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Brand Strategy Travel Marketing Advertising

Path to purchase: travelers are in it for the long haul, advertisers should be too


By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

July 11, 2023 | 6 min read

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New research suggests there’s an untapped opportunity for advertisers to extend their influence with travelers at all stages of the booking journey – we set off to explore what this means.

A road less travelled: the moments of influence where brands meet travelers

A road less travelled: the moments of influence where brands meet travelers

More than 80% of travel journeys start two to three months before booking a trip, according to a study from Tripadvisor – but while advertisers tend to focus their marketing efforts during the ‘dream’ or ‘booking’ phase, that’s only the first leg of the journey. Travel and tourism marketing isn’t a one click wonder, it’s an opportunity to influence and be a travel companion for the long haul.

Travel is experiencing its zeitgeist moment. It’s more than ‘pent up demand’ from the post-Covid travel rebound, it means more to people now and, for many, it can be the biggest purchase of the year; arguably more so than buying a TV or a car.

People are invested in the full travel experience and the way they approach their path to purchase has changed. The length and strength of the engagement window is expanding, giving brands the opportunity to attach to different moments in the travel journey when travelers are in different mindsets to build emotional connections from the dream phase to planning, booking and beyond.

From search to purchase

The research, with Similarweb, found that 50% of travel purchase journeys have 30 travel and tourism touchpoints. Between the search and purchase phase, travelers are investing more time and research to find their perfect holiday and are looking to brands for inspiration.

This is the moment where advertisers have an opportunity to catch their attention early in the dream phase, when the desire to travel is top of mind and travelers are open to being influenced. Despite the guardrails there might be on budgets due to rising inflation and cost of living challenges, they still want to travel and ensure they have the most fulfilling trip that they can.

During the planning stages, the research found that travel converters are 7x more likely to visit Tripadvisor than a flight, hotel or online travel agent website, and 63% of all travel purchase journeys involve a visit to Tripadvisor.

“The biggest advantage we have is attention because people come to us early on in the dream phase,” says Justin Reid, director of media, EMEA and APAC at Tripadvisor. “We’re not just a transaction-based website, we are there to guide people along the journey before they even book their flight, and that’s why travelers come when they are looking for inspiration for what to do.”

Beyond the booking

But the booking is just the beginning. Where brands can play an influential role is in the part that follows, by engaging with travelers after they book – the post-booking phase, driven by experiences. Tripadvisor, for example, receives 2x as many visits per day once the booking has taken place.

“Travelers have a certain budget in mind to spend on the trip, but also put aside money to spend in destination, so a lot of the decision making takes place in the part after purchase and before travel,” explains Reid. “There’s a whole pocket of money spent towards the vacation itself – pre-booking restaurants, activities, even buying outfits – where brands and advertisers can influence in a positive manner with an excited audience and get into their pockets during this key cycle before they travel.”

With more and more visits taken place between the initial search phase and after the purchase, it suggests that there’s a desire among travelers to make the most of their time away from work, by focusing on experiences and then sharing those experiences with others.

“The traveler’s path to purchase journey extends well beyond the booking,” says Reid. “Once they’ve made the booking, the mindset shifts to the wider experience. That will differ depending on the destination and what they are looking for, but it’s when engagement comes back up and people are starting to look for things to do when they get there.”

Top travel recommendations for brands

The key for brands to meet travelers is to create longer-term ongoing connections beyond the research phase and the destination decision to create memorable, impactful moments of satisfaction at all stages of the trip experience. Here are three tips to help brands start this journey:

  1. Start packing early: consider the main touchpoints on which travelers engage early on during the dream and planning phase to ensure your brand is a staple in their suitcase

  2. Go along for the ride: look for ways to inspire travelers in a positive, contextually relevant environment where you can play into the mindset when they are most excited

  3. Be in it for the long haul: don’t limit your marketing tactics and consider a longer 6-12 month strategy to inspire and connect with travelers every step of the way.

For more insights and details on the path to purchase for travelers and advice to build an ongoing travel marketing strategy, contact the TripAdvisor team here to learn more.

Brand Strategy Travel Marketing Advertising

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