What significant trends are affecting your strategic marketing plans in the next 18 months?

16 February 2012

Christian Wolters - Director, Sales and Marketing at Intrepid Travel Americas:
The way we communicate: Social media continues to dominate but campaigns that worked last year won't work this year. For example, in the past we used to create contests that would generate a lot of opt-ins. Recently when we have launched similar contests we have only generated half the opt-ins. The same for followers, "likes" and so forth. Consumers are constantly inundated with contests and promotions that we need to do something different and create a "connection". We need to continue to be innovative for share of voice.

The need to diversify product lines and offer new, innovative ways to travel continues. Customers are demanding to get farther off the beaten path and are looking for different styles, attractions and destinations. Active trips like cycling are becoming more popular. A wider range of our Comfort style (higher end) accommodation/transportation product is also growing. New destinations like Burma, Colombia…the more off the beaten path the better! The key here is to offer product that is different from our competition, we often do this through Intrepid's themed trips. This year under the Marine theme we offered small boat sailing in Thailand, Croatia and Greece. This theme also includes Antarctica and Galapagos adventures. As more people take small group adventure trips the more there will be diversified tastes. Other themes that we run are overland, festivals, wildlife and so forth. Annually we get together and discuss new trip ideas/destinations so that we are ahead of the curve.

Michael Mettler - Managing Director of Baumeler Travel Ltd.
The following trends in the Swiss Market are affecting our marketing plans:
a. loyalty to our brand is dropping
b. guided tours remain an option but are not the only solution for our customers anymore; those who choose  a guided tour are seeking something different than in the past
c. new clients are sourcing adventure tours online and have different demands than existing clients
d. clients are still prepared to pay high prices for top products/services
e. authentic and sustainable tourism is not for the 'green traveler' only and becomes socially acceptable à LOHAS [Assistant Editor's Note: Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability - a growing global market]

Pepe Lopez - Manager at Apumayo Expediciones Peru
The economic world crisis [and it's effect on consumer travel shifts]. Plus, web marketing is competitive because more companies claim to be socially and environmentally responsible but at the same time are offering very low rates. They say on the web that they are "eco-friendly," "fair trade," and "socially responsible," and this is not true - they're offering very basic services but sell well [because] they manage their web presence well. It hurts quality tour operators and the destination because satisfaction rates are so low. There's no one controlling the marketing of responsible tourism. We focus on recommendations and satisfied clients. [I'm] not sure yet how we will differentiate online.

Rob Rankin - Managing Director of Vagabond Adventure Tours of Ireland
For us, a growth in inter-generational groups has been important in our marketing plans. Plus, we have noticed a slight increase in the average age of our customers, so we have toned down the adventure element in our marketing to some degree. Also, the concept of the all-round experience, encompassing several elements to a trip. For example with us it would be Irish scenery, history, adventure and activity, music, pubs and the Irish people – all combined within one experience. For our own point of view, we have been established for ten years now, and we will start incorporating the fact that we are well established into our marketing.

Jiří Mikulec - ETOURS TRAVEL of the Czech Republic
As a central/Eastern Europe inbound expert, we expect more travelers from developing countries like India or Turkey, and less from typical current destinations like Europe and U.S. Because of the EU tax policy -  our groups to EU have to pay 20% VAT tax, groups out of EU have no tax.

Marty von Neudegg - Director Of Corporate Services and General Counsel at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures
The 'cycle' of booking has changed dramatically from past years. Generally many people are now waiting until the last minute to book. Contrary to common thought, however, they are not just looking for deals and discounts. They are looking for value and want to be sure that whatever money they are spending is being spent in the best possible way. That could mean that it comes down to a better price, but it could also mean that they are watching the weather and will book when they are confident that the weather will provide what they are looking for; like cold snow or clear skies. Many travelers are willing to risk getting the first choice of space in favour of getting a better shot at full value. Our plans need to reflect value to individual travelers. Some want great snow, some want to connect with something meaningful, some need a quick getaway.  The answer lies in being personal and diverse.

