This year was predicted to be a good one for the international expansion of travel operators. A survey conducted at the end of 2009 by Frommers Unlimited and Travelmole found that many travel companies are looking to reach further afield, with 79% of respondents saying they were planning to invest heavily in multilingual content in 2010, up from a mere 13% in 2009.

The survey also revealed that search engine optimisation (SEO) is of high importance to operators, with 84% saying that it was a top priority for web content budgets in 2010, and engaging in social media marketing was at the top of the list for marketing strategies.

For those travel operators who intend to break into international markets this year or in the future, it’s a good sign that SEO and social media strategies are also high up on their radar, as these can be very effective tools in reaching foreign audiences.

Booking travel tickets and holidays is mostly done online by people all over the world; however, it’s how they search for their tickets and holidays which highlight differences. By understanding local search trends, operators have a much higher chance of breaking into the market they are targeting. Here are some tips on how travel operators can develop an effective international SEO strategy:

 

  • Research popular local keywords and phrases. In Italy, the phrase ‘lastsecond’ is a popular search term in relation to travel, and is similar to the English phrase ‘last minute’. Different countries use different search terms, and culturally specific colloquialisms are often popular. This is why translation doesn’t work for multilingual SEO.
  • Know where your customers are travelling to. In Spain, online booking is most popular for booking local (Spanish) flights and holidays, whereas the sun-seeking Brits prefer to book holidays to Spain and France. People are more likely to find your site if it caters to what they are searching for.
  • Use local social media. With some of the top travel companies now using social media to reach their audience, there’s no doubt it’s quickly becoming the marketing tool of choice. But think locally. In Germany, StudiVZ is very popular, and in China, QQ.com and renren.com are the top dogs. Don’t assume a Facebook strategy will reach everybody.
  • Spread the word. Your site may be well known in the UK, but there are plenty of local online travel agencies across in other countries who’ll be after the top spot search ranking. Building good quality links on popular travel websites (thought not competitors) in your destination market will bump up your search ranking. You could also consider paid advertising on these sites.
The internet provides travel operators with a great platform to go global, but targeting a market successfully via the net takes more than translated content. Cultural and linguistic traits often come into play when we use the internet, and each market is unique. International customers are more likely to feel at ease with booking online with a foreign operator who has catered to their cultural needs.

Competition is high on the international tourism market, and with the world recovering from the financial crisis, this is almost certainly set to grow. To make your online travel service visible internationally, it’s important to think locally. By having a localised SEO strategy, you’re more likely to raise the profile of your travel service online.
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