Paying attention to the evolving landscape of the travel industry is essential. If you work at a hotel in any capacity, from marketing to revenue management, you understand the importance of staying ahead of the curve. But Departures' announcement to fold at the end of December 2023 is a stark reminder that what worked last year may no longer suffice in the ever-changing industry.
The answer? While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, we believe a solid solution lies in returning to the basics of digital marketing. Read on to find out what it is.
First Came the Shrinking Media Landscape
Departures magazine has long been a staple of luxury travel publications. All of us at Curacity were sad to hear it was folding. But it's a poignant reminder that even established media brands are not immune to the shifting tides of the digital age.
The demise of an excellent travel publication underscores the fundamental changes in how travelers consume information and how hotels must adapt.
Twenty years ago, print media began folding as consumers went online to search for travel advice. Hotels turned to online media outlets for advertising and exposure, but more changes were on the horizon.
Next Came the Rise of Social Media
Hotels had adapted to an online media landscape by the early 2010s, but another significant shift was coming. Facebook promised an untapped flow of upper-funnel traffic, Twitter became a virtual front desk extension, and the media hailed Instagram as "the new homepage."
Many properties placed less emphasis on earlier digital marketing tactics, like email newsletters, in favor of social media advertising, content creation, and influencer marketing. Vanity metrics, like the number of followers, likes, and shares, took over the marketing landscape.
But by 2017, organic reach plummeted as social media platforms required brands to use ad dollars to "boost" posts to earn the same volume of traffic and engagement to which they had become accustomed. And influencers began charging hefty fees for their services, which they previously offered in exchange for a stay.
Now Change is Here Again
In a landscape where outlets like Departures magazine are disappearing and navigating hotel PR challenges to gain coverage is becoming more complex, hotels must be agile and forward-thinking.
Personalized advertising and data-driven marketing have become the norm, and discontinuing third-party cookies presents a formidable challenge that 70% of marketers reported being unprepared for in a YouGov survey by Adform.
One thing is clear: change is here again, and hotels must find new ways to connect with potential guests.
The Chase for First-Party Data
The good news is that hotels don't necessarily need to reinvent the wheel. At Curacity, we focus on a solid solution that's been around since the beginning of digital marketing: email.
While newsletters fell somewhat out of favor during the rise of social media, building subscribers and first-party data has returned as a cost-effective and valuable tactic for hotels.
Shifting your strategy can be easy. For example, instead of boosting social media posts for engagement, consider an organic approach that requires an emphasis on developing content your most engaged followers actually want. Use your ad spend instead to convince people to sign up for your newsletter in exchange for a value add, like premium amenities or dining credits.
Curacity also uses newsletters to reach the engaged subscribers of the world's best media brands. Emails allow us to reach a media outlet’s most engaged subscribers who are likely to spend more and stay longer, funneling them to your website, encouraging direct bookings, and capturing first-party guest data for future marketing purposes.
The key takeaway is clear: to succeed in the ever-evolving travel industry, hotels must pivot, innovate, and continually redefine what it means to capture and engage travelers. But the good news is that sometimes the answer lies in time-tested solutions, like email.
No matter what channels you focus on, it’s up to forward-thinking hotels to ask: where do we see the most significant reach? Traffic? Revenue? Be critical about what's working and what isn't.
At Curacity, we're data-driven and performance-based. If any of your marketing channels aren't, now is the time to ask: what can my hotel do in 2024 to change that?