A Digital Marketing Perspective: Planning for Peak
The travel tourism industry has had a roller coaster year.
The pound has fallen to its lowest level in 8 years. Popular European and UK holiday destinations were increasingly targeted in terrorist attacks. The collapse of Monarch and cancellation of over 18,000 Ryanair flights have sent shockwaves throughout the industry.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
ONS figures showed only a slight decline in UK travellers going abroad at the height of summer (-2% in July 2017 YoY). Overseas travellers arriving to the UK had also grown by 6%.
July is one peak period for the travel industry. We are fast approaching the next peak period in January. Straight after the festive season and right in the middle of winter, people start to look towards their next holiday to avoid those January blues.
This report includes best practices around planning for peak, covering:
– How to profile and target a desired audience online
– How to optimise your PPC by utilising fast moving search terms
– How to get more out of your affiliates through onsite analytics
Aimed at OTAs, airlines and hoteliers, we provide strategies and tips on how to capture and convert online customers over peak.
1. Identify Your Target Audience
How to Profile and Win the Monarch Audience
By identifying the audience that have booked on Monarch’s site, we can see which airlines have capitalised on Monarch’s woes.
Pre-Monarch collapse (4 weeks to 9th September) and just after (4 weeks to 7th October), a number of airlines have had a major boost from Monarch customers.
In particular, audience reach for low-cost European carriers, Vueling and Flybe, had increased by over 100%.
What does Monarch’s audience look like? In the below example, we compared Monarch bookers with Ryanair bookers, in the 4 weeks to 7th October.
Compared to Ryanair, Monarch attracted people that were older and based in the South East and North West. Monarch bookers also searched for accommodation options, car rentals and things to do in destinations like Lisbon, Olhao and Cabo Verde.
To target Monarch’s audience, airlines servicing these destinations could then push promotions, such as flights from Manchester to Lisbon. An OTA or hotelier could also develop content, such as “top places to visit in Cabo Verde”, tailored to this older demographic.
Identify your target audience, as shown with the Monarch bookers. Understand your target’s travel interests by analysing their online behaviour, and feed these insights into your acquisition strategy (display, search and content).
2. Plan Your PPC
How Love Holidays Saw a 69% Rise in January Visits YoY
After a quiet few months, January sees a huge spike in online activity for luxury holiday operators.
For the top 8 providers (based on traffic from “luxury holiday” searches), January accounted for 13% more traffic than the previous two months combined. January visits YoY were fairly similar across most operators, with the exception of Love Holidays, which saw a 69% rise.
How did Love Holidays achieve this growth over the peak period? A large part came from their paid search activity.
Whilst On The Beach largely dominated search share* over the past two Januaries, Love Holidays saw an enormous 315% increase over this period. This rise coincided with a 24% rise in their average paid rate, to 72% in January 2017.
Secret Escapes and Virgin Holidays also saw significant rises in paid clicks over January, but didn’t achieve the same YoY growth. What differed? The search terms and timing of their PPC campaigns.
Searches for “all inclusive holidays” and “luxury holidays”, began to surge over the final week of December and peaked in the first week of January. Seeing this uptake, Love Holidays then targeted variations of these terms through PPC.
The height of Love Holiday’s PPC rates occurred over this critical period of end of December to start of January. In contrast, Secret Escapes’ paid rate were at its highest toward the start of November and Virgin Holidays toward the end of January.
Paid search is critical over January’s peak period. The timing of your PPC investment and search terms need to be selected with precision, therefore ensure that these are aligned with fast moving search terms.
3. Optimise Your Affiliates
How Can the Hilton Track and Increase Demand on OTAs?
Travel players need to keep close watch on which destinations are trending in the lead up to January.
A way to do so is by tracking the customer’s pathway to purchase on OTAs.
The below example shows that destination searches differ on OTAs. In the week to 14th October, the fastest-growing hotel locations varied on Booking.com, Hotels.com and Skyscanner.
Booking.com saw the largest growth in searches for UK locations, whereas Hotels.com saw growth in a combination of UK and European cities. Skyscanner, on the other hand, had the largest increases in long haul destinations, like New York and Colombo.
These demand-led insights can help inform a hotelier’s pricing strategy on OTAs.
For instance, The Hilton may have excess inventory in Amsterdam, so may want to discount. Seeing a huge uplift in Amsterdam searches on Hotels.com, The Hilton could, instead, hold their price or push through more Amsterdam rooms on Hotels.com.
This simple example shows the power of connecting customer demand with inventory and price management. But considerations like The Hilton’s relationship with the OTA, would need to be taken into account.
The Hilton may also want to know how their hotel ranks against the competition, before changing their pricing on an OTA.
For example, London and York were the fastest-growing searches on Booking.com. In London Gatwick *, The Hilton placed 2nd in page views, ahead of competitor, Le Meridien. But in York, budget hotelier, Ibis, was viewed more often than their equivalent, Hampton by Hilton. Le Meridien also sat higher than The Hilton.
Seeing higher demand but low ranking in York, The Hilton could then respond in several ways.
The hotelier could offer promotions on their York location on Booking.com, to improve demand. Depending on the importance of this location to their portfolio, The Hilton could also re-assess whether or not to push their York hotel on Booking.com.
Arm yourself with onsite analytics, such as searches by destination or page views vs. the competition, to inform your affiliate strategy. Use demand-led insights to support your pricing and promotions on OTAs.
A gap has been left with Monarch’s collapse. Airlines can capitalise by profiling the Monarch audience and understanding their holiday preferences.
Feed these insights into your targeting strategy, such as pushing promotions on specific routes and developing content based on your target audience’s unique search queries.
Paid search was a key element to Love Holiday’s success last January. Track the competition to see when paid clicks begin to rise, and on which terms over the peak period.
Closely monitor destination searches in the lead up to January. Understand demand by location on both Search Engines and OTAs.
Use analytics on OTA sites to understand and improve your hotel’s market share by location.