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The 5 Stages of Travel (and What They Mean for Travel Marketing)

Updated: Feb 11

Dreaming of that island getaway yet?

You’ve no doubt heard of the five stages of grief. What about the five stages of travel? You read that right. Thanks to the internet, travel planning involves a bit more than researching and booking. And reaching potential customers with the right content at each stage will greatly improve your chances of closing the sale.

But what are the five stages and how should you market at each of them? According to an interactive Google infographic, they are:

Stage 1: Dreaming

Have you ever scrolled through a friend’s Instagram and wished you could have taken that Hawaiian vacation? Or do you prefer reading travel blogs about how to backpack through Latin America on a budget? Then you may just be in the dreaming phase.

Here’s where social media comes in. You want to get content that’s related to someone's travel interests in front of them to prompt the next phase of their travel journey. Say you want to promote an adventure travel package in New Zealand. You’ll need to target people whose interest align with that type of travel (hiking, white water rafting, zip lining, etc.)

Be sure to make your content–images, videos, and personal anecdotes—irresistible. You want to give you audience a reason to make their travel dreams a reality.

Stage 2: Planning

Okay, so you’ve hooked them with your social content. Here’s where we get to the challenging part. Just because someone loved your Instagram post or travel story, that doesn’t mean they’re ready to book. They’re going to shop around.

When it comes to finding a hotel, for example, people visit around 20 different websites before deciding, according to SiteMinder. Yikes! So, how do you stand out from the competition and get visitors to come back?

First, step up your SEO game. You want to rank as high as possible to keep that traffic coming in. If you have a physical location, make sure your Google map and any local listings are up to date.

Then, make sure your website is a strong as it can be—great user experience, useful content, professional photography, you get the idea.

Stage 3: Booking

Here’s where user experience really matters. Once someone has returned to your website and is ready to book their trip, you’d better make that experience as seamless as possible.

If you aren’t sure if your website is up for the task, try it yourself. Pretend you want to book a trip and go through each step you’d have to take. Is the site easy to navigate? Is information about your packages clear and easy to compare? Are your payment options simple and secure? If not, users will likely bail for a competitor.

Stage 4: Experiencing

Great news! Your marketing brought in new customers, and they’ve booked a vacation. At this stage, customer service takes over. How someone feels about their experience (and how they review it) will largely depend on how they perceive the service. Was the hotel staff friendly and helpful? Were the tour guides informative?

Although customer service may be out of your hands (if you’re a marketer), you can leverage great reviews to boost your brand’s profile. If possible, have the staff ask customers to leave reviews on major websites and contribute testimonials to your own.

Stage 5: Sharing

We have now come full circle. Your customers took a trip and want to share their experience with friends and family.

So, where does marketing come in? On social media, of course! If someone tags your brand on social, like their post and write them a thanks. It will show that you listen to customers, and boosts user content. And their followers will start dreaming…