Travel’s digital journey


You’re not imagining it: everyone seems to be on vacation.From calm, sunny beaches to action-packed city breaks, getting away is everywhere. Although declaring that Millennials value experiences over things is already a cliché, recent research suggests that a cultural shift really is happening. McKinsey found in 2017 that spending on experiences has grown more than 4 times faster than spending on things.

Among these experiences, young adults are increasingly making travel a priority. 55% of US Millennials said they planned to travel more over the next 12 months, while 65% said that they were already putting money aside for future travel. They’ll need to save for this major purchase. An international trip sets the average American traveler back $6080 and Millennials planned to spend just over $6800 on travel in 2018. An Expedia study examining these changes in the United States concluded that people “are increasingly changing their spending behaviors, saving strategies and even lifestyles to facilitate travel.” It’s clear that travel is here to stay.

The new normal

As travel has become a greater interest for many, the way we travel has changed. Travel agents, ticket booths and hotels compete with digital booking services, smartphone apps and AirBNB. Low-cost airlines have reduced leg room, baggage allowances and prices. Travelers looking for lunch are more likely to consult restaurant reviews posted online than to pull out a thick stack of trusted, dog-eared guide books from their backpacks.

Digital disruption has helped to reshape the role of travel media in consumers’ lives. The Internet provides countless sources of information beyond classic travel magazines and guide books, plus real-time access and instant sharing. But it has also made research more essential, curation more powerful and produced new opportunities for content to connect with consumers interested in travel. For all of these reasons, today’s best content strategies in travel find ways to bridge traditional publications and digital experiences.

Getting inspired

The first interactions with travel media occur during the “inspiration phase,” when getting away is still just a dream and people are open to new ideas about where to go. Social media is a key resource in this period. Posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest provide inspiration to 30% of all U.S. travelers. Younger users are even more likely to point to the influence of social media: Expedia found that 36% of “Gen Z” consumers have chosen a travel destination because of posts about it.

Although social media has become a critical channel for the broader travel industry, publishers are finding significant value in longer-form content. As the launch of Airbnbmag in 2017 suggests, traditional travel magazines offer a different kind of experience to digitally savvy travelers. Deeply reported stories, lavish photography spreads and expert advice can make a bigger impact than scrolling social media feeds.

With travelers going online for inspiration, it’s important to make this engaging content available without losing the qualities that make it special. Publishing travel magazines digitally is a smart a solution. Digital publications benefit from online accessibility while preserving a format perfect for maximum browsing.

Research assistant

Digital editions also let publishers create compelling multimedia experiences to connect with readers. A 2016 Google study revealed how persuasive video content can be as travelers move from the inspiration phase to planning their trip. Offering useful information about destinations is good business for travel brands: 67% of travelers are more likely to buy from a company that does, and online video helps 60% decide on where to go, what to do and which brands to choose.

External links play a big role in helping travelers in the planning phase, too. Younger travelers now consult more than 10 different sources when researching a trip, compared to just 3 sources in 2002. On average, they’ll click through 38 different websites before making a travel-related purchase. That means even traditional travel publications need to create digital links so readers can keep exploring. By curating reliable, relevant information into a single online resource, digital publications can serve as a hub for travelers to research their destination.

Mobile experiences

Once the trip is underway, digital travel media comes along for the ride. Thanks to improvements in Wi-fi coverage and the falling cost of data plans, many people stay connected throughout the entire time that they travel. As Internet access on airplanes has become increasingly common, for example, companies like Air France and SmartLynx are taking advantage of digital publishing to bring readers to their in-flight magazines online.

Travelers also seek out practical information on the ground, since not every detail of the itinerary is worked out in the planning phase. 3 out of 4 travelers aim to book some or all of their activities after arriving at their destination. That’s where city guides come in.  Fast load times and mobile responsiveness for digital publications in HTML5 mean travelers can browse online using their smartphones, or download the whole edition for easy access on the go.

No trip would be complete without logging in to document the experience. According to Econsultancy, 97% of Millennials have posted a personal travel photo or video on social media. Travel publishers can harness their desire to share by creating a hashtag for users to add to their posts. Calaméo publisher Lonely Planet’s #lonelyplanetfr boasts more than 100,000 photos tagged on Instagram, while REEF Magazine’s #hamiltonisland has been used 410,000 times. These images can then be used in digital publications and social media to help reach users who are in the inspiration phase—driving traffic, growing audiences and converting new travelers.

Welcome aboard

All signs indicate that travel’s digital journey is only just beginning. As long as more and more people dream of exploring the world, new tools will help us get inspired, make plans and get out there. And although changes in the travel media industry may have moved pretty fast, big opportunities are continuing to develop. For publishers learning how to make the most out of both the digital space and traditional strengths, it’s time for takeoff.

Read this article in our 2nd issue of Calaméo Magazine, as well as many others on the theme of tourism:

And if you haven’t read all the other issues of Calaméo Magazine yet, you can find them right here.

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