Catching the Wave: Tips for Maximizing Travel Seasonality
It’s June, which means the summer is here, which means it’s almost time to use up that summer vacation you’ve been stockpiling. Yes!
But what does this mean for travel clients?
Here are three tips for marketers to maximize destination seasonality:
1) Know Thy Spikes
2) Know Thy Word Order
3) Know Thy Betas
Know Thy Spikes
This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it’s two-fold. On the one hand, it’s important to keep track of which destinations see spikes in which quarters. Just as important, travel is highly segmented, so knowing this data by all of the various segments (air, car, hotel, cruise, etc.) is also key. For instance, cruise has a “wave season” in Q1 in terms of booking, and then drops off for the remainder of the year. Car sees a huge spike in the summer (apparently we enjoy driving more when the weather cooperates). Air and hotel segments have been consistent in their trends since 2004: there is a steady spike from January through June, then search interest grows exponentially through Q2, and then drops dramatically in Q3, with a surge in Q4/holiday travel, that springs us back into the January cycle.
So how do you find out what destinations are most popular in each of these segments in each quarter? There are many tools you can use and research you can consult, but my favorites are Google Insights for Search, Google Think Insights, search engine reps, and common sense. We as Americans are pretty predictable in our travel habits, and oddly enough, Las Vegas is usually among the “top five destinations” every quarter.
Know Thy Word Order
This one is simple. Here is how people type: “flights” tends to precede the destination (e.g. “flights to Atlanta” over “Atlanta flights”) and “hotels” tends to follow the destination (e.g. “Atlanta hotels” over “hotels in Atlanta”). It’s also more common for people to type with plurals than with singular variations.
Know Thy Betas
There are interesting trends that have been consistently impacting the travel industry to the point where they are bordering on becoming accepted facts.
Here are a few:
- A consumer visits 22 sites on average before booking travel
- The window for booking trips keeps shortening with a focus on “last minute” travel
- Mobile is on the rise (with hotels being booked within 1 – 20 miles of the hotel)
Besides the obvious items like ensuring a keyword set that converts the research/dreaming keywords in the funnel, retargeting users that have engaged with your site, and investing in a sound mobile strategy (advertising and apps), there are some interesting betas the search engines are offering as well.
Both Google & YaBing are redefining geo-targeting to be able to opt into “physical location” targeting separate from “user intent” targeting, which is a great advancement. Both engines are also aware of the ever-popular increase in videos contributing to travel research and offer inline video ads (“Mobile Rich Media Ads” on Google” & “Rich Ads in Search” on YaBing), as well as strong YouTube performance on Google. There are some other betas on the horizon (we’ll call them alphas right now) that will redefine location-based searches on Mobile devices, but for fear of my wonderful reps kicking me out of them, I’ll keep mum on that. All I will say is, the betas are there, just ask.
In the end, consumers visit 22 sites before booking travel because the market is saturated. So how do you fight the 21 other sites competing for your consumer? You follow the above steps, and then do what I’d advise anyone in “wave season” to do: ride it (and try not to wipeout)!