Travel Industry: Online Marketing Going Beyond 10 Blue Links

By Li Evans

Last week I had the delightful opportunity to present on the Travel & Search panel at Search Marketing World 2008 in Dublin, Ireland. It was a really great event that featured not only search marketing in Ireland, which is growing by leaps and bounds, but search marketing across the UK and Europe. Not only did Chris Sherman of Search Engine Land give a great keynote speech, but Mike Grehan of Acronym Media presented a panel on linking, Bill Hunt of Global Strategies and, Jon Myers of Mediavest spoke on Integrating Search Into Your Media Plan, and Dave Davis of Ireland’s own RedFly Marketing presented on Blogging & Search.

Travel Industry Expanding Beyond 10 Blue LinksThe Travel & Search panel brought up some interesting topics. From why the travel industry should care about search marketing, to why it should care about mobile and finally my topic of social media and travel, the panel covered a lot of information that businesses in the hospitality industry should be looking at to be competitive in this online market. Both of my industry colleagues, Nick Walsh and Teddie Cowell brought some great information to the audience.

Businesses who find themselves right in the center of the hospitality industry like hotels, resorts, restaurants and tour companies, find themselves in an ever evolving market space when it comes to online marketing. 3rd party booking engines are a godsend and a problem, social media is this big area that is rapidly growing and a place that can make or break a business, and mobile search is coming on so fast, no one really knows what to prepare for. Understanding all of this and being able to handle it is a big task for a lot of businesses in the hospitality industry.

The big question that really came out of the panel is “Why should the Travel Industry care?” … about online marketing, which encompasses SEO, PPC, Mobile, and Social Media. There are a lot of reasons to care, and they all boil down to the company’s bottom line of making a profit. Although some of it is hard to directly relate to it, every segment of online marketing can have a direct affect on the bottom line.

Looking at hotels, making sure your site is optimized for the search engines can help ensure their site is the rankings for their listings. Not only that, but making sure that their own sites have a capable booking engine and prices are in line with both the competition and the 3rd party booking sites like Expedia, and Priceline, can help these hotels keep the relationship personal with the customers booking on their sites. In the end, it saves the hotels commissions, which helps their bottom line, and creates a valuable relationship with the customer that usually brings them back to their hotel again and again.

Social media has increasingly had a growing affect on businesses in the hospitality industry. From forums to review sites and then tack on blogs, businesses have a lot on their hands when it comes to not only promoting their services, but also when monitoring their brands and services. One bad post about a guest not having their sheets changed for 17 days is enough to drive enough potential customers away that it makes a difference in the bottom line. Knowing how to handle and embrace the good as well as the bad, is essential to this industry.

Finally mobile is about to take this industry by storm. Ensuring websites are mobile friendly is not just a “nice” thing to have; soon enough it will be essential if you want to keep up with the competition. From maps to find the business, to making reservations with smart phones, mobile will soon be a force that can no longer be ignored.

So where does this leave the travel industry? To be honest, it leaves them in a place with a lot of great marketing possibilities. It’s a great time for the hospitality industry to embrace a lot of new ways to market their businesses and improve their bottom lines, to reach out and engage customers and create rewarding relationships. Are you a hotel, a restaurant or even a tour company, are you thinking about embracing any of these great ways to market your business? Perhaps now, is the perfect time to take a second look at online marketing!

Stop over at Search Marketing Gurus for additional coverage of Search Marketing World.

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