5 Marketing Strategies for Travel Agencies to Make it in the Self Service World

5 Marketing Strategies for Travel Agencies to Make it in the Self Service World.png

Let’s be honest: marketing your travel agency’s services has never been harder. Ad budgets need to be amped up to keep up with new reach algorithms, while more and more consumers are self-servicing their travel needs.

I am a self-service traveler for the most part. It’s the freedom to not call someone to book my flight. It’s the easiness with which I can so easily book a flight from Europe to the US or plan an entire circuit in Cyprus. Everything I need is online and booking flights, accommodation, car rentals and even museums can be done in a blink. No need to call someone or visit a travel agency office.

The travel agency business is not dead - even if competition might be more intense than ever before. If you’re ready to embrace the new way consumers are researching, planning and booking their trips, you can find powerful new opportunities to expand your reach and client base.

So, what should a travel agency owner do when most travelers seem to have moved to self-service? 

First off, don’t panic. 

When trends start to challenge status quo it is the perfect time to reassess your marketing and become strategic about running and promoting your company. 

1. Choose your battles (and audiences) correctly

The days of being a jack-of-all-trades are long gone. You might want to cater to everybody, but let’s face it, most consumers can already book their simple trips without any help from you. So ask yourself where is it you can really stand out from the crowd and find your niche(s).

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Circuits in Eastern Europe for overseas travelers
  • Food tours across Africa
  • Holistic and spiritual tours for women over 50
  • Concerts and festivals for millennials
  • Climbing adventures in the Andes
  • River/sea/ocean cruises
  • Train-travels across Europe
  • Snorkeling adventures in the Middle East
  • Yachting trips in the Mediterranean

Become the go-to source for complex trips, super niche consumers or destinations. 

2. Meet your consumers at their discovery stage

Once you’ve figured out what your core audience is, you’re ready to build your funnel. And it starts with awesome inspiration, continues with quality content and a helpful ear. For example, if you’re promoting climbing circuits in the Andes, create content (visual, video, text) that will inspire hard-core climbers, thrill-seekers, athletes, nature addicts, and photographers. 

  • Use social media to promote those destinations, achievements, challenges, and packages with fabulous content.
  • Take travel bloggers and influencers on one of your tours and then promote their content. Yes, promote. As in paid advertising.
  • Create lists on your websites of fabulous climbing destinations all over the world (eg: The Climbers’ Bucket-list of 14 Worldwide Fabulous Destinations - 12 Best Climbing Spots in the Andes)
  • Sponsor an event for climbers.

3. Help your consumers during their planning stage

Now that people are inspired it’s time to amp up their interest by going in depth with their trip. 

This is where your content calendar comes into play. Consider their journey, their potential questions, their concerns, their personal challenges, the kind of gear they need, the kind of experience they might want. And find opportunities to remind them of your services and deals. That’s huge, don’t forget about it. 

Here’s a list of examples for a travel agency that sells climbing circuits:

  • How to train for a long climb
  • What kind of gear (climbing, footwear, clothing)
  • How to protect their skin during climbs
  • How to recover after a climb
  • What kind of food they could bring, eat, before, during and after their climb
  • Consider support groups (Facebook groups)
  • Look at influencers, athletes etc and interview them about their best climb ever
  • Talk about motivation (that’s a big deal)
  • Explain how climbing can improve a person’s health
  • Talk about upcoming meetups and contests of climbers
  • How to plan their climbing trip
  • Where to camp or stay when climbing in the Andes
  • How to reach to climbing locations in the Andes

Use the form of content works best for your audience (if they’re climbers, they most certainly own a GoPro and post their videos on YouTube and their pics on Instagram, so be there too).

4. Create a travel package consumers can’t refuse

Make your content all about the goal (climbing the highest peaks in the Andes or the most challenging walls) and explain how you’re going to help climbers achieve that goal. You’re basically going to take out the hassle by booking flights, finding accommodation, handling visas and other travel documents, renting cars, getting drivers, worrying about getting the right food etc. 

