March 1, 2017

Traveler Marketing Personas – Why They Matter And How To Create Them

This traveler marketing persona article is the second article in our series on the travel buying journey. You can find the first article on the travel buying journey here.


Reading time: 4 minutes

What you’ll learn:

  • What a traveler marketing persona is
  • How to do proper research in order to create one
  • How to ask the right questions
  • What traveler persona might look like
  • Why being generic is a losing strategy


The following overview on traveler personas was taken from our travel marketing method training course. 


This article (and corresponding video) is about traveler marketing personas; that can sound like a fancy marketing buzzword or something that might require a huge budget and researchers to get done, but it’s not and we’re going to show you how to do it. Creating traveler personas is simply a process of identifying your ideal type of client, usually around the client’s potential:


  • Goals
  • Pain Points
  • Expectations


If you work almost exclusively in the luxury travel market, you can add a fourth:


  • Price point/amenities


This sounds so basic, right? Well, you’d be surprised how many travel companies completely skip this. It sounds obvious that travel companies and independent contractors would know who their ideal client is. That’s the core of a business, no?


Unfortunately, not really. In wide-ranging research on business models from 1972 to 2013, 80% of companies -- including many in the travel industry -- had developed and utilized business models that (and here we quote) “only valued customers for their dollars.” Quite simply, a lot of people are just trying to make the sale and grab the commission.


That model is fine, and it’s worked for thousands of people across generations. But things have changed. And when things change, we must adapt. There is a better way.


Traveler Marketing Personas Are A Blueprint of Your Ideal traveler Created With Real Research


The emphasis here is on the word “real.” If you have one client that you really enjoy working with, who consistently books, doesn’t hassle you on price and is constantly giving you referrals, you, my friend, have an “ideal traveler.” Now, it’s time to “clone” them. Set up a 30-45 minute appointment on their schedule, either in-person or via phone/video. Let them know that you want their help in making their experience with your business better. During this session, you will ask them questions like:


  • When they are looking for travel inspiration, what is their process?
  • Do the conversations begin from a place of destination, or a place of trip concept?
  • How much pre-research do they do on digital/mobile vs. relying on your knowledge?
  • When they’ve figured where they want to go, what do they do next?
  • When they’re ready to book, what does that process look like?
  • What worries them when doing any of the above?
  • What are their goals when doing any of the above?
  • What do you do for them that points them in a different direction?
  • What is their acceptable range of pricing where they won’t really bat an eyelash at the number going up?
  • What do they like about working with you?
  • What could be better?

There are a dozen more potential questions. We’ve created a free template and infographic of starter questions that you can download and use as a starting point (see below.) You know your clients and can get a good idea on what you can ask. If you have 2-3 (or more) ideal clients, repeat the process. Make notes. Write down the pros, cons, and anything interesting.


Now go group the responses, be it from one person or 17, into buckets or trends. What do these trends tell you? How much research are they doing? What terms, phrases or words are showing up repeatedly? Are the destinations intractable? Are they using competitors for inspiration? Are they worried about how much information is out there? Etc. All of these things will help you glean insight into the mind of the type of person you want to attract more of. You just created one type of a persona.


Question Mapping: Asking The Right Questions

Question Mapping” -- again, might seems like a fancy marketing term, but isn’t. It’s just the process of talking to people (described above) and their responses sorted by the travel buying journey (also described above).

Since we humans are visual creatures, we created a handy infographic of what questions to ask and how they relate to the travel buying journey:


Question Mapping Infographic


You can download a google sheet version of this traveler persona question template here. 


This can seem overwhelming to people that are new to traveler persona creation, or maybe you don’t have much time. So here’s a quick “hack” of the process: only focus on the first three traveler stages (essentially, the pre-trip phases) when you do these interviews and begin thinking about your ideal clients. You want to be an excellent resource post-trip -- this drives referral and retention -- but if you think first about the dreaming and planning stages, that will give you a concrete idea of the persona you’re targeting. (Plus, it makes the whole process a little bit easier.) You can always fill in the blanks on the remaining three phases later. 


By the way, our travel marketing platform, Atlas Republic, allows for persona management under the marketing tab in your dashboard.


An example persona


Here’s an example of a fictitious persona that we’ve created based on client interviews.


An image showing an example travel marketing persona


Download an example traveler marketing persona here:


Avoid the generic assumption


This is why we recommend doing real interviews with existing clients -- or, if you’re a new travel advisor or tour operator, either wait until you get a few clients or pay for custom research through something like Ask Your Target Market.


Oftentimes, traveler persona creation falls short when the process is rooted in generic assumptions. For example, someone creating a persona may say “I do a ton of Disney,” when, in fact, the last decent commission you had from a Disney-based trip was in 2002. Humans are subject to tons of different psychological biases (recency effort, confirmation bias, etc.) which causes all of us to think of our business as one thing, when in fact the people we deal with think of it entirely different. That’s why real information from real clients has to drive the persona creation. If your assumptions about your business drive it, biases will crowd every corner -- and you won’t be targeting the right clients.


Up Next

We’ll discuss what to do once you have the personas. If you know your dream client model and scope, how do you go find more of them? 

Learn How We Create Highly Effective Traveler Personas

Years of experience compiled into a simple and useful guide to creating traveler personas that work!