Travel email marketing: selling sunsets, not plane tickets

Grab your passport, we’re going on a trip! The travel industry is booming and the competition is fierce. Which is why customer relationships are key to stand out. How? Travel email marketing is your ticket to success.

Travel agencies use email marketing to stay in touch with readers year-round. They inspire with alluring footage, convince with captivating travel stories and stay in touch post-vacay.

As a travel agency, you’re not just selling tickets. You’re selling experiences.

Fasten your seatbelt, we're going to show you how travel agencies can use email marketing to build airtight customer relationships.


Your email list is the driving force behind your travel email marketing campaigns. Building one is easy! All you need is a way to collect email addresses — offline and/or online.

Collecting email addresses in person

Ask people to sign up for your emails when you talk to them face to face. The simplest way is to use an offline email collection app. This method is GDPR-compliant and hassle-free, as it automatically syncs your new subscribers to your travel email list.

Collecting email addresses through your website

To get people to sign up via your website, you can use pop-ups and embedded forms.

Pop-ups

Pop-ups work well because they literally pop-up in your face. Integrating pop-ups is easy when you use an email tool. Set the frequency to a level where it’s not annoying for your visitors.

This is how Luxury Travel Magazine uses pop-ups. They provide a clear reason for signing up to their travel newsletter and only ask for an email address. The sea background adds vacation vibes.

Luxury Travel Magazine pop-up example

Embedded forms

You’ll often find embedded forms in the website footer and blog sidebar. This is the signup form Iconic Luxury Hotel uses for people to sign up for their travel agency newsletter.

Iconic Luxury Hotel signup form example

(Bonus) Incentives: Something to brighten people’s moods

You’re asking for their email, so why not give subscribers something in return.

Here are some email incentive ideas for travel agencies:

  • One-time discount
  • The first chapter of an eBook
  • Exclusive information, like receiving deals first
  • Free tickets to your travel event, conference or fair
  • A customizable luggage tag (KLM gave these away as part of their "Dream trip" promotion)

These ideas do not only make great incentives but can also be used as content ideas for your next newsletter,

You can also create a travel landing page to promote a contest or giveaway. In order to participate, people need to sign up. The winner is then announced via email.

This page from Harrison Beach Hotel shows how website visitors have a chance to win a free 1-night stay (up to a $300 value) by simply subscribing.

Harrison Beach Hotel incentive example

Travel blogger Tara Cannon of Pint Size Pilot also uses lead magnets as a smart way to collect new subscribers.

Pint Size Pilot lead magnet example

Now it’s time to think about what type of content to send. As a travel agency, you’re competing with big shots like Google and Kayak, so it’s important to build meaningful customer relationships. This way, you’ll capture their hearts and diversify yourself from the crowd.

It all starts with relevant, engaging and helpful travel content.

This means, not just sending out sales pitches for good travel deals, but also creating valuable information for your audience.

Content ideas like:

  • Travel eBooks (one of our customers offers a free cookbook with recipes that they collected whilst traveling Asia, Africa and Central America)
  • Downloadable lists (from packing to bucket lists)
  • City guides
  • Tips on how to travel on a budget, with children, etc
  • Travel stories
  • Calendar with the best times to book
  • Quizzes (“Find out what your dream destination is based on your personality”)

Luckily, you’ve got a great audience to work with. In our 2018 Email Marketing Benchmark study, we discovered that the travel industry is doing really well in email marketing. They scored one of the highest email open rates (30.69%) and click-through rates (7.03%) of any industry.

Curious to discover how you can get these results?


1. Welcome on board: The welcome email

A warm welcome sets the tone for the entire experience. Virtually, you need to do the same.

Welcome emails have on average 4 times the open rate and 5 times the click-through rate of a standard email marketing campaign. By using email automation, these emails are sent out automatically every time someone signs up for your travel email list.

Greet your new pen pal and tell them about yourself. A lot of travel agencies also use this email to tell subscribers what to expect.

Here’s how this Liberty Travel greets its new readers. We love the exotic header they use!

Liberty Travel welcome email example

2. A personalized greeting

Imagine walking into your hotel room and seeing a bottle of champagne and a personalized welcome card with your name on it. Wouldn’t that put a smile on your face?

A study done by Google and Phocuswright revealed that 36% of travelers would pay more for a travel brand's service if it tailored its information and overall trip experience based on their personal preferences or past behavior.

Readers want tailored travel newsletters with content that they can actually use. Surely you can send American readers newsletters about how great it is Down Under, but how many of your subscribers have a 1000 dollars laying around to hop on a plane to Australia? Probably not many.

It makes a lot more sense to talk about destinations your reader can actually plan and book.

Tailored messages are easy to send when you segment your email list. Segmentation means grouping your email subscribers by the traits they share.

For example, use data on the places your subscribers have visited or whether or not they have children. Check the available data and see how you can use this to create groups.

If you don’t know certain information, ask! Gather data through subscriber preferences, embedded surveys or contests, like the one below from Dutch airline KLM.

KLM travel newsletter example

3. One image speaks a 1000 words

Many of us have no idea what other places in the world look like. That’s why we search for images and create Pinterest boards with all the dreamy destinations we want to visit.

Traveling is about experiences and emotions. Using the right images can motivate readers to put your offer on top of their bucket list.

Airbnb does this well in their email below. Can you already feel the sun burning on your skin and the fine sand wiggle between your toes?

Airbnb travel newsletter example

4. YOLO! Express urgency in your travel newsletter

Traveling costs money, but you also just have one life to explore the world. Play with this sense of urgency to get people to act.

Use offers and special occasions to create limited promotions. In January, you can promote last-minute offers to sunny paradises. For Easter, you can highlight discounted family-friendly packages.

