Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Selling a stay at a resort or a travel destination to consumers can be a challenge: the product is not tangible; you cannot try it on, or touch, taste or test it before you book or buy. Marketers are essentially selling a dream – and they need to find a way to showcase this experience before the consumer will consider purchasing it. As a result, more and more travel destinations are using virtual reality (VR) to bridge the gap between the experience and the sale.

Club Med Southern Africa marketing manager Lesego Matabane says that marketing travel is ultimately about selling an experience, and VR is one of the most successful ways to get consumers to buy into that experience because it allows them to get a real taste of the journey from the comfort of their own homes before they commit to the destination. Video works well too, she adds, because it’s also visual and can elicit an emotional response.

Matabane says “influencer marketing” – marketing in which key individuals are targeted, and they share their opinion of a destination in their own words – is another effective strategy to communicate the merits of different travel experiences.

“Influencer marketing, coupled with platforms such as TripAdvisor [a website on which objective third parties rate their destination experiences] work particularly well, as they’re about real people advocating a brand as opposed to a brand attempting to make a hard sell,” she says.

User-generated content and storytelling fall into this same space.

Social media can also be used successfully for marketing, as this allows for two-way engagement with consumers from a brand perspective. Moreover, consumers themselves can share their travel experiences with one another, providing unsolicited testimonial. This aligns with a growing trend towards travellers doing their own research online before deciding which destination to visit.

According to Matabane, information from Club Med shows that, globally, women are the key decision makers when it comes to holidays and travel. They drive the decision-making process and consolidate the demands and aspirations of everyone in the family – something that Club Med takes into account in its marketing efforts.

The big take-out: When marketing a travel destination, platforms such as video and VR are particularly effective as they allow consumers to experience the destination before they commit to it. Personal experiences shared online also go a long way to build support for a particular destination.

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