Online travel bookings are recovering faster than offline and online marketing is contributing to that trend, according to EyeforTravel’s new travel report: The Road to Recovery: Innovations in Online Travel Marketing.
Three of the nearly 25 U.S. and European companies covered in the report have experienced some of their best online booking or booking lead generating days since September 11th and all have been in response to online marketing initiatives.
Orbitz, the airline-backed travel Web site, Delta Air Lines, the top-performing major carrier online, and Travel Services International, the world’s biggest cruise retailer, all saw consumer responses that had staffers at least one company high-fiving each other in company hallways.
What launched these sales?
E-mail promotions. The report finds that e-mail is one of the best business generators out there with HTML outperforming text-based e-mails.
Whose got the biggest e-mail list?
Not everyone is talking but the U.K.‘s lastminute.com and the U.S. Mark Travel Group have impressive ones.
The Web is giving online travel marketers new ways to market. Lastminute.com launched a smartalecky marketing scheme last Valentine’s Day with the Web site www.officeflirttest.com. It spun a viral campaign that it launched by having staffers send e-mails using their personal e-mail addresses to about 20 friends. The result: 150,000 hits to the lastminute.com Web site within a week. The cost: nothing, beyond the time and brainstorming of two members of the marketing department.
Other online marketing tools that are working well include search engines, banner ads and pop-up ads. They’re using these with care, putting them on sites where consumers would expect not to find travel and in general working hard to not intrude on consumers (hence the growing popularity of pop-under ads). Travel retailers are using these judiciously, carefully measuring their ROI to ensure that marketing costs don’t eat up profit margins that have become even thinner as the public becomes more value-conscious than ever, responding well to attractive prices and targeted pitches.
The Web’s enviable measurability means that companies now have an affordable way to market low-margin products that generate incremental income - products that just can’t be marketed cost-effectively on the usual offline channels.
CRM (consumer relationship management) is clearly the wave of the future, with some companies already well along that road and others just embarking upon it. However, there are some holdouts - Orbitz says that for the moment, it needs nothing more than a consumer’s home airport although that probably will change down the line; the low-cost Irish carrier Ryanair doesn’t care at all about its customers’ past purchases.
No one is seeing offline marketing go away - it is simply too effective. And, as some travel sellers shift their strategy to targeting drive markets, they are finding regional media such as broadcast and print a highly effective way to reach consumers in a particular region. The Web has not been left out in the cold, of course, destinations such as Orlando are setting up Web sites aimed at a particular geographic markets, such as sun-starved Canadians for winter and British tourists who apparently are as game as ever to visit Florida.
Conversely, a few companies, such as Site 59 and All Hotels, have completely turned their backs on almost all offline marketing and are doing all of their marketing.
The report covers major online players in the U.S. and Europe and how they’re using online marketing to generate sales, build relationships with customers, migrate bookings from more expensive offline channels to the Web and to recover from the one-two punch of recession and terrorism.
Among those covered besides those already mentioned: Expedia, Travelocity, ebookers, Hilton Hotels, Southwest Airlines, easyJet, Hotel Reservations Network and others. The report contains in-depth analysis and is an opportunity for other companies to benchmark their online marketing strategies against the top players.