Travel in 2017 - A Digital Marketing Perspective

White Paper

British travel companies face an array of challenges and opportunities in 2017. Whilst consumer confidence held up well last year, uncertainty around Brexit, Trump’s presidency and currency fluctuations have led many to remain cautious for the year ahead.

New digital platforms continue to challenge traditional business models; Airbnb keeps hoteliers on their toes, and the rise of aggregator and peer review sites create additional complexity for airlines and travel agents. As a result, travel companies are becoming more sophisticated with their customer data, social media and data-driven decision making.

In this report, we detail key shifts and trends in online behaviour across the travel & tourism industry, and provide tactics for digital marketers to act on these findings. We focus on the following groups: airlines, hoteliers, online travel agents (OTAs) and aggregators, and detail how these players can get more out of their online data sets.

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1. Use Video Intelligence

Video has been a hot topic in the travel & tourism industry in the past few years. According to Cisco VNI, video is predicted to account for 79% of global internet traffic by 2020. YouTube data also shows that people are watching travel videos more than ever before, up 118% year-on-year in 2015. Tracking YouTube search behaviour reveals emerging destination trends, and provides key insights for targeting travel audiences.

Video Searches Reveal Rising Destinations

Searches within video platforms provide an indicator of emerging (and declining) destinations. For this peak season* (calculated as the 30 days from Boxing Day), destinations associated with adventure and unique experiences have had incredible growth on YouTube, such as Iceland and Vietnam.

YouTube Searches Skew Shorter Than Google

In terms of keyword optimisation, search behaviours on YouTube differ largely to that of Google. In searches related to Iceland, 78% of searches are 1-2 words (e.g. “Iceland”, “IcelandAir”, “Iceland Holidays”), compared to greater length variation on Search Engines (e.g. “Best Time to Visit Iceland”, “Whale Watching Iceland”).

Profile Subscribers to Drive More Traffic From YouTube

Video can also be used to better understand and engage audiences. On YouTube, travel companies can profile their subscribers and analyse the types of content that drive subscriptions to their channel. This tactic seems to be successfully implemented by top aggregators, such as and Skyscanner, which have seen the largest rise in traffic.

2. Get More Out of Your Affiliates

Most travel brands benchmark affiliate performance by tracking the percentage (or volume) of traffic they get from their affiliates over a given period. The next level of affiliate benchmarking is to understand the quality of the audience coming from each affiliate, and the affiliate performance of your competition.

Measure Who Drives More "Converting" Traffic

To illustrate this point, we look at the battle between aggregators, and, and compare audiences that are driven by Trivago. We look only at the audiences who went on to convert on these aggregator sites.

Both aggregators have similar conversion rates of 4-5% (i.e. proportion of visitors who hit the booking confirmation page), although is more reliant on Trivago for converting traffic than is. This would be good news to, who has a higher proportion of traffic from direct / non-affiliate channels.

Identifying The Unique Attributes of Your Converting Audience

Upon analysing the audiences behind the converting traffic, you see that actually taps into a different audience through Trivago. Their converting Trivago audience is skewed toward females (53% vs. Direct – 42%) and captures a younger profile of 18-24 years old (13% vs. Direct – 9%).

With this insight, could then assess the ROI of their converting Trivago audience, while keeping’s affiliate strategy in mind.

This can help them determine whether to continue or grow their partnership with Trivago, in order to open up to new or untapped audiences.

3. Creative Ways to Grow Market Share

With a 51% rise in visits to sites like Skyscanner and Trivago over the past 3 years, it’s clear that more travellers are using aggregators across all stages of their pathway to purchase. Understanding users’ journey from search to route selection can offer both the supplier and aggregator the opportunity to capture new market share.

Track Your Route Market Share From Aggregator Sites

Take Skyscanner as an example. Airlines and OTAs could track their market share by route. For instance, airlines and OTAs received an even share of re-directed traffic from Skycanner for Londonto- Orlando searches, with Thomson Airways and BudgetAir leading the way.

“Route Flexibility” Offers Opportunity to Capture Market Share

An airline or OTA with low market share for the London-to-Orlando route, such as Omega Flight Store in the previous example, may decide to look into new route opportunities.

How could they go about that? When we track the user journey from search to actual route selection, we find there is often quite a bit of “route flexibility”. Depending on a number of factors, such as price or flight time, a user’s original search may differ from the route they ultimately select on an aggregator website.

For example, of all original searches for London-to-Orlando, only 44.5% of users went on to select this specific route on Skyscanner. Over half (55.5%) of users ultimately ended up selecting a different route than London to Orlando—many were willing to fly from Manchester or Birmingham, or fly to Miami or Dubai.

Omega Flight Store could then analyse the market share of these alternative routes, and determine whether any would be worthwhile to invest in. Aggregators could also use this information to strengthen relationships with suppliers.

Key Takeaways for Travel Companies

  • Track video search and viewership on channels like YouTube to identify emerging destinations.
  • Identify who your subscribers are and what content they engage with to drive engagement.
  • Benchmark your competitors’ converting traffic to see which affiliates are working well or not.
  • Understand your market share on aggregator sites, as granular as route or destination level.
  • Identify new opportunities by tracking not only popular route searches, but alternate route variations selected on aggregator sites.

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