Crafting an effective digital marketing strategy for your online travel agency is more than just promotional campaigns. It's about understanding consumer needs, amplifying user experiences, and utilising tools like SEO, user-generated content, and influencer marketing. From optimising your website to leveraging analytics, learn how to engage your audience effectively and stand out in the dynamic travel industry.
Before the pandemic, the worldwide travel and tourism industry surpassed the global GDP growth (World Travel and Tourism Council).
With that said, this industry will recover by 2024. This is according to 63% of experts from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Even though tourism is opening up slowly today, it is the right time for online travel agencies to invest in digital marketing. In fact, Allied Market Research predicts that the online travel market share in 2022 is going to be $1,091 billion worldwide.
Let’s look into a digital marketing strategy for an online travel agency that works in 2024 and beyond.
But before that, know about
- Meaning of Online Travel Agency
- How does an OTA earn revenue?
- Tourism Marketing – Challenges & Opportunities
- Digital Marketing Strategy for an Online Travel Agency
- Website Optimisation
- User-generated Content
- Influencer Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Analyse Your Digital Marketing Performance
Create a Digital Marketing Strategy For an Online Travel Agency
Find out about the meaning of a travel agency online and how to overcome the latest challenges with effective digital marketing plans.
Meaning of Online Travel Agency
Also short for OTA, an online travel agency is a marketplace for research and booking. Prospects go to OTA platforms to book accommodations and plan their trips without going through an offline travel agent.
Think of Booking.com, Expedia and MakeMyTrip as OTA examples. Booking.com has the largest market share in Europe, Expedia in the United States and MakeMyTrip in India.
Apart from these, there are many more OTA platforms that are emerging.
How Does An OTA Earn Revenue?
OTAs act as third parties that resell products for their partners – hotels, airlines, etc.
Some of the OTA products are
- Hotels, resorts, alternative lodgings, etc
- Flights, trains, car rentals, cruise holidays, etc
- Travel packages that are specific to a demographic
In general, online travel agencies have two revenue sources.
- Commissions – Hotels and airlines pay a commission to the OTA when customers book them.
- Advertisements – Hotels pay OTAs to place their properties on their search engines to appear organically or through paid ads. These travel platforms use all digital channels on the web so that travellers can find them on desktop and mobile to plan their next travel. So online marketing is a big revenue contributor.
Tourism Marketing – Challenges & Opportunities
Tourism is an evergreen trend. And, holidaymakers always love to plan and bookmark exciting itineraries for their upcoming escape. But here are some challenges and new opportunities in tourism marketing since the pandemic. These factors have also contributed to how marketers approach a digital marketing strategy for an online travel agency.
Safety and Hygiene
Customer safety took on a different meaning during the coronavirus outbreak. Hotels have to promote that they perform hygiene checks regularly.
Travel agencies promoted local tourism instead of international travel during the pandemic. Hotels and resorts now promote facilities more than communicating about key attractions.
Travellers want to enjoy leisure more in light of the imposing lockdown restrictions.
Check out how Booking.com is overcoming tourism marketing challenges in 2022.
Making Travel Affordable
According to a Booking.com survey, 72% of 24,055 respondents from 31 countries said that they will take a vacation in 2022 if the budget allows. So the OTA platform is offering travel deals until 1st March of this year. The marketing communication here is to tell prospects they can start the year with deals.
73% of respondents in the same survey also want to enjoy authentic local experiences. For property owners, the OTA has suggested providing artists of the region or locality to highlight their talents. In this way, guests would enjoy experiential stays.
The Journey is More Important
From the survey, 75% of respondents said that the journey should be part of the trip. In short, a smooth journey. Right from getting on an airport taxi to reaching the hotel in the destination. Booking.com has a product called, Connected Trip. It allows guests to book flights and public transportation without hassle.
Technology that can Predict
According to the survey, 69% of respondents said they require innovative services that can predict which countries are Covid-safe to travel to.
Focus on Well-Being
79% of respondents from this survey agreed that travel is essential for their emotional wellbeing. So properties in OTA platforms should focus on communicating their self-care amenities.
Also, you may want to check how Online Experiences helped the Airbnb Digital Marketing Strategy during the pandemic.
