‘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

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

5 thoughts on “‘Travel’ Is a Terrible Thing to Market”

    1. Actually, it was refreshing to read something short and to the point. Too often we lose the customer’s perspective because we’re just so impressed with ourselves –– the product or service, the marketing team, the budget, etc. The customer doesn’t care about that behind the curtain stuff. As for “travel,” my mind drifts to destinations, not having to be at the airport at 6am. Unless it’s Jet Blue, of course…

  1. If you take mode of transportation out of the mix, then travel marketing is much too broad of a term. Travel experiences are niche markets, with little crossover. You really need to understand your customers POV and have access to good data. Targeting 101.

    1. That’s something we talked about a little during the podcast, actually.

      One of the things that really interesting about what TWIP is doing is they’re building these “Travelnality” profiles of their users that help the users connect with eachother, but also offer a wealth of preference and behavioral information to individualize how they talk to those users.

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