Customer acquisition in the tourism sector is becoming increasingly complex. Buying processes are multiplying, consumers are doing more and more research (an average of 55 days before booking in 2019) and are becoming real experts on a destination or a country. Moreover, the number of competitors is growing, whether in physical points of sale or online.
So, in order to put all odds in their favour, the travel industry is increasing the number of contact points. However, few travel agents are using gift cards and e-cards as a new means of customer acquisition. Let’s see in which cases it allows to bring new customers on board.
An additional digital service
Above all, the gift card can be a new digital service (ordering a gift card online) offered by tourism actors to consumers looking for travel. And new service means additional means to gain visibility on digital. The referencing on search engines is very complicated because of the hyper competition and the arrival of OTAs. The digital gift card and the physical card allow an additional hook to enter the gift market, to reach new targets and to make travel tangible.
Moreover, 49% of travel agents have succeeded in acquiring new customers thanks to the addition of extra services.
Promoting sustainable tourism
Sustainable tourism arrived a few years ago, and tends to become a basic trend, a real demand from more numerous and informed consumers. For example, 76% of international tourists want to rent eco-friendly accommodation in 2019. A figure that will increase in the coming years.
Faced with this strong demand, the market is in transition: hotels and accommodations are transforming, transportation companies are reducing their carbon footprints…
To reinforce this desire, tourism actors can use the gift card as a support. The BOGO (Buy One Give One) strategy, used in retail, can be transposed to the tourism market. For example, for every purchase of a gift card, or of an additional service, or even of a specific product, the brand can decide to create a gift card of a defined amount to be donated to an association, for example. The gift card is an ideal way to materialize donations. Each actor of the tourism industry can, from there, imagine creating a donations system to associations related to their sector, or to the destination in question.
Thus, these operations can facilitate the acquisition of customers committed to sustainable development.
Promotion and contests
The most well-known acquisition strategy today is undoubtedly promotion, whether in the tourism sector or in any other market. In most cases, coupons are used, despite the fact that consumers have become weary of them. The latter are over-solicited on the travel market with the numerous last-minute offers, the discount coupons if you choose an accommodation in addition…
The gift card, as a promotional tool, can compensate. More than a simple card, it is seen as a gift, a thoughtful effort from the brand. In this respect, tourism actors are quickly coming out on top.
Of course, the gift card must be used wisely and with an elaborate strategy. It can, for example, become a great reward in the context of a contest.
The gift card to enhance an omnichannel journey
The advantage of the gift card lies in its flexibility. It can be used throughout the whole journey of the future traveller and even encourage him to use one channel rather than another.
For example, if a travel agency wants to have contact with its future customer, it can implement a ROPO strategy (Research Online, Purchase Offline). The visitors start their journey digitally and then are led to go to the store. In this case, the gift card can act as an incentive and compensate for the effort made to visit the store. It can be a card offered for an additional service, if the person comes into the agency.
The gift card to encourage trial
In the same vein, the gift card encourages trial. It can be the trial of a new service, such as the relaxation area in a hotel, or the choice of a new, less known destination, or even the use of a new communication channel, such as a mobile application for example. In this case, we can offer a gift card of a defined amount for the service in question. For the download of the application, a brand offers a 5€ gift card that can be spent on its additional services, for example.
The card is then seen as an invitation to a new experience and allows to guide the visitor to convert him into a customer, especially for the so-called undecided people.
The gift card to acquire B2B customers
In the acquisition of new customers, professionals are an interesting source of business for tourism actors.
One of the points for a brand would be to work on its visibility with this clientele via a distribution strategy of gift cards. That is to say opening up the sale of gift cards to external players such as HR programs and portals. Thus, it becomes an element of communication with employees, and a new source of acquisition.
Customer acquisition via ambassadors
Word-of-mouth and e-reputation are two fundamental points and constitute decisive elements in the choice of future tourists. If market players cannot influence the first one, this is not the case for the second. E-reputation is essentially built by online customer reviews, whether on rating sites, blogs, OTA portals, social networks, or search engines.
Of course, tourism actors cannot decide which reviews will be written. However, they can encourage travelers who are satisfied with their experience to post a review. That’s where the gift card comes in. Offering a gift card for a future trip, of a predefined amount in exchange for a review, is more incentive than a simple email request. Especially since the customer may be led to use the same services for a future trip, since he already has a contribution.
The card is also a good sponsorship tool. For satisfied customers to offer an incredible experience to their loved ones, the card is the ideal medium.
The gift card can be a new source of acquisition for the tourism sector. It can be used as a promotion, as a reward, as an incentive or even as a sponsorship tool. It brings with it new strategies in addition to an additional anchor on digital. However, in order to be successful, the card must be integrated in the acquisition strategies implemented and coordinated with the medium/long term vision of the brand.
Suggestions for further reading
Implementation of a gift card program in the tourism sector