As summer heats up, so does the marketing, with Google reporting that searches for destinations to visit doubled in the second quarter.
Unlike previous years, more travel companies will now be competing for digital nomads and remote workers as well as traditional tourists in the coming months.
It’s a demographic on the rise, as borders reopen and growing numbers of businesses go remote or begin offering employees the chance to work abroad for one month a year. One report claims there are currently 35 million digital nomads globally, and that could reach 1 billion by 2035.
US-based Airbnb hosts earned a total of more than $2 billion from long-term stays alone, between the first quarter of 2021 through the first quarter of 2022.
However, travel companies need to adopt new marketing strategies. Here are a few best practice marketing tips from seasoned pros.
Master the Demographics
First, think about language. Marketers need to pay attention to the nuances involved when talking about remote workers and digital nomads. The two groups shouldn’t be blended into one category, one expert warns, particularly as new subsets start to emerge from the pandemic.
“Digital nomads have been around for years, traveling the globe without the need for one specific home base,” said Elise Hofman, marketing manager at hybrid hotel group Zoku. “They often make up a group of creatives, freelancers, and entrepreneurs who can create their own schedules and live life on their own terms around the world.”
Remote workers mainly consist of business professionals who no longer need to go into a physical office to work nine-to-five. “This audience boomed after Covid-19, and have more people than ever before the opportunity to travel and see the world, all while still having a security job and not having to quit their day job,” she added.
However, another marketing advisor argues it can go further than this, because with the explosion of the trend many people will be at different levels of experiences. “Digital nomads are well traveled, but there are new ones just dipping their toe into the water, going to a place for a couple of weeks to test it out,” said Leah Ziliak of Coliving Consultant.
It explains why a lot of hostels are moving more towards a co-living model to attract longer term stays, but there’s a danger as when they do attract remote workers, they may end up being thrown in with short-term backpackers, she added.
As a result, marketing material should relate to the type of remote worker. “Digital nomads are remote workers in some sense, but nomads tend to look for more productive spaces, they do more working than vacationing, and need a sense of community and home usually,” Ziliak added. “They also tend to be more entrepreneurial, so look for more ways to connect, rather than the remote worker who would check emails and do a bit of work.”
Harnessing Influencers and Social Media
No marketing strategy is complete without social media, although TikTok isn’t currently in Nepal’s good books.
Flatio, a platform for booking monthly stays, recently acquired a platform called Floasis that had developed a “pioneer program” to boost its marketing efforts.
When Floasis would take on a new property, the contract would state the owner must offer free nights for promotional purposes. The company would then send influencers to the new accommodation to deliver content, such as video or written posts.
It could be a game changer for Flatio, its CEO and co-founder reckons.
“Using Instagram, and specific tags, brings their community and followers closer to the retreat, so others can get interested,” said Radim Rezek. “This is what we’re exploring, it’s organically great traffic … Let’s see what impact that has on us.”
Authenticity is a key marketing theme in tourism today, especially as tourists embark on their first proper outings in two years. They want it to be real, and word of mouth will be a key factor.
Rezek said he was looking at TikTok, but thinks people on that platform may not be so open to monthly stays, as they’re usually younger, under 20 years old. “But it’s changing,” he said.
Targeting by Different Length of Stays
With its work-life loft accommodation, European brand Zoku doesn’t typically put itself in the “hotel” when marketing, so has adapted its marketing strategy.
“Our Loft concept creates a truly liveable space that someone can comfortably stay in for months or even years on end,” said Hoffman. “And yes, we’ve truly had guests stay with us for over a year!”
This allows the brand to offer different accommodation and workplace solutions, so its search terminology can range anywhere from “relocation housing”, to “city business trip”, to “company offsite venue.”
It also conducts its marketing strategy by focusing on individual target audiences unique to each of its three stay categories: hotel stay (1-4 nights), short stay (5-27 nights), and long stay (28+ nights).
“We then implement a unique marketing strategy, with associated execution deliverables, such as ads, influencers or email campaigns, individually for each of these stay segments,” she added.
And when longer or extended stays come into play, so too should discounts. The remote worker isn’t your typical tourist, and they’re perhaps more partial to a perceived discount, according to Flatio’s Rezek.
He thinks discount codes are an effective way to attract remote workers in marketing messaging. “We’re always open, as they like this kind of approach,” he said. Part of the reason is that with their longer stays, there’s a greater chance of them becoming lifetime customers.
