Over the years traditional travel agents have been hammered with challenge after challenge: commission cuts, the emergence of branded online booking platforms and an economic crisis spurred on by the decline of oil prices that resulted in fewer overall bookings. Those who have continued to succeed in converting business despite these challenges have honed in on the secrets to success – an active and varied marketing approach to build demand, secure leads and close sales.
To better understand how Canadian consumers are making their purchasing decisions, Development Counsellors International (DCI), a research firm with offices in Toronto and Montreal, spoke directly to 1,505 Canadian citizens. Capturing the Canadian Consumer: Insights into the Path to Purchase of the Canadian Traveler provides insight into the habits and preferences of outbound Canadian travellers along their “path to purchase” for international leisure travel.
The study found that in Canada, traditional travel agents still are a valued resource in the trip planning and booking process. In fact, 25 per cent of respondents prefer to book directly with traditional travel agents (vs. online travel agents.)
So, what can Canadian travel agents learn from this study?
A Facebook strategy still matters – for boomers
There’s been substantial talk about the exit of millennials off the Facebook platform and over to the visually inspiring platform of Instagram. However, research shows that Facebook is still growing in usage among boomers – and boomers will continue to be a primary driver of outbound travel. By 2025, the Canadian population is expected to reach 39 million, with the largest changes reflected in those 55 and older. They are healthier and wealthier than ever before.
Given that Facebook allows for the hyper-targeting of selected audiences, travel agents can target baby boomers on Facebook by honing-in on key segments such as interest, age, location and search history. When creating promotional content for Facebook that is specifically targeted to each of these segments, travel agents can effectively reach boomers, generate inquiries and ultimately drive sales.
It’s time to ratchet up seasonal marketing on Instagram – in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
Contrary to popular belief, not all Canadian outbound travelers are snowbirds looking to escape cold Canadian winters. In fact, nearly a quarter of Canadians report that they don’t have a specific preference for the time of year they travel internationally with the balance split evenly between a preference for travel in the first half of the year and a preference for the second half of the year. However, residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan are more likely than other provinces to travel during the winter months, presumably to take a break from the cold weather.
Travel agents can leverage Instagram to target residents in Manitoba and Saskatchewan who are looking to escape to destinations with a milder climate, by promoting these destinations through Instagram-influencer campaigns. In this type of campaign, micro-influencers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan will travel to a destination as a guest of a travel agency to showcase all of the destination’s available experiences. This type of influencer campaign is designed to inspire prospective travelers and convince them to book with the travel agency who has paid for the influencer’s expenses.
Additionally, travel agencies can sponsor Instagram giveaways to warm weather destinations, yet another Instagram tactic proven to raise awareness and boost inquiries.
Tap geo-targeting to break the “West goes west and East goes east” pattern
Research shows that residents of eastern provinces are more likely to visit destinations on the east coast of North America, while residents of western provinces are prone to visit west coast destinations. However, this is an opportune time to challenge consumers to think differently. With strong projected economic growth – especially in the top performing provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba – which also produce the highest volume of travellers – consumers may be more open to trying something new.
To shift demand and build inquiries away from the traditional pattern of behavior, travel agents should tailor the content their prospects see on their website and social media advertising through geo-targeting. Those accustomed to viewing west coast destinations can be inspired to consider east coast trips and vice versa.
Seasonal email marketing should get more targeted
Another demographic shift is the growing diversity of Canada’s population. The foreign-born population in Canada has tripled in the past twenty years and continues to grow. As of 2013, Canada’s minority population has risen to more than 12.8 million, an increase of 143 per cent. In particular, the proportion of Asian-born persons will continue to outpace the proportion of persons born in Europe.
Travel agents who segment their audience based on demographics and compose messages that are custom-tailored to their audience have seen an increase in the bookings of stop-over vacations. In particular, for those looking to experience a destination on their way to visit family in their country of origin. Due to the complexity of these multi-leg trips, travellers are more likely to use agents to manage these trip details.
Quebec residents mostly visiting the U.S? Think again
This study also found that residents of Quebec were just as likely to visit Western Europe as they were to visit the United States. Agents should perform content analysis to ensure experiences and packages in both sectors are equally promoted.
Additionally, travel agents selling to the Quebec market should optimize their marketing assets by including copy in both English and French, to appeal to this bilingual audience and boost searchability.
Those travel agents who have become savvy digital marketers are benefiting from an increased number of leads. Is it time for you to fight fire with fire?
For more on this research study, visit aboutdci.com/capturing-canadian-consumer.