Change is a constant in today’s world, and the far-reaching impact of the Digital Revolution is both a prime example and a significant driver of that trend. But, in some cases, change occurs around something rather than to it, and the effect is just as noticeable.
One example of this phenomenon is the luxury travel industry where the seemingly “old-fashioned” medium of high-end, glossy magazines — made with actual paper and ink — have not only survived, but are thriving amid the widespread migration to digital-only publication.
Savvy resorts and popular travel destinations worldwide continue to harness the power of these physical publications to reach passionate travelers long before they visit online booking sites like Travelocity or Hotels.com to start comparing prices and making reservations.
Is your resort property leveraging the value of print? In this post, we’ll cover why high-end travel magazines are still such a vital piece in the marketing mix for luxury travel destinations, and how to take full advantage of what they have to offer.
Who Still Buys Travel Magazines?
The first thing to realize is that luxury resorts and popular destinations rely on a very specific target market of passionate travelers. These are not average American day trippers or business travelers who are likely to stay at economy hotels. And they aren’t families who need to bring the kids to Disney World while they’re still young enough to really enjoy it.
These are wealthy, highly educated, upper-middle-age individuals or couples who have both the means and the desire to spend a significant portion of their lives exploring what the world has to offer. These travelers are willing to invest in experiences and adventure. Here are some identifiers:
- Vacation planning begins months or even years before it’s time to take off.
- Plans aren’t dictated by approval of a vacation schedule, tight budgets or highly structured timetables.
- Last-minute deals on popular, low-cost hotel or airfare booking websites don’t influence their decisions.
Overall, these people do not hunt around for a destination running the best deals at the moment or make travel decisions because tickets are only available for the tiny slot where they can coordinate vacation time with their spouse and kids. Instead, their planning begins far earlier in a vital stage we call “the Dream Phase.”
What is the Dream Phase and Why Does it Matter?
People who purchase high-end travel magazines are passionate travelers who make vacation plans based on the experiences they wish to have. When a future vacation starts taking shape, these travelers do not initially look at a computer screen for the best prices on airfare. Instead, they flip through a copy of Conde Nast Traveler or Travel and Leisure — just two of the half-dozen magazines artfully displayed in the center of their coffee table.
Subscribing to these magazines is about having a relaxing or invigorating experience. They might have a glass of wine, turn on some music, and pick up the latest edition of Architectural Digest simply to look at the beautiful homes. While looking at the pictures, they might stumble across an article about the Top 10 Resorts to Visit in Arizona and think, “I’ve been meaning to check out Sedona for years.” That’s where the dream begins.
That’s how this target market begins their buying journey: by losing themselves in gorgeous photographs and highly detailed content that’s geared to stoking the fire of their travel dreams. Flipping through high-end, beautiful pages of magazines with content and reviews they trust is what whets their appetite for adventure.
If your resort, travel agency, airline or national tourism board doesn’t appear in these publications, you’re at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to catching the eye of this highly lucrative and loyal group of consumers.
It’s tempting to assume that focusing the marketing budget exclusively on digital media, search and travel site profiles makes sense in the 21st century. But if the upscale travel market is one you’d like to attract, these high-end glossies need to be part of your marketing mix. If they aren’t, then by the time they go online to start making concrete plans, they’ll already be heading to the competition.
Why Print is Part of a Well-Balanced Marketing Mix
All of us are attracted to quality content that speaks to our hobbies and passions. The target market we’ve been discussing considers travel their hobby. It’s what they love, and something they invest in routinely.
There’s no denying the fact that plenty of travel-focused content is available online. In fact, all the most popular travel magazines have highly developed online, tablet-friendly publications or blogs that supplement and support their print editions. But as noted above, the demographic of this target market skews older, usually between 45 and 75. As a result, many of them still gravitate toward holding a physical magazine in their hands rather than consuming their favorite content via laptop or iPad.
A variety of tactics are needed to reach this audience and each tactic plays a different role in the purchase cycle. While a strategic mix of digital, TV, radio and display ads are important, advertisers cannot assume everyone goes online first.
