Online Marketing Opportunities - Make Them Count.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Monday, 10th August 2009
Grant Colquhoun, Director of Hotels Asia/Pacific for Travelocity, gave a checklist of online marketing opportunities that any travel service provider can tap in the current economic environment.

He was speaking at the recent HEDNA Asia Pacific conference, held in Singapore.

1. Evaluate all Distribution Opportunities

Are you working with credit card companies? Do airlines sell through your inventory? Do online portals such as Yahoo and AOL refer your products? Do you put inventory on sites such as lastminute.com?

If you analyse where your product is currently distributed, you will probably find further opportunities to distribute your products and services.

2. Combine online and offline marketing initiatives

For example, Wego and Travelocity partnered to produce a newspaper like flier to be distributed at major metropolitan train stations in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. The flier delivered 3.6 million impressions and sent consumers back into the online space. All partners down the chain (airlines, hotels) were involved in the offer. The result created a good deal of brand awareness.

3. Make your marketing dollars count.

Online media spend is measureable, far more so than offline media spend. Travelocity worked with a Japanese hotel chain to market their Tokyo property online in Australia. The advertising campaign received a 0.71% click through rate and resulted in a 45% increase in year on year sales for the hotel. The campaign built momentum to the point that the hotel enjoyed the increase in sales long after the online promotion ended.

The Hilton group of hotels had never advertised online until they worked with Travelocity. The click through rate was 0.68% and resulted in a 400% increase in sales for the chain, gaining several points in market share.

4. Customise and Target

Online marketing allows you to advertise to specific groups of customers. For instance, Tiger Airways has 350,000 subscribers for their online newsletter, which allows you to instantly reach a specific group of buyers.

The Hilton hotel group recently ran a campaign to this group of users, which resulted in a 30% month on month increase in sales.

People are now flying low cost carriers, yet staying in four to five star hotels. You can stimulate demand creatively through the wide subscriber base of partners.

5. Niche marketing

Online marketing presents opportunities to reach specific communities of people that may want to buy your product or service. For instance, Travelocity has invested in targeting the gay and lesbian communities. Travelocity attends the gay and lesbian shows and events and has created a branded micro-site offering specially tailored products to the community. They are extending this initiative into Asia through the website fridae.com.

Travelocity identified the market niche through the realisation that 76% of gays and lesbians have a valid passport in comparison to 24% of Americans overall.

6. Tourism Boards

Work with tourism boards to bundle products together to create a destination experience online. A tourism board can explore all themes of air, hotel, along with ground transportation, tours and attractions.

7. How accessible are your deals?

Are your promotion offers buried on your branded websites? If so, how do you get them to your customers? Promotional offers should be upfront and obvious on the landing page of your website in order to get them to your customers.

8. Innovate to Simulate.

Create dynamic packaging.

Taj Hotels created the tajholidaysflynstay.com website, where you can buy a holiday with your stay limited to Taj-owned hotels. It was the first time that they took the inventory online.

9. Relevance and New Models

Make your online content relevant to your customer base. For example, provide a chronicled rate finder. Allow shopping from competitor websites. Put your product front and centre.

10. Social media

Social media is very important. It allows you to communicate widely and quickly. For example, it allows Jetstar to conduct 2 hour lunch time madness sales.

Analyse how you can attract new customers through the social media platforms. For example, through viral video's on youtube.com, or through user generated content, for example on tripadvisor.com. Laterally apply your thoughts to these channels to come up with ideas to leverage the different social media platforms. Use manpower to make them matter.

11. Consider the Future

By 2013, 52% of the world's population will be internet users, of those, 21% will be using social media platforms. 12% of Social Media users will be making buying decisions. These users are no longer just the young. The average age of a Facebook user is 35-54 years old.

12. Strengthen your supplier relationships

There has been a channel shift. The GDS and wholesale business has shifted to include strong online travel agency (OTA) partnerships. Worldhotels is now working with Travelocity for example, which has seen a 20% increase in business across Asia Pacific for both partners. Working with new partners can increase your market share, not merely shift it from one distribution channel to another. Working with an OTA gives you exposure direct to the consumer.

13. Consider the effectiveness of your spend

Analyse where you have spent and the return you have received from your spend. Consider that meta and search are important areas to spend on in years to come. Offer website tools such as currency converter to keep your customers on your website. Innovate and be clever.

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com

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