Digital Marketing for Travel Industry: A Complete Guide

by | Sep 19, 2016 | Digital Marketing

16 Min Read. |

I faintly remember when I was a kid, my dad used to plan a trip outside Delhi for every summer vacation. While we used to enjoy, the trip was not always fun for him. It was more like herculean efforts! However, the time has changed and with the infusion of digital marketing for travel industry, everything is just a click away! Digitization has transformed the travel digital marketing industry and this industry has coped well with these changes.

Globally, it is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.8% over the next 10 years to become $11.4 trillion!

Importance of Digital Marketing in Travel Industry

The travel and tourism industry today is one of the most affected industries by digital development. The travel and accommodation industry is one of the first ones to use digital marketing techniques in their practices to engage communities and make sure their clients have the best possible getaways.

To perform well and gain competitive benefits, players in the travel industry are always looking for the greatest and unique ways to reach their buyer persona and tailor their offering to their target audience.

Digital Marketing for Travel Industry

why travel industry should consider online marketing strategy

Today, we all have desktop computers, laptops, mobile devices etc, and have easy access to information for all aspects of the tourist industry from accommodation, travel, to food and activities, effective digital marketing is the best way to reach a large audience in a quick way at a lower cost.

With the help of different digital marketing channels, more and more customers are being served online especially via tablet devices and smartphones. Travel online marketing can go viral for any given audience with the help of article, audio, email, and video.

1. Increased Number of Mobile Users

More than 78% of business travelers use a smartphone during the trip planning process and 67% of people do online research before making any decision relating to travel. This shows more and more people are accessing the internet via their phones and this makes it all the more important to have a responsive website.

In order to make the traveling process easy for the target audience, many travel professionals, hotel owners, and travel agents have turned to the digital marketing agency. The shift from traditional methods of planning to digital marketing strategies (for making reservations, purchases and booking online), more and more travel & related companies are leveraging digital marketing to quickly and effectively reach their target audience. Thus, easing the process of digital marketing for travel agency.

2. SEO Impacts Users’ Decision

For instance, if you search ‘Best Travel Package to Goa’, it is a natural tendency that we will click on the website that is at the search engine result page or SERP. Therefore, making sure your page rank at the top of SERP is an important objective. However, the Google algorithms that decide which website will rank on the SERP change every now and then which makes it crucial to continually optimize your website. Along with that, it is important not to plant the keywords in your website just like that to boost the SEO, instead, incorporate keywords into the text to enhance the relevance of your website content to users.

3. Social Media Replaces Traditional Communication

Undoubtedly, digital marketing is revolutionizing the travel and tourism industry. Social media marketing has already replaced a large section of the traditional communication. For example, if we are traveling somewhere, we have a tendency to look at the pictures, reviews written by people, and other Twitter or Vimeo posts.

With this, we have reached a new interactive era where travel industries can take advantage of social media networking tools to promote the business at low cost, attracting visitors and generate interest of public.

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Statistics: Digital Marketing for Travel Industry

The travel and tourism industry are fast changing and the statistics are getting outdated quickly. Here are the nerdy and heavy numbers which will still help you know the upcoming trends in the online travel industry in India.

1. Manage your Online Reputation

  • 200 new users contribute to TripAdvisor every minute (TripAdvisor, 2015)
  • 95% of respondents in a TrustYou survey read reviews prior to booking. (Tnooz, 2015)
  • 4 in 5 TripAdvisor users will ‘always’ or ‘usually’ refer reviews before deciding on an attraction to visit, particularly Generation X (74%) and Australian travelers (82%) (TripAdvisor, 2015)
  • 80% of the travelers look for summarized reviews is time efficient whereas only 59% preferred reading full-text reviews (Tnooz, 2015)

What does it imply?

It is a daily task to nurture your online presence and build your positive reviews especially when it comes to authoritative sites like TripAdvisor.

2. Go for Online Bookings to Maximize Revenue

  • About 83% of activity and tour companies still work with traditional methods for their daily management; this means that digital users are not able to encounter the products in an online channel (Phocuswright, 2016)
  • There is a hike in bookings (30-40%) after the implementation of an online booking system. (TrekkSoft, 2016)
  • 65% of travelers book hotels reservations for the same day through a mobile device (Statistic Brain, 2015)

What does it imply?

