On Message: The in-resort marketing revolution

On Message: PR Week editor Danny Rogers on marketing and branding

Forget the summer lull, says Danny Rogers – the new generation of wired-up travellers will keep travel marketers busy all year round

As we reach the peak of the holiday season, travel and tourism marketers are tempted to relax and enjoy a well-earned rest.

The majority of their target audience are probably in resort, well beyond the reach of their marketing channels and messages. Or are they?

The digital revolution increasingly renders this view obsolete, because there are now myriad ways of communicating with consumers while they are actually on holiday.

Traditionally the media we consume in resort were very different from the ones we enjoyed at home: a two-day old Daily Mail picked up at the Spanish newsagent; unintelligible news channels; and, for more independent travellers, the trusty guide book, updated about three years ago.

But increasingly holidaymakers are fully wired up when they venture abroad. PDAs can tap into the web via hotels’ (occasionally free) wifi networks. Or by (usually expensive) 3G services abroad.

This is causing a revolution in travelling media. According to Nielsen BookScan guidebook sales in Britain for 2009 were down 18% on 2007, and if the second half of this year follows the first, 2010 will be down 27% on 2007.

It is worth contrasting this with the exponential growth in the use of mobile apps. Lonely Planet claims that during the volcanic ash crisis earlier this year it gave away 4.2m apps covering 13 destinations  – in just four days. Suddenly brands have a powerful new comms and marketing channel at their fingertips.

A stunning new app called Google Goggles has already launched on Android and some other smartphones, and will soon be available on iPhones. It enables the traveller to search the internet with a photographic image. So if you are looking round Madrid’s Prado and decide to point your iPhone at a Velazquez’s Las Meninas, Google Goggles will recognise the painting and give you the lowdown.

This app can even recognise a famous street view and calculate which restaurants and hotels are in sight, or nearby. Imagine the potential for tourism marketers – they could create special restaurant or nightclub deals for users of a particular app, who could download a voucher code on the spot.

Of course these mobile travelling media will also integrate with social media such as TripAdvisor and FourSquare, enabling travellers to seek peer reviews on the spot. It makes these media even more powerful.

Could tour operators even create their own tailored holiday apps, tying their customers in to an ‘always-on’ owned media channel?

But just before we get too carried away and start writing another obituary for print media, it is worth giving a quick mention to Monocle Mediterraneo which is publisher Tyler Brule’s latest wheeze. It is an upmarket newspaper aimed at ‘in the know’ travellers around the Med this summer.

We are not talking about millions of readers here, but it is a cleverly-targeted, in-resort medium aimed at a sophisticated readership – potentially a lucrative demographic for many travel brands.

There has never been so many ways at reaching travellers ‘in situ’ and the multi-media, modern marketer must plan accordingly. That said even they need a break. Bonnes vacances!

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