In the past 20 years, the Internet has changed almost everything about the way people buy travel. It should change the way you sell travel, too.
No matter what kind of program you operate, from a large tourism company to a small church travel ministry, you should be leveraging the tools of the 21st century to help promote and sell your trips. Having a website, social media accounts, an email list and other important online marketing channels can help you stay in touch with current travelers, reach new people with your message and promote the mission of your organization.
You may be skeptical about whether you need to promote trips online. Perhaps you’re interested in reaching travelers only from your congregation or small town. And maybe you’ve been doing fine with traditional promotional techniques for a long time. So why try to develop an online marketing plan, especially if doing so involves learning a bunch of new skills?
1) Build a simple website.
Any organization that sells anything needs a website. You don’t need a complicated site where you can sign people up for trips and process their payments online. But you do need a simple site to serve as your welcome mat in the digital world.
Your website should have some introductory information for people who want to know more about your program. Explain what you do, why you do it and who is welcome to join. You should also post your contact information and some photos of your group from recent trips.
If you organize travel for a church, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Ask whoever runs your church’s website to create a page there for your travel program. When people inquire about your travel program, you can direct them to the website for more information.
2) Build an email list.
Marketers across all types of industries agree: Email is one of the most powerful ways of reaching customers, and a high-quality email list is worth its weight in gold.
A list of names and email addresses of past travelers as well as people who are interested in your program but haven’t yet joined you on a trip allows you to quickly spread the word about upcoming travel opportunities and whatever else you want to publicize. When you’re ready to start selling a new trip, you can send an announcement to everyone on your email list and give them an opportunity to secure their spots by signing up early. You can also use this list to survey travelers about what types of trips they’d like to do.
If you have more than a few dozen emails, consider using a free service like Mailchimp to help you organize your mailing list and create attractive messages for your audience.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for space in your church’s general e-newsletter to promote your trips. This will likely reach a much bigger audience than your own email list.
3) Build digital flyers.
If you’ve been involved in tourism for a while, you probably rely on printed materials to help you promote trips. Whether it’s a tour operator’s catalog or a flyer you create to hand out to potential travelers, these informational documents can be a great way to distribute basic facts about a trip and drum up interest. Today, you need digital copies of these documents as well.
Many of your potential travelers, especially younger people, want instant access to information when they are considering a trip. So instead of their having to wait for a flyer to arrive in the mail or pick one up next time they’re at church, they want you to email them information.
If you already have hard copies of these materials, you can easily convert them to PDF documents to email and then post on your website as well. You should also have a digital schedule that shows all your trips for the coming year.
4) Build smart social media.
For many people, social media is destination No. 1 every time they sit down to a computer or pull out their phones. This is increasingly true even of older generations — people of retirement age have become a key demographic for Facebook, and many are spending increasing amounts of time there. This presents a great opportunity for you to reach them.
You could use various strategies to promote your trips on Facebook. You could create a Facebook page for your travel organization or use your church’s existing page to promote your trip. You might find more success by creating a Facebook group — which is different from a page — and inviting past and potential travelers to join the group. That group will be a good place to post updates about upcoming travel opportunities, as well as to share pictures and memories from past trips.
If you don’t want to create formal Facebook pages or groups for your program, you should at least promote what you’re doing through your personal Facebook account. And ask your travelers to share their photos and videos from your trips on Facebook as well. Nothing inspires people to travel like seeing their friends having fun on the road.