Getting started with content for the travel industry

Content writing for travel websites, blogs and social media is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to content marketing for tourism businesses.

Published September 2021 | Keeley Warren

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is an approach to online marketing designed to attract, engage and retain an audience, thus moving them further along the sales funnel or into the buying cycle. This involves the creation of content for various online platforms and publication purposes, including social media, blog articles, infographics, email marketing, video creation and podcasts, among others.

Atacama desert lake, Chile

Offer insight and value

The other key aspects to understand when getting started with content marketing for the tourism sector are shareability and distribution, relevance, value and consistency. Well-crafted content that is shareable, easily digestible, relevant, consistent and of high value to consumers is crucial.

Content produced for a content marketing strategy should offer insight and be of value to its readers. It should be written specifically with the desired audience in mind and focus on answering the readers’ questions. In many cases, the content should acknowledge the audience’s pain points, whilst providing helpful solutions. 

Atacama desert lake, Chile
Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia
Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

Improved brand awareness and credibility

When it comes to the travel sector, the core purpose of a content marketing strategy is to provoke an interest in specific products, services, experiences, destinations and attractions, without directly promoting an exact brand or business. Many destination marketing organisations do this well by leveraging content marketing trends for innovative tourism boards, regional tourist offices and destinations.

When done well, content marketing strategies for travel and tourism can help to improve brand awareness, brand perception and loyalty. They also build trust and credibility in the brand or organisation. In many other cases, they are used to engage an online community.

Content marketing for the tourism and travel sector

There are a number of core differences and considerations when it comes to content marketing for the travel and tourism sector. There are specific channels and platforms best suited to market travel brands, businesses and destinations.

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Types of content marketing for the travel industry

There are many different types of content marketing strategies suitable for the tourism sector. Depending on an organisations’ goals, various combinations of tactics are recommended.

The most popular platforms and content marketing trends in the travel industry are:

  • Blogging and whitepaper creation
  • Visual content such as videos, photos and live streams
  • Social media marketing
  • Infographics (very effective and underutilised!)                            
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Online courses, webinars and eBooks
  • Quizzes, polls and surveys
  • Creating podcasts or featuring in a podcast
Content marketing services
Content marketing
Content marketing

Great content marketing platforms for travel brands

With so many platforms suitable for content marketing available, it can often be overwhelming for a travel business to know where to focus their time and energy. In our experience, some of the most effective content marketing platforms for the tourism sector are:

  • Blogs and whitepapers for websites (e.g. create content for travel agency websites and hotels)
  • Social media (particularly Facebook and Instagram)
  • YouTube
  • Email
  • Quizzes, polls and surveys

Helpful blogging ideas for tourism and travel websites

When embarking on a content marketing strategy that includes blog content and content writing for travel websites, be sure to do your research on the topics that travellers want to know more about. There are several tools available that provide this type of insight. AnswerThePublic is one example. This platform provides suggested topics based on popular questions that people have.

Write a shortlist of topics that are important to people, ensuring that they also relate to your industry and your business in some way.

If you want to write compelling content, start with the headline.

Look at magazine covers for inspiration. They can be in a completely different industry sector, it’s the structure of the headline that counts. Switch out the keywords and replace them with words that relate to your industry, your customer and your area of expertise.

For example, ‘the new way to wear jeans’ could become ‘the new way to travel sustainably.’ ‘The complete guide to makeup lessons’ could become ‘the ultimate guide to exploring Finland.’ Once you have a long list of new headlines to work with, it becomes much easier to write inspiring content that will capture your audiences’ attention.

Several popular blog themes work exceptionally well for the tourism sector. They draw readers in and offer a simple format to provide helpful information travellers love.

Some of our favourite content angles for blog posts include:

  • The ‘How-to’ post. For example, ‘How to travel and help the environment’
  • The ‘List’ or ‘Top X’ post. For example, ‘13 Top destinations that will take your breath away’
  • The ‘Best Of’ post. For example, ‘8 of the best sustainable fashion brands’
  • ‘The Secret to X’ post. For example, ‘The secret to travelling on a budget’
  • The ‘Itinerary’ post – e.g., Things to see in 3 days: Melbourne, Australia
  • The ‘Meet a Local’ post – e.g., Dine with a local in Peru
  • The ‘Curated Content’ post – e.g., What travellers say about Barbados

In many cases, writing a feel-good article simply isn’t enough when it comes to blogging for content marketing. There is a real need to sell the benefits of the topic being discussed. Many blog posts don’t include a focus on benefits at all. 

