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The January jump: A missed opportunity for travel marketers

For those countries that observe Lunar New Year, it is indeed one of, if not the biggest travel season in Asia Pacific. But a little known fact is that the month of January, as a whole, sees a great surge in spring and summer travel searches, the so-called “January jump” — on a global level.

January is a time of frenzied consumer interest in travel deals and new destinations, it’s a time of new year resolutions that often have an exotic travel line item in there. But not all that many travel marketers actually take advantage of this magic time when the consumer’s imagination is overheating, and if they do, there’s always some room for finessing strategies and targeting methodologies.

Take Singapore, for instance, where we find two distinct groups with different sets of behaviours around Lunar New Year: locals and ex-pats. While locals tend to stick closer to home and spend the holiday with family, the ex-pats, with no family traditions to observe, tend to use the time off as an opportunity to travel.

Even though historically there are more travel searches in Q1 than in Q2, more marketers concentrate their budgets in Q2 and summer. That can mean that they mostly miss out on the lift effect of the January jump and on the opportunity to interact with the increasing number of internationals in Singapore who are looking for fun activities around the Chinese New Year.

With the Year of the Rooster in full swing, Chinese astrologer Laura Lau cites that “The Rooster favours those who put in the hard work and stick to a plan”. So: a solid plan starts with a solid set of data. Without good data, travel brands are limited in their ability to stay top of mind with the customers who are looking to travel during these busy times. Here are a few data points to help get your juices flowing:

Know Your Competition

Sojern’s Lunar New Year data shows that for those APAC countries that observe the holiday, Japan is the top searched destination, followed by Thailand and Malaysia. Given their proximity, these are perhaps obvious destination alternatives. However, the data also shows that the United States, a long-haul trip by any stretch, factors into the top 10 most searched destinations, ranking above even South Korea and Singapore. In particular, Chinese travellers are searching for travel to the United States more than any other country during this period.

As in-demand as the Chinese traveller is, destinations in APAC need to understand traveller preferences in order to offer themselves up as viable alternatives. Overall, we see a preference for short-haul trips, so there are opportunities to lure Chinese travellers to more local destinations with persuasive offers and targeted messaging. APAC destinations should certainly look to capitalize on the desire to stay local and focus ad spend on regional travellers during this time of the year.

Timing is Critical

Using data to determine when people are looking to travel can help you strategize when and how you upsell. For example, our data shows that the top departure days are the day before and the day of Lunar New Year. For rental car companies or hotels, knowing the most popular arrival and departure dates allows you to plan your ad campaigns to target these most popular dates, perhaps providing real-time rates on the given dates of travel.

Understanding trip durations are also key for upselling. We see that long trips of 12 days or more occur strongly on and around the weekend before Lunar New Year. Hoteliers can use this information to plan when to offer incentives, if customers add an extra night’s stay, for example.

Capitalise on the Brand-Agnostic

Travellers are, quite often, brand and destination agnostic. Research by industry analyst Henry Harteveldt finds that 1 in 5 travellers don’t know where they want to go on holiday, and Google further suggests that 78% haven’t selected an airline, and 82% haven’t selected where they’ll stay when searching for travel. So while retargeting can be an effective way of enticing customers to revisit your site, it ignores a great number of in-market travellers who indeed may be interested in your offering, but haven’t searched it out online.

Having a greater breadth of data, including working with partners who have it, allows you to build the richest traveller audience segments with which to prospect new clients.

Lastly, consider using video to get travellers’ attention: 106M of YouTube’s unique users are travellers — 3 in 5 of those watching travel videos use them to “narrow down their brand, destination or activity choices,” according to Google.

But don’t stop with video. Use a multi-platform strategy to drive real results for capturing travellers early — prospecting and retargeting users with Facebook, YouTube, native ads, mobile, display, and more.

Russell Young is managing director of APAC at Sojern

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