Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did.

Mark Twain

The desire to travel is closely connected to the soul. It’s the stuff of fantasy and spiritual magic. It’s almost a shame when reality intervenes and you have to get practical to make the fantasy happen. But you may as well, because if you don’t, you’ll never forgive yourself.

11 1The journey the traveller makes as she purchases travel is our domain.

We need to rule efficiently, mercifully, generously and wisely.

Actually, there’s no reason the traveller shouldn’t enjoy every single part of this journey – it is after all the year of the experience and this includes the entire cycle of the travel buyer journey.

Yes, I said ‘cycle’. It used to be a linear process: the traveller would transition from research to transaction to experience, the end. She had limited access to information, courtesy of traditional media, print and TV ads, brochures. Her options were restricted to and guided solely by the travel agent she’d visit or chat to on the phone. It was a time-consuming affair. That’s the past.

The Dream Stage For the leisure traveller, it starts with the desire to travel, triggered perhaps by a lovingly compiled travel bucketlist, a particular interest in a place, an activity, curiosity, or simply the impulse to move. What may not be clear immediately is where to go and what to do. With heightened awareness, the traveller starts passively filtering through the noise of news and media clutter for any information relevant to her.

Where are you in this moment? You could be on Pinterest – not exactly doing a hard sell of your wares but certainly supplying potential travellers with some bucketlist ideas.

Last year Pinterest revealed that there are 660 million pins posted to the travel category on their website.

Sherry Heyl

It’s the same place where scores of travellers post their travel pictures. Place yourself squarely within this highly influential community – it’s a great place to meet travellers, engage them, do some research and offer your own ideas. Pique that undecided curiosity.

11 2During the Dream Stage the traveller starts researching and exploring her real options. For many, the first point of reference is other travellers among their family and friendship circles. Word-of-mouth is sacred and has always been the most reliable form of recommendation for many. Except now it has expanded onto Social Media (SM). Beyond that travel consumers look at every single website they can find, collecting information, mulling over different possibilities, testing the fantasy.

What they’re looking for is inspiration. What they find is a plethora of options, which often cause them to change their minds. They find differences in pricing from one website to the next, budget and schedule challenges, and sometimes conflict with their travel partners. It threatens to turn something that should be fun into frustration. It’s like self-diagnosing an ailment on the Internet instead of going to a doctor. They need help untangling that mess.

11 3Where are you in this moment? You could ensure that you are digitally well-placed to plant ideas in the minds of travellers. If consumers of travel content visit around 20 websites before booking anything, you must optimise your website SEO and manage your online reputation. Design your website usability precisely with the traveller in mind, to help her reach her goal.

Be present online with relevant content and the right, updated information. Always ask your clients for their feedback on-site. Those testimonials equate brand evangelism of immeasurable value.

Leisure travellers read an average of 6 to 7 reviews before booking; business travellers read an average of 5…

Tnooz

With travellers conducting online research throughout the travel buyer journey, the million dollar question is this: Who has the bigger influence now, the travel industry or other travellers? With the cyclical nature of the buyer journey, we find that one traveller’s experience has the power to inspire another’s decision-making. While your potential client is exploring her options, she’s reading reviews posted on social sharing sites.

93% of global travellers say their booking decisions are impacted by online reviews.

Trip Barometer

11 4

Where are you in this moment? You need to be monitoring the chatter. The feedback you get from travellers could be the purest form of validation of your brand. You could be connecting with travellers on the various SM platforms – it’s a way to optimise customer service and affirm trust in your brand, and ultimately help build brand loyalty.

So SM can be exploited for sales, to promote good customer service, and to serve as cost-effective marketing in the form of social advocacy among travellers.

Presentation is everything. Spark that interest with a virtual (or digital) onslaught on the senses. Technology empowers you with the means to tell the story of whatever experience you’re selling with engaging content. The more interactive, the better. You’re operating in an age where these tools are so abundant, you can’t pretend ignorance. I refer you to an earlier blog Beauty-in-focus to remind you why visual storytelling matters.11 5Speaking of blogs, why not write one of your own? It’s a fantastic way to showcase your experiences without making that obvious hard sell at every turn. It doubles as a tool to drive your SEO objectives and impresses upon your audience that you’ve made it about them (not your sales figures).

Your traveller will shop with her eyes; so do what you must and can to seduce her.

65% use video when thinking about taking a trip. 48% when thinking about the type of trip to take. 67% consult it when choosing a destination.

Dr Bernd Fauser

By the way, your content needs to be more than visually compelling. It also needs to be mobile friendly. The stats don’t lie.

74% of people said that, ‘If a site works well on a mobile phone, I am more likely to return to it in the future.’