Combining your promotions with email personalization makes sure your offer is a perfect fit for each of your subscribers.

The Hoxton promotes their limited-time 20% off discount and includes “What to tell your boss” excuses that surely gave their readers a good laugh.

The Hoxton travel newsletter example

5. Teach readers about the world

Why should your subscribers sign up for YOUR travel newsletter?

Do you have insights about certain locations? Travel hacks or hidden gems? Can you tell readers never-heard-before stories about a culture? Or debunk stereotypes and myths about places?

Your writing can make people go to places. 78% of travelers said informative content from destinations or travel brands can influence their decision-making process.

When you spread your knowledge using travel email marketing, your content stays within the newsletter. Just for you and your tribe to know. Use this exclusiveness as a USP to attract more subscribers.

In this travel newsletter, The Discoverer teaches readers about Russia.

The Discoverer travel newsletter example

Tip: If you can package your content in the form of videos, even better, as 66% of travelers watch videos when researching a destination.

6. Motivate your readers to get involved

Have you ever searched on Facebook for traveling groups? Spoiler alert: There are LOADS. People love to get together and talk about their experiences in foreign countries. Use this community feeling in your travel email marketing campaigns.

According to Bright Local, 91% of 18–34 year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. People want to hear other people’s opinions before making up their mind.

To gain trust and add a personal touch, add customer reviews to your travel email campaigns.

Or collect them first using your travel agency newsletter. 80% of reviews originate from brands sending follow-up emails urging customers to leave a review after their purchase.

In this personalized email, Airbnb makes it super easy for readers to leave reviews. In-email NPS surveys work well to find out how satisfied your customers are.

Airbnb survey newsletter example

7. Let’s get social

Email marketing and social media go together like a good glass of wine and a beautiful sunset. Spread your exposure and encourage people to get social with you. Add social media buttons in your travel email campaign to increase your following.

According to research done by Expedia, social content influences more than half the travelers from the U.S., Australia, the U.K. and Canada. Being social definitely pays off!

You can see how VRBO does this underneath.

VRBO travel newsletter example

You can also insert your social content directly into your emails. Just like we did underneath:

MailerLite Facebook travel post example

Tip: Don't forget to make your newsletters shine bright on-the-go. A recent survey conducted by Adobe revealed that 75% of respondents regularly check their emails on their phone.

In fact, 85% of travelers also use their phones to manage different aspects of their trips. That’s why you need to make all your travel email templates responsive, so users don’t need to pinch and zoom to see your content on mobile.


So who in the travel agency industry is doing their email marketing right? 

Let’s get inspired.

Airbnb

We’ve mentioned them before, but Airbnb is a great example of travel agency email marketing done right.

They start this travel email with a picture of a beautiful day in Lisbon, before naming all the fun things you can do while you’re there, such as horseback riding, tile painting, wine tasting, cooking classes and of course, eat all the pastéis de nata.

Airbnb travel newsletter example

HomeAway

Also in this email from HomeAway the images are a vital part of the travel email. We see natural scenery like mountains, volcanoes and lakeside lodging. Can you smell the pine trees and fresh air?

HomeAway travel newsletter example

Southwest

Travel emails aren’t just pretty scenery, it’s also about appreciating your readers.

This email from Southwest Airlines does exactly that. The personality is top notch — from the customer’s name to their travel history and reward points earned.  The smiling faces of the diverse employees reflect Southwest’s image as one of the friendliest airlines in the sky.

Southwest Airlines newsletter example

Hipmunk

Hipmunk uses this simple travel email to stress urgency and to provide value. Announcing that the prices will go up helps both the brand’s and customer’s wallet.

Hipmunk travel newsletter example

Virgin

Virgin makes their email content as joyful as traveling itself. They do a hilarious riff on online dating to explain what types of train tickets they offer. Plus, because of the design, color and font, you’ll clearly recognize this email is coming from Virgin.

Virgin travel newsletter example

P.S.: You can find more email campaigns in our travel newsletter example gallery.


Travel newsletter subject lines

Katie & Ben - Two Wandering Soles - Here is your Ultimate Japan Packing List

Azamara Club Cruises - Here’s one destination we can’t stop thinking about.

Jack @ Jack's Flight Club - How cheap flights work

Tours4fun - You've got over $10 worth of points!

Priceline.com - ❤️️ Treat Yourself, Jonas! Ridiculously good Rental car deals from ridiculously low prices!

Vueling Air - Allergic to the cold? Soak up Spring at one of our destinations

Jessie on a Journey - Notes on maintaining relationships while traveling ❤ ✈

Delta Air Lines - It's Time To Check-In

Expedia.com - ✈ Paging passenger Jonas Fischer: You’re getting the flight deal of a lifetime

Nomads With A Purpose - Reset your life in 30 days + Summer is just around the corner 😲

Momondo - Prices going down for your flight from AMS to DPS.

Dipaways - Do women solo travel more than men?

Booking.com - A reminder about your trip

Jetsetter - 10 Pro Tips for Packing Lighter Every Time

Captivating Compass - How to save on transportation during family travel & more!

Wanderlust - Gift a year of travel inspo - perfect for Father's Day


To end this trip on a high note: Travel email marketing can definitely help you acquire new customers! Well-curated emails also help you to retain and encourage your readers to keep following your journey.

Sending engaging, personalized and valuable content is your answer to turning subscribers with wanderlust into loyal customers that trust your travel expertise and happily book your offers.

As a travel agency, you’ll want to take your readers on many trips, but let’s not forget the journey that leads to the purchase. Butter them up with travel inspo and insider knowledge, and be a genuine help to make sure each individual subscriber finds their dream destination.

Now go out there and find some new travel buddies, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

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