There’s no doubt the internet has changed the way people travel. Google alone has turned into a one-stop guide to just about every destination and attraction around the world. It’s not just exciting for travellers either, because Google and Facebook are bringing new opportunities to firms across the industry.

As more tourists take a spontaneous approach to travel, they increasingly make buying choices on the road. In fact, almost 40% of all tour and activity bookings now happen online. And the two biggest names in digital advertising are making it easier to capture these tourists while they travel.

High-intent searches on the road

The beauty of searches made by tourists during their travels is that they’re incredibly high-intent. These are searches for attractions they want to visit today, restaurants to eat at this evening and even hotels for the next city on their trip. We’re talking about travellers in your area who are ready to buy now.

We recently covered some exciting changes coming to Google Maps – the essential tool for travellers in the modern age. Being able to search and browse for local attractions from your smartphone is old news. The introduction of promoted pins means no more waiting for people to discover you in Google Maps; you’ll be one of the first things visible when they open the app.

Pinterest mobile app - capturing tourists while they travel

In June we also looked at the new four pack of AdWords ads displaying for certain searches. At the time Google told us these would be reserved for competitive, high-intent queries. Once again, the kind of searches people make when they’re looking to buy now – say booking a hotel in their next city.

four-pack 'book hotel in London' PPC listing in Google


The conversion potential that comes with this kind of search is massive – precisely the kind of AdWords campaign you want to prioritise. The trick is making sure your brand appears in the right places when users show this level of intent.

Targeting is key for travellers on the move

To get your brand seen in the right places, your targeting needs to be spot on. Google and Facebook both allow you to target users based on location but you have a limited window to work with.

Facebook has a real ace up its sleeve here by allowing you to specifically target users who are travelling in a location:

“There are 4 ways advertisers can choose to reach people within a location:

            [options 1-3]

  1. People traveling in this location:People whose most recent location is the selected area, as determined by information from their mobile device, and are greater than 125 miles from their home location.”

*Extract from Facebook Business

This is a huge deal given how much of a role Facebook plays in people’s travels. Every selfie uploaded is an opportunity to target users with travel experiences/services in their precise location. You can even combine this with interest lists, making your ads even harder to resist. Want to target scuba diving enthusiasts in Costa Rica? No problem.

Moving over to Google, it takes a more strategic approach to getting the same results. Much like Facebook you can target users based on their location and interests. However, there’s no targeting option to separate travellers from people living in your target location. Depending on the nature of your business, there are a number of ways around this. For example, if your client is a tour operator in Munich, you can create a campaign targeting the city for searches not typed in German. There are also a ton of location and keyword combinations you can use to pinpoint queries travellers in your area are most likely to make.

Don’t let the rise of spontaneous travel make you think tourists are getting harder to target. Google and Facebook know a thing or two about what people want on their overseas adventures and they’re both on a mission to make their ads more effective at capturing people on the move.

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In this guide, we highlight some of the main search marketing tactics travel companies should be using to get found online. It will help you:

  1. Get visibility fast through PPC
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  3. Maximise closed leads

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