities for this target demographic than for the general consumer. Thus, your environmental efforts will be much more appreciated by this market — so take advantage! Install shower timers, start a compost pile, encourage less paper product usage, consider installing solar panels. Or, you can get really creative and do something like installing a power-collecting dance floor to power your lights AND throw some wicked parties.

Not only will adopting eco-friendly policies boost your marketing efforts and lead to higher revenue, but your ROI should start increasing while your costs decrease (this may take a little time depending upon your initial investments on policy changes). So it’s a win-win-win — for your business, your customer and your planet.

But wait, there’s one more thing! Make sure you advertise your environmental efforts and policies both on your website and on premises. Post signs explaining your mission and policies, along with a call to action asking your guests for their help protecting the planet. Engage with your customers.

3. Set Yourself Up for Free Social Media Marketing

When people are traveling, they like to take pictures to share with others. Your hostel can harness that tendency into free social media marketing. Put something outlandish or cultural in your lobby or right outside your hostel. Passersby and guests alike will not be able to resist taking pictures and posting them to social media if it is impressive enough.

The key factor for success here? Make sure you put your hostel’s name and location (just the city will do — you don’t want to crowd the space) in a highly-visible spot for photo shoots. Offer your guests a strong Wi-Fi connection to ensure posting capabilities. And have some fun with it! You could have a monthly Instagram contest offering a free night’s stay for the most creative photo posted — and of course tagged with your hostel and hashtag!

4. Offer a Second Service

Down-time and slow seasons leave a lot to be desired for a hostel business. A great way to counter these inefficiencies is to offer a second service: bike rental, a café, a bar, travel services, a brothel (Just kidding! Making sure you’re paying attention).

Catering to a second, distinct crowd will increase your word-of-mouth advertising as well as your conversions. Additionally, you will be decentralizing risk and labor between the hostel and second component, effectively reducing costs and increasing profit margins for both aspects of the business.

Learn to Fly Without a Pilot’s License

The savvy traveler of the 21st century expects more of everything when planning trips, from the booking experience to the transportation options, from the destination to dining. The overall experience must deliver, and travelers are not afraid to vote with their dollars. I know I’m sure not afraid to do so — I do a ton of research ahead of a trip to ensure I get the best experience for my investment, whether it’s for business or personal.

Travel has been on my mind a lot lately. On Sunday, I’m flying out to sunny LA to attend DMA’s &THEN Conference, then coming home for about 48 hours before hitting the road to visit one of my best friends just outside of Buffalo for a long weekend.

So that’s over 5,400 miles flown, then an additional 750 miles driven round trip. Woof.

Foo Fighters' Learn to Fly
Dave Grohl can be my captain any day…

Two weeks later, I board a plane for a red-eye flight to Madrid, Spain for a quick layover, then to my final destination of Lisbon, Portugal so I can attend the 2016 Web Summit as a speaker (more on that exciting news later!)

My round-trip travel for that will be over 6,800 miles … so in less than 30 days time I will have traveled more than 13,000 miles, stayed in two hotels, one AirBNB rental, had countless meals out, taken taxis, Ubers, subways … now can you see what travel’s been on my mind so much? (I think I need a nap just thinking about it all.)

The savvy traveler of the 21st century expects more of everything when planning trips, from the booking experience to the transportation options, from the destination to dining. The overall experience must deliver, and travelers are not afraid to vote with their dollars. I know I’m sure not afraid to do so — I do a ton of research ahead of a trip to ensure I get the best experience for my investment, whether it’s for business or personal.

In late July, we hosted our annual Integrated Marketing Virtual Show, and I had the opportunity to bring together a stellar panel with moderator Kae Lani Kennedy, social media manager for Matador Network, as well as the following panelists:

  • Jennifer Andre, Director of Sales, Media Solutions, Expedia
  • Christy Ciambor, Destination Marketing Manager, Travel Juneau
  • David Naczycz, Founder, Urban Oyster/NYC Urban Adventures

The focus of the panel was to look at travel marketing in the Internet Age, and as I rewatched the presentation, a few things came to mind:

We All Can Learn From the Travel Industry

Actually, all marketers can learn from every industry outside their own. I think that’s a given and something we all need to do a little more of. But what I believe the travel and hospitality industry really caters to customer desire. Sure, the automotive industry caters to my desire of driving a wickedly sweet car (I’m looking at you, Dodge Challenger), but it’s not a desire that can be met easily … but an $900 vacation to Paris? A $350 long weekend in Washington DC? A $40 walking tour of Brooklyn? These are all more quickly attainable than a $27,000 car.