Remember the Andes are running along South America’s western side and are one of the world’s longest mountain ranges (7,000 km - 4,300 miles). The Andes stretch from Venezuela, through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. That’s 7 countries!!! Are you counting the opportunities for irresistible, niche, one-of-a-kind travel circuits?

Even if your accommodation means setting up a tent and building a campfire you can sell that service and include it in a full package, where you’re also offering a car and a driver, a trainer to help them warm up before climbs, a nutritionist and/or doctor, a photographer or videographer to document their adventure etc. Give them the full package, make it irresistible and hassle-free.

With your core audience in mind (climbers) remember that they have family, friends, and spouses that support them in their hardcore activity, but might not want to participate in it. So create optional or add-on packages that cater to their plus-ones. 

5. Get on Pinterest, ASAP!

Facebook and Instagram are all the rage now, but there’s one untapped marketing channel that can totally transform your travel business. Better yet, not many travel agencies are using it in their marketing mix, so you can definitely set yourself apart from the competition. Yep, I’m talking about Pinterest.

You might think that this channel is only for crafts, home decor, and wedding inspiration, but it has a huge potential for travel brands too. 

Pinterest isn’t just for bloggers. Just consider these travel stats:

  • A 2017 Pinterest study reports that pins in the travel category get an average of 2 million saves per day!
  • Pinterest’s 2018 travel trends report says that over 40 million people in the US are on Pinterest every month for travel ideas. 
  • The average life of a pin exceeds with flying-colors any other social media. The average pin is repinned 11 times. Eighty-percent of all pins are repinned and it takes a pin 3.5 months to get 50 percent of its engagement. That means a Pin can, on average, live for seven months (compared to Twitter's seven minutes). Source.

With Pinterest you can get:

  • Increased website traffic
  • Brand visibility
  • Newsletter subscribers
  • Leads & bookings
  • Increased following on social networks (eg Instagram, Facebook, YouTube)

And if you’re doing it right, you can even get a higher rank in Google search with your pins. Yes, you read that right. Just remember, that similar to any other marketing channel, the keys to a successful Pinterest account are strategy and quality.

If you really want to rock it on Pinterest, you need to prepare your website too. That means including Pinterest friendly images, call to actions and optimizing your sales funnel to convert the cohorts of Pinners into consumers. 

You need to think of your boards as website pages and invest time in coming up with an SEO-friendly title and description, as well as a smart and easy to follow call-to-action.
— Bonus Tip

Pinterest is a great way to increase website traffic and even bookings on your travel agency website. It’s what I like to call a marketing channel that keeps giving. I’ve seen brands that scored big bumps in their organic traffic from Pinterest just by spending a couple of hours each month curating and creating awesome content. 

If you don’t know where to start with your Pinterest strategy, you can read my beginners’ guide right here

The travel agency business is not dead - even if competition might be more intense than ever before. If you’re ready to embrace the new way consumers are researching, planning and booking their trips, you can find powerful new opportunities to expand your reach and client base. 

Ready to get more website traffic and bookings for your travel agency from Pinterest?

If you're ready to tap into this new marketing channel, it’s time to get your travel agency on Pinterest. I have designed a 90-Day Pinterest Jumpstart program specifically for travel agencies to help them get increased organic website traffic, increase leads and sales and position themselves as an authority in their travel niche.

The 90-Day Pinterest Jumpstart program is a definite YES for your travel agency if:

  • You want to grow traffic on your website (organically)
  • You want to invest in developing your own marketing channels
  • Position yourself as an authority/influencer in the travel industry
  • Increase leads and sales (bookings)
  • Inspire your target audience when and where it matters
  • You want to find new sources of traffic that cost less than Facebook and Google Ads (btw, 1 in 2 Pinners purchase after seeing an ad on Pinterest, that’s crazy!)
  • You want to harness Pinterest’s potential for your travel brand, but have no idea where to start
  • You want to be on Pinterest but don’t have the time and resources to do it yourself
  • You want a strong foundation for your Pinterest to ensure maximum results

Get on Pinterest now. If you’re determined to grow your website traffic through Pinterest, contact me here and let’s discuss how we can harness its power for your brand.