There is a gap between numbers of travelers wanting to book tours and activities online and the majority of suppliers aren’t ready. There are so many booking software providers to choose that suits you the best.

3. Mobile-Optimized Businesses are Winners

  • From 2011 and 2015, the mobile bookings in travel have grown by 1700% (Frederic Gonzalo, 2016)
  • About 50% of the users have visited TripAdvisor through phone and tablet, and the company continues to see an industry rise in engagement on mobile phones (TripAdvisor, 2015)
  • 45% of travelers having connectivity use their  mobile devices to book travel activities pre-trip (TripBarometer, 2015)

What does it imply?

Seeing the increasing penetration of internet and mobile connectivity, it is important to choose a responsive booking system and website builder. For instance, choosing an integrated booking software with the existing website means you have to be sure of a mobile-optimized template with great UX with good loading speed.

4. Social Media in E-travel Industry

  • 97% of millennials say they post pictures while traveling, especially on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook (Frederic Gonzalo, 2016)
  • 27% of Twitter users create positive buzz for the brands they mention by sharing good travel experiences (Twitter, 2014)
  • 39% of users on Twitter access the platform mid-journey (Twitter, 2014)

What does it imply?

Don’t try your hands on every social media channel. It is important to find out where your target users are active, and join in with these conversions. Unless your audience isn’t there, it is of no use to jump into a new social network just because everyone’s doing that.

5. Visuals are the Best Marketing Toolbox

  • More than 53 million candid traveler photos on TripAdvisor (TripAdvisor, 2015)
  • 76% of TripAdvisor users agree traveler-submitted photos influence the decisions regarding booking (TripAdvisor, 2015)
  • People’s willingness is increased by a piece of content by 80% if it is a colored visual (Xerox, 2014)

What does it imply?

Since travelers want to add visual potential new experiences. Therefore, in order to stand out in the tourism industry along with inspiring travelers to book you instead of your competitors, it is important to place compelling visuals centre-stage in your marketing strategy for travel agency.

6. Video Bring you More Audiences

  • 80% of views on YouTube are from outside the US (YouTube, 2015)
  • 78% of people watch videos online every week (MWP, 2015)
  • According to Cisco 2015, streaming video will account for over two-thirds of all consumer Internet traffic by 2017.

What does it imply?

Well, for sure, it is a season to try videos. It is okay if your first video doesn’t gain huge transaction, but if you stick to the videos, you will surely receive the feedback.

Trends in Travel Industry

As per CNN, today, 41% of business and 60% of leisure travelers are making travel arrangements via the internet, and the travel industry has completely transformed itself into a digital sector.

Here are some of the mega-trends that are rocking the travel industry and understanding these trends can help you capitalize on them:

1. Social Ecosystem Influence Decisions

There is no secret that social media influences most of our spending habits. However, there are few industries where it is more influential like travel. It was reported that 52% of travelers said social media influenced a change in their travel plans whereas 80% are more likely to book a trip from a company that has been liked by a friend rather than a conventional Facebook ad.

76% of social media users post status updates and vacation photos which influence the desire to travel to those similar exotic destinations as one’s friends.

2. Recommendations are Winning

Digital Marketing for Travel Industry


The distrust of corporate websites and the move to social media implies recommendations from our peers are highly important when booking a holiday. More than 95% of leisure travelers in a Tnooz study read about 7 reviews and spent an average of 30 mins before booking.

According to a TripAdvisor survey, it was suggested that 92% of UK agree with ‘reviews are essential when booking a holiday’ statement. This implies bad reviews should be carefully dealt and customer complaints should be addressed with a good presence of mind. If you go an extra mile for customers, it will definitely pay and could end up driving more leads than a cliche expensive promotional campaign.

3. Big Data to Make you Unique

Since people are highly concerned with experiences, they don’t want the same experience as everyone else. They want personalized and unique experiences.

With big data, you can achieve this. It allows you to achieve customized offerings and track preferences. 83% of millennials allow travel brands to track their habits in exchange for a unique and better experience.

Moreover, 85% of respondents across all age groups reported that customized itineraries are even more appealing than one-stop solutions. Combining Artificial Intelligence/AI and big data can help you with ‘virtual travel assistants’ that are near-term prospect.

