Despite the constant refrain of "the year of video," video remains conspicuously absent from many online travel booking experiences.
Not one mainstream OTA features video on their homepage, and it seems that "travel videos" are segmented either on a video-specific page or, more likely, segregated from the booking experience on another video-specific website like TripFilms or HotelVideoGallery.
This is especially worrisome for an industry predicated on inspiration and exploration.
The available well of video content is deep, with video of all lengths and sources providing value at the various stages of the travel lifecycle: amateur destination videos, professional hotel videos, inspirational travel tales, video reviews of experiences, tours, accommodation, and other activities, and professionally-produced videos showcasing a brand's offerings. Each of these categories offer opportunities for video integration for online travel brands.
On the other hand, certain brands are experimenting with using original video as part of their marketing.
As part of their latest promotional campaign, the marketing arm of NY State, Empire State Development, has partnered with Orbitz on a video series promoting the Empire State offerings on Orbitz.com/NYState.
Working with filmmaker and adventure travel pioneer Richard Bangs, the video series features some of the gems of the state of New York.
The 7-part series starts with the Adirondacks and the Catskills, where Bangs was deployed to capture some of the travel essence of upstate New York. The videos are certainly of a particular style, and seem to jive with the Orbitz demographic at large.
Part regional promo video, part inspirational travel tales, the videos seek to capture the essence of the area - and encourage Orbitz users to book a NY State vacation.
The video series is integrated into a full-fledged NY State promo page, with I HEART NY banners and links out to the off-site winter trip planner at http://www.iloveny.com/winter.
Yet, despite all of this investment and integration, the Orbitz Originals page is buried deep into the Travel Guide section of the website, and is not even visible from the front page.
In fact, it's not even clear how a user would even navigate to the Orbitz Originals page organically on-site without learning about it elsewhere, as the promotion isn't mentioned on the New York or New York City breadcrumbs beneath the "Orbitz Originals: New York State" headline.
The videos have only a few dozen views, and could clearly benefit from additional coverage and promotion on-site. It's an intriguing concept, a highly encouraging development where mini-ecosystems allow potential travelers to learn about a destination, get inspired, and then immediately click through to book a hotel once that emotional "I want to go there" hook has landed.
Previous Orbitz Originals locations included Ireland and the Cayman Islands; searches for the Ireland videos came up empty. The Cayman Islands series was sponsored by Energizer, and features an awkward video promoting Energizer's battery expander at the top of the page (who goes to the beach and brings all of their devices to charge, really?). The full video playlists can be found further down the page, mixed amongst the results.
Despite these growing pains, the Orbitz Originals concept has clearly been developing into something much more integrated, and and so we asked VP of Marketing Josh Winkler to answer some questions for Tnooz about the initiative and its progress.
Please share the background on this marketing campaign: how did you choose the filmmaker, what was the genesis of the idea, who are the partners, what are the next steps with it.
Orbitz and Richard Bangs have a relationship dating back over a year and spanning several projects to date, including "Orbitz Originals" episodes in Ireland, the Cayman Islands and now New York State, as well as "South America: Quest for Wonder," an hourlong program that began airing on public television stations in October.
These campaigns are designed to provide an unprecedented level of integration between inspiration and trip planning, inspiring travelers with exciting visuals and providing the tools to book travel that will replicate the adventures laid out by Richard Bangs. Through these campaigns, Orbitz has established itself as a leader in connecting a wide range of companies — for example LAN, Energizer and I LOVE NEW YORK — who want to connect their brands with passionate travelers.
What are your key objectives with this campaign?
These campaigns harness the power of video to inspire travelers and drive travel bookings. Richard Bangs is an award-winning travel expert who brings to life the joy of travel, so viewers are inspired to replicate his journeys for themselves — and Orbitz.com provides the trip planning resources to make the trips a reality.
Video is at the center of this latest campaign. How does video work as a marketing medium, and why did you choose to place it at the center of this particular campaign?
A recent study by Google and Ipsos MediaCT shows that online video is an important source of inspiration in the travel planning process, prompting 45 percent of leisure travelers and 74 percent of affluent travelers to book travel after viewing an online travel video. As an even more effective tool than static images, for example, Orbitz Originals uses video to stimulate audiences with stunning visuals in a compact format (3-5 minutes each) that helps drive travel bookings.
Looking forward, how will video be used to achieve Orbitz's marketing objectives?
We are in talks with a number of potential partners for future installments of Orbitz Originals – and while I cannot provide exact details at this time, we expect to make formal announcements over the next several months.
Looking back at other video projects you've done, how have Orbitz customers been responding/engaging with video? Please elaborate with any anecdotes, data or other interesting stats about how consumers react to video on-site.
In the case of "Orbitz Originals: Ireland," those videos premiered alongside other assets such as onsite banner ads and a corresponding travel sale. With that said, we saw a 100% month-over-month increase in bookings to Ireland destinations after the Orbitz Originals program launch, along with 26% year-over-year increase in air bookings to Ireland and a 39% year-over-year increase in hotel room nights booked to Ireland. The videos proved to be an important part of the overall marketing strategy of influencing travel to Ireland
Also looking back at previous Originals, you have partnered with some seemingly random partners like Energizer. How have you evolved with your brand partnerships? Why did you go with ESD this time around?
DMOs such as Empire State Development and companies like LAN are a natural fit for Orbitz Originals, because online video is so effective in demonstrating the activities and attractions travelers can enjoy in a given destination. But the partnership with Energizer is a perfect example of the synergies we offer "seemingly random" (to use your phrase) companies with products that are actually very germane to travel, and we hope to expand upon those opportunities in future installments of Orbitz Originals.