The past two years have been interesting, to put it mildly, in terms of global and domestic events and circumstances. It seems that not a week goes by without another incident of international concern, particularly in Europe. Many of these, as you’d expect, have and will come to affect the travel and tourism industry to a greater or lesser extent.

Below, we take a look at two of 2016’s primary reports into key holiday trends in the UK, which demonstrate that intention to travel is significantly down on 2015. Assessing what these findings mean for the travel and tourism industry, we’ll offer up 3 key tactics businesses and destinations can employ to bridge the gap between traveller intentions and actual bookings.

Low Booking Intentions?

As mentioned above, bdrc Continental’s ‘Holiday Trends 2016’ report shows that the number of Britons intending to take a holiday of longer than 4 nights is significantly down on 2015 – from 82% to 74%. While there is no de facto reasoning given for this drop, it’s suggested that ‘a volatile world situation’ and ‘growing pessimism around job security’ are the two leading culprits.

“…the number of Britons intending to take a holiday of longer than 4 nights is significantly down on 2015 – from 82% to 74%.”

Reported in isolation, this data is potentially devastating for the travel and tourism industry as a whole, affecting the revenues of destinations, tour operators, hospitality providers and attractions alike. Interestingly, however, the same report notes that a low intention doesn’t necessarily translate to fewer actual bookings across the period.

And this is a claim also supported by ABTA’s ‘Travel Trends 2016’ report, which claims that ‘British holidaymakers have traditionally proven to be resilient travellers…’ In fact, that same report highlights several positive trends for the year ahead, including the number of people travelling to new destinations.

Solving the Problem of Low Intention to Book

Still, while ABTA does state that it’s outlook for 2016 and beyond is ‘cautiously positive’, reduced intention to travel is broadly indicative of one thing; uncertainty. And it’s on this uncertainty that the travel and tourism industry should focus its attentions.

As bdrc’s report notes ‘destinations will need to stay top-of-mind and ready for last-minute, value-driven decision-making.’ That means staying at the forefront of traveller’s minds to access the growing number of people booking their main holiday under 4 months in advance (59%).

There are several tactics the travel and tourism industry can feed into their social media strategy to accomplish this:

Retargeting and the Nurture Cycle

A generally felt issue with advertising, for the travel and tourism industry in particular, is ensuring visitors see the right information at the right time to encourage bookings and, ultimately, deliver an impressive ROI.

However, ever narrowing audience targeting options on social media, as well as better-performing advertising re-targeting integrations means that you can now ensure that every potential holidaymaker is seeing the right advert at the perfect time in their decision-making cycle.

“…you can now ensure that every potential holidaymaker is seeing the right advert at the perfect time in their decision-making cycle.”

With retargeting on social media, you can ensure that holidaymakers who have already visited your website are directed information specifically about particular packages you know they’ll be interested in, based on their interests. Similarly, should they then opt to find out more about that package, you can make sure that the next time they’re on Facebook they receive information about available discounts and value-added options available for that package.

This process of generating awareness and properly nurturing potential holidaymakers interested in your destination or visitors to your hotel means that you’re always engaging them with offers at the right time. It also means that once a customer has shown an interest in your business you rise to the top for them to see above the countless other businesses vying for their attention.

Lead Generation and Awareness Campaigns

Social media is an often forgotten about, yet impressively effective, tool businesses can utilise to generate leads. Indeed, our experience shows that destinations, tour operators and accommodation providers, in particular, are easily able to attract vast numbers of opted-in leads. A likely result of the compelling imagery associated with the travel and tourism industry.

“…our experience shows that destinations, tour operators and accommodation providers, in particular, are easily able to attract vast numbers of opted-in leads.

For an example of an effective lead generation we’ve delivered for the tourism industry, see our 2015 case study for Visit Japan here…

Aside from the vast awareness benefits offered by lead generation campaigns on social media – primarily Facebook – the contact details collected mean that you can reach out to potentially tens of thousands of interested holidaymakers with added-value offers at just the right time.

Organic Engagement and Content

According to Google, even back in 2014, 83% of holidaymakers using the internet for inspiration turn to social media. But what’s even more telling is that 52% of travellers changed their travel plans based on social media. That means that social media is no longer used solely as a source of inspiration, it’s a fundamental part of the holiday booking process.

This means that a key part of your social media strategy should concern itself with being ever-present across all social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. Wherever your potential customers are is where you should be. And this is something we’ve discussed at length here…

“…52% of travellers changed their travel plans based on social media.”

By maintaining a strong social media presence even in the run up to and during your peak season, you can ensure that any travellers making last-minute, value-driven decisions have the best chance of seeing your message and offer.

Streamlining your bookings and reviews process through social – with a focus on Facebook – is an essential part of this positioning. Ideally, you want to remove as many barriers to entry as possible, and integrating bookings and customer reviews into social media is now expected.

Final Thoughts

As expected, world events are having a profound impact on the international travel and tourism industry. And while intention to take longer holidays is down on last year, it’s clear that it’s far from certain that actual bookings will be down year on year.

However, while reports are ‘cautiously optimistic’ in the face of global challenges, the travel and tourism industry needs to adapt and respond cleverly to these challenges. Fundamentally, this means giving the 59% of holidaymakers booking within 4 months of their holiday the best chance to see your message.

Social media, with its audience targeting options, gives you the best chance to accomplish this through retargeting, lead generation, awareness and best-practice engagement tactics.

To find out more about how Digital Visitor can help with your social media strategy click here…

Alternatively, get in touch with our Marketing Manager, Nick Livermore, today on +44 (0)117 403 0088 to discuss your requirements or any questions you may have.