As one of the most competitive markets in the World, the tourism industry constantly brings new challenges, but also new opportunities. In this blog post we’ll be looking at Booking.com and TripAdvisor, asking what they bring to the tourism industry, and how you can learn from them.
Before we discuss Booking.com and TripAdvisor in more depth, it’s relevant to mention that they have both recently acquired two big companies. Booking.com acquired Fareharbor and TripAdvisor acquired Bokun. This news is part of the inspiration behind this blog post, but it’s pretty much always important for tourism marketers to discuss TripAdvisor (and Booking.com to a lesser degree). These acquisitions show us what most of us already knew: both of these companies are always improving their service and trying to grow their business. The tourism industry is embracing online shopping as fully as possible, and TripAdvisor and Booking.com are a big part of this. But why is online such a big part of the tourism industry?
It’s important to not just understand who your audience is, but to also understand how your audience is likely to find your business. If you’re in the tourism industry, there’s a very high chance that they’re going to find you on the internet!
This is stating the obvious, but people prefer to shop online. As more and more people use the internet for most of their shopping needs, online travel agents (OTAs) with booking software have enjoyed a huge increase in revenue. There’s a general sense that online shopping allows you to find the best deals and to avoid pressure sales from someone over the phone or in person. It’s also just more convenient, as you can browse for holidays, tours, and activities at your own leisure, with the TV on in the background. TripAdvisor and Booking.com both provide people with an easy way to look around for their next holiday or experience at their own pace, and this is a big part of their success.
As well as the convenience it offers, shopping for holidays online allows people to do their research before making a commitment. This appeals to most people, as holidays are an expensive commitment and it’s important to feel confidence that you’re finding the best deal. The right decisions when booking a big holiday could save hundreds, or even thousands of pounds. This reassurance is important to everyone, but it is especially appealing to very cautious people who may be likely to avoid booking a holiday altogether if they didn’t have access to enough resources to make an informed decision.
Tripadvisor is the most trusted resource out there and many people use it to research their next trip. As they don’t often book straight away, TripAdvisor is more often seen as a planning resource as opposed to a marketing platform. This level of trust has been earned because the platform is genuinely useful and people trust the reviews because they come straight from fellow travellers.
As tourism marketers, we can learn a lot from TripAdvisor’s success. We can ensure our own websites offer genuinely useful resources that help people plan their holidays. Try writing a few travel guides that include advice about services and sectors outside of your hotel, tour, or travel service. Try offering information about the best places to eat — even if you don’t get any additional revenue from these referrals. Make your advice as useful and practical as possible, adding as much value as possible for the user. You can even take this step further and create a large hub of helpful and/or entertaining written and video content for people to read, watch, and learn from. TripAdvisor’s trick is to make its users generate all of this information, but you’ll need to gather it all yourself.
Being as helpful as possible can make a huge impression on your audience but it also ensures that they spend time on your website even when they aren’t necessarily going to book a holiday in the near future. If your website can serve as a travel research hub for people, you’ll gradually notice an increase in trust and the conversions will come later. Even if these kinds of resources don’t necessarily instantly drive sales, they improve your brand immeasurably.
The automation involved in OTAs like Booking.com can process orders on a much grander scale than traditional travel agents, individual hotels, or tour companies processing their own bookings. This automation allows them to drop their costs significantly, often offering cheaper deals.
Of course, rate parity (making sure different platforms sell products and services at the same rate) comes into play in some instances and it’s not necessarily just lower costs that attract people to OTAs over more traditional travel booking methods. Automated booking is just something people feel comfortable with.
Whereas previous generations might have been sceptical of OTAs because they lack a human touch, people today are reassured that whoever they’re booking from is big enough and established enough to have its own online booking system. Just as people book their shopping online or use the self-checking tills at supermarkets, it seems that lots of people would rather deal with a robot instead of a real person.
TripAdvisor and Booking.com have worked hard on their online brands and their online marketing practices, which as helped them reach and engage with larger audiences. This means that they are very attractive to anyone keen to tap into a larger digital audience. You should always look to improve your service’s ranking on TripAdvisor (and you can read our blog post about this). TripAdvisor isn’t going anywhere and anyone serious about their tourism marketing strategies should put plenty of work into ensuring their business is performing well on the platform.
Booking.com is a fantastic platform with a huge audience. However, it’s important to remember that, with Booking.com, you will always have to share part of the commission and your Booking.com listings will have to compete with other similar services, so it will never be an instant success and its not without its drawbacks. Whereas, if you have your own online booking platform, you can engage in superior SEO, content marketing, PPC, and PR, hopefully outperforming your competitors’ marketing strategies. If you are forward-thinking enough, you can make a much bigger splash if you put time and money into your own online booking platform, but it’s also definitely worth taking advantage of Booking.com’s audience in the meantime.
We hope this blog post has proven useful and that it’s given you a few ideas to take back to your own website. Tourism marketing is always evolving and it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on TripAdvisor and Booking.com. If you have any questions about our tourism marketing services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.