4. Role of Virtual Reality

Digital Marketing for Travel Industry

Virtual Reality

With the latest technologies and innovations, virtual reality has become of the most looked upon a part of online travel marketing. VR helps holidaymakers the chance to ‘try before you buy’ in a way that was impossible in the earlier days.

You can see what a company’s beach resort really looks. In future, with the development of VR, you will be able to look around the resort, see your room and check out just how big the pool is.

Strategies for Digital Marketing in Travel

Here are top 4 tactics that will help you build a successful tourism marketing strategy in 2016.

1. Go to your Visitors Before they Arrive

Visitors are not just visitors nowadays. Travel and accommodation marketing organizations should build relationships with visitors long before they arrive. A mini-campaign to help travelers can be made that navigate common questions like ‘where to stay, how to use the transportation systems, and the best local spots.’ You need to be that helping hand to the visitors.

Digital Marketing for Travel Industry

online travel industry

Digital Marketing for Travel Industry

Digital Marketing for Travel

For instance, you can surprise your guests at the airports or stations. Quite possibly, travelers will post a Twitter update or an Instagram photo when they will arrive. It is an incredible opportunity for tourism marketers to connect with them.

You can thereby, guide them to different visitor centers. For instance, you could ask about the most exciting thing they would do on the vacation. If they mention hikes or wildlife, you could suggest them the local hills or villages to them on Twitter or Instagram.

2. Plan for Negative Travelers

The biggest loophole is many travel and tourism organizations are not sure of the best way to deal with negative visitors. To avoid a bigger controversy, the default strategy is to respond when things are out of hand.

However, in 2016 and beyond, it won’t work. It is better to develop a more training and formalize a plan for how to deal with negative clients. If you respond early, you can mute negative experiences and minimize their impact. There are times when angry visitors can be turned into brand advocates with early attention.

3. Social Data for Better Understanding out of Market Visitors

I am traveling to USA today *photo of tickets attached*… Well, be it Facebook or Instagram, we keep our social media profiles updated with where we are going, how we are going etc. Therefore, social media helps in better understanding what out-of-market visitors think of their destination overall.

Deep understanding can help you develop more effective advertising campaigns.

4. Efforts on Instagram

Instagram is all about visual appealing, pictures, gifs, and videos, & so is traveling industry. What happens when these two meet? A high engagement, huge ROI, and it is a universal truth that Instagram creates high engagement, especially for travel brands. Your 2016 tourism marketing strategy should be investing more in the mechanics of gaining more followers.

Travel Industry Digital Marketing Budget

Digital Marketing for Travel Industry

Travel Marketing Budgets 2016

Case study: Travel Industry using Digital Marketing

Case Study: Tour My India’s Successful Digital Marketing Campaign

Digital Marketing for Travel Industry

Tour My India

Established in 2003, Tour My India is an online travel brand with a huge share in the travel industry and a strong presence in an inbound travel trade and corporate segment. The objective of the company is to build a good network with travelers from every corner of the world. Today, they have over 100k satisfied travelers, as well as, Tour My India, is among the travel diaries of fresh clients.

Also, from time to time, quality service is the prime factor driving customer satisfaction. With an objective to generate traffic to the site, spread education on travel, and bring potential leads, there was a challenge to bring up on Google listings and thereby, bring conversions via multiple marketing channels.

For this reason, the company planned a marketing strategy and content marketing along with multi-channel marketing. Following things were taken care by Tour My India company to bring the company at the top of Google search engine result pages (SERPs):

  • Productive keywords were shortlisted and optimized for users.
  • Relevant travel related articles promoted via blogger outreach and corresponding media.
  • Several other campaigns like paid advertising were executed.
  • The site was optimized for conversions that included redesigning the main pages of the site for paid campaigns, optimize order process and perform A/B testing for sales.

As a result of these strategies, Traffic improved by 1,328% and Conversions by 1,407%. Read the full Tour my India case study.

Case Study: ClearTrip Leverages Mobile Marketing

Established in July 2006, ClearTrip is one of the most sought after online travel companies in India with a market share of 35%. The prime objective of the company is ‘making travel simple’ for its clients.

