5 Stages of the Travel Cycle

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When it comes to marketing your property, you need to consider all 5 stages of the travel cycle. Google has released an interactive infographic that identifies five stages of travel: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing. It’s important for hotels to be able to target their audience at each one of these stages to maximize your reach.

Stage 1: Dreaming

Every holiday starts with a dream. An advert on TV; or a movie location may be the spark inspiration or perhaps their itchy feet are telling them the world is calling. Regardless of how the idea entered your head, you’re now starting to talk it over with your friends and family, casually tossing out the idea of heading to the Aloha state in the next year.  The seed has been planted…and it won’t take long for that palm tree to grow.

So how does a hotel reach this dreamer in stage 1?

Email marketing: Reach out to your past guests with a well-timed email campaign.  Hopefully, you’ve made good use of your email collection Put an idea in their head.

Social media: Encourage past guests to share their experiences on your social media channels.  The end of their trip can be the spark that ignites the start of a future traveler’s trip.  Expand your word-of-mouth reach by encouraging your guests to share and interact with your communities online.

Blog about it: After a while, websites for hotels can get a little stale.  There’s only so much new content that can be run through the limited pages within the official brand site.  Creating a blog allows you to open the floodgates of possibilities for new and exciting content.  Blog about top things to do in your city; write about the amazing new restaurant that just opened up near your hotel.

The blog allows you to generate plenty of new content on a regular basis, and best of all, search engines crawl this new content quickly, giving you plenty of opportunities to rank for new niche keywords. AirRentalz has a group of professional writers that can assist you with writing strategic and SEO friendly blogs for your post.

Stage 2: Planning

The customer is now in the planning stage where the statistics tell us, they’ll be visiting around 20 different websites in order to find the ‘perfect’ hotel.

According to Google, 66% of people spend time shopping around before booking travel. Search Engine Optimisation is important to ensure your website rates higher than your competitors. Also take a look at your local listings and optimise them on Google maps to make it easier for the customer to find you. Your hotel is just one of many in a nebulous idea-cloud of potential destinations and locations.  In fact, over the course of this consumer’s travel cycle, he or she will have visited over 20 different travel websites in over 9 separate research sessions on the internet.

Stage 3: Booking

The jet-setter has now completed the first two stages of dreaming and planning and is ready to book their dream holiday – hopefully with you! In the booking stage, it’s vital your website is easy to navigate and your brand keywords are strong for when people are searching for your hotel name. Every hotel must be discoverable especially within online channels. Consider using AirRentalz services, such as Booking Button that can help make your hotel website your most profitable sales channel and own the guest relationship at every stage of the customer journey – pre-, during and post-stay.

So how does a hotel reach this booker in stage 3?

Don’t make people think: Make your website or landing pages easy navigate and easy for users to reach their goal.  Usability is crucial to getting users on your site to convert to booking guests. If you make the booking process too cumbersome or make it difficult for users to navigate your site, potential guests will look elsewhere to book their vacation.

They’re in the home stretch of the buying funnel and it would be awful to work so hard to drive qualified website traffic, only to lose the customer right before they cross the finish line.

Stage 4: Experiencing

The customer has chosen your hotel and while online marketing is important, the outcome of the experience stage is largely reliant on the staff at the hotel and the experience the traveler has while staying with you.

This is all about customer service and ensuring the person leaves with a smile on their face. Great customer experience is critical for lots of reasons but also because happy customers will share their experience online with their network.

Tie offline marketing with online marketing – Speaking of keeping consistency from the last point, make sure that you are promoting your social media channels in the offline world at your property as well.

Stage 5: Sharing

Most people book accommodation on recommendations from friends and family. So whether your customer posts a photo of the incredible views from their hotel balcony or takes the time to write a five-star review of the hotel service, sharing the moments they had will encourage other travelers who are at the dreaming stage to book with you.

By targeting your customer at each one of the five stages of travel not only will ensure your brand is with them along their journey you’ll stand out from your competitors by enabling your customers to share their experience with their extended peer network.

So how does a hotel encourage travelers to share their experiences in stage 5?

Tell them where to share: Similar to the final bullet in the previous stage, let guests know where they can share their experiences. Hotels should have Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, TripAdvisor and other icons present at the front desk, to alert guests that they can engage with your property and share their opinions through those participating channels. Reward creative user-generated content: Host a contest at your hotel that seeks to reward the guest who posts the funniest/wackiest/most entertaining photos/story/experience about the hotel or the city on a social media channel of your choice.

The typical vacation planning and travel buying cycles are pretty complex. At its most basic, a typical traveler’s path to vacationland can be broken down into 5 stages. Many people often think of online marketing as simply selecting the right keywords and optimizing a website for those keywords in Google.  That is only a small piece of the pie.  And you can never have a truly effective online marketing campaign by only focusing on a single channel at a single point in a traveler’s buying cycle.

To neglect to target the user at the other stages of their buying process is to miss out on a huge opportunity to digitally greet them at every step of the way to their purchase. In the end, properly targeting potential guests at each of these 5 stages is crucial to ensuring that they not only book at your hotel, but perpetuate that buying cycle for the next vacationer too!

When you need assistance in targeting your future guests in these stages of travel, don’t hesitate to reach out to AirRentalz. We’d love to discuss how we can help your hotel drive more bookings.