As we prepare for the first summer since 2019/20 here in New Zealand when our borders will once again be open to international travellers, now is the time for businesses within the travel, tourism, and hospitality sector to launch a final push to get bums on seats, people jumping off ledges and out of planes, and people discovering everything New Zealand has to offer.
This will be the first summer since 2020 that international visitors will be able to travel freely around New Zealand. Whilst we have had a few false starts, with Australians able to visit New Zealand for a short period in 2021, there is no doubt that this is a big summer for travel and hospitality businesses.
Whilst the early signs are looking good, with flights to New Zealand from the US, UK, and Europe already booked out as we head into December and January, there are other pressures that could impact the way that people experience New Zealand.
Rising petrol prices, not to mention the rising cost of flying, mean that travellers are taking longer to plan their trips. Add to this the lingering concerns over safety and it’s clear that businesses are going to have to take a slightly different approach when it comes to capturing new business.
Gone are the days when businesses can target customers who are at the business end of the conversion funnel, without bothering with the top of the funnel.
Prior to 2020, travellers were much more willing to book flights, hotels, rental cars and activities with very little research. This, however, is no longer the case.
Instead, customers are spending more time weighing up whether travel is safe, affordable, and accessible for them and their families. This takes time. And whilst it may seem like people are not booking as quickly as before, with the right strategy in place, businesses can turn this research-driven approach into an advantage.
How SEO and content marketing can help to address the fear and uncertainty
Even though we can expect a huge influx of travellers to New Zealand this summer, there is still lots of uncertainty and doubt around the whole travel experience.
I have second-hand experience of this myself.
My sister and her family have had flights booked to come to visit us at Christmas since April of this year. In late July, those flights were cancelled without warning. At that point, most other flights out of the UK to NZ were already booked up, and those seats that weren’t already booked had shot up in price since they booked in April. Thankfully, they have managed to get the family onto a different flight after hours spent on hold and weeks of uncertainty.
Until they are all onboard their flight, I think there will still be some fear and uncertainty about their trip and this is a situation that many other travellers are likely to be facing too.
Then there is the trepidation around travel in general. For many people, this might be the first time they have got on a long-haul flight post-pandemic, with no real clue of what awaits them at the other end.
That’s why it is important for travel and hospitality businesses to embrace and address these fears and uncertainty, rather than sweep it under the carpet or turn a blind eye.
What people are looking for from their trip to New Zealand may have changed significantly from 2020. Instead of large group activities, are people instead looking for smaller, more intimate tours that they can take just with their family? Are outdoor activities more popular than indoor activities? Do people want to eat out as much as they did before or would they rather get a takeaway and eat at the beach or in the park?
Understanding the changing landscape is an important part of your SEO and content marketing efforts and it will be important to carry out in-depth research within your niche in the travel industry to get a better understanding of what people want when they come to New Zealand.
What are people searching for?
A big part of this will be conducting keyword research to discover whether or not people are still searching in the same way as they did pre-pandemic. If you are still following a content marketing plan that you had in place in 2019, it might be time for an SEO refresh.
Does the existing landscape match your keyword strategy and existing messaging across your site?
Whilst you have undoubtedly been making changes to your marketing and SEO strategy over the past two years to deal with changes in the landscape, this is not a time to simply revert back to what worked before.
Instead, conduct keyword research as if you were starting out afresh to help you to understand what the market looks like now, not what it used to look like. Then you can tailor your copy and content offerings around the findings of the research, creating new content pieces to meet the ever-changing needs of this post-pandemic audience.
How are people searching?
It’s not just what people are searching for, it’s also how they are searching that has changed.
This is especially true in the travel industry. Throughout the pandemic, travel businesses shifted their marketing efforts quickly, jumping onto visual platforms to showcase virtual travel experiences and whilst virtual travel experiences are hopefully a thing of the past, people are still using those platforms to carry out research for their actual travel experiences.
Whilst this is not as SEO-focused as some of the tactics we recommend, it makes sense to look at platforms such as TikTok, Instagram Reels and Facebook Reels as a way of reaching your audience. There is a knock-on effect within organic search, however as TikTok posts start to show up in search results pages (SERPs).
Your social strategy will be integral to your overall digital marketing strategy and selecting the right platforms to showcase your business is almost as important as selecting the best keywords to target for SEO.
Not only are people engaging with content from the brands they follow across these social platforms, but they are also using social platforms for search. Whilst there is no chance that TikTok will replace Google anytime soon, there has been a definite shift in the way people search for certain types of content and TikTok is a great platform for showcasing highly visual content.
Leveraging a mix of channels
Search is still one of the most important channels for travel and tourism businesses to drive awareness and ultimately, to drive conversions.
Organic search, however, can take time. Let’s say you want to rank for “things to do in Queenstown” and you are a business that is well-placed to talk about the myriad of things there is to do in Queenstown. Whilst you might be able to create a definitive list of travel tips for people visiting Queenstown, it is still likely that it will take some time for you to be able to rank in this competitive space. You will need to outreach your content piece, add internal links, build supporting content about Queenstown and drive visits through your social platforms in order to drive engagement. This will take time.
In the meantime, however, you should be promoting this content through your social platforms, retargeting people with ads who have visited the page and encouraging them to sign up for a newsletter where they can get more tips about travel in New Zealand.
This will help to bridge the gap between the time you publish the content and the time it starts to appear on the first page of the search results.
Creating some short videos on TikTok that showcase the things to do in Queenstown rather than simply talking about them can be a great lead into the content piece and really help to gather some traction for your brand, as well as some authority.
You must play the long game with customers, and this means leveraging every available marketing channel and reaching out to your customers on the platforms that you know they are using.
The path to conversion in the travel industry has become longer and you not only have to recognise this, but you must adapt to this changing path and make sure you are delivering content at every stage along that extended path. Every one of your channels is a unique, yet connected, opportunity to connect with your audience and should be treated that way.
The travel industry has changed, probably forever It is unlikely we will ever go back to the pre-pandemic days of travel, where everything seemed a lot more carefree. Instead, people will carry out more research and take more time to make decisions about travel, meaning brands need to be patient if they want to secure a conversion.
Your content needs to be personable, engaging, entertaining and informative. Every stage, from discovery to conversion, needs to be well planned out and you need all your platforms to work together. Organic search and SEO will sit at the heart of this. People inherently still turn to Google when they are researching a new destination and it’s important you are there when they do.
In the meantime, you can put your brand front and centre through social platforms and email and make sure that when they do discover you in search, you’re a brand they trust and want to engage with.
We have worked with several brands across the tourism industry here in New Zealand, helping to drive hundreds of thousands of visits through engaging content that is well-researched and well executed. If you want to make the most of this summer and the boom in international tourists, talk to us today and see how we can help.