How to Reach High-Intent Vacationers | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

How to Reach High-Intent Vacationers


We've all been there — hopefully googling travel information for a dream destination to engage in a bit of low-stakes wanderlust. But for busy travel marketers with tight budgets, these travel hopefuls may be skewing their ability to target relevant consumers. Utilizing audience segmentation is critical for travel marketers to understand the external factors that are influencing their travel plans, and break down massive audiences into their most likely vacationers.

Cutting through the Chaos

One way to break down this large audience is by examining a consumer's spending power. Across the board, prices are higher than ever and consumers are particularly susceptible to these price increases in non-essential industries such as entertainment and travel. Breaking down an audience by demographics is critical, and this is especially true for gen Z, who by and large have not built up the wealth or equity to navigate rising prices comfortably. However, those such as gen X and boomers, who have had more time to make stable investments, are looking towards travel or more frequent trips — 44 percent of affluent households (with income of $200,000+ a year) took two or more trips in 2023.

Another major consideration that travel marketers should be looking into is family composition. The age of children is a huge factor in vacation planning overall. Considering timing, traveling with school-age children when travel is largely restricted to traditional school-break windows may be more difficult to plan than traveling with toddlers. Logistically speaking, many parents will likely plan a vacation well in advance versus spontaneously. Understanding family composition can also help in identifying aspirational travelers — oftentimes a busy mom of three searching for a luxury villa is wistfully planning for the future, as opposed to actually booking a stay.

When it comes to selecting destinations, by and large, people are creatures of habit — high-intent vacationers included. Regionality can play a factor in one's travel traditions, such as Canadians and American Midwesterners flocking towards southern states like Florida. Comparatively, spur-of-the-moment trips are more difficult to account for. The vacationers planning these trips are, as expected, adventurous, and engage often with travel sites offering unique experiences. Of course, factors like these will influence the marketing for any destination, based on its ideal target audience.

Marketers should also consider how their ideal consumers are planning their vacations to determine their advertising strategy. It is particularly essential to consider the means of travel necessary to reach a certain location. For popular destinations such as New York City, many consumers may plan to fly — meaning that their travel plans will likely be solidified in advance, to secure the best ticket prices. Acquiring and leveraging deterministic data like this based on your unique travel destination is a valuable first step in establishing a powerful first-party data strategy.

Activating a First-Party Strategy

All signs point to the final depreciation of cookies in 2024. It's expected that by Q3 of 2024, behavioral audiences based on third-party data will be severely diminished, if not completely eliminated. Travel organizations — if they are not doing so already — must be organizing and leveraging their first-party data to overcome this disparity.

First-party data can be acquired in several ways: ticket sales, email lists, website visits and more. Importantly, it is data given directly from consumers themselves, meaning that brands have a valuable opportunity to enhance their trust and credibility with their target audience by utilizing it effectively. Furthermore, this direct data source can provide a guiding light to evaluate audiences holistically, and break them down into most likely travelers. This is particularly vital as the advertising landscape grows increasingly crowded.

Accurate targeting efforts are also hindered by the growing complexity of tracking consumers across channels. Consumers are more omnichannel than ever, and where they are watching, reading and scrolling is always changing. Currently, the explosive growth of CTV as a channel has taken center stage, and with measurement becoming more viable for brands, certain popular destinations have found success through advertising within this growing medium. However, CTV is often considered to be a high-funnel channel— so it may not be the best choice for smaller, more localized destinations.

Determining your first-party data strategy now is essential. Finding a partner that is able to leverage your first party data deterministically and measure against it can help you to separate aspirational and actual travelers to your tourist destination, allowing marketing dollars to funnel in the direction of those most likely to come visit you.

Charting the Course to Success

With third-party cookies finally expiring, first-party data's importance is greater than ever, particularly for travel marketers hoping to reach the most ideal and likely vacationers. Collecting first-party data is a valuable way to build consumer trust and empower more impactful advertising. Through utilizing a strong first-party data strategy, marketers will be able to break through extensive prospects to effectively target their most likely travelers.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


Mike Skaldony is GM of consumer services at Semcasting. He serves as the general manager of the consumer services team at Semcasting. He oversees all travel, entertainment, tourism, higher education and nonprofit clients. Mike's team of audience developers, account managers and campaign managers work with clients hand in hand to develop audience solutions and winning digital campaign strategies.