Global events influence travel trends around the world, regardless of whether they’re planned or spontaneous, positive or negative. Huge crowds of travelers pass in and out of host cities, giving hoteliers good reason to capitalize on their habits and activities.

But an event’s popularity is not the only factor that impacts the resulting tourist habits in those cities –– any number of unpredictable details leading up to those events can influence travel trends. And if travelers are planning ahead, travel marketers should be too.

Koddi, a cloud-based marketing technology company for travel brands, developed a recent study to see how some of the past year’s largest global events impacted tourism trends around the world.

The 2018 Travel Index looked at booking windows, attendance rates, weather events, and generational trends of events, ranging from the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. to the FIFA World Cup in Moscow, to determine how travel marketers can effectively build global events into their overall business strategies. Here, we look at a few takeaways from the study.

Let’s Play Ball: International event ticketing forces sports fans to plan ahead
Cities clamor to host sporting sensations, such as the FIFA World Cup and the Summer and Winter Olympics, hoping that highly-televised international attention will boost tourism and improve their public reputations on a global scale. And millions of sports fans often snatch up limited ticket releases and secure their accommodations during the same booking windows.

Most sporting events result in booking windows an average of 43 days ahead of the events themselves. But exceptions do occur when tickets are released outside of that window. For example, ticket lotteries for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow were released 90, 60, and 30 days before the World Cup actually took place. Corresponding booking spikes took place at each of those markers, suggesting that as fans scored event tickets, they turned their attention immediately to their accommodation needs. Savvy travel marketers also adjusted their campaign budgets to capitalize on this trend by initially dialing up ad spend 90 days prior to the events and, in the case of the World Cup Tournament, increased their ad spend by nearly 350 percent in the 30 days leading up to the first game.

Marching Orders: Grassroots political rallies leave little time to plan
Whereas sporting fans tend to book their accommodations in advance, travelers attending large-scale cultural events like political rallies are often considerably more impulsive. Rallies like the 2017 Women’s March and the 2018 March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. were attended by millions, but no advance ticket sales were required for people to participate.

Booking windows for political rallies average 35 days, largely due to the grassroots nature of such events. Social activism arises in response to the local political climate, and ralliers who believe in the cause of a march show up in droves with hardly any advance notice.

Besides investing in campaigns with shorter booking windows, travel marketers should also consider optimizing their campaigns for mobile with ad spend going to in-app and social. Due to the shorter booking windows, many travelers are making their last-minute hotel reservations via their smartphones.

The Beat Goes On: Music festival-goers save hotel bookings for last
Ticket sales for music festivals around the world go on sale months ahead of time, and in some cases, are even released an entire year in advance. However, although festival travelers book their tickets well in advance, they don’t seem to book their lodging until much later. Most festival host cities don’t experience a spike in booking windows until four to six weeks before the actual event.

This timing disparity between buying tickets and booking hotels may be attributed to the fact that many music festivals are hosted in already popular tourist destinations, like the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro and Coachella in sunny California. Another factor in later stage booking windows may be the availability of alternative accommodation options with competitive rates, like Airbnb and HomeAway.

Again, optimizing campaigns for mobile devices –– especially with spend on social media channels –– becomes increasingly important for increasing booking volume among music festival-goers.

Expect The Unexpected: What it takes to weatherproof your travel strategy
Unfortunately, destinations around the world that have been devastated by natural disasters and inclement weather events, like hurricanes and earthquakes, have seen real losses in tourism bookings over time. Hurricane Maria caused a 40 percent bookings decrease in Puerto Rico in 2017 –– and that’s on top of the immense property damage and loss from which the region is still recovering. Indonesia was recently struck with two earthquakes ranking 6 and higher on the Richter scale and suffered a 26 percent bookings decrease as a result.

But surprisingly, dramatic weather phenomena can also spark modest increases in bookings in the periods immediately following those events. For example, Houston experienced a 5 percent increase in hotel bookings during 2017’s Hurricane Harvey. These last-minute booking spikes are often influenced by evacuation orders that force residents from their homes and by the influx of volunteer workers and first responders who flock to affected cities to help with disaster recovery.

Actionable Takeaways for Travel Marketers
Events ranging from the musical to the athletic and the political to the meteorological can all trigger spikes in the popularity of the cities where they take place. To stay aligned with the needs of travelers and spend on advertising wisely, travel marketers should:

  • Plan on increased volume from cultural events in popular tourism destinations
  • Budget for visibility during the primary ticketing periods for major sporting events
  • Focus on last-minute booking services for music festivals and political rallies
  • Adjust ad spend if property is damaged by an unexpected natural disaster
  • Make sure campaigns are optimized for mobile, as many last minute bookings are made via smartphone

Of course, spikes in bookings and popularity often come with corresponding lulls. As long as travel marketers plan with major events in mind and stay nimble in response to the unexpected, global events can actually contribute to overall business strategy instead of knocking those plans off track.

To learn more about Koddi’s 2018 Travel Index and see what Koddi can do for your travel business’ advertising and metasearch optimization, click here.

This content was created in collaboration with Koddi and published by Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.