Request a free Google Ads or SEO audit

Paid Media for Travel Brands: What You Need to Know in 2021

Travel and Tourism

Creating travel ads that perform is no walk on the beach. Luckily, we’ve been round the block and can give you some kickstarting hints and tips. Two of our resident paid media experts, Dave and Leora, take us through the steps to a standout digital travel ad and muse upon how the industry has changed its advertising strategies. Read on for their nuggets of wisdom to help your travel marketing campaigns really take off.

What Should I Keep in Mind When Setting Up Travel Advertising Campaigns?

Here’s a list of essentials to create travel advertising campaigns that perform. 

PPC best practice for travel ads

  1. Focus on keywords and user intent 

Targeting suitable keywords will increase your CTRs and conversion rates. 

  • Don’t waste your budget on unnecessary key phrases – for example, if you’re a tour operator targeting the phrase ‘trip to Venezuela’ but you don’t actually offer this as a location, it’s wasted spend as users will soon realise that your operator is not suitable for their search.
  • Search intent identifiers are your friends – they allow you to serve suitable ads at different stages of a buying journey. For example, if someone is searching ‘book a holiday to Paris’, they don’t need to be convinced to consider a holiday or be sold the destination. A more sales-focussed ad would work better in this instance.
  • Look out for the type of holiday users are searching for – this will indicate what web page the ad should direct them to. For example, if someone is looking for an all-inclusive, flight and hotel package, ads to this person should direct them to the most relevant web page and not to a hotel booking only page. 
  1. Audience application

Having that extra layer of targeting can help to tailor ads to ensure that you are targeting people who are more likely to book a holiday type that an agent is offering.

  1. Include price points 

This can help to refine your audience as it filters out people that might not be able to afford the holiday, increasing conversion rates.

  1. Shout about your USPs 

Do you offer free cancellation or are you a pet friendly hotel? In a crowded market, getting your niche selling points across early is key to enticing a larger share of the market. 

  1. Incorporate image extensions 

These help bring text ads to life and set them apart from competitors. In fact, Google says that every type of ad extension it introduces increases CTRs by 10-15%. As travel is such a visual industry, image extensions are vital to get users excited about booking with your company. 

Paid social best practice for travel ads

  1. Imagery should appeal to a user’s interests 

This increases the likelihood of interaction. While it is nice to have picturesque landscape images, people love to imagine themselves in the location. You might want to try representing your target audience in the image, whether young adventure seekers or older luxury lovers. Try not to use stock imagery of a destination, as it can come across as impersonal.

  1. Think about the format

Younger users often like to pick a holiday destination based on how Instagrammable it is, so using multiple snapshots of picturesque holiday destinations and hotels shown between 15 -30 seconds can be attention grabbing. Interactive 360 videos of hotel rooms or resort areas can also be a good way of increasing click through rates. 

With the increased use of Reels and IGTV, users are taking in more video content than ever on Instagram thanks to its new updates that aim to compete against TikTok. User generated content and formatting can potentially help to sell your destinations by giving it an aspirational or high attainment value.

  1. Include creative captions and headlines 

These should suit the tone of your business and the accompanying creatives. They may change depending on the type of holiday or package targeted to different audiences, so it’s important to tailor the content depending on demographic and the stage of the buying journey. 

Headlines using active sentences such as Explore Greece and Discover Your Next Holiday can spur viewers to click on your chosen CTA. Referencing the holiday destination or holiday deal being promoted in the headline is a helpful and subtle way of reiterating what their next step should be.

  1. CTAs are key 

Once you’ve got your messaging and branding down, you want your audiences to act and get involved. Have relevant CTAs to the type of ad you’re making to get the response you want. It’s also worth testing how your audiences respond to different CTAs and see what works best at each stage of the funnel – for example, ‘Learn More’ in the awareness phase and ‘Book Now’ in the conversion phase. 

How Have Brands Altered Their Marketing Approach During the Pandemic?

There has been a shift in the messaging of ads throughout the pandemic, particularly in reassuring customers of support during times where COVID is affecting the travel industry. A good example of this would be from Expedia, who announced a global rebranding initiative back in April to suit new customer concerns. 

The creative marketing approach has focused on branding Expedia as a partner in travel, available to help every step of the way. After a year and a half of uncertainty in the travel industry and the risk of losing deposits, Expedia has leant that their customers want security and support to make the most out of their trips. 

They’ve gone ahead to refresh the look and feel of their platform including major changes to their app and websites to provide more synergy and have everything a customer needs all in one place. This refreshed look has also been reflected on their paid and owned media through the messaging in their captions and the choice of imagery. 


More generally, we’ve seen travel companies mention in ads when destinations change to being on the ‘green list’, the most relaxed in terms of restrictions on coming back to the UK. This encourages consumers to travel and has worked quite well on some occasions. We’ve also seen many companies advertise for 2022 and almost bypass 2021 as consumers are more likely to book a holiday then rather than now. 

What Does the Future Hold for Paid Media and Travel?

1. Shift to first party data 

With Apple’s move this year to prohibit certain data collection and sharing unless people opt into tracking, there’s already been a shift to collecting first party data for paid social media advertising campaigns to be able to continue with strong targeting. Although Google will not be impacted by privacy/cookie changes until the start of 2023, it makes sense to start using more first party data now so that you are in the best place possible to continue driving results when changes come into place.  

2. Google Hotel Ads

Google Ads has a hotel book feature which displays hotels and room booking availability on search, maps and assistant. This is a really cool and increasingly used feature for travel brands to test.

3. In-app bookings

Lately social media is increasingly being used as a shopping platform, with Instagram launching live stream shopping events one of the latest examples of a trend towards social e-commerce. This new use of social media presents a fantastic opportunity for the travel industry to potentially move some of its bookings onto social media, again making it easier for users to purchase flights, hotels and packages without leaving the comfort of their favourite social media channel. 

That concludes our journey to the perfect digital travel ad, we hope you had a pleasant trip! If you’d like the help of a paid media agency to uncover the potential of your brand, please don’t hesitate to get in touch