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5 Ways To Elevate Your Travel Marketing Strategy

Travel phots showing people relaxing

Why do people choose Lapland over Las Vegas? A far-flung beach resort over the French Alps? Glamping over a cruise? 🤔

It’s 2024, and travelers aren’t willing to settle for just another cookie-cutter vacation. Their next destination must have unique experiences and a chance to explore the unknown. 

And yes—they’re willing to pay for it 💰

With the travel industry set to be worth over $900 billion this year, DMOs must have a rock-solid travel marketing strategy to get a piece of the pie. But the reality is, if you can meet travelers where they’re at and show them why their destination should be at the top of their list—you’re already halfway there. 

In this guide, we will look at how travel marketing is evolving, what strategies are working today, and how the right toolkit can make your social media campaign a success. 

Let’s get started 👇

What Is Travel Marketing?

Travel marketing is a blanket term for how Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and tourism operators attract more visitors. 

There are so many types of travel marketing that the list would be (stupidly) long, but it covers every corner of the travel industry from hotels to glamping, from museums to tour operators. The scale of travel marketing is why it’s important to think of how it will work within your specific niche. Obviously, the strategy (and budget) used by cruise operators will be a little different to a family-run glamping site. 

However, the aim of travel marketing remains the same across all areas—increasing visitor numbers. 

The road to achieving this goal is a little more complex. It requires educating target audiences about why they should visit a destination, what makes it special, and why it can give them an experience they won’t find anything else. 

So, how can travel marketers stand out in an industry… that will be worth a trillion dollars by 2028? 🤔

How Is Travel Marketing Evolving?

The new generation of travelers wants more out of their vacation. The not-so-new generation of travelers are changing the way they search and plan for their next holiday. 

No matter how you slice and dice it, every travel marketer is battling to get eyeballs on their content—and people to their destination. One thing travel marketers can be certain of is a lot of content that’s resonating with people and influencing their next trip is being viewed online. This is heavily driven by changes in what travelers want out of a vacation: 

  • 81% of people want to explore the “unknown” next time they hit a destination
  • 42% of travelers want to explore Indigenous heritage and culture

And then, there’s the impact of AI in planning travel decisions. 

Within the next decade, over 70% of travelers expect to use AI to plan everything from accommodation to transport, activities and their trip’s environmental impact. A further 62% of millennials say they want AI insights and tips to help them plan a holiday. 

In the next 10 years, AI will grow in importance for tourists to seek out information and ideas. For now, travel marketers should focus on authentic content in their strategy to win over their target audience 👇

5 Ways To Elevate Your Travel Marketing Strategy in 2024

1. Create Once—Promote Endlessly 

An underrated travel marketing strategy is to do less with more. 

Creating impactful content can be expensive, and most DMOs don’t have a huge budget to play with. In fact, 61% of the DMOs we spoke to for our 2024 Trends Report said their annual content budget was $200,000 or less. 

The best way to stretch this budget is to develop content that has a long shelf-life, and then recycle it across multiple platforms for maximum reach. 

Let’s look at an example. 

Visit Alamosa has perfected the art of creating evergreen, recyclable content across its blog and social media channels. One of the area’s main attractions is its historic railway, which is talked about in-depth on the DMO’s blog: 

The information from each section of the blog is then cut into smaller content pieces to use on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, like this: 

The cool part about Visit Alamosa’s content recycling strategy is they did less with more: 

📋The information for social posts was pulled from the blog, saving time and resources

📹The DMO outsources short-form video creation for its social media to CrowdRiff Creators, which keeps its content library full of high-quality, authentic assets 

♻️Its Instagram feed is embedded on its website. Each time a new post is uploaded to Visit Alamosa’s feed, its main website gets a glow-up:

Visit Alamosa’s Instagram feed is embedded on its homepage

Just like that, the DMO has managed to create a full content circle using information from a single blog post—and a little help from CrowdRiff 😉

2. Get personal

DMOs are facing a personalization conundrum. 

Personalizing your travel marketing strategy is non-negotiable, but relying on basic personas filled with demographic data is no longer enough. In reality, this data isn’t flexible enough to accommodate how people (especially younger Gen Z travelers) are planning and booking their vacations. 

So, why is this approach becoming way less impactful? 🤔

Well, one reason is people don’t fall into neat categories just because of their age, location or net worth. DMOs must start to look at people as individuals and create campaigns around the reason someone is taking a vacation, instead of where they live or how much they earn. 

As Piero Sierra, Chief Product Officer at Skyscanner, says, personalization should be based around helping customers pick their perfect destination, “whatever their trip’s vibe”. DMOs must truly understand why visitors might pick a destination using tools like surveys, data collection, analytics and a healthy dose of experimentation. 

These tactics could include: 

📈Analytics. Take a look at what travel marketing campaigns performed best in the past. Dive into social media data, website visits and engagement to see what content and campaigns your target audience loves to see. 

📋Itineraries. The best way for visitors to discover the best bits of your destination is to map out exactly what they should spend their time seeing. Don’t just promote the main attractions, but shine a light on the hidden gems of your destination to give visitors a truly unique look at what you have to offer. 

