Emerging Online Markets: The New Frontier for Travel & Hospitality
Businesses in the travel industry are winning big by courting the rapidly-growing middle class in international markets.
Thanks to the Internet, few industries have seen as much supercharged growth as travel and hospitality.
Currently, 65% of the world’s travel booking now happens online, and there’s no indication this growth will slow. Online travel sales are in fact stratospheric: worldwide digital travel sales have grown over 25% since 2014. They’ll increase to $817.54 billion by 2020—a 45% increase from today’s sales.
Every company worth its salt in travel sectors—from hoteliers to airlines—are now actively serving consumers online. Competition is intensifying. It’s becoming clear that technological innovations and cross-platform transactions will define the future of the industry. And so will accommodating the needs of an ever-growing global consumer base.
Time and again, we've seen companies that expand to new markets and serve global customers online generate considerable boosts in traffic, transactions and revenue. This is particularly true when these websites serve customers in their preferred languages.
We recently spoke with Erdem Tokmakoglu, a Global Online Strategist with our Global Growth team, to learn more about this opportunity, and how companies can maximize their reach to win more global customers, and more business.
Opportunity Is Knocking
Between now and 2019, travel sales in North America and Western Europe will proportionately contract year-over-year. Sales in Asia-Pacific, however, will increase about 28% within the same time frame. Sales in Latin America and the Middle East & Africa will also grow, though more modestly.
Emerging markets in Asia and Asia-Pacific will see stratospheric growth of more than 90% in tourist arrivals between now and 2020. The number of visitors to North and South America will grow by 29%. Europe will see a smaller increase in tourists during this time, but will maintain its commanding global lead as the destination for most inbound tourists.
Interestingly, nine out of the Top 10 fastest-emerging tourism destinations are located in Africa and Asia. In addition to representing an increasingly large share of the world’s population, these developing markets are also home to a rapidly-increasing middle class, eager to join the numbers of annual travelers from developed markets.
“Indeed, it wasn’t too long ago that China was a destination for visitors,” Erdem explains. “These days, Chinese citizens are the ones being courted by travel agencies and hotel chains, thanks mostly to their number and propensity to spend. These developing markets are also increasingly turning to the Internet to fulfill their needs as consumers.”
As these consumers’ purchasing power grows, they will increasingly expect websites to serve them in their preferred languages, Erdem says.
Newer or untouched markets like Italy, Spain, Germany, Mexico, China, the United Arab Emirates, Norway, and India “have a developed tourism industry as well as a rapidly emerging digitally equipped middle class,” adds a recent report at Market Realist. “Both of these factors combine to make them a lucrative market for online travel bookings as more people shift from offline to online channels.”
The Power of Language
The easiest and most economical way companies in the travel and hospitality industries can engage these global consumers is through transactional websites, translated in consumers' preferred languages. Doing so drives international sales and converts curious customers into in-country brand ambassadors.
"Online sales in the travel industry have consistently lower conversion rates than other e-commerce sectors, so it's very important for travel websites-regardless of which international markets they serve, or which languages they're published in-to nail online best practices," Erdem says. "This includes simple navigation, an easy-to-follow checkout funnel, mobile readiness, customized products, local payment methods and optimized call-to-action buttons."
With this foundation, brands can begin to explore how to use customized, unique messaging to connect to customers and those who influence their decision to buy—namely, friends and family members.
The Power of Localized SEO and On-Site Search
While an increasing number of global consumers are becoming bilingual, they overwhelmingly prefer to search and browse the web—and transact on websites—in their local languages.
Many websites today already follow SEO best practices for their primary (often English-speaking) markets, but few consider leveraging that methodology for localized sites serving global markets. This is a mistake, Erdem says.
"Localized sites should also be search engine friendly, so global consumers can find content easily through organic search," he explains. "For best results, these sites' meta descriptions-which is catnip for Google and other regional search engines-should be translated. For best results, this content should include oft-searched keywords to reflect the interests of local consumers."
URLs should also be localized, Erdem advises. At MotionPoint, experts in global markets can craft URLs to have unique in-language, keyword-rich structures. To help accomplish this, they measure and evaluate website content, and conduct competitive research. Once an SEO glossary of translated terms has been created and the localized URLs have been deployed, our experts measure for results and iterate if needed.
In one recent instance of our optimization process, a travel client’s localized site saw a nearly 25% increase in traffic thanks to translated meta descriptions, and another 20% increase by using localized URLs.
"Travel sites should also use localized on-site search to direct users to the proper content right away," Erdem says. "Unlike other traditional e-commerce sites, where users often find ideal products right on the homepage, travel sites often require users to search for packages and solutions that work best for them. This means valuable content is often buried inside the site. If an in-language search feature isn't available, users can feel alienated when they can't easily find what they're looking for. They'll leave without further interaction."
Companies in the travel industry can also win big by creating a global version of a localized website's sitemap. Again, this improves local organic search SERP rankings. MotionPoint's Global Sitemap technology recently increased clicks to one travel client's localized site by 60%, and boosted impressions by 100%.
Customized In-Language, On-Site Content
Getting global consumers to a translated site is one challenge. Keeping them there is another.
See, consumers in different markets have different expectations regarding on-site cues that signal when a website is trustworthy. For instance, visible logos of locally-preferred payment platforms boosts conversions in many global markets. Another example: German consumers expect to see an Impressum—an imprint that provides detailed information on the website’s ownership and ways to contact that owner. Beyond Germany, European sites must offer an explicit opt-in to track user behavior via cookies.
"To be successful, travel companies' global sites must address these unique needs and other conversion generators-like website colors, images or placement on on-page promotions," Erdem explains. "MotionPoint's experts know such market-specific nuances, and can-using A|B test-driven data-make recommendations and deploy solutions to increase engagement and conversions."
Further, MotionPoint's technology allows travel companies to deliver different promotional content and calls-to-action to different markets, with no need of coding, Erdem says. This means companies can effortlessly display unique banners in Spain, present different call-to-action buttons in Germany, and offer different payment options in France.
These market-specific localizations get results. In the case of one MotionPoint travel client, by displaying the company's ability to accept locally-preferred payment platforms, German-site conversion rates skyrocketed 266%. French-site conversions grew by 136%.
As travelers’ desire for unique experiences grows—and their expectation for always-on access to booking and services increase—companies in the travel and hospitality sector must adapt with technologies and solutions that deliver customized content for consumers.
In the case of customers in new markets, this content should be localized by language, geographic location, product interest, and more. Globalization platforms like MotionPoint’s can leverage technologies and experts to maximize site traffic, engagement and conversion rates.
Contact us to learn how MotionPoint can help your company succeed as it serves travel customers in global markets.