Digital Marketing Travel Marketing


With the time, ClearTrip stuck on the stage of conversions and there was saturation when it came to online conversions. Therefore, the company decided to leverage mobile interface and social media in order to reach out to the customers.

Using customized options for its users, improving the user experience and mobile interface, and expanded itself to hotel bookings, ClearTrip achieved better results.

The company saw an increase in the registrations the brand which reached an entirely new set of audience. Also, the cost-per-conversion improved by 40 per cent better than before.

Case Study on Digital Marketing for Hotel Industry

Case Study: OYO Rooms leveraging Social Media

Digital Marketing for Travel Industry

OYO Rooms

An online aggregator of budget hotels in India claiming to be the largest chain of hotels, OYO Rooms were established in 2012. Ritesh Aggarwal, a 17-year college dropout started this chain with an aim to change the Indian hospitality business with the help of technology.

In order to retain its ranking and outperform its competitors, OYO focuses on the digital marketing aggressively for lead generation and customer acquisition. It has strategized all means of social media by targeting prospective customers on the basis of their behavior, interest, and other parameters which are instantly available through digital marketing.

It has strong social media presence on Facebook with over 2.7 lac followers and a Twitter following of more than 8,000 followers. The brand claims to have more than 1.5 million app downloads with a good number of active users.

Events on Digital Marketing for Travel Industry

1. eTourism Summitets-logo-see-tomorrow

This Digital Marketing for Travel has amassed a collection of interactive marketers, researchers, and experts who share their experiences to help solve problems and avoid costly mistakes.

When: 3-day event. October 19 to October 21 2016

Where: San Francisco, CA

2. Digital Travel Summit digital-travel-logo-sm

Organized by eTail, Digital Travel Summit is the digital marketing, customer engagement, and e-commerce strategy event for travel hospitality and leisure companies. Since the industry is going through a chain of changes, this event will highlight ways to cope up with the increased competition. It will also throw light on harnessing technology for improving operations and enhancing the consumer experience.

When: May 8-10, 2017

Where: Green Valley Ranch, Las Vegas, Nevada

3. TDS North America 2016eyefortravel

Organized by Julia Heighton, TDS N. America is a flagship event that brings together more than 500 senior travel executives in order to discuss the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Topics like revenue management, mobile, social media, marketing, innovation, analytics, and distribution will be included.

When: Oct 6, 2016, to Oct 7, 2016

Where: Las Vegas

4. EyeforTravel’s San Francisco Summit 2017eyefortravel

Organized by Shreya Ganapathy, EyeforTravel’s San Francisco Summit will integrate 4 major conferences including EyeforTravel’s Startup village, The Connected Traveller, Social Media & Content Strategies, and Mobile & Innovation Strategies.

When: April 24, 2017, to April 25, 2017

Where: San Francisco

DigME16_out5. The Digital Media Travel Summit (DigMe’17)

Being a one stop for digital tech trends, DigiMe or Digital Media Travel Summit is a place where you could get up along with the new digital platforms, paid opportunities and digital media, services, and travel marketing. With an aim to bridge the gap between education and connection in the travel industry, DigMe is taking place.

When: March 14-15, 2017

Where: Hilton Penn’s Landing Hotel, Philadelphia, PA

Agencies in Digital Marketing for Travel Industry

1. Wanderlust Digital Marketingwandelust_logo_new

By understanding the needs of tourism, hospitality, and digital marketing for travel business along with latest online marketing and interactive media trends, Wanderlust Digital Marketing offers various services. Some of the services they offer are Online Reputation Management, Email Marketing, Online Advertising, Social Media Management, and Search Engine Optimization.

2. Travel Spiketravel-spike-logo

‘We are 100% Travel

We only work in Digital’.

Since 2002, Travel Spike is running digital media campaigns for travel advertisers. The company has taken the historical campaign data and expertise, map the best mix of placements and publishers, and couple it with the advertiser inputs in order to produce the best campaign results.

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Digital Marketing for Hotel Industry

Being a part of the Hospitality industry, along with travel, the Hotel Industry is also becoming influenced with Digital Marketing.

There is a change in the approach of hotel managers and owners. They need not only service guests, manage rooms, pricing, and availabilities but are also expected to compete for the guests in digital communities and multi-channel that emerge every day.

Therefore, many hotel managers are expanding their brand online.

