This post by Chris Dobson, Executive Chairman at The Exchange Lab, explores how to effectively engage holiday travellers online.

If you've been through an airport in the last week of December you will recognise this scenario; children running around, Christmas presents poking out of bags and the airport falling into complete disarray because a few snowflakes hit the ground. The festive season is hectic and brands looking to engage consumers during this peak season have their work cut out for them. With 40% of customers booking their trip online in the last 12 months, the web is the perfect place for the travel and tourism market to connect with the holiday consumer.

Every vacation begins with a little daydreaming, and for nearly 70% of consumers, it happens online. At this stage, the goal is to find and then inspire these consumers when they search for a "sandy beach vacation" or a "ski getaway". Building a compelling creative strategy that delivers high levels of user engagement is essential. Cross-platform rich media executions, native advertising placements or dynamic creative optimisation, can be very effective tools for driving awareness and engagement.

Programmatic creates infinite opportunities for travel brands to reach their existing customers, but it can also find new ones. Two tactics that work well for travel clients are destination based targeting and seasonal re-targeting.

Destination based targeting gathers interests of consumers who brands have previously connected with to enable re-engagement based around a specific area of interest. A consumer who searches for 'New York' is targeted at a low frequency with ads for the Statue of Liberty and other icons over a one week period. Once the transport element of the trip has been booked, accommodation ads and other services or activities related to that destination could be served through video.

Seasonal re-targeting finds customers who, over the last year, have engaged with your brand. Brands can then re-establish the relationship and offer incentives during prime holiday booking periods, which is a powerful conversion driver.

We live in a competitive world where being relevant can make or break the buy.

Working with a programmatic partner that can plug into multiple platforms gives brands the flexibility to reach travellers and their social influencers at multiple touch points across the web.

Travellers are increasingly using their mobile devices to research travel destinations and make reservations eMarketer estimates that mobile will make up 20% of travel digital sales in 2014, with consumers spending a staggering $26.14 billion on the move. Mobile is redefining the way consumers are booking their trips and driving device-specific purchase decisions.

Consumers are using both tablets and desktops for larger travel purchases, while smartphones are typically used for research driven impulse-buys. The key to being successful is understanding where mobile, tablet and desktop fit in your customer's purchase journey and making sure that campaigns are optimised towards devices at the right time of day and week. Desktop, for example, sees high conversions on a Monday at mid-day and mobile and tablets see high performance during the weekends when people more likely to be on the move.

The opportunity to win over the travel consumer doesn't end once they've reached their destination. With more affordable mobile data plans and free Wi-Fi hotspots popping up across the globe, leisure travellers are using smartphones when abroad to make last minute purchases. If you've ever been stranded at an airport and are in need of accommodation or alternative transport, you can probably recall a moment when a simple solution on your mobile device could have saved the day. These are the types of real-time advertising moments that create opportunities for brands to shine and discover new loyal customers.

The seasonal traveller's vacation may come to an end once they have run out of photos to post on social media, but for marketers this is only the beginning.

More on Warc:


  1. eMarketer, May 2014, US Mobile Travel Sales to Increase 60% in 2014
  2. eMarketer, May 2013, Slow Steady Continued Gains in US Travel Sales
  3. eMarketer, Direct Reponse Spending Flying High in US Travel Industry
  4. Euromonitor, Feb 2014, The New Online Travel Consumer
  5. Google, Nov 2013, The 2013 Traveler
  6. Trip Adviser, 2013
  7. Mintel & The Daily Mail, June 2012, The End of the Travel Agent