Here’s something to pass along: Word-of-mouth marketing is worth billions of dollars in travel sales each year, according to a study by Chadwick Martin Bailey, which surveyed 1,000 respondents on the power of advocacy in the travel and hospitality industries.
For example, at least 11% of the U.S. population has taken a cruise. Four percent of the population selected their cruise based on the recommendations of advocates. Multiply that by the $3,000 average cost of a cruise, and the impact of such advocacy amounts to more than $9.5 billion in annual revenue.
Judy Melanson, Chadwick Martin Bailey’s travel and hospitality practice leader, stressed that advocacy is different from a simple passing recommendation.
“An advocate is an evangelist,” Melanson said. “Not content to merely pass along or comment on the latest thing, the advocate is driven by a heartfelt belief that you should buy this product and is ready, willing and able to explain why.”
It’s different from developing buzz, she said. “We see buzz as more of a subset of advocacy -- more of a shortterm, viral campaign during which a willing accomplice spreads information or excitement,” Melanson said.
The study found that more than a quarter of the U.S. population ate in a restaurant in the past year based solely upon recommendations from satisfied customers. People who selected restaurants based on the advice of advocates spent about $50 per visit, according to the study. That translates to more than $3.3 billion worth of annual advocacy-driven purchases at restaurants.
The study also found that:
- Over the last two years, 70% of consumers recommended a hotel, airline, restaurant, cruise or theme park. On average, these advocates were making recommendations to at least four people.
- Consumers born in 1979 or later were the most prolific brand advocates in the travel and hospitality segment among all other generations.
- Baby boomers accounted for 59% of direct advocacy-related purchases, worth an estimated $18 billion last year.
- Frequent travelers are not only most influenced by advocates but are also most likely to act upon a recommendation, especially for cruise lines, upscale hotels, vacation resorts, casinos and amusement parks.
Melanson said the study’s results underscore the importance of having not only a good product but a solid chorus of advocates who will strongly sing its praises. “By implementing measurable advocacy strategies, companies can perform ‘market judo,’ leveraging these new marketplace realities to their advantage,” she said.
“Those who lack an understanding of the nature of advocacy in relation to their business and fail to develop strategies to increase advocacy levels will find themselves struggling upstream against a very powerful current.”
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