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As the travel industry emerges from the pandemic into a world of economical and political turmoil, it is easy to overlook what may seem like trivial changes to privacy laws and cookie-based tracking. Ignoring these changes, though, could have a devastating impact on travel brands that are just on the road to recovery.

Marketing teams are already noticing the challenges created by iOS 14.5 and the App Tracking Transparency framework. The vast majority of Apple device owners have tended to opt out of tracking. As Google rolls out further changes to how Chrome handles privacy, it will become harder to create relevant content for your travel enthusiasts and optimise targeting for your business.

Based on the pattern of previous updates and changes, if your organisation doesn’t start adapting advertising processes and earning traveller data in new ways, you will struggle to expand your audiences and see results.

To recap on the biggest changes to digital marketing in the last couple of years, travel, tourism and hospitality businesses have had to navigate problems such as:

Understanding privacy changes

Consumers have become more aware of the ways digital platforms harvest and monetise their data. This has resulted in a move by legislators to reign in the use of data without consent. New laws are being introduced in the UK, Europe, and North America to regulate consumer data usage. These laws will directly affect the way travel brands handle customer data.

Additionally, the leading platforms are figuring out how they will balance privacy considerations against the needs of their advertisers to target users effectively.

Introduction of new ad formats and changes to social platforms such as TikTok, Twitter and Meta

TikTok grew rapidly during the time the travel industry was mostly dormant. To keep up with TikTok’s growth, all other platforms introduced new vertical video formats – Instagram launched Reels, YouTube introduced Shorts – and these formats are becoming more popular than traditional in-feed content. Live shopping also became a thing.

All these changes impose additional creative requirements for new vertical video ad formats.

Migrating from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4

Google officially announced that Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits and will permanently shut down in July 2023. You need to migrate to GA4 before the deadline, and you risk losing valuable data about historical visitors and booking journeys if you don’t act fast.

Conversion tracking without third-party cookies

‘Third party’ cookies are created by domains other than the one a user is visiting. These are often used for advertising purposes. For example, if a user clicks on an ad on Instagram to make a hotel booking on your site, Meta uses third-party cookies to know what action the user took on your website.

When Chrome phases out third-party cookie support, almost nobody will be using a browser that supports them. The degradation of cookie support has major implications for conversion tracking in performance marketing campaigns.

Increased competition and restricted travel budgets

While the difficulties of the pandemic put a number of travel and hospitality firms out of business, many that survived have come through with depleted marketing budgets. Add to that, the current political problems and soaring inflation are making consumers tighten their purse strings. This means you face increased competition to reach a shrinking audience, and have a smaller budget to work with.

For restricted budgets to deliver better results, you need to ensure your tracking and audience targeting are on point.

Acquiring more first-party data

Any information that a customer or website visitor shares directly with a business is called first-party data. First-party data can be used to personalise marketing without raising privacy concerns because the user implicitly consents to the use of their data in return for a more personal service.

As the use of third-party cookies declines, marketeers must rely on information collected directly from customers and prospects to create personalised marketing.

To sufficiently track performance metrics, drive business growth, and stay on top of the competition, travel brands need to start preparing now. If you don’t update your critical marketing processes, your ability to communicate with your customers will be severely hindered.

We’ve created a checklist to see where your business might need support and to offer guidance when it comes to navigating these changes.

You can view the PDF version by clicking the button below:

Download the Travel Data-led Marketing Checklist