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The Content Express: Success Tips for the Travel/Tourism Industry

the content express, CMISummertime is finally here, and much to the excitement of kids everywhere (and fear for many parents) that means vacation time! Airlines, hotels, travel websites and cities are stocking up for what’s likely to be a busy — and hot — tourist season, and one of the best ways they can ensure they’re on a family’s “go-to” list is by creating content that fulfills every step of their travel needs.

What makes content needs unique for companies in the travel or tourism industry, especially those who cater to those who travel for pleasure? A couple of things:

  • People don’t travel every day (or week, or month). Companies need to find ways to keep their audience aware of what their services are year-round, so when vacationers are ready to go, they’re top-of-mind.
  • There are many different steps along a traveler’s journey. This means there are a large variety of content needs: from finding destination ideas to booking travel to knowing what to do when you get there. If you want to support your audience along any of these steps, you need to get the right information in their hands, at the right time.
  • Traveling is usually (but not always) stressful for people. Whether it’s a recurring vacation every year, or a once-in-a-lifetime experience, there is always some level of planning, financial burden, and organization that’s required by your audience members, which may not always come naturally for them. It’s your job to keep them sane, calm and equipped with content that helps them every step of the way.

Since there are so many different phases of a traveler’s content journey, here are a few examples of companies who are doing it right.

Phase 1: Trip planning 

To start, we’ll share a great example from a company known for being the “go-to source” for planning vacations: RCI (originally featured by Jon Thomas in: Must-See Content Marketing Examples from 2011).

RCI is known as the largest timeshare vacation network in the world. It helps connect people with affordable timeshares they can rent around the world. This requires RCI to achieve a few important goals with its target audience:

  • Be a knowledge resource.
  • Build a community of trustworthy information (reputation means everything!).
  • Provide such a great experience that people will come back to you year after year for new, exciting experiences.

As a company, RCI has embraced these challenges and the future of content marketing by creating amazing content that readers want. As a result, they truly own the travel industry.

One of the things they had published was a custom magazine, and it was only available in print. Then, RCI decided to build their content into an app; a brilliant move since many people “on-the-go” are now relying on their tablets more than ever.

The Endless Vacation app allowed RCI to move beyond the boundaries of glossy paper and onto the iPad. The application allows readers to delve deeper into their inquiries with interactive articles, photo galleries, alternate covers (just shake it!), panoramas, and more. See for yourself.

Endless Vacation, CMIBest practice tips from RCI: 

  • Focus on providing the kind of content your consumers really need. Making the decision of where to spend a vacation isn’t always an easy one, and RCI embraces that with educational resources, discounts, travel planning assistance, and more. In short, they help people make the right choice.
  • Tailor your content for the platform you’re delivering it on. While glossy magazines are great, don’t just reproduce that pretty content on your apps or websites. Apps and websites are built for interaction and people will be expecting those kinds of engaging experiences when they find your content through those mediums.
  • Keep-up with changing consumer behaviors. Back in the day, people could read RCI publications, give them a call, make arrangements, and be done. Now, people embrace being their own travel agents, and Endless Vacation makes it easy for people to be the masters of their own vacation destinies. Understanding what your audience wants — rather than what you want from them — will be key in giving them the right content and support season after season.

Phase 2: Travelers enroute

Remember what we said earlier about vacations being stressful? Yeah, planning is just the half of it. Getting on the road, in a new environment, with possibly many different stops can be daunting for even the most experienced traveler, which is why it’s crucial for transportation providers to offer stellar content — and fast — for their consumers who are on the go.

This is where Twitter comes in pretty handy. Twitter is a great way to reach your customers at light speed, helping you join conversations, respond to complaints, and share deals and discounts with the click of your mouse.

At 140 characters, the limitations on content are severe, but the speed and reach of your messages allow for real-time content creation and conversations with your followers (i.e., people who are on the road). Plus, with awesome search tools, Twitter can be a great way to gauge what’s going on with your travelers — and fast (such as flight delays, power outages, traffic jams, and more).

One company that’s using Twitter in some cool ways is JetBlue. JetBlue has taken flight with a Twitter presence that addresses customer needs and gives the company important insights on its customers’ concerns (see the tweets).

JetBlue on Twitter, CMI

Best practice tips from JetBlue

  • Talk and listen: Your customers are already talking about you on Twitter- so jump into the conversation and really listen to what they have to say, using that to inform the content that you share with them.
  • Be open and honest with your content: If customers are complaining about you online and you don’t have an update/resolution for them, don’t ignore them. State that you’re looking into the issue, and keep communicating regularly. They’ll understand, and be grateful for your honesty.
  • Tap into what your audience is doing while engaging with you through a certain medium: For JetBlue, they’re traveling; for other companies, it might be laying on a beach chair. Tie those experiences into how you communicate with them, and the types of bite-sized information you provide.

Phase 3: Keeping travelers engaged during — and after – the vacation 

People love to talk about the amazing places they’ve visited: That’s simply human nature. What isn’t as intuitive is finding the right places to connect with other people who also love to share their stories and experiences.

Here are a couple more obvious tidbits: People like to go on vacation to have fun. They like to talk about their fun vacations with other people. So why not create content that’s, well… fun?!

TravelPod is great at helping people share their own travel experiences with a community of explorers just like them. The site lets people create travel blogs to document their awesome experiences, but also provides its own unique experiences that travelers can’t get through just any travel-related community or website — like the Traveler IQ Challenge (originally featured in: The 2011 Content Marketing Playbook).

Traveler IQ Challenges reinforces the blog’s position as the smart web destination for savvy globetrotters. As an online game, this branded content piece works great without burdensome software downloads, allowing you to show your prospects a good time, easily, while exposing them to valuable, relevant and compelling content.

TravelerIQ, CMI

Here’s a link to play the Travel IQ Challenge

(I did… and it delayed me from finishing this article a bit…)

Best practice tips from TravelPod:

  • If you’re going to build a unique piece of content – do it right. Games are unique and fun pieces of content, but they should work without burdensome software downloads and run across multiple browser types and OS platforms.
  • Build content that reinforces a favorable experience of your brand. If you want to be known for a certain industry or topic, then your content should reinforce that throughout every fiber. The Traveler IQ Challenge is a great example of that: it strives to attract a community of serious travelers, and therefore builds questions that are pretty tough to really test people’s knowledge.
  • Deliver valuable, relevant, compelling content AND show your customers and prospects a good time. Games, interactive apps, tabs, polls and anything else light-weight and fun is a great way to give your audience a much needed break.

The travel/tourism industry has a great opportunity to help the most experienced or novice travelers by delivering content that meets every phase of their vacation’s journey. So, as a company, you need to figure out what matters most to them, and when (i.e., what’s their biggest need and how can you meet it?). Identifying this early — and reevaluating it often — will help you deliver content that will move them from stress to excitement to sharing their awesome experiences (with their vacation and your company).

What travel/tourism industry companies do you feel really “gets” content marketing? We’d love to hear your success stories in the comments below.

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