“My interest is in the future because I’m going to be spending the rest of my life there.” – Charles Kettering
This is one of my
all-time favorite quotes and it’s especially applicable in January when everyone has weighed in with their predictions for the year ahead. While no one knows for sure what the future holds, it
doesn’t stop us from trying to anticipate what trends will drive the world of travel marketing in 2017.
To help gauge our industry’s collective thinking, my team and I
examined over 40 recent articles filled with predictions for the new year. Admittedly, it was a non-scientific approach, but we hoped it would allow us to neatly align the prognostications, find lots
of common ground among smart minds and make it easy for you to see into the future of travel marketing.
Instead, what we found was a great diversity of thinking, ranging from
chatbots and celebration vacations to the internet of things and artificial intelligence. Even after accounting for nuances in language and terminology, many trends and predictions were only mentioned
In retrospect, perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise. Marketing has become so fragmented and specialized, so diverse and filled with so much new technology, that
it’s no longer about any one thing, but rather the need to deploy and interconnect many things both strategically and tactically.
Of course, there were a few overarching
subjects like mobile, big data and Millennials that were frequently mentioned, but highlighting them seems unnecessary. These are now areas of focus that have moved beyond “trends” and
“predictions” (after all, Zenith Media estimates 75% of all internet use this year will be on mobile) to become essential cornerstones critical to how the industry does business today.
They’ve become a bit like the word “digital” — it’s the air we all breathe in marketing today.
Nonetheless, as we dove into the multitude of things
that the prognosticators were prognosticating, there were a few topics repeated with enough frequency to make them worthy of sharing:
- Personalization: The abundance
of data being captured today is dramatically elevating our industry’s ability to leverage more unique, customized and relevant information to speak to customers in ways that anticipate and
meet their needs, style and budget. Just as importantly, all this data is elevating the expectations of our guests that we will deliver highly personalized communications and offerings built
around a contextual framework that each traveler’s actions have defined. A failure to do so is signaling to customers that you don’t really understand them as an individual and it
encourages them to turn elsewhere.
- Live Platforms: When Facebook Live launched this past year and joined Periscope and other platforms, we began to see
significantly more use of live streaming as a marketing tool. From concerts to new property openings to chef demonstrations, we have the ability to serve up exclusive behind-the-scenes moments and
share the magic of our destinations and people in real time. And, as connection speeds get faster, data-plans bigger and streaming technologies more robust, you can expect this delivery mechanism to
be a vital part of any successful marketing plan in 2017.
- Virtual Reality: If the number of TV ads for VR-related hardware is any indication, this is
the year virtual reality becomes accessible to infinitely more people. It’s a powerful and engaging way to get travelers to “try before you buy” and it represents a content platform
that you can use to amplify your story and create excitement at varying points in the research and booking path. Seeing is believing and VR allows consumers the next best thing to being there.
- Experiences: The idea that travelers are looking for experiences is a “trend” that is hardly new, but for travel marketers, the concept of
“experience” has to be about the entire customer journey and not just the uniqueness of the trip itself. Your customer needs to sit at the center of everything you do, which requires you
to continuously examine and enhance the customer experience you deliver across every touch point, both on- and offline. Finding ways to reduce friction while personalizing, customizing and simplifying
every step of their journey is today’s definition of “experience,” even as we all strive to deliver new destinations, unique activities and the once-in-a-lifetime events
today’s travelers are looking for.
- Content Marketing: While hardly a new tactic, creating fresh, engaging, focused, high-quality content is absolutely
vital today, fueled by new platforms, advancing technology and travelers’ increasingly voracious appetite for useful and entertaining information. Whether delivered through a native advertising
program, across social media or through your brand’s website and owned channels, a consistent voice and relevant content designed to speak to specific audiences and niches can now be leveraged
in more ways than ever.
- Bleisure: When 75% of business travelers in a recent survey by booking.com said they planned to extend their business trip this
year with a leisure component, it signals a trend deserving special attention. With business travel rebounding in many markets, here’s a chance to cost-effectively grow revenues from existing
- Traveling Green: Increasing numbers of travelers are looking for ways to improve our planet and give back to society. As the recent study by
Tourism Cares has shown, travel philanthropy ranks high for Millennials and affluent travelers, and they’d prefer to book with brands that care for the environment and are helping to preserve
and protect the destinations that they travel to. Embracing these values is good for our industry and will prove to be good for business in 2017 and beyond.
and Wine: They’re the main attraction for travelers today at all price points and its influence only seems to be growing. From food trucks to eating in the fields, people are in search of
the “local” food scene regardless of where it may take them. Food is becoming as photographed as the most famous landmarks and hard to get into restaurants are the places to see and be
seen (and shared). Craft beer and a cocktail culture are growing and the interest in understanding how and where food and wine are made is creating considerable demand for travel experiences with this
focus as its core.
No matter what your view is for the year ahead, there’s at least one thing I’m certain all of us would agree 2017 will be filled with