Travel marketing: What the revitalized bus travel industry can teach you about reinventing your travel brand.

September 27, 2012
Photo of Megabus

New intracity bus lines like Megabus, Bolt Bus and Vamoose are changing bus travel.

A new generation of express bus carriers are reinventing a once-dying industry, and rewriting the rules of travel marketing along the way.

Christine Whittemore of Simple Marketing Now recently wrote an insightful piece on the rise of the new bus travel industry that appeared in the blog Marketing Profs.

Some of her insights are worth repeating for marketers of travel and tourism brands in need of some serious reconstruction.

People stopped riding buses for a variety of reasons:

  • High prices compared to trains and planes.
  • Inconvenient schedules.
  • Discomfort.
  • Safety concerns.

But a new generation of brands like Megabus, Bolt Bus and Vamoose are changing the way intracity bus service is delivered, and attracting daily riders by the tens of thousands.

To overcome the concerns that have kept people off buses for the past decade, these brands have also upgraded their service with:

  • Newer buses.
  • More professional drivers.
  • Pick up points that don’t scare off professional people.

These new brands are also going head-to-head with trains and planes to offer travelers services that meet or beat the standards of air and train travel, including:

  • Free wi-fi.
  • Power outlets for laptops.
  • Lower pricesRewards programs for frequent travelers.
  • More convenient schedules.
  • More leg room.
  • Reminders of how eco-friendly modern buses are.
  • Using Twitter, Facebook and other social media to dialogue with their customers.

Are you the marketer of a travel or tourism brand in a segment of the industry that is stagnant or in decline?

If so, ask yourself what the revitalized bus travel industry could teach you about how to reinvent the way your customers view your travel or tourism brand.  Could you:

  • Make your product more cost-competitive?
  • Offer more choice and convenience?
  • Invest in newer technology and infrastructure?
  • Make your brand more directly competitive with newer categories?

That’s what the bus travel industry has taught us about brand revitalization. Tell us what you’ve learned from this or another industry. By the way, you’ll find Christine’s complete post here.


Destination marketing: Higher taxes are no way to treat a guest.

August 17, 2012

Are travel taxes taking too big a bite out of your guests’ wallets?

A study by the U.S. Travel Association has raised new concerns that high travel taxes are affecting travel habits. 

Is it time to re-think your attitude on travel taxes?

In an era of declining tax revenues, travelers are considered an easy target by local, county and state governments.

But according to Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, public officials need to think of travelers as important contributors to local businesses and jobs.

According to Dow,”Few public officials understand how rising travel taxes influence consumer behavior and impact the economy.”

To help, the USTA announced a study of consumer attitudes by its  Travel Tax Institute.

The research reveals that taxation has a clear impact on travel planning and spending decisions. Among the key findings:

  • High Taxes Alter Travel Plans: 49% of travelers say that high travel taxes have caused them to stay at less expensive hotels, spend less on shopping and entertainment, and visit during the off-season.
  • Taxes on Hotels, Airfare High: 68% of travelers rated hotel taxes as “very high” (35%) or “high” (33%); 66% rated taxes on airfare as “very high” (38%) or “high” (28%).
  • Rental Car Taxes Much Too High: Nearly two out of three travelers surveyed (64%) say that the total tax rate on rental cars is “much more” than they expected to pay.
  • Travelers See Taxes Rising: Nearly two-thirds (65%) say they expect to pay higher travel taxes in the year ahead; only two percent believe taxes will decrease.
  • Travel Taxes Should Fund Travel Infrastructure: 60% of travelers said travel taxes should be reinvested in travel infrastructure, such as roads and airports.

Another 49% said “travel/tourism marketing and promotion” also would be an appropriate use of the revenues.

Only 14% cited “non-travel related expenditures” such as “contributions to government general funds” as an “appropriate” use of travel taxes

What do you think? Are high travel taxes affecting your guest’s decisions?

What are you doing about it? We’d love to hear your take on this important issue.

Travel marketing: What are you doing to capitalize on America’s fastest growing leisure sport?

August 15, 2012
picture of old suitcase filled with tennis balls

18 million Americans now spend part of their free time playing tennis.

Tennis is the fastest growing sport in the U.S. as Americans look for a cheaper past time in a tough economy. Here are a few ideas to attract the tennis set.

One of our jobs here at 5 to 9 Branding is to report on where Americans are spending their free time.

A recent Reuter’s report found that more and more of us are spending our free time playing tennis.

If you’re the marketer of a travel or leisure brand, you’ll be interested to learn how the tennis industry orchestrated some of this growth.

