Why Latin American OTAs Should Focus on More than Online Marketing

What: Latin American online travel agencies risk always talking to the same people if they only market online.
Why it matters: Bookings and reservations have largely moved online, but an integrated online/off-line marketing approach is critical to reach potential consumers.

According to eMarketer, in 2015, digital travel sales in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil came to a total of $42 billion, which explains why we are seeing an increase in online travel agencies throughout Latin America. The challenge they face now is to keep consumers’ attention while competing amongst each other.

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Cynthia Evans, director of insights and thought leadership at GroupM Latin America

When advertising, many OTAs adopt a “fish where the fish are” mentality. This means they have been focusing their marketing efforts online, believing that this is where their buyers are. “People who have Internet access and navigate the Internet with ease are more likely than the population as a whole to engage in online commerce,” agrees Cynthia Evans, director of insights and thought leadership at GroupM Latin America. But “talking to the same folks over and over produces frequency and message wear-out, to say nothing of limiting the field of play,” she adds.

Evans explains that consumers tend to hear a message where and when they want to hear it. “Seeing a message in another medium (other than the Internet) like linear TV or magazines, presents two opportunities: to reach beyond the online only audience, and to give the online audience another way to hear the message.”

Andrés Patetta, online marketing VP at Despegar.com
Andrés Patetta, online marketing VP at Despegar.com

In the past few years, there has been a media consumption migration. “There is an audience of traditional media that now also consumes digital media. Those are the people who watch TV but also use Youtube, for example. This media mix does not mean that they will stop watching TV,” says Andrés Patetta, online marketing VP at Despegar.com.
Agencies that only focus on online marketing are missing out on the impact of massive media such as TV, believes Manuel Delgado, public relations of Trivago Mexico. “Trivago has an online advertising strategy because our product is digital, so that generates traffic towards our platform. But we complement our strategy with TV ads and information exchange with print media.”

Trivago is not the only agency that has been proactive in complementing online marketing with campaigns on traditional channels like TV in order to reach their customers. “Our audience does not only consume digital media,” agrees Patetta. “It also consumes TV and printed press. Advertising only on digital media means loosing a great opportunity of connecting with our potential clients.”

María Aguayo, marketing manager at Expedia Latam & Mexico
María Aguayo, marketing manager at Expedia Latam & Mexico

Even though María Aguayo, marketing manager at Expedia Latam & Mexico, agrees on this, she warns of “fake” OTA consumers: those that aren’t buyers because although they have the money and the intention to travel, they don’t know how to make an online purchase, and may mistrust the concept. “What you need for this type of consumer is a much more educational approach about how to use our platforms.”

With this in mind, Expedia.com uses a mix of different messages on online and offline platforms. For example, it uses social media to publish special promotions while using digital and offline platforms for product placement campaigns. “We have no definite rule. We like to try different things,” Aguayo ads.
Now that OTAs are expanding beyond online advertising, the next step will be going mobile. “The advertising industry is just starting to understand the best way to capture mobile audiences, but it is in an early stage still,” says Patetta. “Despegar.com already has a mobile app, and we are using it to connect with our audience.”

The Travel Marketing Forum, part of #PortadaLat on June 8-9 in Miami’s Hyatt Regency Hotel is going to bring together all the big players in Travel Marketing in the Americas including Volaris, Grupo Posadas, Best Western, Royal Caribbean, Hyatt, Sojern and many more. Get your early bird tix!