Search Engine Watch

11 6Planning Stage She’s collected some information and she’s ready to make a decision. She’s focused, ready to get things done now. As she moves from desire to expectation, what she wants at this stage is credible advice on how to make her travel dream a reality. She needs reassurance from a reliable, knowledgeable source within the travel trade (that’s you) and she’s of course looking for a good deal. She most likely started her focused research on her smartphone and may end up doing her bookings on another device or offline.

…research shows that a third of holidaymakers used 2 or more devices when researching their most recent holiday, and only 17% of holidaymakers who carried out research on their smartphone also used the device to book.

Deloitte

According to a recent Google UK study, desktop computers tend to dominate the booking phase. Speed matters and consumer sophistication necessitates a low friction online experience.

Where are you in this moment? You could ensure your website is optimised for mobile, so that the user experience is smooth and seamless.

Barriers to overcome in mobile are bad UX design, friction that keeps users from completing transactions, and lack of WI-FI and 4G coverage.

Business Insider

What kind of loyalty schemes, rewards systems or ancillary purchases do you facilitate? With consumers hopping around from one device to another, accessing the same content, the resulting distortion in data makes it hard for you to track consumer activity accurately. So understanding your consumers’ expectations becomes a challenge. One way around that could be to invest in a ‘sign in’ form on your website or within your mobile apps to glean that precious data. It’s what you need to develop those lovely little personalised extras that make your potential client feel as if you’re their personal digital assistant. And it keeps the traveller on your site, rather than going shopping elsewhere.11 7This is how to address the modern consumer-centric travel model: differentiate yourself from the competition by providing personalised offerings. Heavy words, simple mind-shift.

Preparing Stage With the hardest part done, the traveller can now enjoy the pleasure of anticipation. She’ll share her excitement on SM, probably also her purchasing experience to date, and get herself organised. At this stage she’s thinking about the finer details of her trip, about sites she’d like to visit, restaurants to try, how she’s going to get around. She’ll be concerned with practical items like her travel documentation, maps, foreign currency, visas, etc. She’ll want to pre-book as much as possible.

11 8Where are you in this moment?

You could empower her with the apps she needs to research and book those in-destination extras. You can certainly present her with all her travel information in an easily consumable format, on her mobile device, to access either on- or offline if necessary.

81% of UK smartphone users have looked for local information while travelling. 86% share photos whilst on holiday. Google UK

It’s all about making it easier for the traveller.

Travel Stage – Arrive, Stay, Depart This is when the magic happens. The traveller will vacillate between stress and excitement, surrender herself to her travel agent’s advice and expertise, and she’ll evaluate whether the actual experience reflects the planning that went into her trip. She’ll be right in the middle of living her dream, working out what happens next, enjoying the moment. There may be problems – she might feel isolated and helpless. Or everything will go smoothly. Either way, she’ll take photos and videos, and post them online.

Where are you in this moment? Of course if everything goes to plan and your planning was spot on, you’ll be present in every fun moment and memory created. But if anything goes wrong, you could be available to your client to assist. Technology enables you to do this quite easily. Crisis manage if necessary, also in SM if she goes public with her gripe, and she likely will. That personal touch is now par for the travel course – the traveller wants it. If you don’t offer it, she’ll go to someone who will.11 9Post-Travel Stage This is when the traveller wants to report back on her travels. She may post a formal review online or simply mention her highlights (or lowlights) casually on social sharing sites. If things didn’t go as well as she’d hoped and dreamed, she’ll be licking her wounds, thinking about how to do things differently next time. If she was impressed, she’s likely to follow and support her favourite travel brand on SM. This could also indicate her desire to return to the holiday destination. It’ll be bitter-sweet for her as she had a great time and she’ll be sorry it’s over.

Where are you in this moment?

11 10You could invite her to share her experiences on your website or SM pages and so add credibility to your brand.

People love talking about their travels, so show her your interest. Ask her which restaurants she recommends in the areas she visited, the convenience of getting from point A to B, the stumbling blocks.

Use the information to make any necessary adjustments to your offerings, to further tailor your travel products to suit the traveller.

This form of acknowledgement you give her further cements your reputation as a travel professional who cares about their clients, and keeps them coming back to you for future business.

We come full circle on the travel buyer journey as her experience now helps some other potential traveller decide where to go, what to do on their next trip, and even how to book it. Her enthusiasm will be the spark that lights the fire of inspiration for someone else’s journey.

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move…

R.L.Stevenson

Agreed. I often feel the prospect of travel is more intoxicating than actually arriving at a destination, because you’re that much further away from the end of your journey and that much deliciously closer to its start. Like most travellers, I’m blissfully helpless when the travel bug bites.

Your role is just to help scratch that itch, so it never goes away.

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