Events and Conferences for Hotel Industry

The hospitality sector is one of the sectors which has not fully exploited the digital marketing area and its uses in the hospitality sector.

Here are few Hotel Industry-based Summits and conferences that will enlighten you about the scope of Digital Marketing in Hotel Industry:

Premier India CIO Forumhftp

Hosted by HFTP, it will be the first India CIO Forum with networking opportunities and education sessions designed for Hospitality Chief Information Officers. The main objective of this event is to bring leading hospitality professionals from across the globe and discuss digital marketing in the hotel industry.

When: October 5-7, 2016

Where: The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, Rajasthan India

Hotel Investment Forum India (HIFI) 2016logo

HIFI is one of the most important hotel investment conferences in India. It is an annual meeting place for the leaders in the Indian hotel and tourism industry to discuss the current trends, identify new opportunities, networks and do plenary sessions, interactive workshops, and breakout plans. This year, HIFI will see the role of mobile and technology in the hotel industry.

When: 16-17th November 2016

Where: J W Marriot, Mumbai

You will learn a lot about Digital Marketing for Hotel Industry from two of the most renowned conferences happened in the year 2016: Hotel Operations Summit India 2016 (HOSI 2016) and Hotel Investment Conference South Asia (HICSA), 2016


To sum up, the booming impact of Digital Marketing for Travel Industry is the prime reason why tourism and hospitality companies are having an edge over other industries. The industries are adapting digital marketing strategies is that they carefully analyze how people interact with surrounding environments while traveling. This helps them recognize the existing user needs and give travelers what they want in order to create the ‘waoh’ effect resultantly ensure repeat sales.

Are there any key strategies we missed out?

Image Credits:, HootSuite, smartinsights,, mdgadvertising

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  1. Rabia Haroon

    I work in the travel industry and mainly operate via offline ways. What are the ways in which I can start my own online travel business?

    • Sakshi Behl

      Hi Rabia

      Most of the people think ‘it is ok not to go online’ and that they can still manage. However, this is not the case. In order to start an online travel business, you need to:

      1. Have a knowledge of online marketing and opportunities. You can either start reading ebooks, travel magazines, and read blogs or have an hands-on experience with a Digital Marketing Course.

      2. Now decide what kind of business you wish to start:

      a. Referral Agent
      b. Sign on with a host agency
      c. Start an independent online travel business

      3. What will be the purpose of your business? Will you sell all kinds of travel or focus on a specific area of travel? This is important in terms of target audience. As with specific customers, you can slim down your competition.

      4. Now create a business plan which should include how you will fund your business and the startup cost. You should also look into the details about finding the target audience.

      5. Regardless of how and from where the business operates, it is important to get a business license. Ask the local department of licensing or a similar agency if you need a travel-specific licenses to run your online business.

      6. Now create a website for your travel business. Let your prospects know about the travel services you are offering.

      7. You can do the Social Media Marketing Promotions or offline promotions as well.

      Best of luck for your new business! Circle in here, if you have any query 🙂

  2. Garvita Narang

    What is the best digital marketing channel for marketing a travel agencies business? My friend wants to boost his travel agency business which he has recently triggered with a basic website.

    • Sakshi Behl

      Hi Garvita,

      It is important to specify your business objective and the target audience you are working for. You can start with social media promotions. Go for Facebook ads (they are as cheap as Rs. 5 per ad), Instagram, or Pinterest to aware people about your website and bring them there.

      Since organic search is everything these days, you can start guiding people and creating content on your website. You can also try paid search but the CPC is high in the travel industry. Therefore, you can pick a specific niche and run paid campaigns.

      Hope this works for you 🙂

  3. Naren

    Well researched and useful post..

  4. Bhatarund

    Really interesting article. I’m looking for some way to use Digital marketing to promote new sites, particularly with regard to travel, and this helped some with inspiration.

  5. Christian

    Hi, very good post. Do you believe that the use of the internet in searches for holiday travel is the beginning of the end of traditional travel agencies, and the end of the role of the travel agent?

  6. Bivek Datta

    How the Online travel agencies of india are fitting or marketing themselves to meet the needs of Business Travellers?Please throw light on this aspect as this is my research area

  7. Aparna Nigam

    Very nice and informative article.


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