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Email marketing can be a game-changer for travel and tourism businesses looking to increase bookings and revenue. With the right email marketing strategy, you can keep customers engaged, drive more direct bookings, upsell existing customers, and attract new leads. 

In this article, we provide 11 powerful yet practical tips to help tourism companies and travel agencies get up to 3x more bookings through better email marketing, regardless of which email marketing platforms they use. 

Whether you’re just starting or looking to improve existing efforts, these best practices will help you boost open rates, drive more clicks, increase conversion rates, and get more out of your email campaigns.

Significance of Email Marketing in Travel and Tourism

Email marketing delivers an excellent return on investment for travel and tourism businesses. Studies show that for every $1 spent on email marketing in the travel and tourism industry, companies make $36 in revenue

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When done right, emailed campaigns can generate over 30% of total sales. Beyond increased bookings and revenue, a strong email approach provides valuable customer data and insights, drives brand awareness, reduces overall marketing costs, and establishes effective re-targeting opportunities. 

With the ability to reach customers directly in their inboxes, travel and tourism companies have seen email open rates exceed 50% and click-through rates of 5% or higher, significantly outpacing results from other digital channels. 

Given the huge revenue potential and relatively low costs, focusing on better email marketing is a no-brainer way for these businesses to boost their bottom line.

1. Collect Emails Across Multiple Customer Touchpoints

The first step to email marketing success is growing your email contact list. You need to make collecting emails a top priority across multiple customer touchpoints. Put opt-in forms front and center on your website, blog, and social media profiles allowing site visitors to easily subscribe for updates. 

Incentivize sign-ups with lead magnets like discounts or bonus content. Include newsletter registration options within brick-and-mortar locations too if applicable, training employees to ask visitors if they would like to receive online updates.

Similarly, capture emails during the booking process, confirmation emails, post-travel customer surveys, promotional offers, and events or activities. 

The bigger your tourism company or travel agency’s contact list, the bigger the potential impact of email campaigns. Just make sure to get consent when requesting emails and inform customers how their contact information will be used to comply with regulatory requirements.

Finally, don’t rely solely on email capture at the first touchpoint. Continuously engage existing customers by sending valuable content, updates, and offers to drive repeat bookings. 

Include prominent call-to-actions embedded in email newsletters, post-trip questionnaires, and account user portals so customers can easily add their latest contact information which may change over time. The goal is to gather emails at every opportunity while delivering real value to subscribers.

2. Segment Lists by Destination Interests

Once you have a healthy list of subscriber emails, take the time to segment contacts based on their travel interests and past destination preferences. This level of personalization and customization is key for improving email campaign performance. 

Set up different buckets like Europe travelers, Caribbean getaways, domestic road trips, family vacations, eco-adventures, and more.

When segmenting your email list, first look at any profile info collected from subscribers during sign-up. Also analyze data on previous bookings, online browsing behavior, and survey responses to slot contacts appropriately. 

Though it takes some manual effort, properly dividing your master contact list allows you to send targeted content. For example, customers who’ve visited Costa Rica likely care more about eco-lodge deals than Las Vegas nightlife packages.

Segmented and personalized email outreach simply converts better. When a subscriber receives an email with Mexico vacation promotions because they previously booked Cancun, they’ll be more inclined to open and engage. 

Customer-centric email communication also helps your travel brand provide a tailored experience. Just be sure segmentation doesn’t limit recipients from receiving other relevant offers they may enjoy. Utilize automation tools to assign contacts to multiple buckets that align with demonstrated interests.

3. Send Personalized Destination Recommendations

Speaking of personalization, take your email marketing to the next level by incorporating customized destination recommendations matched to each recipient’s profile and preferences. Technology now exists allowing dynamic content substitution where each subscriber sees a different variation of an email campaign.

For example, if someone books beach vacations in Mexico every year, automatically showcase special deals on flights and resorts in Cancun or similar destinations within your email body content. Tailor it further by factoring in past travel dates and party size. Marketing automation and CRM platforms like Mailchimp and HubSpot provide the tools to scale this approach.

When a subscriber receives an email featuring trip suggestions aligned with where they like to vacation, they feel understood. These hyper-personalized recommendations based on previous bookings or website browsing motivate higher email open rates and click-through rates. 

