Travel and tourism, and it’s attendant marketing industry, was hit hard during the global coronavirus outbreak. International arrivals dropped by over 80% in 2020 alone. And many tourism based businesses struggled to keep their head above water, with local governments handing out lifelines to keep the sector afloat.

In 2019 the global tourism industry was worth an estimated $2.9 trillion. Indirectly however, tourism is thought to account for around a total of $9.2 trillion of global GDP.

For brands and agencies operating in the tourism sector, many are wondering if it’s time to dip their feet in the marketing pool again. But for tourism and travel marketers hoping to capitalise on the gold rush of post-pandemic travel it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot has changed.

The world of digital marketing also presents it’s own challenges to travel marketing professionals. Competition for customers, an ever changing advertising landscape and the ongoing rise of click fraud are all concerns for marketers.  

The world of travel in 2021    

Attitudes to travel have changed a lot in the past year, and the travel and tourism industry is already adapting. 

Some of those big changes are expected to be an increased reliance on slow or low travel; that is, longer trips which spend more time travelling overland. This is thanks in no small part to the ongoing Covid restrictions and wariness around sharing confined spaces with strangers.

The appetite for longer stays, and work from home tourism, has also been growing steadily. In 2020/21 we’ve seen a growing number of countries offering up visas for digital nomads. Italian villages, Portuguese islands and a rollcall of European nations are already hoping to tempt the new generation of remote workers to change the view from behind their laptop.

It seems too that people have had their outlooks to global travel changed by enforced lockdowns, with more of us looking for ‘experiences’ or sustainable travel. 

So are the days of city breaks and following the masses to the same old popular haunts gone?

Are we going to see less headlines about overcrowding in Venice or Machu Picchu? 

Despite some efforts by local governments, probably not. Although there are some notable exceptions.

The authorities in some high profile tourist destinations are already making changes to avoid mass-tourism and bad behaviour. Amsterdam, for example, long known for it’s hedonistic opportunities, is hoping to keep out the riff-raff and appeal to a more cultured visitor.

The rise of the staycation

With the logistical hassle of travelling overseas, more of us are looking to enjoy a staycation than ever before. Despite the pandemic and social distancing requirements, the summer of 2020 saw plenty of us head to our own shore. Domestic trips to beaches, national parks and even city breaks helped relieve the tedium of lockdown.

This home based holidaying was perhaps the saviour of a disastrous summer for many, and remains a key marketing focus for travel and tourism into 2021 – and most likely beyond.

Data from Google Trends highlights the growing online demand for ‘staycation’ after the end of lockdowns in Europe and North America in 2020.

Google trends search for Staycation in 2020 shows a marked increase after covid lockdowns ended

Making sense of platforms for travel marketing

Another result of the pandemic is the time many of us have spent online, specifically on social media. For travel marketers, it’s been an opportunity to focus on building organic results on both search engines and social media. 

And when it comes to paid marketing for travel brands, knowing where to put those ad dollars presents a number of challenges.

Social media is one of the most important and effective channels for travel marketing. Facebook and Instagram offer a particularly high level of engagement and potential for conversions.

Even with Google making some concessions to the travel industry, with free ad listings for hotels and flights, paid search still remains a crucial advertising channel for tourism based brands. 

But with channels such as TikTok, Pinterest and Snapchat also seeing solid growth in 2020, as well as the surging popularity of podcasts, understanding where to spend is trickier than ever.

Click fraud & the travel industry

Invalid traffic on paid ads has long been known to be an expensive problem. For travel and tourism marketers looking to get the best value for their ads, it’s even more of a challenge in 2021 and beyond.

With Covid still impacting income, the last thing any tourism business needs is to be losing money on their marketing.

In our 2020 report into the impact of click fraud on SMEs, we found that 26.4% of all clicks on travel ads were fraudulent.

Looking at 2021, our current travel clients are still seeing levels of click fraud, between 4% and 15%.

This traffic appears to be made up of a mixture of spam bots and web scrapers, with bounced traffic being particularly high on many of these accounts.

For one hotel resort marketing client, 21% of these fraud clicks are from fraudulent devices, implying a mixture of data center bots and app malware.

How click fraud affects your travel marketing campaigns

The effects of click fraud include spending a sizeable percentage of your ad budget on clicks that stand zero chance of converting; and losing out on genuine clicks from genuine customers.

Looking at our own clients, by identifying and blocking just 4% of clicks as fraudulent on one campaign, we saved a travel brand $24,000 in one month.

Put simply, if you’re looking to convert as many human visitors to customers as possible, you need to reduce the chances of bots or web scrapers clicking your ads.

Although Google and all of the ad platforms do have their own filters for invalid traffic, the truth is that they aren’t as effective as marketers might hope. Using click fraud prevention such as ClickCease gives you extra control and insight into who clicks your paid ads.

Travel and tourism marketers who are starting up ad campaigns on Google, Bing or Facebook Ads can run a diagnostic on their ads using ClickCease’s free trial.