First the statistics on the growth of tennis.  According to Reuters:

  • From 2000-2009, the number of Americans playing tennis grew 43% to 18.5 million.
  • By comparison, the number of golfers declined 5% in 2009 to 27 million players.
  • Tennis has become the fastest growing traditional sport in America.
  • Unlike the last tennis boom in the 1970’s, there are no American tennis stars to fuel the growth.

Experts say the current growth of tennis partly the result of the slowing economy and partly the result of an orchestrated effort by the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

  • After a 1994  cover story in Sports Illustrated titled Is Tennis Dead? the USTA committed $36 million annually to a multi-year marketing and promotional campaign to boost tennis at a local level.
  • Tennis manufacturers like Wilson and Prince also put up millions for public parks to offer free tennis lessons to introduce Americans to tennis.
  • Compared to golf, tennis is relatively easy to learn and inexpensive to play.
  • Many public parks offer free use of tennis courts, and a top tennis racket costs a fraction of a good set of golf clubs.

If you’re the marketer of a travel or leisure brand, ask yourself what the tennis industry can teach you about marketing your brand.

  • Can you reposition your brand to take advantage of the changing tastes of the post-recession consumer?
  • Can you offer customers a low-cost or no-cost introduction to your brand?
  • Could you combine efforts with a trade association to promote awareness of a sport or pastime your brand supports?
  • Can you appeal to a new generation of users?

Is your travel or leisure brand capitalizing on this leisure phenomenon?

  • If you market a destination travel brand, do you highlight your tennis facilities in your marketing materials?
  • Could you put together a stay and play tennis package?
  • How about throwing in lessons from your tennis pro?
  • Could you provide free group classes or free use of racquets for travelers who forgot to pack theirs?

That’s what the tennis industry’s turnaround has us thinking about. How about you? What  are you doing to capitalize on the growth of this popular sport?

Are you capitalizing on the latest travel marketing trend: The fake-ation?

August 13, 2012


A recent study confirms most Americans can’t escape their work–even on vacation.

8 in 10 Americans have trouble leaving their work behind when they go on vacation.  Could your travel brand be the solution?

A recent TripAdvisor travel trends survey uncovered a startling trend.

As a travel and hospitality marketing specialist , I don’t like to admit that I have trouble separating work from pleasure.

But the truth is I’m usually a day or two into a vacation before my wife gently reminds me to quit checking emails and voicemails.

The latest TripAdvisor Travel Trends survey reveals that I’m not the only American leisure traveler having trouble leaving their work at home.

The Fake-ation may be the biggest travel trend TripAdvisor uncovered this year.

According to Trip Advisor, American travelers are, in effect, taking vacations without getting a real vacation.

  • 8 in 10 Americans say they chose their destination at least partly because it is too remote to connect with work.
  • Yet 7 in 10 people admit to connecting with work on leisure trips.
  • 6 in 10 check their e-mail, while  1 in 10 call the office.

Why can’t Americans leave their work behind? If they’re like me, the internet and cell phones make connecting to work too easy.

If you’re a travel or leisure marketing specialist, there’s a big opportunity for you in this trend.

People like me want to escape. But we need help letting go.

Could your brand be the solution? Could you provide the real escape people are looking for?

Instead of making it easier for people to connect to work, could you cater to their desire to disconnect?

  • Could you remove the cell tower from the top of your building and provide a cell-free zone?
  • Instead of offering free wi-fi, maybe you offer no-fi.  Or if you want a little extra press coverage, $500 a day wi-fi.
  • Maybe you go lo-tech and require people to turn in their cell phones and lap tops upon arrival.
  • Or you set up cell-free and laptop free zones.
  • If you’re marketing camping equipment, scuba gear or even movie theaters, maybe you position your leisure brand as the only true escape from the office.

TripAdvisor has uncovered a truth most of us can’t deny:  We are looking for a way to get away from it all, but the internet and universal cell coverage have trapped us.

How you can your brand be our escape hatch?

Twitter users influence your travel or leisure brand more than your Facebook followers.

August 2, 2012

Twitter users are three times more likely to impact your brand’s reputation online than the average consumer.

Although Twitter has far fewer users than Facebook,their regular users are the most influential online consumers, according to a recent study by Exact Target.

Their conversations fuel discussions across all areas of the internet–from blogs and forums to product reviews and coupon sites.

The study highlights 5 key findings:

  1. Active Twitter users’ reach goes far beyond Twitter because they blog, post reviews, comment on news stories and participate in discussion forums
  2. Their tweets are also indexed by Google and syndicated by the Twitter API
  3. Twitter also gives these people faster access to  breaking news and events than mainstream media
  4. People regard a branded account more reliable than an individual account.
  5. But they appreciate the opportunity to interact with the individual account of a high-ranking officer of a company.

