Destination Print! Cashing in on Travel Industry Collateral
According to United Nations World Tourism Organization research, there are approximately 1.2 billion international “tourist arrivals” each year — a figure that has increased 49-fold since 1950 and continues to grow with each passing year.
And while for most consumers today, the smartphone remains the go-to source for news and information, research reveals that the travel industry loves print.
In fact, 98% of hospitality professionals surveyed “value printed visitor information for their guests, and 94% provide guests with brochures, leaflets and flyers.”
So, what is it about print that so effectively sells travel, and how can print service providers (PSPs) capitalize on this market opportunity?
“People often travel out of range of Wi-Fi or data networks — or they take vacations to ‘disconnect’ from the online world,” says Leigh Blakeley, managing director and partner of Calgary-based C&B Advertising. “Beautiful, well-designed print pieces can have a special place in the experience of the traveler. They can serve as practical sources of information and inspiration — or as a souvenir when their trip is complete.”
The good news for PSPs, she adds, is that new digital presses are making it easier to produce those dreamy vacation brochures and mailers.
“Digital printing has come a long way in the past few years; finishes and effects can now be achieved in smaller quantities of print at a more cost-effective price,” she says. “Not all digital printing is equal in quality, though. The higher-end equipment allows more control with PMS and spot color matching without going to offset printing.”
Battling the ‘Sea of Sameness’
According to Ben Allen, managing director for DCG One, a Seattle-based integrated marketing services provider, the travel and tourism business is fiercely competitive, with brands constantly seeking new ways to “stand out in a sea of sameness.”
“We do a lot of what you would expect — direct mail and brochure work, all the way up to case bound books and print-on-demand direct marketing, and we have a big focus on packaging and wide-format,” he says, adding that brands generate more interest when they invest in high-end materials and processes. “Soft-touch papers are trending right now, as well as spot UV coatings,” he says.
Blakeley also sees growing demand for dimensional printing. “It provides the customer with a tactile feel; a brochure with different textures reflects a creative design,” she says.
But what really makes brands stand out, Allen says, is a truly unique presentation. “We are incorporating more interesting form factors into pieces, for example, that might do a little bit of a reveal — iron crosses that fold out and turn into a larger cross; travel mailers that have interesting dielines,” he says.
And the more elaborate the presentation, the better. DCG One recently produced a holiday gift box for luxury travel company Inspirato that included a custom-printed case bound coffee table book, luggage tags, several brochures and wrapping.
“Without a doubt for us, and specifically for an affluent target audience, it is flawless execution — and a premium quality product — that stand out,” he says.
On time — and personalized
Albert Alvarez, president of PF Solutions, a full-service design, print and fulfillment company based in Miami, sees increased demand for personalization within the travel industry. “Everything we produce is custom made,” he says.
“Variable data can be quite important,” Blakeley explains, noting that the technology is most commonly used for lower quantity direct mail “where a more personalized approach is needed.”
And for travel clients — who face a variety of seasonal demands — time is always money. “Turnaround times are getting more demanding,” Alvarez says. “It can be difficult to get the correct information and approvals from the people involved in the decision-making process while trying to stay true to the deadline.”
Adding to the complexity of the industry’s creative and production challenges is the need to “organically find print solutions that integrate with digital,” Blakeley says.
According to Allen, the best approach is a holistic one. “Print is going to be really important, and we have seen a resurgence of direct mail in the past few years,” he says. “But, when you recommend direct mail and high-touch pieces to these clients, there has to be a digital complement — that is what people are gravitating toward today.”
As a best practice, DCG One advises clients to create personalized URLs and landing pages that are then featured in printed pieces. “If they know the person receiving the direct mail piece is a golfer, that person should see a picture of a golfing scene on the landing page,” he says. Trigger e-mails tying into campaigns should be sent as well, he adds.
“We are encouraged by the digital space and view it as a necessary complement to any kind of direct mail campaign, so the brand is not living in isolation,” Allen says.
Building Brand Equity
While creating something unusual can grab consumer attention, not all brands opt — or need — to go to the added expense.
“We work with American Express; they are a big part of our business,” Allen says. “We mail into the Platinum member base showing them luxury hotels all around the world, and we do really nice work for them in straight-forward formats — 8- to 12-page brochures. But, American Express has 100% brand awareness and card members anticipate getting these pieces. Brands that don’t have that awareness, recognition and trust are automatically trying to find different ways to get it.”
One of the best ways to build brand equity, he emphasizes, is to reward your customers.
“Hawaiian Airlines has a partnership on Oahu with a local grocer, and they give their highest loyalty tier gift cards every year,” he says, adding that frequent flyers can earn up to 10 gift cards. “So, our packaging engineering team created flexible packaging that expands so one common package could be sent, accommodating anywhere from one to 10 gift cards,” Allen says.
While small-format collateral alone can have a big impact on travel industry sales, PSPs should be prepared to serve a range of client needs. According to Alvarez, PF Solutions produces “window clings, perforated vinyl window treatments, retractable banners, foamboard posters and anything else required for branding and marketing” for clients in the industry.
C&B Advertising designs everything from travel planners, brochures and magazines to large-format pieces and, of course, advertisements — for print, digital, video and radio outlets. BCG One produces interior décor elements, and also trade show graphics for travel and tourism brands.
“We can support their overall marketing organization — from redoing office interiors and signage to direct mail and tying into Salesforce to get custom fulfillment going,” says Allen.
While opportunities abound for PSPs in this industry, in many ways travel and tourism marketing is a different animal.
“The products we are featuring are not quick buys — so the question becomes ‘how does that print item play a role in acquisition, the nurture process — and the loyalty process through the member or customer lifecycle?’” he says. “A lot of times, our clients get caught up in the idea that because an e-mail is cheap, it’s the best way to go. But, people are fatigued by e-mail — and this is why print has an awesome role in the marketing mix.”