If you do any travel advertising, you know that the days of the white-gloved, bespoke traveler are far gone. It's long been true that travel is booked almost exclusively online — whether through branded travel apps such as Expedia, independently by going directly to hotel and airline websites, or even by travel agents (who, yes, still exist). For businesses that rely on tourism, this has created new opportunities to reach customers.
The Purchase Journey
Long before a trip is booked, consumers begin to research destinations. The purchase journey can run the gamut from daydreaming about what it would be like to stay in the Caribbean to actually investigating the cost of flights, hotel rooms and things to do in Antigua. It is along this path that marketers for hotels, chambers of commerce and travel destinations can reach customers, particularly through search engine marketing (SEM).
Paid search — where you pay only for clicks on the ads that pop up in response to the key phrases you select — has a proven track record in travel advertising. Just look at Dutch-based booking.com, a travel site that snagged 34.4 percent of its traffic from search (53.4 percent of which was paid), according to a SimilarWeb report from August 2016. That's a significant chunk of the 1,100,000 room nights the app books each day.
The Importance of SEM
According to research from eMarketer, almost half of North American travelers begin the purchase journeys leading up to their travel journeys on a search engine. Even after the trip begins, the purchase journey continues. As Google notes, 85 percent of leisure travelers decide on activities only after arriving at their destination. With paid search, advertisers can and should take advantage of this extended path to purchase.
There's Never Been an Easier Time to Be Found
SEM levels the playing field in ways that smaller marketers couldn't have anticipated even just a few years ago. The opportunity must be seized. Poor exposure, or worse, nonexistent exposure, can destroy your business. Work with an SEM professional to set up and manage a paid search campaign. In the short run, it will save you time and money; in the long run, it could mean staying in the game.