Customers also appreciate the proactive guidance that your brand can provide by leveraging data on preferences and behaviors over time. Just ensure automation allows recipients to still see new deals as well so they don’t feel boxed into only receiving emails about one destination.

4. Promote Current Travel Deals and Packages

Of course, email campaigns shouldn’t rely solely on past preferences and personalized recommendations. You also need to actively promote current travel specials and package deals which may appeal to subscribers. Dedicate a section of recurring newsletters to highlight timely discounts, flash sales, seasonal promotions, bundled offers, contests, or sweepstakes relevant right now.

This also provides a chance to introduce new and trending locations worth considering for an upcoming trip. For example, spotlight a cutting-edge adults-only all-inclusive resort opening soon in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. 

Or showcase competitive pricing for a European river cruise newly added to inventory. Mix these contemporary email spotlights alongside the personalized content customers expect.

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When compiling highlighted deals and packages, make sure to emphasize urgency with constraints like extremely limited availability, expiring offers before a certain date, or special rates exclusively for email subscribers first. 

Countdown timers also help spur action by displaying how long a promotion will last before regular pricing resumes. Whether showcasing fresh or personalized content, use email as the channel for unveiling travel steals customers won’t find elsewhere online. This provides even more incentive for contacts to open your messages.

5. Highlight Loyalty Discounts and Upgrades

Beyond temporary sales and sitewide specials, leverage email to consistently inform repeat/loyal customers of exclusive perks and upgrades. Especially for a tour provider, cruise line, hotel group, or airline with established membership programs, send regular communications touting special rates, amenities, and treatment offered to returning travelers.

For example, if someone has booked multiple trips through your agency or directly with your company, reach out showcasing loyalty discounts, room upgrades, priority services, bonus onboard credit, and more which they now qualify for thanks to repeat business. These meaningful rewards reinforce the value added by frequently choosing your brand.

The opportunity to save 10-15% as a returning customer or gain late checkout and complimentary breakfast on future hotel stays inspires that next booking. 

Tailor loyalty program promotions across segmented email lists so Hawaiian vacationers see applicable deals while weekend bed and breakfast goers receive their preferred perks. Strengthen relationships with VIP guests who already trust your brand while keeping your business top of mind for easy access to deals when they plan that next vacation.

6. Spotlight New Routes/Itineraries

In addition to limited-time sales and loyalty incentives, use email campaigns to update subscribers and keep them in the know regarding new travel offerings and expanded routes/itineraries available for booking. 

Suppose your tour company just announced guided excursions within three freshly added European cities or a boutique cruise line confirmed ports-of-call along the California coast starting next quarter.

Email existing customers who previously traveled to those regions or expressed interest in the destination alerting them of the first-look opportunities now available for exploration thanks to added inventory. Even if someone isn’t quite ready to plan their next big trip, notifying them of the latest routing developments still nurtures engagement.

This information plants seeds inspiring their eventual return while demonstrating your unrivaled niche knowledge regarding where, when, and how to best experience a beloved location. 

Established subscribers certainly appreciate these insider details way before officially hitting your website or social channels so they can bookmark dates and trip particulars for the future. New offerings give existing customers a fresh motivation to once again book through your brand when wanderlust kicks in.

7. Share Local Events and Attractions

While announcing new deals and travel options certainly grabs attention, also incorporates email updates on timely local happenings and attractions within popular destinations. For a resort hotel, that may mean highlighting upcoming concert series on the property or local art festival schedules for guests exploring the area.

A sightseeing tour provider could spotlight beloved regional events like New Orleans’ Mardi Gras festivities or world-famous July 4th fireworks shows around the USA. This value-added insider knowledge helps vacationers maximize their experience. Even travelers not rebooking immediately still appreciate discovering quintessential hallmarks giving each locale its character.

Email makes it simple for tourism brands to regularly share short-term events, new restaurant or attraction openings, and can’t-miss cultural nuances helping immerse visitors in the sights, sounds, and tastes defining a market. 

When subscribers view your company as an authority on maximizing their adventures, it drives affinity and bookings especially when complimented by discounted travel opportunities to check it all out first-hand.