For example, when blogging about sustainable travel, many businesses often forget that their audience doesn’t really understand what sustainable tourism is, let alone the many benefits this form of travel can offer. When communicating a complex topic, it’s almost always best to lead with storytelling that sells the benefits.

In the case of sustainable tourism, these benefits aren’t always obvious. They spill into environmental, societal, cultural and economic areas that many tourists aren’t aware of. Persuasive storytelling that connects the reader with benefits they can relate to will entice them further into the article (and along the sales funnel). 

Create a content calendar complete with dates and plot your campaign periods onto the calendar. They may be overlapping or consecutive, depending on the timing that makes the most sense for your audience based on your research. 

Once you have added the campaign periods, consider how much time you will have every month and what resources are available to help you with your content marketing. Be realistic about how many blog posts you can achieve each month and be strict with yourself when it comes to the time you have available. Try not to overcommit to producing content that won’t be high quality or won’t be consistent.

Depending on the time you have, you may need to hire outside experts to help you. If you have the capacity to do the work in-house, ensure that you consider the additional time required for editing, internal approvals, implementation on your website and sharing of your final blog article across your other content marketing channels.

Speak with a travel and tourism marketing agency about the various ways they can support you with your content marketing.

Santorini, Greece

Know who your ideal customer is

To set up an effective content marketing strategy and to produce persuasive content writing for travel websites, it’s important to get to know who your ideal customer is. It’s also vital to understand the way they think in detail. Get to know your customers by talking to them and by asking yourself a few of these key questions:

  • What are two important traits my ideal customer has? What do they like to do?
  • What are the most popular questions my customers ask over the phone and via email?
  • What questions do they ask when they arrive for their experience or their stay?
  • How could I provide them with this information in a useful, more convenient way?
  • Where do my customers hang out online?
  • What are my customers generally doing when they are hanging out here?
  • What information would my customers benefit from most when they are hanging out online?
  • What information would have the most impact on potential new customers when they find my business online?
  • What are my customer’s pain points? What information would help them to solve that problem?
Santorini, Greece

Understand what users want at different phases of the buyer's journey

There are five key stages of the travel buying cycle. These are Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing. An effective content marketing strategy for the tourism sector understands what visitors are looking for, what they want and what they need at each stage of this consumer journey. It’s important to create visual content and to produce content writing for travel websites that align with each of these stages.

The Dreaming phase is identified when a person is thinking about going away on a trip. Consider what type of content would capture their attention and what would make them stop scrolling or stop to take notice. In this stage, they are open-minded about ideas and suggestions on where to go and why.

The Planning phase happens when a person is researching and looking for information to help them plan the perfect trip. At this stage in the buying cycle, there is a prime opportunity to create content that is useful, helpful, insightful and most importantly, extremely valuable. This content should help the person plan their ideal trip.

The Booking phase is the moment of decision when a person is ready to commit. The content marketing work that has been done to build on the Dreaming and Planning phases will pay off here.

The Experiencing phase happens whilst a person is preparing for and during their adventure. In this phase, consider the information your customer may need most. For example, airlines are fabulous at managing customer expectations in the lead up to a flight, during a flight and directly after a flight. Most of the communication is done through email marketing campaigns and inflight entertainment.

The Sharing phase is one of the most important and often overlooked stages of the buying cycle. It starts in the Experiencing phase and continues upon the person’s return home from a trip. This happens in the form of posting reviews, uploading content to social media and blogs, plus word of mouth about an experience.

Think about how you're going to share your content marketing

Once you have identified your target market and the problems you can help your audience to solve, it’s time to think about how you will share the content you will be creating.

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Channel mix

The way you share your content will depend on the channels and the platforms that your content will be published on. To begin with, we recommend choosing a few channels where your customers hang out online. This will ensure that your focus is on creating high-quality content and it will provide you with an opportunity to test your approach before rolling it out across a larger channel mix. It’s also an opportunity for you to test how much time you need to create the content and assets for your campaigns. 

Channels that allow you to collect insights about your customer and their behaviour are often a good place to start. Social media and email marketing are two channels that offer segmentation of data that can teach you a lot about your audience and your content. They are also relatively easy channels to use for testing your content direction. 