🥳Giveaways. Give the unique activities and destinations in your custom itinerary a little extra boost by including them in online giveaways. For example, if you want to highlight a sustainable activity or local restaurant in your area, partner up with the operator and agree on a giveaway promotion to get visitors excited about these hidden gems. 

Think outside the box and target travelers on their vibe—not just their age 👌

3. Celebrate Your Green(er) and Slow(er) Destinations

Most U.S. travelers think there aren’t sustainable travel options—and they want more.  

A Booking.com report found 70% of travelers are more likely to book accommodation if the property is planet-friendly. This tracks with a rising trend of demand for “greener” vacations, which DMOs can capitalize on by using environmentally-focused marketing campaigns: 

🌱Encourage sustainable activities. Market the greenest parts of your destination, and celebrate what the community is doing to be more environmentally friendly. Learn from other DMOs on how to use sustainable tourism to draw more travelers’ eyes in this helpful guide.

🦥Promote slow travel. Not every traveler wants to be up from dawn ‘til dusk with a packed schedule. “Slow travel” is a growing trend to connect local people, community and culture to the environment. In fact, slow travel now makes up 10% CAGR. Think about how to promote slow travel in your area and give travelers what they want—an authentic connection with a destination. 

Another bonus of promoting less-visited parts of a destination is to spread our visitors when they visit. The last thing your destination needs is bloated tourism in just a handful of places. Take a hard look at what parts of your region can handle large(er) influxes of visitors—and put them on the map 🗺. 

4. Invest in Short Form Video

People now feel UGC is 9.8X more impactful than influencer content. They even prefer it over a brand’s own content. A report found UGC is 2.5X more authentic than branded content.

Travelers on Instagram and TikTok are drawn to content made by real people, not “polished” travel marketing campaigns. Social media users love UGC and seeing real people traveling to your destination. After all, it’s the closest they can get to the real thing. 

Jump on the UGC bandwagon by creating shareable social media content for your audience. Or, get your visitors to do the hard work for you. 

This is exactly what the Yarmouth & Acadian Shores Tourism Association (YASTA) does to beef up its social media game. The Western Nova Scotia-based DMO uses UGC to tell the story of its region from unique perspectives and angles. As CEO Neil MacKenzie explains, the UGC content is more trusted and gives its marketing efforts a more “alive” feeling. 

“You can discover more places around your own backyard, and things you haven’t necessarily seen before. It also helps us really get a feel for what’s around us, and what’s happening.”

YASTA gathers and uses UGC in a couple of different ways: 

  • Legally sourcing UGC. The DMO uses CrowdRiff’s rights request functionality to source UGC and store it in its CrowdRiff gallery. As content is automatically sorted based on engagement, it’s easy for the DMO to share content that’s already gaining traction on social media to its own channels. 
  • Website galleries. UGC fills individual galleries for each of the DMO’s partners’ listings on its website to promote seasonal photos and regional events
  • External media. Visit Yarmouth doesn’t just use UGC for online marketing. Once it has rights to an image, it will repurpose it in other spaces like print media

An example of Yarmouth & Acadian Shores’ UGC on its Instagram feed. Image Link

MacKenzie has one (important) piece of advice for DMOs wanting to add UGC to their marketing strategy. 

“Invest in owned media and branded content but leverage earned media like UGC too. Find that right mix; see if you can get these folks who are already creating content to be storytellers for you even if they’re starting out, because they might be a good content partner for you moving forward.”

One caveat about using UGC—which you may have picked up on—is it’s a looooottaaa work 😬

We built Creators to connect busy DMOs to experienced locals. It’s the easiest way to outsource UGC creation to get quality content in less time. Learn more about how Creators works here 👀

5. Save Time With The Right Toolkit

A key part of a “do less with more” travel marketing strategy is knowing exactly what assets you have to play with. Whether it’s recycling assets you already have on hand, or repurposing content created by others, the right toolkit can save your DMO a ton of time and money. 

Some DMOs are experimenting with tools that craft AI-powered itineraries or generative AI to make image sourcing easier. While these tactics are (super) exciting, most DMOs can find immediate value by using AI to help with the bread and butter parts of their strategies like:

✂️Asset management. CrowdRiff digital asset management (DAM) tool has built-in machine-learning capabilities to spot and delete blurry/low-quality content from your library. 

🏷️Tagging. CrowdRiff’s DAM also uses automatic AI visual tagging to connect themes and subjects of your assets. Next time you need to find an image or short-form video about a specific place or event, it’ll be easy to find it quickly using keywords

📊Metadata. Use internal data to stay organized. Add licensing information, location, and permissions to every asset in your library so your team knows exactly what they can use for their next social media campaign.

🔍Search. Scan your entire visual library using natural language (in up to six different languages) and filter assets by type, size, orientation, date taken, and more. 

Last but not least, make the most out of every piece of content your audience creates with the right UGC rights management tool. With CrowdRiff, you can find UGC from visitors and request the rights to use it on your own social channels: 

Once the visitor agrees, their content will be ticked away in your CrowdRiff library—ready to use when you need it 😎

Want to see why 900+ DMOs trust CrowdRiff to supercharge their travel marketing strategies by finding, organizing, and sharing UGC across their socials?

See what CrowdRiff can do for you – get a free demo today!