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.

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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)!

–Karen Maci­olek 

 

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