Ben Bressler -  Founder & Director, Natural Habitat Adventures

"Technology. Technology. Technology."

Tim Jacox Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing of InnerSea Discoveries & American Safari Cruises
A significant trend which has become more and more noticeable over the last few years is a desire for many travelers to seek experiential vacations.  By nature, the best experiential travel comes in the form of small groups. This plays right into our hands as we provide exactly the type of outdoor, wilderness-oriented, environmentally-conscientious travel that is becoming increasingly important and popular among many types of travelers. Our two brands, InnerSea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises, offer nature on two different, yet very similar platters: upscale, inclusive, exclusive, adventure yachts and moderately priced, even more adventurous, less inclusive expedition ships. Our marketing plan is focusing more on e-advertising: emails, banner ads, Facebook ads and also building our online communities to increase word of mouth advertising.

Sally Dowden - Owner of Speyside Wildlife
We know from the large number of repeat bookings we have from our guests, that they are down-sizing their holiday spend – so we are increasing the variety of holidays within Scotland and Europe to accommodate their desire to stay closer to home.

Angelina Fourkioti-  Incoming Sales Manager, Trekking Hellas Group of Companies
Technology is rapidly changing the scenery in tourism so we are trying to keep up. Social media is something we are planning to pay more attention to over the next months, to promote our services and programs. In addition, we get on a daily basis more requests for "green" programs - giving something back to the environment - so we are looking into ways to make our programs "greener." At the same time, luxury travel seems to be rising so will definitely not leave that out of our plans.

Omar Samra - Founder & Chief Guanabana, Wild Guanabana
We have offices in Cairo and Dubai and therefore cater to a local and expatriate market living in the Middle East, which is quite a bit different in evolution and behavior from Europe and North America. We are seeing people gradually become fed up with traditional holidays and looking for something that inspires them. We're also seeing people increasingly abandoning the traditional travel agency in favor of online bookings; this is less so in the luxury segment. Finally, people are spending more time online and we're seeing personalized and focused social media efforts where we can have conversations and interact through competitions - this interaction is winning over traditional channels like advertising in magazines or even spending money on Google Adwords.

Jorge Pérez Tierra del Volcan
Internet 2.0 and social media is probably one of the most important trends, and the increase in usage of Smartphones and tablets. Consumer overload of information is key - it creates a big challenge to create strategies that will be appealing to the consumer and grab their attention in the long-term. Client retention and loyalty: there are so many options when you travel, and it's so easy now to get the information that make clients more open to change brands.

Sonja Gottlebe-Ranarivelo - Boogie Pilgrim
Madagascar is a difficult product to sell, being an expensive long haul destination with few airlines coming, being one of the poorest countries of the world. BUT, Madagascar also has a magical image in people's mind: it's mysterious, unknown and exotic.

Bruno Toutain of Cyclomundo
The significant trend seems to be for travelers to "go local" and "go self-guided" which is what we offer.  From a marketing point of view, we're only stressing even more than usual our location and expertise in our field.

Douglas Simões – Pure Brasil Director
Internet competition, rising prices in Brazil and more positive media attention about Brazil, including attention to the World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Kate Reid - Director, Call of the Wild Inc.
Two trends we continue to focus on are social marketing and re-purposing content for our potential clients. We continue to leverage Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others to share relevant content with our followers.  We also continue to find great sources of relevant content that we can redistribute to our followers that we didn't have to create ourselves – a shift from what we were doing 18 months ago.

Debbie Hendricks - Co-Owner, Just Roughin' It
The increase in people looking to visit National Parks, but we haven't seen any different trends than those we have already been experiencing the past several years.

Tiger Li -  Founder of Diverse China Travel
The global economy depression still affects our inbound business while the Chinese economy remains stable. Our online marketing is a priority - social marketing in China is becoming very powerful even though the censorship is still strict. Facebook, Twitter are still blocked in the mainland of China so the top sites are: www.sina.com; www.sohu.com; www.163.com; www.qq.com. For SNS: www.weibo.com ; http://t.qq.com/; http://t.sohu.com; www.renren.com.

