On May 4th and 5th, we sponsored the ABTA Travel Marketing Conference, held at The News UK building at London Bridge. ABTA is the Association of British Travel Agents. They work with both travel providers and travellers, offering guidance on health and safety, and responsible tourism. They also promote high service standards, helping travelers to find reliable providers, and helping tour operators to compete by offering trustworthy accommodation and excursions. The conference brings together travel and hospitality marketers, and companies who can help them deliver marketing campaigns, with a combination of networking space and presentations on all aspects of the industry landscape.

It was refreshing to be out among the marketing community once again, speaking to the people who use our tools in the real world. Here are some of the key lessons we learned from the presentations and conversations across the 2 days.

Travel agents are back!

It’s fashionable to proclaim the death of all kinds of things in marketing. Email is a particular target in your futurist blog of choice, despite its ROI remaining far ahead of any rivals.

In the depths of the pandemic, with national borders closed and most of us barely leaving the house, for once it didn’t seem like an exaggeration. Travel businesses were put in a horrible position and were already challenged by the headwinds of travellers doing their own research and booking directly.

However, travel restrictions which shift month to month have actually proved to be positive for the industry. The uncertainty caused by different rules being set and changed by different governments, airlines and other businesses has led holiday-makers to seek the security of booking with a big brand. The reassurance and protection ABTA members are able to offer has become more important than the risky but cheaper strategy of booking directly with hotels directly, based solely on their web presence.

Campaigns come in all shapes and sizes

Compare two campaigns presented at the conference: Virgin Voyages’ launch of the Valiant Lady cruise ship, and Visit Estonia’s “#kaerajaaning” campaign. The first was a massive, omnichannel campaign, delivered in partnership with brands like Heineken and Capital FM, and celebrities including Ella Henderson and MistaJam. The latter was built around a traditional Estonian folk dance, and cost around 22,000 euros, relying largely on organic engagement and the way TikTok thrives off of users creating their own versions of their favourite videos.

Virgin Voyages boosted its brand awareness by 600%, a big deal for a brand that had only started operating in October 2020. The campaign also meant that UK ticket sales and onboard revenue (spending in shops, restaurants etc. during a sailing) overtook the US for the first time.

Visit Estonia were able to generate over 1 million TikTok views, over 3 million Facebook Ad impressions, and 350 UGC (user-generated content) videos across the campaign. This was in line with their initial brief to engage teenagers and young adults, and encourage them to consider Estonia as a travel destination.

These 2 campaigns were very different in purpose, scale and execution. However, the teams behind each of them regarded them as brilliant successes, proving that there really is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to marketing activities.

Travel marketing creates interesting challenges (and that’s why we love it!)

Often the most interesting conversations are the ones that spring up by themselves. Speaking to a representative of a European National Tourist Authority quickly turned to the challenges they face around attribution.

Attribution is probably the most ubiquitous marketing challenge out there, and this particular case was even more interesting. The Tourist Authority’s main metric for success is the number of non-resident passports scanned at entry points. However, data protection laws, including our old friend GDPR, mean they cannot tell who visitors actually are. This makes attributing peaks in traffic to particular campaigns especially tricky.

Over the course of the day we batted around a few ideas, but at the time of writing, this question is still open. Answers on a postcard, please!

Overall: Travel marketers are feeling good

Between all these lessons, and the ambience of the entire event, we’re feeling positive about what the future has in store for the travel industry. The wide range of attendees and presenters, and the engagement around the content, showed that travel marketing is no longer hunkering down and waiting for the storm to pass. It has pulled on its boots and is striding forward, embracing new ideas, new media and new audiences to do brilliant things!

How Pure360 can help

Our very own Jack Clay presented a session on “Delivering personalised and engaging campaigns”. His starting premise was that the average UK traveller will spend 5 weeks researching holidays, and will visit 38 websites in that time. Therefore email marketing can play a vital role in helping your brand capture and hold attention. A well-timed email, personalized around the content your potential customer has viewed on your site and layered with other key things you know about them, is worth a significant amount in increased conversion from browsers to buyers.

Jack also discussed how you can build loyalty with post-purchase nurture. On average, the gap between returning from a holiday and booking the next one is just 37 days for UK travellers. If you have created a good experience for your customer the first time, it should be easier to keep hold of them when the post-holiday yearning starts again.

We’d love to show you how our platform makes it easy to deliver campaigns to delight your customers at every stage of the holiday buying cycle.