So what kinds of content should you tweet to your visitors and guests?

  • Flash sales
  • Upcoming discounts and promotions
  • Updates on new or future offers
  • Offers of free nights or packaged discounts
  • Exclusive content just for your Twitter followers
  • News about your travel brand
  • New property or product introductions
  • Invite guests to share ideas and give feedback
  • Invite guests to make recommendations
  • Send direct messages from your travel brand

If you’re the CMO of a travel or leisure brand, use this valuable information to update your Twitter content strategy.

You can sign up for and download more information from Exact Target here.

Travel marketing mystery: How United Airlines won a fare war but lost a customer.

July 31, 2012

My wife and I recently booked a ticket on United Airlines to Minneapolis.

We were on our way to visit our youngest son, a college student in Minnesota.

I usually fly Frontier or Southwest to Minneapolis.

I like the feeling of fun and freedom both airlines give me. Besides, their prices are the cheapest when I book early.

This time I went with United because they undercut my favorite airlines on the last minute fare.

With only a couple weeks left until our trip, I paid twice the normal amount for my ticket that I can usually get it for when I book a month or two out.

I was not too happy with their price, but I had to hand it to them for winning this battle of the premium fare wars.

They also offered 3 more flights to choose from that day, which did sweeten their deal for me.

All went smoothly until it was time to board the plane.

When it came time to load my trusty Victorinox carry on luggage–a bag designed to be squeezed into any overhead compartment–it wouldn’t fit.

After watching me struggle for a couple of minutes, the stewardess came over and corrected me.

Stewardess: “Next time please bring a smaller piece of luggage.”

Me: “But I’ve used this bag for years.”

Stewardess: “Your bag is too big.”

Me: “I think your overhead compartment is too small.”

Stewardess: “No, your bag is too big.”

Before I could get a head of steam on my anger, my wife told me I was starting to embarrass her.

So I retreated to my assigned seat, and spent the rest of the flight smoldering from the injustice of it all.

After we landed, I did a little research. Turns out United was flying an Embraer 170 that day.

According to Seat Guru this compact Brazilian-built jetliner has full-size overhead bins on the right side of the cabin, but the left-hand side overhead compartments are too small to fit a regular-sized carry on.

It’s been awhile since this happened, and I have avoided United with a vengeance.

As I look back on my experience United won the fare war, and the argument that day, but lost a customer. For life.

Incidentally, the Customer Service Scoreboard ranks United #330 of 550 companies that have been rated by their visitors, with an overall score of 33 out of a possible 200.

Looks like I’m not the only traveler they’ve disappointed.

Are you building a purpose-driven travel+leisure brand?

July 26, 2012

I was meeting with a client the other day, and he asked me if I would recommend cause marketing for his brand.

I thought about it for a minute and realized there’s a right answer and a correct answer to his question.

The correct answer is that supporting a good cause is good for every travel+leisure brand. Because it makes your visitors and employees feel good about your brand.

But the right answer is a little more complicated.

The right answer is that there are more good causes than there are good travel brands. And your customers know that.

When you try to tack on a cause-marketing component to your latest travel marketing campaign, it looks like you’re offering support for your own short-term gain.

Your customers can see right through that. And it makes them mistrust your brand.

Jeremy Heimans is the CEO and co-founder of the cutting-edge firm Purpose that helps create 21st century online social movements.

Jeremy offers these ground rules for becoming what he calls a “purpose-driven brand”.

1.Before you try to change the world, change your company.

According to Jeremy, the best way brands can support a good cause is by incorporating business practices that demonstrate their commitment from the inside out.

A good example is Chipotle, which has championed the cause of producing “food with integrity.” To back up that commitment they source 85% of their beef from ranchers who supply naturally-raised meats.

2.  Champion a movement, not a campaign.

A successful strategy requires a long-term commitment to a cause that demonstrates you really believe in it, and are committed to bringing real change. Think Ben & Jerry’s, Chipotle and Starbucks.

So pick your cause and stick with it year after year.

3. Make sure the stakes are high.

To really make a difference, Jeremy says something important must hang in the balance.

In other words, if you mobilize your customer base, their actions must have the potential to affect the outcome of an issue that is of vital importance to a lot of people.

4. Ask your customers to take action.

This is an era when customers want to participate in and with your brand. What better way to interact with them than through a cause you both care about?

How do Jeremy’s ideas compare with what your travel+leisure brand is doing?  Are there other ways to think about cause marketing in the social age? Let me know what you think.

You can see examples of some of the most influential cause marketing campaigns here.

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