Brands can become an important part of a traveller’s journey

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Mobile apps and websites can embed a travel brand in a consumer’s mind through the whole process of their holiday by providing more local information.

As increasingly less destinations in the world can be classed as “undiscovered”, the adventure seekers in us are looking for more unique, authentic and local experiences in the places we travel to.

In the quest for the café serving local delicacies tucked away on a back street, or a bar that serves a tipple that is a trend exclusive to that area, travellers are increasingly looking for new sources of information to provide these tips to them.

And these tips are more commonly being found online than in battered guidebooks, prompting The Observer travel writer Benji Lanyado to question the future of printed guidebooks. Lanyado reveals the pros and cons of travel tips from online communities in this recent article, but concludes that mobile travel apps will eventually signal the death knell for the traditional guidebook.

In exclusive research that my colleague Lucy Handley writes about in this week’s issue of Marketing Week, the hunger for mobile functions that make the travel experience both more interesting and less stressful is evident.

The study shows that, particularly in the 16 to 34 age category, there is a real interest in a range of services, from local recommendations, to apps that can translate languages and signs, or the ability to book flights and hotels in an ad hoc fashion while on the road.

Clearly then, there is an opportunity for brands to be the providers of this coveted information travellers are seeking. There are countless blogs out there, and The Observer’s Lanyado has recommended Foursquare, Time Out, and the augmented reality app Layar as his most useful mobile travel services. And as highlighted in Lucy’s feature, Lastminute.com has joined this space, with its Topsee app that provides London info from local bloggers.

But the problem I see is the promotion of a blog or website outside its market of origin. Obviously the target audience isn’t going to be in this home market, but it’s the home market that has the easiest discovery route.

Cross border marketing is going to be the issue here. Brands like Time Out; and, to a degree, the likes of Expedia and Lastminute.com, have global resonance and are in prime position to take advantage of this demand for local information for travellers. Perhaps smaller services partnering with these big global brands will be the way to bridge this.

In this burgeoning market of travel apps and services, brands who can provide a golden nugget of unique information will become part of a good holiday memory.

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