How to send the right message at the right time, in travel marketing

We speak Joe Stevens, Corporate Digital Marketing Manager at Flight Centre about using data to send the right message to the right person at the right time

“We need to make sure that the offering is available just when someone’s trying to book a trip”

If you ask any travel marketer what their biggest pain point is, they’ll probably say something along the lines of “getting the timing of my marketing right.”

Travellers are a group with huge spending potential – that’s why the global tourist industry is worth a truly jaw-dropping $8.8 trillion – but the sector is also hugely competitive, and the customers rarely loyal to one brand. So speaking to them during a time they’re most open to your messaging is key.


Joe Stevens, Corporate Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) at Flight Centre Travel Group

I spoke with Joe Stevens, Corporate Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) at Flight Centre Travel Group, about the work he does to overcome this problem.

“Making sure you’re getting across the right message at the right time is the biggest challenge in the travel industry right now,” he says, without skipping a beat. “I know that that’s not specific to travel marketing, but it’s a big challenge in this industry particularly. We need to make sure that the offering is available just when someone’s trying to book a trip. And that’s a big challenge. 


“It’s on us to make the platform available and also easy to use so that people can book their business travel with us. This means we make it as seamless as possible,” he adds. “A lot of that comes from providing the right service when they need us. And people can be very different, with very different needs. Someone might have to jump on a plane to New York with two days notice, while someone else might be planning travel for a conference that’s six months away. So it’s about making sure that we’re aware of those two differing behaviour patterns.” 

And how do they do this? Data, of course. 

“We use data to make sure we’re not hammering people with offers to New York when the data tells us they’re going on a conference to Spain,” he says. 


At Flight Centre, like most travel agencies, the majority of acquisition is done through ads. But Joe thinks that email is a better channel for personalised messaging, especially when it comes to hitting the right people at the right time

“Email becomes incredibly powerful once you have that data to be able to create a much more one-to-one approach to your communications.”

“You can focus on content more and it’s a good channel for segmentation,” he explains. “But we need to make sure that we’re using the data that we’ve got to understand when people are going on trips, and also when people might be interested in booking trips. Especially for high-value business travellers who will want certain seats, certain meals and have airline preferences. Email becomes incredibly powerful once you have that data to be able to create a much more one-to-one approach to your communications.”

“Picking the right messaging and imagery to use to make you stand out in such a highly-competitive sector must come with it’s challenges”

Personalised messaging is crucial for success in an industry where 86% of travellers say they value personalised offers. But picking the right messaging and imagery to use to make you stand out in such a highly-competitive sector must come with it’s challenges, not to mention the fact that there must be such a huge number of marketing assets to pick from. (Flight Centre is one of the most successful independent travel retailers, booking trips in hundreds of thousands of locations across the globe, so there must be many, many images and offers to select from.)


I ask Joe how he picks what’s going to be the most impactful for their messaging. 

We mostly base the messaging or creatives we choose on personas. We look to either appeal to a trigger for the business traveller or the business booker, two of the main consumers that we speak to,” he outlines. “For the traveller that might be that they really want a seamless booking experience, for example, so our message will be that our travel app takes the stress out of travelling.


“And then for FCM (Flight Centre’s corporate travel business that caters for MNC’s) we might interact with someone in travel procurement, then we’ve got to make sure that we’re targeting the ad towards solving a pain point for them,” he adds. 

In terms of selecting specific images, Joe says this is mostly based on how the marketers feel about the imagery and whether it will resonate with their target audience. 

We’ll make sure that the image is people-centric, because Flight Centre as an organisation tries to embody the message that it’s our people that make a difference to the service,” he explains. “We try and align the people in the ad with that message, and the environment in the ad with the audience we’re trying to target as well.” 


I ask how Flight Centre gets to know their target audience so well, and what techniques it uses to gather that all-important data on them. 

“Understanding [pain points] really makes a difference when it comes to reaching the right person at the right time with your messaging.”

“We do quite a few surveys,” explains Joe. “So we’ll directly ask customers pain points. But a lot of it comes from feedback from Travel Consultants and Account Managers too. They know the client extremely well and understand exactly what kind of drivers they have, what kind of travel style they prefer and what kind of pain points they have. Understanding these really makes a difference when it comes to reaching the right person at the right time with your messaging.” 

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Jergan Callebaut
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