For now Flatio’s data is showing an average 1.5 stays per guests. “We’re still cautious about the investment in discounts. We don’t know what the customer lifetime value will be,” he added.
Ziliak is also cautious. “Discounts for longer-term stays are good incentives for digital nomads, they’re used to staying for a month or more,” she said. “But I think people tend to overgeneralize digital nomads, to think they are all on a tight budget. A lot of them really aren’t, many are successful entrepreneurs.”
Earnings season is in full swing, and as to be expected most hotel groups have seen a strong rebound in business travel, and especially conferences.
For Hilton, business travel is almost there. In its second quarter, the hotel giant said business travel bookings were at 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels, but in June it actually reached 2019 levels. As expected, small-and-medium-sized businesses showed the greatest appetite for travel. Group bookings were also on track to nearly, but not quite, recover before the end of the year.
It’s a similar story for Spain’s NH Hotel Group. It too saw revenue for June of $193 million beat records, as it surpassed its previous highest of $178 million (in October 2019).
Looking ahead, the CEO said there was a good pace of business demand bookings for September and October, and that the return of larger congresses, events and long-distant international travelers could offset any potential slowdown of leisure demand.
“We have seen a strong recovery in all regions during the second quarter with a significant upturn in key cities due to the return of business demand, especially since the start of the second quarter,” said chief officer Luis Martinez financial Jurado during an earnings call on Wednesday. It’s home turf of Spain had reached higher like-for-like revenues in the quarter, compared to 2019.
France’s Accor posted its results on Thursday. Of note: South America, and particularly Brazil, will witness an “impressive” pick-up in business volumes, with occupancy rates above the 2019 level throughout the second quarter. In Brazil it operates in 100 hotels, with Chile, Peru, Colombia and Argentina also a focus for growth. Properties there are already part of Wojo, which is Accor’s WeWork-style network.
Windham, meanwhile, generated $92 million of net income on $386 million in revenue for the three months ending June 30. The group is gearing up for a robust recovery, spurred by the new US infrastructure bill. “Something we’re really excited about is the growth we’ve been seeing on the infrastructure side of our business bookings, which I believe are up 10 percent year-to-date, and that’s a number we expect to continue to grow.” said chief financial officer Michele Allen.
10-Second Corporate Travel Catch-Up
Who and what Skift has covered over the past week: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, American Express, Hertz, Hilton, JetBlue, MakeMyTrip, Ryanair, Spirit Airlines, Spotnana, Wizz Air, Wyndham.
New European President for BCD Travel
BCD Travel has appointed Michele Lawley as president, Europe. Lawley takes over operational and financial responsibility for activities in Europe on August 31, and replaces Mike Walley, who leaves to become a member of the STAK (stichting administratiekantoor) Board of Boron, the family company of John Fentener van Vlissingen, founder of the BCD Group. Walley will remain in his role as president of BCD Media & Entertainment. Lawley was previously BCD Travel’s senior vice president, Europe. Based in London, she will report to BCD president and CEO John Snyder.
TravelPerk Adds New Leaders
Is travel management company TravelPerk getting ready to go public? It’s just announced two senior new hires, including a finance boss with a track record of prepping listings. Roy Hefer has joined as chief financial officer, alongside Sally Sourbron as its new chief people officer.
Hefer, who will be based in TravelPerk’s Barcelona office, has more than 15 years of finance, operations and strategy experience in “scaling hyper-growth tech businesses and building the infrastructure of publicly traded companies,” the company said. He joined from insurance firm Hippo, and has held similar roles leading finance and operations at Avail Medsystems and medical tech firm Lumenis, where he was “instrumental in the operational transformation of Lumenis by a public listing on NASDAQ and a subsequent take-private, TravelPerk said.
Sourbron, who starts in September, joins from ServiceNow. Previously she’s worked at Salesforce and General Electric.
UK Airline Body Strikes Deal With Transport Platform CMAC
Ground transport company CMAC Group has teamed up with the UK’s Foreign Airlines Association to help minimize the impact of disruption within the aviation industry. This means the association’s members, which number 22 international airlines, can access CMAC’s transport solutions, including crew ground transport and accommodation, as well as travel and accommodation for passengers hit by “irregular operations.” At a time when airports, airlines, ground handling agents and hotels are facing challenges to meet demand, the airlines will now have a direct line to CMAC to help them through the challenges.