From watching the Griswold family’s antics to reminiscing on childhood memories of travel, we can all relate to the intrinsic role road trips play in the lives of American families.
Whether people choose to hit the road to bypass airport security, save money, or disconnect from the real world, road trips continue to be a vacation mainstay. In fact, in April of this year, about 60 percent of Americans were intending to take a road trip of 50 miles or more from home.
More and more, people seek out a way to really disconnect from work while reconnecting with family and friends. In an age where “Does the plane have Wi-Fi?” is a common question for both business- and pleasure-related travels, the chance to truly unplug from day-to-day work demands is more alluring than ever.
And for those in the hospitality industry, there are marketing opportunities abound.
The Trip Is Part of the Trip
Travelers have a choice in any trip: They can either fly to a destination (annoying airport processes included) and consider the travel time a sunk cost or drive the extra hours and enjoy it. Stops along the way can add to the fun, furthering the ability to reconnect with loved ones and disconnect from the daily grind.
Recently, my sister and I turned a 12-hour drive for a family reunion into an opportunity to have a sister road trip. We stopped and saw state parks, archaeological sites, and roadside vegetable stands. We took tours, bought peaches, and snapped beautiful photos. The family reunion was great, but it was even better to get to enjoy quality sister time en route to the event. Ultimately, those moments may be what we remember the most.
This consumer desire to make the most of time on the road is the ideal situation for hospitality industry marketers, who can capitalize on a number of different touchpoints with this valuable segment. Use these tips to implement a marketing strategy geared toward road-trippers — and become the preferred hotel of this road trip as well as those to come.
1. Map Out Your Potential Audience
Employ a more local marketing approach. Consider day trips consumers can take near your hotel. Whether they’re on a 1,000-mile road trip or just getting away for the weekend, customers want to know what attractions are nearby. Think about drawing a circle around where you live and looking at a 100-, 300-, and 500-mile radius. Look at the populations from that standpoint. Consider tourism boards, conventions, and visitors’ bureaus that would appeal to visitors passing through.
Next, identify your key targets. Does it make sense to connect with young families taking their first road trips close to home? Consider buying Google or Facebook ad space related to searches such as “family hotel on the way to [city].” Think about developing influencer campaigns with “mommy bloggers” and other social celebrities that hold weight with the demographic.
2. Provide Tangible Value
Give guests the information they need. Future customers will appreciate it if you openly advertise your amenities. For example, if you allow pets in your hotel, it may attract families who like to road trip with their beloved animals. But it will also hopefully safeguard your brand against negative reviews from guests who prefer pet-free traveling. Give consumers the information they need to make an informed decision about whether or not to stay with you.
My aunt was traveling with her daughter recently, and the hotel she stayed at had not promoted that it was very pet-friendly. However, her daughter is very allergic to animal hair. They had a miserable night because there were dogs in almost every single room of the hotel.
In addition to information, you can also provide uniquely branded resources for families planning their trips. For instance, maybe you offer a free download for a printable trip planner or calendar. Perhaps you email a coupon code or the offer of a free breakfast voucher. Make it worth your guests’ while to engage with your brand. Give them a great experience that will keep them coming back.
3. Be the Stop They Won’t Forget
When your guests arrive, it’s important to give them a singular brand experience. From fresh cookies at the reception desk to a cozy, family-friend lobby, these things become synonymous with your brand the more ubiquitous they become.
From the moment road-trippers (or really any guests) walk in the door, you should surround them with the experience you would want them to relay to their friends and family. Answer any questions they have, and offer advice as it relates to next steps on their journey. Keep map printouts behind the front desk that staff can use to provide a visual cue, and circle areas of attraction that are best fits for those particular customers. That personal, visual touch can go a long way.
4. Set up the Return Trip
As guests depart, it’s important to give them a reason to keep coming back — or to tell their friends and family about their stay. The great thing about the road-tripping crowd is it’s an inherently social one, so even if one particular family doesn’t visit your location again for a few years, it could be providing free word-of-mouth advertising to 10 other families looking for a good place to stop on their journey.
Road trips will always be a common and meaningful part of American culture. Take advantage of the trend by meeting guests far before they ever arrive in your lobby. By connecting with them in their initial searches, providing them value on the road, and then delivering an unforgettable experience, you’ll have customers and referrals for years to come.