Beyond Social Media: How To (Digitally) Increase Guest Loyalty in Tourism

Beyond Social Media: How To (Digitally) Increase Guest Loyalty in Tourism

Summer is almost upon us and what does that mean? Indeed: Thousands of tourism businesses getting their offers booked online.

While we all love Airbnb, Booking and other services that give us easy access to thousands of destinations around the world, do hotels as well as apartment owners ‘love’ these platforms? Or should they use their own channels in order to both retain, but also increase the loyalty in tourism?!

A Long Time Ago, On A Vacation Far Away

Before we had the Internet, we had brochures and tourist agencies. You could easily take a few hours of your day and go to (one) agency and see what they can offer a.k.a. what deals they made before you came in. You picked a holiday package that made sense and enjoyed yourself! Success!

What happened then?

The Internet. More precisely, online tour operators that made it as easy as Googling to find your perfect holiday. I’m not kidding. Just look at the interfaces of websites such as TripAdvisor, and you’ll see that their biggest advantage is a large search bar and a very detailed filter system that answers all your questions just as an agent would.

What this also meant is that it’s just so easy to find another location to visit and that’s what tourists are doing increasingly each year. Booking new locations exploring the world, which is what 69% of travellers do, according to TripBarometer 2016! That’s all fine for them, but what about those of us who want to get tourists? While we can get new guests, can’t we somehow increase the chance of old guests returning?

I’ll be the first to tell you that I love exploring new locations (which is why I went to India last year), but I rarely get a message of any kind from the hotels, apartments or other places I’ve visited, enticing me to go back. Even as someone who understands how easily some of this stuff can be automatised (we’ll get into that very soon), I’d appreciate companies trying to make me more loyal with some of the techniques we talk about later on…

Why Is Loyalty Essential – For New Guests As Well As Old

Being loyal is nice, but in business – a loyal customer also adds to the bottom line. As you can imagine with any business, the cost of acquiring a new customer is far greater than keep the current customer happy and upselling them on new products.

Unfortunately, since we always focus on getting new customers because it’s the most obvious way to grow our business, retaining current customers ends up at the bottom of the pile of priorities.

It’s like in too many relationships where couples just get too comfortable with each other and stop trying. While it works for some time, if you don’t keep showing why it makes sense to stay together, the relationship will end.

The same can be said for the relationship that you can have with your guests as a tourism business. Sure they might not return because they found a new property on Airbnb, but if they’re happy aren’t they the best ambassadors and outreach to new customers?

When thinking about keeping the ‘relationship’ with your guests fresh, don’t get stuck on just sending them new offers. Instead, use some of these methods, like our guests, both old – and new:

Social Media In 2016

Social media, especially the more visual social networks such as Instagram, are an obvious place to find new customers in the tourism sector through inbound marketing. A few pretty pictures, some nice sights and experiences and you’ll get the hooked.

The same is true for existing guests who have already experienced what you offer. This means that the photos you might share on Facebook or Instagram should be as genuine as possible if you expect people that have already been there to trust you. But won’t they get bored with scenes they’ve already seen, you ask?

Not at all. A popular hashtag on Twitter and Instagram includes posting “throw back” photos on Thursdays. Yes, #tbt, I know you know. Especially in the colder months of December and January, a lot of the #tbt photos are photos of how those people spent their last summer. It’s already about their vacations, about tourism. User-generated memories that drive your bookings, isn’t that nice?

Since we’ve organised a number of events over the year, I can tell you that jogging people’s memories might sound easy, but it does take effort. Photos of “how it looked in 2015” and even better – follow up videos – work well for events and will work great for any tourist offer you might have, that guests enjoy!

So when thinking about driving your existing guests to come back over, just remember the #tbt trend and think: How can I remind them how awesome of a time they had?

CRM For Tourism

CRM or customer relationship management seems to be focused all too much on sales, especially when it comes to small to medium businesses. Thankfully, the name gives it up in our case: Relationships.

Whether you’re using Pipeline-intensive software such as Pipedrive, integrated solutions such as Infusionsoft or just making your email list a bit smarter with Mailchimp automation, having a CRM to keep all the data about your guests in one place is essential. What have they bought before? What are they interested in? Have they been a guest or are they just interested?

One particular trick that I love using is looking at how many times a user has read a particular email blast. If they read it in the morning or late at night, multiple times, that shows that they are quite interested in the content but obviously aren’t 100% sure. Thankfully, you can – and I have – set up your email messaging software to send a followup (surprise!) about that exact issue right at the time they usually open their email.

Having information about your guests is essential in always sending them information they will be interested in, instead of just spamming them with boring newsletters they don’t care about. Anyone can send an email newsletter to a list, but it takes a bit more care and knowledge to have your guest think they’re the most special in the world…

Personalized Content Breeds Relationships

Just look at these open rates for email lists.

Email open rates

These are campaigns I have sent over the last few months, and you want to know why their open rates are so good? Personalisation, obviously! I wouldn’t include it in the title if it didn’t have to be the topic of these couple of paragraphs.
And do you know why I just mentioned the title? Because knowing that you read it, I inserted a little bit of information I knew about you, thus making the experience of reading this post more interesting and having you think that I wrote it for you. Yes, YOU!

See what I did there? The thing with personalisation is that it has to be a good combination of data (that you picked up in the CRM segment we talked about) as well as great content that helps the user to connect to you as their host.

Think About It: Marketing Automation in Tourism

Knowing information about your current and future guests is essential in breeding loyalty, but so is knowing what actions they took! Have you thought about sending a special offer to guests that have shown more interest in the new offering you included just this year, or those that you can see from the data you have in Mailchimp for example, that have opened your email 5-10 times?

This is called marketing automation and it’s the process of triggering certain actions that you can do (such as send a special offer) based on the behaviour of your guests!

So our challenge in 2016. when if comes to increasing loyalty of our guests comes down to knowing a bit about them and a little more about what they’re doing. By having them as fans of our Facebook pages or members of our emails lists, we are already getting a ton of information we can use to show them the value in being loyal – and booking your place next year as well!


Ivan Brezak Brkan

The founder of the "Techcrunch of Southeastern Europe" - Netokracija - and ex-Techcrunch writer with years of experience writing about startups, technology and the domain industry!

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