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Harnessing the Dreamer's Phase of Vacation Planning: Marketing Tips for Hotels, Destinations & More

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”

Pico Iyer

Travel Marketing for the Dreamers Among Us

When do you start getting excited about your next vacation? Is it when your plane lifts off into the ether? Or is it earlier, when you start packing your suitcase? Or is it even before that, when you first get started planning your trip?

If you're like most of us, you begin to feel excitement for your time away as soon as you start thinking about it. You pore over reviews, photos, videos, and other content related to your destination, planning your trip piece by piece in your head and growing more and more excited.

When you call your sister that night, you say, "Hey, I'm so excited; I started looking at hotels for Maui. I think I'm going to plan a trip for May."

She says, "That's so awesome! Katie from work just went there. She had an awesome time. She stayed at the Sheraton; she said the gardens were gorgeous."

You get off the phone. You Google the Sheraton. You drool over the gardens. You notice a video on their site about a tour you can take of the property. You watch the video. You sign up for their email list so you can learn about their special events. You go to bed.

A week later, you have some free time again, so you sit down and pull up the hotel's website. You read about their restaurants. You check out some reviews of their eateries and start to browse the menus. Yum, you think to yourself; that almond-crusted tilapia sounds delicious. You make a mental note to try that when you go.

The next morning, you open Google and type in "flights to Maui in May" and start checking out your fare options. It would be cheaper to fly on a Tuesday, you think. Maybe I can get Joan down the street to watch the cats from Monday onward and fly out of Chicago; then I can stop and visit Nicole on the way.

How Do People Plan Vacations?

Does any of this sound familiar? This is the way most people begin to dream about, plan, and ultimately, book their vacations. If you run a hotel, resort, tour, destination, travel agency, cruise line, or any other travel and tourism adjacent business, you need to appear before travelers when they are planning their trip, ages before they book.

When they first get home from work, annoyed with their boss and decide to take a trip, you need to be in their Google results feed. You put the idea of what your destination can offer them in their head, right then and there. That's how you get bookings.

From there, of course, there's a whole lot of SEO, social media, and content work that needs to be done.

Here's some food for thought:

  • The average consumer spends 53 days and 76 online sessions on 28 websites when looking for vacation inspiration.

  • More than 50% of travelers look at social media for travel tips.

  • Longer travel content is the right strategy for 2022; the average first page Google result has 1,890 words.

  • More than 60% of consumers research travel plans and trips online before deciding where to go, and over 70% of business travelers use smartphones to book their travel.

  • It’s estimated that total gross bookings will hit $441 billion in 2022.

  • The travel industry makes up 10.9% of the total search spend in the United States.

  • 1,000,000 travel-related hashtags are searched on a weekly basis.

  • 74% of travelers state they use social media while traveling.

  • 97% of millennials report that they share photos on social media while traveling.

  • A whopping 84% of millennials say that they are likely to plan their own vacation based on someone else’s social media posts.

Winning the Travel Marketing Game

So digital marketing is important, but what can you do to catch the attention of travelers in their dreamer's phase?

  • Catch Travelers During The Planning Stages. It isn't enough to show up in search just for your specific service and location (like "hotels in Maui"). You need to grab travelers' attention when they're first thinking about a vacation and searching things like "most relaxing tropical resorts." This requires a more nuanced SEO approach.

  • Digital is the Future. 60% of bookings happen online. That means you need to be there when customers are planning their trips. Appearing on page 10 of Google won't cut it. An outdated social media feed will drive away potential travelers.

  • Imagery is Critical. From the photos on your website to the ones you post on social media, the images you share have to be on point. You can easily undo the impact of great SEO strategies with bad pictures. Fortunately, the barrier of entry to great photography and video is not very high, and we can help you decide what will sell.

  • Curate an Experience. Use your content to show travelers what experience they will have when they choose to include you in their vacation or business trip. After all, what you are really selling is a feeling, freedom from the everyday, and ultimately, a fond memory.

  • Be exciting. Headlines and hooks are especially effective when trying to grab their attention.

  • SEO is paramount. Potential customers enter questions like “best places to stay in Costa Rica 2022” and “cheapest hotel in Maui,” so it is in your best interest to invest in effective search engine optimization (SEO) and content strategies.

  • Curate the experience. Polish your images, video, and written content so that they all convey the aura of your resort, attraction, or travel service. This is the story guests will dream about beforehand and talk about long after they come home.

Still need some help? Call us! We have boatloads (pun intended) of experience working with travel industry businesses on everything from content and SEO to social media marketing and branding. We're your one-stop shop for catching the attention of travelers when they first start planning a trip.

Want to learn more? Here are some of our favorite free resources on travel marketing:

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