In 2004, 33 million US and Canadian Leisure Travel Hotel and Hospitality consumers bought, booked, or found their trip online for a total of 65 billion $ in travel revenues through the Internet. This represents a full 59% of the total $120 billion Leisure Travel market. (These numbers are not exaggerations: the source for these numbers is online research leader Forrester Research. )
About 65% of all travelers did at least some of their travel planning online. For example, the ‘young adult’ age group (19-25 yrs) spent $2.5 billion on on-line video gaming, yet that same age group spent a truly astounding $25 billion on on-line travel. The reason for the huge number of people researching their trips online is simple: online travel planning makes sense.
Online travel planners are wealthy consumers who like to travel. They travel more frequently, and they spend more than the average consumer. Average spending is $3,400 per trip and on average they do this 4.9 times per year. Even better – these travel planners that find you online are inclined to be NEW customers who would not have found you otherwise. These customers are looking for you, but based on our research, they are not finding you. A full 98% of web users use search engines (iprospect.com), and 65% of North Americans use search engines to come to a purchasing decision (Enquiro.com).
Most people are drawn to regular search engine results rather than to paid placements (Enquiro.com) which is why search engine optimization is the best form of search marketing. Consider how you use searches and you will know that the value of showing up on the top of Google’s first pages when someone looks for a hotel, resort, or other facility in your region is huge.
Forecasts show that the Strongest Online Sales Growth areas for the Leisure Travel industry include the following:
1. Hotels (1/3 of all leisure/travel dollars spent online!)
2. Vacation Package Sales
3. Resort and Convention sales
These revenues are there for the taking: showing up on top of searches in your area is the way to capture them. But you need to show up on top because 70% “rarely or never” look past the first results page, and 91% of users modify their search criteria if the first 3 results don't meet their needs (iProspect.com).
What does it cost to bring in these visitors? The cost of a strong search marketing campaign will surprise you. It can be as little as $1,500-$2,500 for a campaign that will bring in literally hundreds of new guests. Search optimization is simply the most cost effective way to reach a wide audience. Consider how much money is spent on traditional advertising (which often produce questionable results) and compare the results. Shifting some of this purchasing to the Internet will bring a much larger return.
Critical Success Factors: based on consumer stages:
1. The ability for customers to find a website.
2. The ability for customers to find information/functionality within a website.
3. The content offered by a website.
4. The functionality offered by a website.
5. The overall look and feel of a website.
6. The ability for a customer to join into a relationship with a website.
A focused combination of efforts that will produce positive results:
2. Links from other websites.
3. Paid placements.
4. Website submissions.
5. Titles and metatags.
It takes time and a consistent effort to achieve good results. As with anything truly worthwhile, there are no quick fixes, no magic bullets.
Peter Sickles is an Internet marketing professional and owner of AlphaSearch Internet Marketing. He has an Arts and Public Relations educational background from St. Mary's University and Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has been writing for print and the web for over 10 years. As well as free-lance work, he was Food and Travel editor for Lifestyle Nova Scotia magazine for 2 years and is the author of Pete's Guide to Good Cooking (MacMillan Canada/CDG Books 2000)