Online Marketing Action Plan for Travel Agencies in the Philippines

As the world economy continues to improve, travel trends are also expected to pick up fast and fuel the growth of the travel agencies industry worldwide.

travelPhilippine-based travel agencies stand to benefit from this welcome development – the country being one of the favorite tourist destination spots of many international travelers. But will they?

I can’t help but wonder if the local travel agencies based in this country are ready to partake of and cash in on the expected travel bonanza spurred by improving economic conditions the world over. It is a known fact that most if not all of these local agencies rely heavily on their counterpart travel agencies abroad to provide them with the inbound businesses they badly need.

It is common practice for the locals to tie-up with other much bigger and more established overseas travel agencies to get their businesses underway. They practically ride the coattails of their international partners anticipating just to be able to get some inbound business from them. Sadly, their growth in the industry is practically hostage to the whims and caprices of their international counterparts. And, unless they start putting in serious effort to build their own business and draw inbound visitors with their own efforts, I doubt whether they would be able to carve out a name for themselves and max the benefits they stand to gain from the forthcoming travel windfall.


The Internet has leveled the Playing Field in the Travel Industry

When I did a cursory scan of dozens of Philippine based travel agency websites, I noticed something seriously worrisome – none of them is exploiting their web presence to the hilt much less engage in any real online marketing campaign of their own to grow their agencies. Most if not all of these local travel sites were created by local brick and mortar travel outfits merely for show – to boost their credibility. There are a few who launched some semblance of a marketing campaign but their attempts were at best muted efforts and leave much to be desired.

Local travel agents must take heed of the fact that the internet has brought profound changes to the travel industry. Where before people had no other option but make a trip to the local travel agency office for their travel needs, today, thanks to new technology, millions of would be travelers simply go online using their desktops or mobile devices to get information on planned future travel destinations. They find it more convenient and more efficient now to access the internet for travel recommendations; gather info on where to get discounted food and accommodations; read peer reviews about different travel destinations; and collect other travel related information they need. Things that may otherwise require several visits to different travel agencies they can now accomplish with their fingertips.

But the most significant change to the travel agency industry ushered in by the advent of the internet, which local agencies will benefit from, is that it has leveled the playing field among all travel agencies worldwide be they big or small. The smallest ‘David’ is now able to compete toe to toe against even the biggest of the ‘Goliaths’ of the travel industry and on equal footing at that.

The internet has reduced the battle to which site is able to draw the consumers’ attention the most as well as generate the most traffic to their site. In this kind of battle, it won’t matter whether the site is owned by a company with millions of dollars in assets or just a mere start-up with nothing more than a set of superb travel destinations and topnotch services to offer. It will all bog down to which site people will trust and patronize. It is really a toss-up among all the competing travel websites with the one putting more effort to get their sites found by would be travelers reaping the lion’s share of the online travel business.

It may be a bit hard to swallow but Philippine based travel agencies have been rather slow in seeing this looming opportunity unfolding right before their eyes. They have allowed their websites to merely be token attempts to establish an online presence. Instead of making good use of their sites to grow their businesses the locals appear contented to be under the sway of their international partners and the sites they created are there more for cosmetic appeal than for marketing purposes. Perhaps, it may not be because they intended it to be that way. It may probably be because they lack the experience and the skills to do online marketing on their own.


What to do

The time is ripe for Philippine based travel agencies to get into the rat race against international competitors and start offering their services and travel destinations to the growing

Create interesting travel campaigns to generate buzz.

Create interesting travel campaigns to generate buzz.

number of tech savvy travelers themselves. They have to stop depending mainly on their counterparts and start drafting their own online marketing strategies to get a bigger slice of the targeted travel market overseas.

Here are some online marketing ideas that Philippine based travel agencies may find useful in preparing their own marketing strategies.


Spruce up your Travel Website to suit Today’s Tech Savvy Travelers

Your travel website is the key element to your survival in the industry. It is the consumers’ gateway to your services and the key element leading to your success in the travel industry. It must not only be an attractive and a well-designed showcase of travel services which your company has to offer. It also must be a dynamic and engaging site that contains all the information travelers are likely to be looking for. Remember, you only have one chance to get visitors to your site to make a purchase on their first visit so make sure your site has all the information they need right on their fingertips and that all these are all easy to locate.


Don’t be a Needle in a Haystack – Optimize and Get Found Fast

There are thousands of other travel sites out there probably even millions. The chances of people finding your site are slim. It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. But here’s some good news. 93% of online activities start with a search engine while 39% of online businesses come from search. If you want your site to be found easily by online searchers you need to get your site optimized for the various search engines and try to optimize for the ‘long tail’ keywords. You can do the search engine optimization yourself or you can hire SEO specialists to do it for you.

Either way, it your site has to be optimized. Never make the common mistake of being complacent thinking that customers will naturally find your site because you have the best travel destinations and the best travel packages at the most affordable prices. It doesn’t work that way.  No matter how outstanding your travel offers are they will be useless unless people find your site. And unless your site is optimized for the search engines, people will never discover the link leading to your site.


Go Mobile

Make your site mobile friendly so people can easily access it anytime and from almost anywhere with their smart phones. Statistics have shown that 28% of U.S. consumers access the internet using their smart phones or other mobile devices. In the Philippines, it is even bigger at 35%. These figures are likely to grow bigger with mobile internet usage predicted by Microsoft to eclipse desktop internet usage by 2014. If this happens, it will practically render any travel site that is not mobile friendly totally useless.

And oh, you can even take your mobile advantage a step further and be above your competitors by subscribing to cutting edge mobile solutions offered by travel service providers like the Abacus Mobility Suite. Equipped with such mobile solutions, your clients will be able to conveniently book their own flights using their mobile devices whenever and wherever they need to. This is a winning feature that will help you grow and maintain a horde of loyal followers.


Create a Buzz and keep People Talking about You

There is no better way to market your travel services than through peer-to-peer, word of mouth endorsements. Create a buzz that will keep people talking. Give them reasons to talk about you and your company with their friends and peers. It can be a unique service feature, an undiscovered travel destination, or an unbeatable price of a popular tour package. Come up with anything that will heighten their interests so much that they will naturally share the info with others. You can even start a contest. Anything creative and unique just to get them to talk about you or your company will do.

The buzz you created will ultimately draw traffic to your site. Don’t fret about how to start. You can begin by recruiting your friends or relatives abroad. Don’t be shy to ask their help in spreading the word among their own peers. Post it on Facebook. Tweet it and ask your twitter followers to re-tweet it. Before you know it, you will get visitors to your site more than you can handle.

Oh, did I not mention that you can also create a You Tube Channel where you can feature the sights and sounds of every travel destinations you are offering. Link it to your site and you’ll be amazed at the wonderful traffic it can generate to your site. And don’t forget to post your best travel destinations on Pinterest too. If they are interesting enough there will be people who will be asking where they are creating another selling opportunity for you.

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Paul Agabin is the Founder and CEO of Wooka Interactive. He is an internet marketer based in the Philippines which deals with varied topics such as local industry news, seo strategies, content marketing, inbound marketing, social media management, website reviews, and the like. You can contact him at 0917-5069839.

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