Insider Exclusive: Online Marketing Trends Tour Operators Should Watch (Part 2)

Insider Exclusive: Online Marketing Trends Tour Operators Should Watch (Part 2)

By: Kyla Steeves

Last week, we established that in order for your tour business to make an impact online, you must pay attention to the top marketing trends of 2018. We discussed video content strategies and creating authentic online interactions. Here, we take a look at three more trends: partnering with a “micro influencer,” smarter email marketing, and optimizing voice searches.

1. Influence With influencers

Consumers trust recommendations provided by others—especially if that person is admired, respected, and looked up to. And even though the Kardashian sisters are promoting everything under the sun, you don’t have to seek celebrity endorsement to make an impact.

In fact, consumers are more likely to trust the opinions of someone they can relate to. Since growing a social media following is possible for just about everyone, you have an unlimited amount of influencers to select from.

But an influencer with more followers isn’t necessarily better. Stick with micro-influencers—accounts with a following of 2,000 to 100,000—because they still have significant reach, but will make less of a dent on your budget.

Partnering with a micro-influencer is ideal because their fans love them for being relatable and authentic. In every post, they share a little bit about who they are, what they like, and how they live.

Many of them have chosen a niche industry in order to target an audience and better grow their following. They may be travel bloggers, fitness fiends, vegan foodies, or green thumbs. This means their fan base shares the same interests—otherwise they wouldn’t be loyal followers.

Find a relevant micro-influencer—such as a travel blogger—for your tour business. Make it a match followers will believe, because when an influencer actually likes your service, their promotional efforts won’t appear forced.

What can you have a micro-influencer do for you? Be a brand ambassador, of course!

Ask them to share a story of their experience with your tour. Or ask them to use your branded hashtags whenever they promote. Anything the brand ambassador does for you, make sure they are compensated for it.

2. Smarter email marketing

Artificial intelligence (AI) is creeping into every corner of our lives. You may already have a personal assistant in your bedroom that wakes you up, shares the weather forecast, and plays your favorite morning tunes. Machine learning is designed to customize experiences—and this can be used to better your email marketing campaign.

Over the years, email marketing has received a bad reputation. Email recipients may consider most of their inbox messages to be spam and are quick to unsubscribe from a business. To avoid this, you can personalize your emails to the buyer’s journey. A consumer in the awareness stage will receive different email content than a consumer in the decision stage.

But you are thinking, “How do I do that? I just learned email automation with my online booking system.” Well, that’s where AI comes in.

There are various email marketing platforms out there that support machine learning. Using natural language technology, AI creates subject lines, body copy, and calls to action that appeal to the recipient. This removes all the guesswork for an email marketer.

3. Optimize for voice searches

You already know about the rise in smartphone users and the demand for mobile-ready content and mobile bookings, but did you know about the increase in voice searches? Consumer behavior has gone from sitting at a computer desk to walking with a smartphone to not touching a device at all.

With the help of virtual assistants to find what you need, all you have to do is ask. In the U.S., 71 percent of mobile users between ages 18 and 29 use a mobile personal assistant. This means that instead of taking time to type, users are can ask a question by saying, “OK, Google” or “Hey, Siri.”

Voice technology is upping the ante for search engine optimization. You’ve broken away from keyword stuffing and learned how to use long-tail keywords. Now, you need to know the questions your target audience is asking.

A consumer talks to a virtual assistant in a conversational tone using questions that start with who, what, when, where, and how. More so, they are using the term “near me” to find local listings. Here are some ways to optimize for voice searches:

  • Make sure your website contains the physical address, hours of operation, and contact details of your tour business.
  • Use a keyword search tool such as Answer the Public to find out questions travelers are asking, and then write content that answers it.
  • Use “near me” as a keyword and place it in title tags, meta descriptions, anchor text, etc.

Applying these online marketing trends will be a challenge at first. But remembering the effect consumer behavior has on business will be the motivation you need to tackle them.

Kyla Steeves is copywriter for Checkfront, a leading online booking system for the travel and tourism industry.

Reprinted with permission of Checkfront, a leading online booking system for tour and activity operators. 

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
Office: (202) 218-7220
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