3 simple ways to ensure that your travel business is visible online

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Many consumers today rely on travel websites to research their holidays so it is really important to be seen. Andrew Hennigan reports

A recent study of UK consumers conducted by TNS for Webloyalty found that 75% of the people polled used some sort of website to book their last holiday (Digital Destinations: How the web is shaping today’s holiday experience for UK consumers. Video summary | PDF). What is perhaps even more interesting is that 80% of these consumers used the internet to research their holiday, dominating over both suggestions from high-street travel agents and recommendations from friends.

Travel websites now play a key role in providing inspiration about where to go. While just 22% of people get their ideas from traditional holiday brochures, 43% use TripAdvisor, 23% use Expedia and 9% use Skyscanner. These travel websites are not the only inspiration according to the Webloyalty study. Many people also turn to a Google search, while others rely more on Facebook posts and YouTube videos.

The lesson for destination marketers, hospitality and other travel businesses is that they need to make sure that they are clearly visible online and that the recommendations are positive. So what can businesses do to ensure that internet inspiration drives consumers their way? One obvious solution is for marketers to pretend to be the customer in order to find out what they are seeing.

There are three key areas for marketers to test: Google search, review websites and social media.

1. Google Search: Try searching for your location, activity or whatever. Does your business appear? Do competitors show up and if so who are they? Try also searching for things like ‘things to see in …’ or ‘places to stay in …’ to see how likely it is that people will be able to find you. If you are not ‘google-able’ you will need to work more on your website and social pages to address the problem. If Google can’t find you, then nobody can.

If Google can’t find you, then nobody can

2. Review websites: Check all of the major sites that feature reviews – TripAdvisor, Yelp and so on. Are there any reviews of your business? Are they positive or negative? How do you compare with competitors? If there are no reviews, it could just be that your customers are all technophobes but you can start to encourage more of them to post reviews. If the reviews are negative you need to respond politely and address the problems that caused them. In the future this could help you be spot disgruntled customers more easily and solve their problems before they think of posting a bad review.

3. Social media: An appealing photo of an attraction, a hotel or a resort shared on Facebook or Pinterest can inspire other people to visit the same place. An exciting video on YouTube can be even more compelling, and may also find its way onto Facebook. Businesses can post their own videos but when a customer and fellow consumer does, it is even more convincing.

There are several ways to encourage customers to post interesting videos. One is simply to ensure you give them the opportunity by organising occasions that are ideal photo opportunities and making it easy to shoot video at events. Teaching guides can help by giving people time to capture interesting shots.  

One of the most effective ways to get customers to share interesting photos and videos is simply to make sure that you provide free Wifi that is fast enough to upload them. 

According to the Webloyalty study 54% use the free Wifi in their accommodation and 36% use it in cafes and restaurants; only 11% use an international data plan. And even those 11% using a data plan are much less likely to share a photo or video, limiting their use to communication to avoid huge phone bills. Free Wifi has the convenient benefit of both making people more positive about your business and also helping them to share this good feeling with their friends, who might just be inspired to come, too.

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