Digital Strategy

October 5, 2023

Mastering The Art of Customer Engagement in Travel Marketing

In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of travel marketing, one thing remains constant: the need for effective customer engagement. Engaging with your audience isn’t just about attracting their attention; it’s about fostering meaningful connections, inspiring wanderlust, and ultimately converting leads into loyal customers. When I think of customer engagement, the immediate memory that springs to mind is the wonderful employees at Atmosphere Kanifushi in the Maldives who waved us goodbye as we boarded the seaplane at the end of the trip; it’s these magical moments that really stick. In this blog post, I’m going to act as your tour guide through the labyrinth of customer engagement. Together, we’ll explore the scenic routes and detours for your very-own business journey, covering a range of channels and tactics that will have your audience hooked!

Leveraging Social Media: Creating Experiences, Not Just Posts

In the travel industry, visuals speak louder than words. Social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok provide the absolute perfect canvas to showcase the beauty of your city or hotel, the thrill of adventures, and the warmth of cultural experiences. To truly master customer engagement, be sure to focus on:

  • Compelling Visual Content – I’ve got a social post on this entire topic as it’s just so critical. Forget the low-res imagery, you need to be sharing absolutely stunning photos and videos of your destinations to truly capture your audiences attention. Does this post stop your ideal customer from scrolling? If so, you’re on the right track!
  • User-Generated Content – Encourage your customers to share their travel experiences on social media, and feature their posts on your profiles. You could create a dedicated campaign name to really support your brand values, or a memorable hashtag that holiday-makers can use in their captions. This will not only sky-rocket your reach, but also builds that all-important trust.
  • Interactive Features – Host contests, quizzes, polls, and live Q&A sessions to encourage active participation from your followers; it’s *the* single most effective way of forging and nurturing relationships with potential and repeat customers. It’ll also tell your social channels that you’re an engaged user, therefore bumping your profile to all the right people.

Email Marketing: Personalised and Targeted Communication

Email marketing is an extremely powerful tool to deliver tailored content directly to your audience’s inbox. Here are my three most effective tips to get started with:

  • Segmentation – I can’t tell you how many generic emails I get sent that have little to no relevance to my preferences and demographic. If you do one thing today, start dividing your email list into segments based on demographics, travel preferences, and past interactions. Have a big list of bookers who recently travelled to Thailand? Send them personalised recommendations for their next trip or a quick message to ask how their experience was. You want to be resonating with each individually as personally as you can.
  • Automated Drip Campaigns – Take your segmentation up a level by setting up automated email sequences that nurture leads, offer travel tips, and showcase destination highlights to help keep your brand top of mind throughout the entire customer journey. Is there tonnes of traffic on your Maldives’ booking page, but no sales? Drop users an automated reminder with a small discount code to entice them to make the final booking.
  • Compelling Subject Lines – It’s mad how often this is overlooked, but can you remember the last time you scrolled through your seriously over-crowded inbox and an email actually called out to you? It’s rare! Be sure to craft attention-grabbing subject lines and pre-headers that entice recipients to open your emails. Why? because it can significantly impact open rates. There’s so many free tools you can use to improve your subject lines, which I’ll be sure to write a post on.

Content Marketing: Inspiring and Informative Stories

Travellers are not just looking for a destination; they are seeking an experience. Content marketing plays a pivotal role in providing that experience. Here’s a few things you should be doing:

  • Storytelling – The travel industry literally thrives on experiences and emotions. Storytelling in travel marketing is about painting a vivid picture of the entire journey, not just the destination, product or hotel. If you want to learn more on this topic, I have a whole blog post on the power of storytelling here.
  • Blogs – Informative, entertaining, and SEO-optimised blog posts are a fantastic way of shouting about the destinations you offer, your expert travel tips, and 5 star customer experiences; the perfect opportunity to showcase the story behind your business and what makes you stand out from competitors.
  • Video – Video content is highly shareable and has the ability to captivate viewers if you do it right. Think about the story you’re trying to tell with every video you create and share. This can trickle down into influencer content, employee experiences and guest testimonials too. Give everyone a kick-start by sharing your brand guidelines so they’re clear on your style and brand values.

Community Building: Fostering a Travel Tribe

Building a loyal community of travellers is an absolute must. Here are a few of my favourite personal touches you can execute to really get to know them better:

  • Social Groups – Some of my favourite places for holiday inspiration are those pesky Facebook groups that are in no way ‘creative’ but you can find out real-as-can-be reviews from people who have actually visited somewhere you’re thinking of going. Try tapping into these or create your own dedicated social media groups or forums where travellers can share their experiences, ask questions, and connect with fellow adventurers.
  • Customer Reviews – If you know your customers have had a wonderful escape or fell in love with your product, it’s *so* worth it to encourage them to leave reviews. Get that trust-pilot rating through the roof, and you may even start winning some awards. I always say it’s vital to respond promptly and thoughtfully to both positive and negative reviews – you never know how you can turn something around. You could even introduce incentives if it helps!
  • Events and Webinars – Something I don’t see often enough in the travel industry is events. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to a fair few of the lovely conferences, and tourist board dinners, but I rarely see smaller tour operators and travel brands getting involved. The travel industry has never been the same since the pandemic, but if there’s one thing to learn, it’s to take advantage of virtual events, webinars, or workshops in your niche. You could invite guest speakers, showcase destination experts, and engage in meaningful discussions with your customers.

Customer Support and Communication: Always Available

Get your customer service right and you’re on to a winner. These three areas will sky-rocket your communication with potential leads:

  • Live Chat – I will actually choose websites that have live chat over websites that don’t. I rarely want to wait for a response, especially if it’s to do with a booking I’ve already made, or where money is concerned. Find a great system to implement on your website to address customer queries in real-time and you’ll change the game. Mailchimp have great integration, and I’ll share a list of pros and cons for others soon. Trust me, immediate responses can make a significant difference in customer satisfaction.
  • Social Listening – Do you know what social listening even is? There’s heaps of platforms that can do it for you, but it’s essentially the act of monitoring social media, blogs, forums and basically all digital platforms for mentions of your brand, competitors and your industry in general. Not only can it help you engage in rich conversations, answer questions, and address concerns promptly, but social listening can be an amazing research tool for tapping into new areas of business or scoping out what your biggest competitor is dealing with.
  • Email and Phone Support – Provide clear and accessible contact information for customers to reach out when they need assistance, automatic social responses is not enough. It’s really as simple as that.

Measuring and Optimising: Continuous Improvement

Your engagement efforts should always be data-driven and adaptable. Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) such as your website traffic, click-through rates, social media engagement, and email open rates. This will help you identify trends, experiment with various strategies and really get into the nitty gritty of what works.

Mastering the art of customer engagement in travel marketing is an ongoing journey that requires creativity, adaptability, and a deep understanding of your audience’s desires and needs. Sooo many businesses just plod along because they don’t provide their teams with what they need to engage effectively. If you’re a marketing manager or run everything yourself and are on a small budget, you can still leverage social media, email marketing, content strategies, community building, customer support, and data-driven optimisation, to literally smash your goals and create memorable experiences that inspire travellers to turn into loyal advocates of your brand.

Follow me on Instagram @thetravelsocialagency for more travel marketing insights and tips on mastering customer engagement!