Luxury travelers will likely go online at some point, but after they already know exactly what they want to investigate. After they’ve read the article about the Top 10 Resorts to Visit in Arizona, they will likely take the magazine over to their laptop and look each one up individually. This is why magazines should be included in the mix. If advertisers ignore the pre-planning, dream phase, they are losing out on the best possibility for maintaining occupancy rates and profitability over the long term.
Of course, achieving the right balance of media, getting the timing right, and creating the most appealing and persuasive marketing content is a tall order for any business. And, in many cases, tourist destinations employ a smaller team of marketers than might be expected. This presents an ongoing challenge for those professionals responsible for marketing these destinations.
How to Embrace all Phases of the Funnel
To widen the very top of your sales funnel, you need to be highly visible to high-end travelers during The Dream Phase. Accomplishing this requires a strategic mix of advertising and advertorial content in the glossy travel magazines that are most relevant to your location and timed to accommodate your destination’s unique seasonality.
It’s important to remember that most magazines work months in advance to get everything ready for print. The editorial calendar for a magazine focusing on spring break is decided way before families begin to plan a getaway to thaw out from the winter. To get a resort in Hawaii featured in the right issue, a media buyer will watch editorial calendars to get ads and content lined up way before anyone is thinking of swimsuit season so you can be in front of a potential buyer at the very beginning of their journey.
At the same time, it’s important to maintain a thorough online content hub where interested prospects can continue their research and satisfy their curiosity as the buyer’s journey progresses. Whether it’s a blog or a highly active and engaging social media presence, good content resources take your brand and message much further than your profile on Travelocity or Hotels.com. They also create opportunities to attract and educate prospective guests throughout the buyer’s journey.
These marketing efforts should be supported and augmented by targeted TV, radio and digital efforts. Finally, as a guest gets closer to making final arrangements, you need to be easily accessible and appealing on those travel websites that they will likely to use to solidify their plans.
By following this process, you ensure not just a rise in occupancy over the next few weeks — the sweet spot Travelocity and similar sites can assist with — but, more importantly, you get on the radar of hobby travelers who consider vacation plans months or even years in advance. This balance promotes short- and long-term success through high occupancy rates across seasons and return business year after year.
Of course, accomplishing this mix can be challenging and time-consuming. It’s easy to spread a marketing budget too thin by trying to attack all media at once.
Where Blue Onion Media Fits into the Equation
At Blue Onion Media, we’re proud to look back on nearly 40 years helping resorts worldwide achieve this perfect balance through strategic media planning and media buying services.
The following case study exemplifies the kind of results we achieve for our clients in the travel and hospitality industries:
Blue Onion had the opportunity to work with a major southern California resort that was operating under the umbrella of a larger international hotel group. When that relationship came to an unexpected end, the resort suddenly found itself heading into the busy summer season at a loss of over 1,000 room nights (which had been reserved under the parent company’s membership reward programs). At the same time, they were faced with a name change and had to figure out a way to boost brand visibility, while ensuring that any guests that did arrive were sufficiently cared for.
To address the resort’s need for a high volume of reservations in short order without sacrificing their long-term success in the process, the resort called on us to create and execute a marketing strategy. Our solution included advertisements and editorial content in Conde Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest and appropriate high-end regional magazines, along with a layer of radio targeting travelers looking for something new to do during summer vacation.
To address the need for good brand exposure, high-quality reviews and a positive experience, our media strategists leveraged Spanish-language Pandora (an online radio service) to attract enough maids, housekeepers, and other staff members to support the resort’s increased expectations for summer occupancy.
The result was an incredible 95% occupancy rate for the vital weekends of that first summer, as well as a smooth transition through the subsequent seasons where their longer-term efforts yielded plenty of reservations and return engagements.
Of course, every destination and set of circumstances is completely unique. That’s why we approach every client and project as a brand-new opportunity to study the situation, explore the options, and develop a fully customized solution designed to get the best value for every marketing dollar being spent.
If you’re struggling with hitting that vital balance of media to promote both short- and long-term success for your tourist destination, contact Blue Onion Media to discuss strategic and creative options.