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Digital marketing strategy
Digital marketing strategy

Set your goals

Behind every good content marketing strategy are clear, well-defined goals and objectives. It’s also important that these are measurable and that you are realistic about your timeline for achieving your targets.

For example, your ultimate long-term goal may be to increase bookings or sales, but your content marketing goals might include:

  • Increase readership and the average time spent on a specific web page by 10% over 3 months
  • Improve social media engagement with posts by 8% in 3 months
  • Increase volume of shared articles on social media by 15% over 3 months
  • Feature in 5 x partner blog articles or guest blogs in three months
  • Improve email open rates by 10% over three months
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Scheduling tools

Depending on which channels and platforms you choose to run your campaigns across, there are various scheduling tools available. This will save you a lot of time in the long run and it will ensure that you are consistently running your campaigns at a time your customers are most likely to engage with them.

For social media, you can use Facebook Business Suite for scheduling content across Facebook and Instagram. This is a free tool that connects with your business pages. The insights also available in Facebook Business Suite are key to monitoring the progress of your campaigns in the future.

When it comes to email marketing, there are various platforms available including Mail Chimp, Active Campaign and Campaign Monitor, amongst many others. Most email marketing platforms offer subscription-based plans. The costs tend to vary depending on your database size and the features you would like access to.

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Paid digital advertising
Paid digital advertising

Track your results

The most important stage of every content marketing campaign is tracking and analysis of the results collected. To understand if your content is hitting the mark, you need to dive into the data and learn to interpret what the data is saying.

When we are running campaigns for our clients, we like to set up a matrix that provides an overview of performance. This is monitored on a weekly or monthly basis. Some examples of the metrics to include are:

  • Channel/Platform
  • Current result before campaign commenced
  • Target or goal we are working towards
  • New data (reported weekly, if relevant)
  • % towards each goal (-/+)

Monitoring performance in this way will help you to understand if your campaign is on track to meet the goals that were set. It will also help you to quickly identify if something isn’t working, or if your goals were too ambitious. This method allows you to recalibrate your targets early and it highlights the areas of your content marketing that are working well (or not working at all).  You can then learn from this and change your approach constantly. 

How to build up a backlog of content ideas

Two of the biggest challenges most organisations have when it comes to content marketing are consistency and momentum. Both of these challenges are usually due to poor planning when setting up a content schedule. One way to minimise this is by keeping a backlog of ideas to constantly draw from.

Here are six steps to help you create 100 ideas for your content marketing:

This is the fun part! It’s also the most important step in your content marketing strategy. It’s time to get into the minds of your customers and find out exactly what they want to know, how they want to receive that information and when they want it.

Some useful ways to source these insights are:

  • Ask your existing customers if they would like to participate in some customer research. This can be done either 1:1 or in a group environment, or virtually.
  • Use Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner and check forums to find out what people are searching for online and when.
  • Check Travel Insights with Google to learn more about what is happening internationally and find valuable insights that are relevant in real-time.
  • Get your team together for a brainstorming session complete with butchers paper on the walls and sticky notes. In times when the team can’t get together in person, Miro and Mural are great for virtual brainstorming sessions, too.
  • Review your existing analytics data for your website, your social media platforms and your email marketing campaigns.

Looking back over the information you have collected in the brainstorming and research phase, start sorting it into common themes. Once you have defined who your key audiences are, where they hang out online and what they need help with most, it’s time to set up your content pillars or themes based on the patterns that arose in your research.

When creating your content pillars or themes, we recommend limiting them to four to keep your content marketing strategy more targeted.

Content pillars help you to categorise your content into a clear purpose for each one. For example, your content pillars could be:

  • Add value
  • Personalisation
  • Inspire
  • Build trust

Most topics (especially if they are useful, helpful, interesting and valuable for your customers) will align with a specific content pillar. 

Underneath each content pillar, write a list of topics that align with the theme of each pillar. For example, below ‘Add Value’ you could include:

  • How-to guides
  • Things to consider
  • Value for money
  • Educational content
  • Survey results and interesting data

Below ‘Inspire’ you could include:

  • Tip of the month
  • Inspirational destinations
  • Industry events calendar
  • Sustainable travel ideas
  • Useful travel tools

And so on.

