The travel sector has never been so crowded. From an industry dominated by a few big players 25 years ago, you'll now find niche, specialist companies offering a huge range of holidays across the globe.
But while this increased choice for the traveller is to be welcomed, it's become harder for specialist travel brands to be seen and heard, given the wealth of competition.
There are, however, a number of ways they can get noticed. We're going to take a look at some key strategies that will ensure specialist travel brands can hold their own against the industry giants.
The one thing travel brands have in common is that they sell holidays to beautiful places, so specialists in the sector should embrace the power of Instagram – there is no better way to make someone want to go somewhere than by showing them an attractive image.
Many brands are already doing this – for example, Airbnb reached new audiences with its storytelling campaign, while Condé Nast Traveller uses beautiful images and evocative captions to tempt users. Specialist brands should do the same – such as adventure travel company Explore, which brings the drama and excitement of exotic destinations straight to your device.
Specialists are specialists for a reason – they have the knowledge and insight of a particular niche that others simply do not.
For example, Esprit Ski doesn't just specialise in ski holidays – it specialises in family ski holidays – and its homepage makes that clear, with video footage and a nav bar with 'CHILDCARE' very much the first item on the list, as well as detailed info on classes for all age ranges.
More generic travel firms that offer ski trips will struggle to go to this level of detail, putting the specialist at a distinct advantage. Making it obvious why you're different from the competition is key, especially in such a crowded industry as travel.
Google has quietly been making inroads in the travel sector, and now offers an extremely powerful site, Google Trips, selling holidays, flights and hotels – it can even suggest half- or full-day itineraries including where to eat en route.
Launched on mobile in September 2016, the site is now on desktop, too. One of its strengths is personalisation – although some have been put off by the Orwellian way it goes about this – basically crawling your Gmail account, looking for details of your past bookings and reservations.
Clearly, Google will optimise its own page perfectly to its own algorithm – just search for 'holidays to Majorca' and you'll see Google's own featured snippet high up on page 1, complete with hotel name, reviews, price and flight details. It's very impressive, and looks set to take more business away from specialist travel brands.
The past decade has seen the rise of bloggers and influencers, and travel brands should ignore them at their peril. Stats show that almost 50% of people on Twitter rely on recommendations from influencers before making a purchase.
A well-connected travel influencer will have considerable reach, and if you choose one that fits with your target demographic, you'll know that your brand message will be seen by the right people. Just think of it as another form of advertising.
For example, holiday.comparison website Ice Lolly sent a number of influencers to Benidorm and their posts were viewed hundreds of thousands of times, helping to show a different side to this resort.
Travel specialists should be in a strong position to offer packages tailored to the needs of the consumer. There is no way that a large holiday company that deals with mass-market packages can compete with smaller players who offer bespoke luxury holidays.
For example, Rich Vein Travel claims that 'no two experiences are the same', and also offers holidays in top resorts and hotels that aren't available through the bigger names. This exclusivity element is crucial in persuading consumers to book with you.
In these time-poor days, it's understandable why travellers don't want to spend hours and hours researching and booking a holiday. But this makes it even more important for specialist travel brands to play to their strengths and give customers compelling reasons to do business with them instead.