As for marketing to inbound versus outbound - personally, I think all people share many things in common, no matter Westerners or Chinese.  So, the marketing in western countries works in China as well—make yourself known by targeting your clientele, and displaying your service as that. The biggest cultural differences between the two are that Chinese outbound clients are less independent, care more about price than quality (besides the wealthy) and prefer spending on hard-wares and luxury goods over services such as the professional tour service team... International inbound clients are more independent, care about quality AND price, and appreciate service much more.

Mandip Singh Soin FRGS, Founder & Managing Director of Ibex Expeditions Private Limited
Despite financial downturns, we have found that there's still a healthy demand for luxury adventure travel and special interest clientele and therefore, we're targeting customers from the U.S. and Canada, as well as some European countries. Research shows that there will be a lot more travellers looking for destinations within the Asia Pacific region so part of our marketing strategy is to look at countries that will be source markets for India from this region. These would include Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan.

Nicole Robinson - Commercial Director at &Beyond
Relationships are a strong driver of loyalty and sales, and built through developing travel offerings that are authentic, personal and experiential. It's more than visiting the Cape Winelands; it's about meeting the wine-makers, hearing their stories and connecting with local people. Luxury is not only defined by the "stuff" anymore but by the emotional connections to people and place. We will be tailoring experiences to traveller's special interests, such as yoga/wellness, family, cultural, historical, etc. "Friendtelligence", the amplification of word-of-mouth through social media, as well as consumers exponential adoption of the latest technologies and innovation will be an important driver of our future plans.

Elín Sigurveig Sigurðardóttir - General Manager at Icelandic Mountain Guides
The economic situation in different regions of the world and the exchange rates of various currencies against the Icelandic krona. The North American market was the fastest growing last year and we expect this trend to continue through this year and the next. There is great uncertainty in the European markets due to financial instability. Then we need to be alert to new markets further afield such as China and Brazil. At the moment we are ... watching them from afar and educating ourselves. Given the potential and flexibility of online marketing we might consider to target businesses and individuals in these emerging markets in the near future.

Claire Antell, U.K. Representative of Wilderness Explorers
We are continuing to invest in website and possibly mobile app development, along with Google AdWords and travel social networking strategies. We are questioning the value of some of the traditional trade shows that we have attended in the past and will using some of those marketing funds in other more creative ways.

Marie-Pier Mercier - Marketing Coordinator at Quebec Maritime
The Internet is completely changing the way we do things, and we are investing a lot of time and energy into optimizing our website so that it meets the needs of all types of visitors: people who are shopping around for a destination, those who are actively planning a trip, those who want to share their travel experiences, etc. The Internet is a worldwide shop window that allows us to showcase our destination to travellers from all over the world.
In addition, we are involved on a daily basis with multiple Web 2.0 platforms, interacting directly with consumers by informing them about our destination, answering their questions, asking them about their travel preferences, sending them last-minute deals, etc. It's a global laboratory that allows us to fine-tune our marketing strategies and improve our action plan, while enhancing customer loyalty.

Norman Howe - President of Butterfield & Robinson
People are booking closer to departure date, so we have shifted our marketing communications calendar accordingly—to ensure we are in market when customers are shopping. 

Steve Markle - Director of Sales & Marketing at O.A.R.S.

  • Sales copy is dead. This means going back to the drawing board and rethinking our approach to everything. If we want consumers to listen, we need to deliver relevant and engaging content that evokes an emotional response and inspires travel.
  • Word of mouth has never been so important. It's imperative to find new ways to leverage the power of word of mouth, including travel reviews, social media and even video.
  • Mobile. With the growth in sales of mobile devices and an increasing stake in search queries,  it may take a few more years for mobile search volume to exceed PC search volume, but having a website that renders well on a mobile device is critical.