Last month we were excited to partner with ABTA for their invaluable annual travel marketing conference. This year the conference returned live to London, and as always, it was a pleasure to see so many familiar faces, as well as meet lots of new people in the industry.

After an extremely challenging couple of years, and with various ongoing issues and changes to the arena such as a distinct shortage in talent, and an ever changing digital landscape, everyone in the room came together to share, learn and discuss across a wide variety of travel marketing topics.

A new era for travel marketing?

Prior to the conference, Graeme Buck, Director of Communications, ABTA shared the following thoughts to consider.

“A new era for travel marketing? Maybe. Maybe not.

Nothing’s changed, but everything’s changed.

Why do I say that about the world of travel marketing?

‘Everything’s changed’ is perhaps obvious. You can’t have the disruption to travel which Covid unleashed without it having a major impact on the consumer – their expectations, their decision making, what resonates and what they react to. All companies will be reassessing their target consumer and rethinking the relationship they have with them.

But nothing’s changed too. The fundamentals of marketing – why do it in the first place – are no different. Successful organisations still need to understand their customers and prospective customers, need to know how to stand out from the crowd, and need to know how to keep consumers interested in their product, brand or service.

Navigating the dynamic world of inspirational marketing can be difficult at the best of times, but in the current climate marketing professionals need guidance more than ever.”

ABTA’s thorough agenda welcomed a host of experts to their stage to share their insights into the post-pandemic landscape; what’s working in travel marketing in 2022, and the resources needed to deliver in this ‘new yet no different’ world.

They also focused on topics about ensuring your marketing is meaningful; that your spend is maximised, and that you’ve got the right metrics in place to evaluate if your campaigns are hitting the mark.

Some topline takeouts

Key takeaways from the day started with excellent research findings and advice from Brendan Judge, Planning Director for News UK.

  • Brendan highlighted that "The world is changing, and so are your customers", considering the wider picture of what is happening in both our micro and macro environment right now, and looking forward to the potential impact. His insights included the somewhat positive news that those able to are still “ring fencing travel” amid the cost of living crisis.
  • Alongside Stuart Baker from GWI.com, they answered the question, “why do people go on holiday? To spend time with family, make up for lost time and experience different cultures.”
  • Stuart also admitted being caught out by the trend of young people heading to travel agents as opposed to online influencers for the first time. It’s “a trust issue” he explained, research which definitely echoes results discussed by both TTG and ABTA earlier this year highlighting the increased importance of consumer confidence in their travel decision making.
  • Next up we heard from G Adventures who took to the stage to advise on how businesses should focus their efforts in 2022. "There's a lot of the same old content in the travel industry... It's about creating new content that is going to overcome objections people may have about booking a holiday."
  • It was a general trend amongst all the speakers that reviewing and maximising your search marketing, updated and inspirational content creation alongside a memorable customer experience were all highlighted as key areas for marketing for the remainder of 2022. A brilliant example of this was showcased by Agnia Nast of Visit Estonia with their utilisation of TikTok for a travel campaign; 'How to dance the tough times away'. The campaign was created during the pandemic to really bring the essence of the country to the viewer to capture their attention through great content in a new way.
Tik Tok min 1 image

Transitioning into a new world of digital analytics

Our very own Andy Headington enlightened many people in the audience when he advised that "everything you know about Google Analytics is going out of the window." He explained the dawn of a new era for Google Analytics and the importance of addressing it now because, whether we like it or not, in May 2023 current Google Analytics will be retired. This will have a huge impact on our marketing, so now is the time to review your options, do an audit and plan, and most importantly, GET GOING, you need to be ready in 12 months time! Travel Trade Gazette reported on his presentation here, alerting the trade to 'Prepare for Google Analytics overhaul'.

There are still many gaps in knowledge around GA4 and it's implications, so a good place to start would be to read Andy's recent article 'GA4, the dawn of a new era for analytics. Our summary on why it's happening and what you should be doing right now'. Our Strategy Director Kherrin has also conducted research into other web analytics alternatives, and if you're starting to migrate your GA account to GA4, we recommend to read these six steps to success to ensure that by the end of the process you've got good data to work with. Or, if you're struggling to get to grips with GA4 (we don't blame you!) then perhaps there's an alternative analytics platform that's better for your needs? We're been researching some of the best options on the market.

AH GA4 summary image

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Next up, Neil Baylis, of law firm Mishcon de Reya, shared some interesting advice on how to promote your green credentials. He wisely warned delegates that travel companies making sustainable claims in their marketing will face increasing fines if they’re proven to be wrong. If you’re looking for more information about the increasing use of ‘greenwashing’, we recently wrote this article which goes into more detail about this issue in the travel and tourism industry.

Following him onto stage was renowned travel industry recruiter, Gail Kenny, who spoke about the current landscape with the amazing insight that "last year saw over 53,500 new marketing positions in the UK”.

“We’re seeing demand for video marketing skills and an understanding of big data - and a real shortage of candidates. Travel companies will need to pay higher salaries for digital marketers”

Laura Davis

Director, Gail Kenny Executive Recruitment

In summary

Overall the conference reinforced the positives for the industry following the pandemic, and also faced the ongoing challenges for the community such as recruitment.

  • To continue to re-establish their strength, the travel trade should be:
  • Following general consumer behaviours with the constant impact of global events
  • Focusing on consumer sentiment, booking intention, spending habits, changing travel trends, and new customer personas
  • Recognising booking patterns, popular destinations, and type of holidays
  • Overcoming barriers to travel by building strong customer trust
  • Being flexible with marketing plans
  • Preparing for a new world of data analytics
  • Promoting green credentials
  • Creating meaningful customer interactions through engaging content across various platforms

As experts in the travel marketing arena, why not contact the team, we can help you to review and reflect, to help build a resilient and successful strategy for the remainder of 2022 and beyond.

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Claire Ralston

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Claire is responsible for our own marketing, from arranging our sold out events like Attention and 20:20 digital debates, to keeping our subscribers informed via the monthly ...