The sheer volume of travel-related content available online can create challenges, both for consumers and for marketers. If you have ever searched for information about a destination or advice about something travel-related, you’ve no doubt had to scour through pages of results — some of questionable authority — to find information that’s useful and trustworthy enough to base your decisions on. On the other hand, for travel-related marketers the challenges lie in determining what information you’ll provide and planning a strategy that will distinguish your business as a trusted resource for travel-related content.
In general, travel is an enjoyable activity — something consumers choose to spend their leisure time and disposable income on (with the exception of business travel). Most consumers do a lot of research before making a travel decision, such as a destination choice, best modes of transportation, type of travel (adventure vs. a guided tour), and when to travel. This gives travel-related service providers plenty of options for creating useful content.
Considerations for creating informative travel content include:
- Finding a way to help consumers identify their product/service needs and preferences
- Narrowing your focus — you are not going to be able to offer consumers everything they need, so what do you cover, and what should you leave behind?
- Determining when it’s appropriate to curate content in order to be the conduit for information that may be better addressed by your partners or other providers
- Enabling consumers to personalize the content they receive from you
- Balancing the factual relevance of your content with creative storytelling and visual information
- Determining how and when consumers will use your information, so that you can make it available on the appropriate platform. For example, is it the type of content they will use while planning a trip at home on a laptop, or something they are more likely to use while on the road from a mobile device?
- Deciding when and if you need to make your information available in multiple languages for a global audience
Here are three examples of how travel services companies are making information available to their customers, along with some pointers you can learn from what they did well and what they could have done better.
TripAdvisor’s main site provides travelers with advice and options to help them plan the perfect trip. Much of the site focuses on reviews from fellow travelers on hotels, destinations, and activities; but a wealth of other information and travel advice is sprinkled throughout the site, as well.
For example, when you search for “Things to Do in Paris”, the primary result is a list of traveler-rated topics, including links to activity options with reviews and rankings. But it also includes a link to Top Tips and information about Paris from Fodors.com, weather information, links to hotels and hotel reservations, and maps that will let you browse nearby activities and restaurants. There is also a link to a free, downloadable guide to Paris, which includes general information and sightseeing tips from travelers.
TripAdvisor is part of an extensive network of sites that includes Seat Guru, Airfarewatchdog, and Cruise critic. As such, it has access to an extensive archive of content. The site is jam-packed with information, but in general it is readable and on target to meet the needs of travelers.
The site is available for 28 different countries in 23 languages.
User experience and navigation. Visually, the site is quite busy, though the information is organized logically. Most high-level pages have extensive Quick Links and Hotels in Popular Destinations sections at the bottom, enabling users to find topics quickly.
A You Recently Viewed section is helpful, as it is easy to get a bit lost in research and forget where you’ve been. However, the section is buried at the bottom of the page, where users may not think to look.
The top-level navigation bar remains across all pages, making it quite easy to jump back and forth among topics (if you haven’t already followed the links from the body of the pages you are viewing).
Search. The site is designed to have a robust search function, so users do not need to navigate to find what they are looking for. A search for “hotels in Addis Ababa” returns a list to the proper page, plus relevant forum topics and discussions.
Format/layout. The formatting and layout are clean and as simple as can be expected considering the amount of information it features on each page. When in doubt, if you focus on the middle column, you’ll find the content you were looking for on the page.
Social media. There are links to Facebook and Twitter, but these only appear on the TripAdvisor home page. The site does not have a corresponding blog, which is not too much of a problem — since the site encourages user reviews and feedback throughout, a separate blog probably would be confusing for users.
- Facebook: 168,718 likes
- Twitter: 560,650 followers
Country Walkers provides guided, self-guided, and private walking vacations throughout the world. Most of the information available on the website is related specifically to its walking tours, which is ideal for a niche site, and all content is aimed at an English-speaking audience.
The Know Before You Go — Fitness page, in the Community section, is all about how to plan for a trip. It answers questions like what shoes you should wear and even includes detailed directions on how to walk properly so you do not get injured. The Review section is broken out by the types of travel they offer or types of people who use their services (e.g., tour guides, solo travelers, private tours, self-guided tours, private tours, and responsible tourism).
The Travel Links section provides links to websites that discuss travel support, books and gear, and travel partners. This automatically opens in a new window, which is a handy feature that keeps users from losing their place on the Country Walkers site. However, the list of links is a bit anemic — for example, the only transportation link provided is for Rail Europe, but including other train information or reservation sites, or other modes of transportation, would have been useful.
User experience and navigation. Like TripAdvisor, Country Walkers packs in a lot of information on every page, but it is organized logically so users don’t feel overwhelmed. For example, the top-level navigation bar and drop-down menus are available on every page, and the bottom-level navigation links directly to options for each of the 47 countries in which it operates tours.
Search. The general search function seems to only index available tours, not other related information. For example, a search for “walking shoes” returned a list of four tours, but omitted the fitness page that discusses what to look for when choosing walking shoes. Moreover, the Find A Tour section is a much more robust tool for searching on its tours — you can search by destination, date, or activity (guided walking, safaris, self-guided walking, etc.) — making the main search function all but useless.
Format/layout. The formatting and layout are clean and straightforward, and the use of photos is excellent for attracting potential customers.
Social media. There are no links to the Facebook page or Twitter account, and the Country Walkers blog, which is linked to from the main navigation bar, does not appear to have been updated on a regular basis. A blog that is not updated regularly is worse than not having a blog at all. Users who view the blog to get information may question the company’s commitment if it is unable to update the blog content.
- Facebook: 14,084 likes
- Twitter: 209 followers
Southwest is a low-cost carrier serving the continental United States that prides itself on its excellent customer service. The website is primary transactional in nature, providing information on flights, hotels, car rentals, and vacation, but it does contain some destination-related educational content. This content provides an overview of destinations the airline serves, as well as details like hotels, things to do, and the weather in its destination cities.
User experience and navigation. There is a lot of information available to travelers here, yet it is still nicely arranged to suit the site’s primary purpose — to sell reservations. For customers who visit the site looking for destination information or travel guidance, the Travel Guide section of the top navigation bar is the primary place to get it.
Search. The search functionality searches the entire site and gets you to where you need to be quickly, including results from the Travel Guide section and flight-related information.
Format/layout. The formatting and layout are clean and simple, in line with this being a low-cost carrier and primarily a transactional website.
Social media. There are links on some pages to the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as its other social media accounts. However, when a user is on a reservations-related page — for air, hotel, car, or vacation — there are no links to the company’s social outposts. Southwest does not have a blog on the site, but its primary means of communicating with customers is a community page, where users can post questions, compliments, and complaints.
- Facebook: 2,716,625 likes
- Twitter: 1,352,430 followers
What do you think about these examples? Are they representative? Or are we missing some examples of great travel content marketing? What do you think works best for providing educational content to the traveling public? Is that, or should that be, different for niche sites versus more mainstream sites?
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Top image via Country Walkers