Digital Marketing Strategy for an Online Travel Agency
Digital marketing in the travel industry is highly competitive. As a strategist, aspects including consumer behaviour and buying journey should be part of your travel marketing plans. Before learning to create a 360-degree digital marketing plan, see some of the main focus areas.
Here are some areas to focus on before you create a digital marketing strategy for a travel agency.
Knowing Your Competition – You should research your competitors. Big names like Booking.com and Expedia have built trust over the years. Consumers are likely to not trust an unknown online travel agency.
Target Niche Demographics – Rather than catering to a wider audience, chart out the specific demographic. Then it will be convenient to tailor your marketing efforts based on a specific region, target audience, etc.
Offer Unique User Experience – Online travel agency startups offer great personalised user experiences. Take for example the OTA site, Eightydays. It utilises the concept of how users get tired of researching on OTA platforms and not finalising a decision. The site urges the user to list the preferred dates and cities. Then it suggests all possible itineraries with prices. This makes it convenient for the user to book.
Check out the main elements for creating a digital marketing strategy for an online travel agency.
Your website should be mobile-friendly and have a good speed. Large images tend to slow down the loading time and increase the bounce rate for the visitor. Think with Google states that 75% of users prefer a mobile-friendly website.
And the recent Core Web Vitals of Google measures the user experience based on
- How fast does the page load?
- Is it interactive enough?
- Does it have consistent visual stability?
Apart from being easy to navigate, the website should also follow all the technical, on-page and off-page SEO practices. You can check the SEO guidelines to increase your online visibility.
You have to follow Google guidelines to stay on top of the Google search engines. Also, good SEO can help your OTA site to appear on metasearch sites like Tripadvisor.
For OTAs, user-generated content can work. According to an article in The Times of India, 97% of millennials prefer to share their vacation on social media.
Influencer marketing can be a cost-effective social media marketing strategy. Apart from the fashion industry, the beauty and travel sectors are dependent on it. And according to a study by mediakix, 60% of marketers say that influencer content performs better than branded content.
When you create a content marketing strategy for a travel agency, do include email marketing in the mix. You can put your focus on informing your prospects and existing customers of travel deals. 86% of users look for travel offers and discounts, according to Epsilon research. With email marketing, you can also promote your blogs.
Analyse Your Digital Marketing Performance
There are free digital marketing tools such as Google Search Console that give you an accurate picture of your marketing efforts.
So these are the essential elements in a digital marketing strategy for an online travel agency. Not only is creating the best content for the website and social media is important but also how you improve user experience.
How does an Online Travel Agency (OTA) earn revenue?
Online travel agencies function as intermediaries between consumers and travel-related businesses like hotels and airlines. They generate revenue primarily through commissions paid by these businesses upon customer bookings. Additionally, they earn from advertisements wherein hotels pay the OTA to promote their properties on search engines.
What are the main challenges and opportunities in tourism marketing post-pandemic?
Post-pandemic, the tourism industry has seen a shift in priorities. Challenges include emphasizing safety and hygiene in accommodations, dealing with travel limitations, and promoting stress-free travel. Opportunities arise in making travel affordable, localising experiences, focusing on well-being, and integrating technology for predicting Covid-safe destinations.
Why is it crucial for an online travel agency to develop a robust digital marketing strategy?
With the travel industry's competitive landscape, a well-defined digital marketing strategy is pivotal for an OTA's success. It helps navigate consumer behaviours and their purchasing journey. Understanding and analysing these aspects contribute significantly to effective marketing plans in the travel sector.
What key elements should be considered when creating a digital marketing strategy for an online travel agency?
The core focus areas include understanding and studying competitors, targeting niche demographics for tailored marketing, and ensuring a unique user experience. Elements such as website optimisation, user-generated content, influencer marketing, email marketing, and analysing digital marketing performance are vital components.
Why is user-generated content significant for Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)?
User-generated content holds immense value for OTAs as it fuels engagement on social media platforms. Statistics show that a vast majority of millennials prefer sharing their vacation experiences on social media, indicating the potential reach and impact of user-generated content in influencing travel decisions.