Safe Trip: Preparing Travelers To Explore

People travel to exotic locations for all sorts of reasons -- business, studies, or to experience a different culture. But such places can also offer exotic health risks, which vary greatly by season, location, contact with local populations, and other factors.

Travel preparation and health risks
For many travelers, vaccinations are not top of mind when they plan a trip. They have many other considerations demanding their attention: booking flights and accommodations, and planning their itinerary, for example. And travel vaccines are expensive, so if leisure travelers consider vaccination at all, they often choose only the vaccines that are absolutely required in order to travel, and skip the ones that are merely recommended. The result is that millions of travelers go unprotected into risky places. They need education on disease prevalence specific to their destination, and on the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing disease.

How do we prepare travelers to explore?
First, we need to educate travelers on the risks of the particular diseases associated with their destinations. For example, travelers going to rural parts of Asia need to understand that Japanese encephalitis can be deadly. And that by traveling to these areas, they may be at risk for contracting the disease. They need to understand not only the disease prevalence but also how it can impact them.

Be where your traveler is
How can we make travelers aware of travel health risks and at the same time ensure that they are seeking the proper protection for their journey prior to takeoff? As marketers, we need to get into the shoes of the traveler and understand what their trip-planning process involves. The key is to insert education along with relevant messages while travelers are planning for their trip. This means grabbing their attention when they are in the beginning stages of planning. Most travel vaccines require more than one shot. So the traveler needs to build doctor or clinic visits into their pretravel plans so that they are properly protected for their travel adventure. All of this requires the right portable messages served up at the right time and in the right place.

Be on target
Media planning will help determine the effective and efficient locations for messaging. Think of how to reach prospective U.S. travelers to distant continents; behavioral targeting opportunities abound. Consider travel websites such as Travelocity, Orbitz, or TripAdvisor, as well as travel magazines. Think about the context in which people take long journeys: it could be for a honeymoon, for business meetings, or for humanitarian work like the Peace Corps. Each of these situations has its own media opportunities: magazines, websites, social media communities, and search engine marketing. There are networks of bloggers specific to these life events and journeys; some of these blogs may take advertising. There may also be threads within chat rooms of the relevant social communities. A recent search on travel vaccines on a social media software tool (Lithium) got thousands of forum posts over the past month, on locations including iVillage, BabyCenter, TripAdvisor, and MilePoint. A campaign could insert relevant information into just the right threads.

In the case of vaccinations, the point of care or the point of compliance is most likely a primary care physician's office or a travel clinic. Messages can be delivered via traditional brochures in the waiting room or within registration tablets such as Phreesia. Or perhaps on patient-facing websites or Twitter feeds to healthcare professionals.

Measuring the impact of marketing to the traveler
Running an informational or promotional campaign on travel vaccination is a testable proposition, in several ways. Matched test and control markets can be determined based on population demographics and economics, and then a multichannel campaign can be implemented in one of the markets in an A/B test. Alternatively, the campaign can be run in both markets, varying one of the media channels to see the differential impact of that channel. What is measured can be a direct response channel, such as a toll-free number or an informational website to request information or brochures. A click-to-chat capability may be a good way to test live questions.

Also consider measuring the viral spread that results from such an informational campaign on travel vaccination. As soon as consumers find out the relevant vaccinations needed, they may post and tweet to friends with similar intents. Additionally, when healthcare professionals find new information for their patients, they may communicate broadly by email or tweets to their patients who may be interested.

Ultimately, however, moving the needle on such a campaign means increasing the rates of travel vaccinations beyond the prevailing seasonal trends. Rather than thinking in terms of channel (that is, digital vs. print vs. broadcast), the focus should be on thinking of the best ways to reach your target. Carefully timed and relevant communications have the strongest chance of influencing healthcare decisions and putting vaccination top of mind for travelers -- before they leave home.

Tags: health, travel
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