First Up: 5 Ways to Engage International Travelers
With the multitude of online services available to book travel, you’d think that targeting travelers via direct mail would be a lost cause. From discount sites like priceline.com, to sites like kayak.com that consolidate services, to airlines like Southwest that offer their own online services for booking vacation packages, travel is very well-represented in the digital world. “I would say that the travel businesses have been more heavily skewed to the Internet than most other companies,” says Mike Fitzpatrick, senior vice president of consumer markets in the Denver office for McLean, Va.–based Echelon Marketing.
While pioneering travel companies are pushing a majority of transactions online, the international outbound U.S. travel segment still relies heavily on direct mail. Here's how it's done, successfully.
Act on an underused channel
“Outbound or international travelers are very well-educated, tend to be more affluent than the average American and also tend to be an older, more mature market—which happens to correlate nicely with the direct mail market,” says Heather Hardwick, vice president of Menlo Consulting Group, a Los Altos, Calif.–based marketing and research firm with expertise in global travel.
Hardwick believes that the travel market is too focused on digital and is missing some opportunities in the direct mail channel. “Direct mail tends to be an underutilized, fairly successful and effective medium for selling travel,” she says. Her group measures the effectiveness of direct mail among travelers. “Our data shows that while travelers do receive a certain amount of travel-related direct mail, it doesn’t seem to be the glut of other forms of direct mail they receive, and the response rates for purchasing travel in response to direct mail solicitation are still fairly strong,” explains Hardwick.
Make sure you know who the international traveler is
“One of the things that may seem intuitive, but I think most of our clients have had to get used to, was the fact that their customers are older than they thought because you’ve got to be pretty advanced in your career to have the money and vacation time to travel,” Fitzpatrick explains. He also says that international travelers are concentrated in major metro areas due to proximity to airports and higher levels of income. But for high-end products like luxury Mediterranean cruises, the population of prospects is distributed pretty evenly throughout the U.S. and is more reflective of the general population.