The travel and hospitality industry can let consumers itch a desire now. But I think it could teach other marketers how to do this, too.

Mobile Is Here to Stay ALWAYS

That subhead says it all. Mobile was one of the big issues our panelists discussed during the travel roundtable, and it’s such a big issue that we’re hosting the All About Mobile virtual show in December (shameless plug, yes yes I know!).

As a marketer, if you don’t have a seamless marketing experience, you’re going to lose consumer confidence and customer share. Pure and simple.

User-Generated Content Builds Trust

Fun fact: Loyal customers and fans want to contribute! So let them! You can do this in so many ways, from running regular Instagram photo contests to sharing thoughtful reviews. In the end, the marketer gets wonderful content to share with the wider audience and the user gets to share his or her voice.

Anyway, I highly recommend taking 30 minutes to listen (or watch!) the travel roundtable (no registration necessary) so you can take a look at what the industry is doing, and see if you can “steal smart” and incorporate a few ideas into your next strategy meeting. You know … learn to fly without a pilot’s license (yes … yes I am a Foo Fighters fan).

Now if a marketer could just figure out how to deal with the email/travel issue so that we wouldn’t have to come back to an over-stuffed inbox … there’s a billion dollar idea.

Travel and email meme

Fighting Fear of Zika: 3 Quick Email Tips

As Zika virus spreads, questions about the safety of traveling are once again being asked. Using email, some marketers have begun to address the the crisis.

As the Zika virus spreads through Latin America, questions about the safety of traveling are once again being asked. In recent weeks, via email and the Web, some marketers have begun to slowly and carefully address the crisis.

Believed to be transmitted primarily by infected mosquitoes, Zika has been linked to microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and possible brain damage. It’s been declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization(WHO), and President Obama asked for $1.8 billion in the new budget for a multi-pronged attack on the virus.

With millions of Americans thinking of, and even planning overseas visits, how do you calm fears about a growing epidemic and provide reassurance?

Here are a few ideas from email that I’ve received in my Who’s Mailing What! inbox since Feb. 9.

1. Get People’s Attention
Emails sent by Sandals, the operator of several chains of Caribbean resorts, are always jam-packed with offers. Various packages, deals and airline partner specials related to resort properties within that brand are spotlighted as you navigate down the html.

SandalsZikaFeb9After the first week of February, across all of its brands, Sandals has added a round read-and-white “ZIKA UPDATE” button that clicks through to a special landing page. While it is the same size as the other bursts typically used, its placement in the top image of the email, either just above or just below the fold, stands out.

2. Provide Important Information
Trust is the most essential ingredient in communication. To build and reinforce it, you need to give people as much information as possible. In this case, travelers need to know how to avoid, or at least minimize, the risk of infection by taking the right preventative measures.

SandalsSplashThe Sandals Zika landing page is topped with a big image of a couple holding hands on a beach and lots of reassuring copy about the company’s response to Zika. “ALL SANDALS & BEACHES RESORTS REMAIN TOTALLY ZIKA FREE” reads the banner at the top, with some quick stats and a breakdown of precautionary measures below.

Further down the page, a map and a chart detail the current Zika status in each of the Caribbean countries where the company has a resort. At the bottom, there’s a statement of Sandals’ commitment “to work with the Ministry of Health departments in each island to ensure that they remain free of the Zika virus.”

3.Offer Solutions
Despite their fears, most people will still travel. ExOfficio, a performance clothing retailer, recognized that “the pull of adventure is strong,” and sent an email that offered to “Mosquito-Proof Your Travels,” as the subject line put it.

ExOffNewThe top block of the promo sets up the fight: “BUGSAWAY VS. ZIKA,” then goes on to position its clothing line as a disease-fighter. Another section of text describes how clothing treated with permethrin, an insect repellent, is “EPA-registered” and “Appropriate For Families.”

ExOffClothesAnother block shows four examples, with pricing, of the “bug-defeating” clothing, two each for men and women. A click or tap leads to its landing page on the ExOfficio website.

All of these steps are about making sure that the customer is comfortable with the decision to make a trip.

According to news reports, some airlines, hotels, travel agencies and cruise operators have offered their clients the opportunity to cancel trips without penalty for either a refund or credit towards another future travel.

Whenever an international crisis arises, allowing customers to defer travel or switch to another destination is a measure of goodwill that builds customer loyalty. Any expense generated by this flexibility seems like a small price to pay when the customer’s peace of mind, and the reputation of the business, is at stake.