Rather than focusing on one blog or one social media post at a time, focus on larger campaigns that you can run over a series of weeks, months and years. Looking back over your content pillars and topics, choose three campaign ideas you could focus on that are directly related to three topics.

For example, three campaign ideas could be:

  • Responsible/sustainable travel
  • Travel tools
  • Informative guides

Consider how long these campaigns will be relevant to your audience and write that down. 3 months is usually a good place to start, then you can reassess. 

Below each campaign idea, write a list of at least 25 related content angles, questions and pain points that your customers told you about. Look back on the research you gathered and the sticky notes for ideas.

Use a calendar style template with the dates and days of the year and add all the important dates you will need to keep in mind when planning your content marketing. This may include the day your business was founded, important industry events, season opening/closing dates, anniversaries and any special days that are important to your customers. You should be able to think of (or research) at least 25 different dates that are relevant and important.

By the end of this process, you will have at least 100 ideas in your content backlog to draw from, along with a framework to set up your content marketing strategy.  

Great travel content marketing examples

Here are three examples of travel brands that excel in content marketing across multiple content platforms.

Delhi night markets
Delhi night markets

TripAdvisor

One of the most well-known travel brands internationally is TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is an admirable example of content marketing for the travel sector that has been done exceptionally well. Over the past few decades, they have mastered the art of user-generated content (UGC) in the form of gamifying reviews, images and recommendations from other travellers. The entire TripAdvisor business model has been built on UGC and the success they have experienced from this approach to content creation has been phenomenal.

More recently, the implementation of personalisation on the website and app has been introduced. This provides users with a unique browsing experience personalised based on their browsing history, content engagement and reviews on the TripAdvisor site and app. Email marketing campaigns take personalisation to the next level, providing users with content that resonates best with them on a personal level.

Depending on where TripAdvisor users are located, the user interface (UI) of the website and app differs. The UI has been designed with certain features and adjustments specifically for certain markets based on what works best locally.

Alberta landscape, Canada

Rooted Storytelling

Our friends at Rooted Storytelling are excellent at content marketing. Rooted Storytelling is on a mission to share sustainable travel-related initiatives and support further development using strategic storytelling.

The Rooted Storytelling hub offers extensive and valuable information for travel content creators, travel service providers, destinations and students. They also happen to sell courses in responsible travel writing and strategic storytelling.

We love their approach to content marketing, in particular the blog content they produce and the guides, courses and webinars they create. Their social media marketing campaigns are focused on adding maximum value for their key audiences, building trust and credibility in their brand.

Follow Rooted Storytelling on Instagram to learn more: @rootedstorytelling

Alberta landscape, Canada
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Qantas

Australia’s largest and oldest operating airline, Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services), is fantastic at content marketing. In addition to their world-class airline services, they offer a Frequent Flyer membership program that encourages members to collect points that can be allocated towards the cost of future flights. These points can be collected at various retailers upon presentation of a Frequent Flyer card upon purchase of other items. Qantas points are also available through various credit card providers, including American Express, Mastercard and Visa.

The sheer volume of content marketing opportunities generated through the Frequent Flyer program alone is incredible. This includes more than 390 participating retailers that offer Qantas Frequent Flyer points to shoppers.

This strategy ensures that Qantas remains top of mind for consumers and that they are most likely to book with Qantas to redeem their points when they are ready to book a flight in the future.      

The importance of customer research for content marketing in travel and tourism

Content marketing is exciting and rewarding, as much as it is often difficult and time-consuming. Two of the biggest challenges with implementing and maintaining an effective content marketing strategy are the number of resources it takes and the amount of time it can require.

Many businesses simply can’t manage this workload in-house and prefer to work with agencies and partners that specialise in content marketing strategy.

When considering travel content marketing agencies, be sure to partner with experts that understand content marketing trends in the travel industry. Most importantly, look for someone that wants to get to know your customers in detail. Customer research and taking the time to speak with your customers directly is an essential stage of the process when engaging an agency to support you with your content marketing initiatives.

At Mankind Digital, we cannot recommend customer research enough. The quality of the insights and information gathered from these conversations is invaluable. It will arm your organisation with a deep understanding of who your customers really are so that you can create content that speaks to them directly. If you would like some help with setting up a research program, talk to us about our customer research services for the tourism sector. 

Learn more about content marketing strategy for the tourism sector or speak with a content marketing strategist at Mankind Digital today.

Published September 2021 | Keeley Warren

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