8. Reward Loyal Customers

Speaking of loyalty, double down on VIP customer retention efforts through email channels. Identify your brand’s top 20% of repeat vacationers based on previous booking frequency and lifetime value. Spotlight these loyal customers through special rewards sent directly to their inboxes.

For example, offer a $100 future travel voucher to use on their next flight/hotel stay/travel package in appreciation of their continued business over the years. Or compliment a two-night stay booking with a premium bottle of champagne delivered to their room upon arrival. 

Thoughtful surprise-and-delight loyalty rewards strengthen relationships with proven customers at minimal cost while securing future transactions.

Small upgrades and gifts feel customized when sent individually to loyal customers by name, not just blasted out to general email lists. The exclusivity and special treatment are remembered, paying dividends through direct referrals, sparkling online reviews, and repeat purchases. 

So email your VIPs periodically to show customer loyalty runs both ways, driving meaningful ROI long-term by keeping your brand top-of-mind as their go-to travel provider.

9. Automate Post-Trip Follow-Ups

Don’t let customer relationships stagnate post-travel by incorporating automated email follow-ups a week or two after their return home. 

First, this allows checking in to see how the trip went and if any issues need to be addressed, especially for higher-touch tour operators and specialty travel brands dealing with logistics. It also provides an organic opportunity to request feedback, reviews, or testimonials while the experience remains fresh.

Surprisingly, over 50% of customers forget to leave online ratings after a trip so friendly email reminders do help capture more word-of-mouth marketing content. You can even incentivize spending 5-10 minutes on a personalized post-trip survey with combo discounts on their next booking.

Automated outreach shouldn’t end once customers return from a vacation you arranged. Ongoing nurturing helps retain mindshare so when wanderlust returns, they think of your company first. And don’t hesitate to mention new travel inspiration aligned with their interests so they bookmark options for another fulfilling getaway ahead!

10. Retarget Website Visitors

Another powerful email strategy travel brands underutilize is retargeting website visitors who previously showed interest but didn’t convert online. For example, if someone searched for Croatia tours on your site last month but never booked, dynamically reach back out promoting Croatia deals personalized within automatically triggered emails.

This could include a 10% discounted tour package aligned with the exact travel dates they previously specified while browsing. Creative personalized retargeting re-connects during that consideration sweet spot when desire exists but more motivation may still be needed to choose your brand.

Even simpler, deploy cart abandonment emails to recapture bookings from customers who already selected flights, hotel rooms, or trip extras but didn’t finish transactions. Gently nudge them with timely reminders of nearly complete reservations still awaiting checkout. 

Either way, automated retargeting based on web behaviors demonstrates attention to detail while addressing previous barriers thwarting conversion. This minimizes heavy lifting for your sales team who can’t manually track every close-but-not-closed opportunity themselves.

11. Track Email Engagement Metrics

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Last but certainly not least, properly set up and monitor key email engagement metrics revealing email campaign effectiveness, then optimize accordingly! 

Standard indicators like open, click-through, bounce rates, and unsubscribe rates gauge subscriber responsiveness. 

Still consider action-oriented conversion metrics directly tied to revenue as well including online bookings, special promotion redemptions, and customer survey or review completions post-travel.

Armed with engagement analytics, identify both well-performing email segments that drive higher conversion rates alongside underwhelming buckets failing to motivate audiences. 

Double down on subscriber groups responsive to communication efforts while tweaking approaches lagging behind expectations. Test new segmentation strategies, email copy, featured deals/content, and sender details to raise participation over time.

Optimization is an iterative process as subscriber interests always change but proper analytics serves as the roadmap pointing to where to devote more resources towards email success. 

Dive beyond surface-level vanity metrics into actionable data-driven insights fueling constant email campaign improvement. Measure what matters most in boosting direct bookings and customer loyalty over the long term.

There you have it – 11 proven email marketing tips to help tourism brands and travel companies boost engagement, bookings, and revenue. 

From list building to personalized recommendations to post-trip follow-ups and more, apply these best practices to make every stage of the customer lifecycle more impactful. Once armed with traveled customer intelligence, segments and automation streamline an integrated email approach aligning to unique subscriber needs. 

While testing and optimizations never stop, our recommendations demonstrate how travel and hospitality brands already successful can further capitalize on email marketing to reach the next level of customer loyalty and sales growth.

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