Email’s place in the Travel and Tourism sector

I recently spoke at a Tourism Ireland’s eSymposium event, “Engaging Your Customers Online”. It was well organised, and there were an interesting range of speakers offering their insights into the challenges that marketers in this sector face.

The day was filled with talk about the huge impact social networking, Word of Mouth (WOM) and User Generated Content (UGC) are having on the industry. Tourists and travellers, both business and leisure, now have a platform to tell the world about their experiences – and influence potential visitors. Many online destinations, such as YouTube and TripAdvisor, offer anyone the ability to post ratings, photos and video clips.

I pondered everything I heard through the day and suggested how I think email fits into today’s landscape of this sector.

Email is now the digital backbone – Despite the ’email is dead’ cries – email has become the backbone of all digital communications. A recent Stanford University study of 4,000 users found email was the #1 activity for 90% of the respondents. You can’t sign up for anything electronic without giving an email address. It’s a ubiquitous part of all social networking – it’s a channel people are comfortable with, and it works very well in tandem with other marketing channels.

Search is email’s friend – In that same study the second most popular use of the internet was search (at 77%). People use search to find what they need. In fact, it is a major influencer in travel decisions. It seems to me after marketers have worked so hard to create a presence on the internet, and investing in search engine optimisation, it’s mad to just let those visitors leave a website without offering to keep in touch with them by email. By offering email newsletters, special offers, etc., you have a chance to continue the relationship rather than relying on them to remember to return.

A relationship can be damaged by just one email – One speaker mentioned an example of visiting a website and emailing them with a question prior to making the booking. He didn’t hear back from them for two days! He had long since moved on – the sale was lost, and the impression of the destination now very poor. Quickly answering queries from a website seems like the most basic element of good marketing – make sure you have this process in place.

One email can leave a lasting good impression – I posted about a wonderful experience I had with a hotel – and my experience began was just one email. That one email set the tone of my visit to the hotel – it gave me the impression that I’d be in good hands when I arrived. A week before my arrival I received a personalized email which gave me the ability to check in online (I did), gave information on how to get to the hotel from the airport, and provided links to a wide variety of events and activities in and around Miami. The email also included the predicted temperature during my stay. My stay at the hotel turned out to be a wonderful experience. Though I didn’t sign up to receive further emails from them – I certainly would stay again or recommend the venue to anyone who asked me.

One email can launch a relationship “ A transactional email gives you the perfect opportunity to engage the recipient and begin a relationship. Along with providing the information involved in the transaction, such as a booking, you can let them know about your email newsletter, or other offerings you have. I interviewed Jeanne Jennings all about transactional emails as a marketing tool.

The viral capacity of email is a powerful tool – One email can be forwarded over and over again. This is word of mouth – and powerful because it came from a user not the marketer. One email containing information about a destination can be printed off over and over again. This removes marketers from the constraints that printed brochures can create. (Yes, offer printed brochures as well – but take advantage of the ease-of-forwarding nature of digital brochures.)

Email can serve as a delivery channel for more than the written word – Along with email’s ability to nurture relationships and provide written content of value and interest, it also gives you the power to push other types of content to the recipient; including links to podcasts, vodcasts, positive reviews, photos, and deep links on your website, etc.