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How to Boost Spring Break Business from College Students

By collegemktgrp | February 5, 2020 | Brands/Advertisers

For travel brands seeking to reach new customers, college students heading out on spring break represent a real opportunity.

More than half of U.S. college students plan to go on a spring break trip, with most students heading to warm destinations to escape the winter blues.

Just in Florida and Texas alone, college students spend $1 billion every year on their spring break getaway. That’s a lot of money on the table for travel brands.

All that money means a lot of competition, too. That’s why any travel brand vying for college students’ spring break business needs to have a marketing strategy that will cut through the noise.

And connecting with college students now gives you the chance to develop brand loyalty they will carry with them into their post-school lives.

For decades at College Marketing Group, we’ve made it our business to help brands find and connect with college students. All that experience has given us keen insight into the best ways to market spring break travel to them.

With spring break marketing, it’s all about timing, content, exclusive deals, influencers, and no surprises here: social media.

Here are our 7 essentials to travel brands looking to market spring break travel to college students.

1. Get Your Timing Right

Most spring break trips are planned within just one month of travel, and often only a couple weeks before. In the spring, college students are busy thinking about new classes and getting their semester off to a strong start in January and February. It’s not until about mid-February or even early March that a spring break trip crosses their mind.

That doesn’t mean you only need to market your brand during this small window. But it does mean that there are certain kinds of marketing that will be more effective at this time, and other more awareness-building strategies that will work better outside of this timeframe.

College students won’t actually solidify their spring break plans until the last minute. Targeting this demographic with specific promos should wait until the peak booking window of the month leading up to spring break.

In earlier part of Q1, specifically January and February, students will be open to dreaming about spring break. This is the time that advocacy marketing in the form of content, influencers, and social sharing is most helpful. It’ll put your brand front-of-mind for students when it comes time to actually book their travel.

2. Lean into Content Marketing

Unique, high-quality, and SEO-boosting content is a great way to build awareness for your brand year-round. Specifically in early Q1, consider posting blogs, videos, or a photo series with a spring break theme and sharing it on your social media channels.

For example, a blog titled “The Best (and Cheapest) Bars in Cancun” or “The Most Party-Friendly Spring Break Destinations for 2020” can drive traffic to your site and help you build brand awareness.

That kind of content can also help you generate leads. Once a student is on your site, you can get them to sign up for your email list in exchange for a discount code. And you can retarget ads to them on Facebook (more on that later).

3. Enlist Micro-Influencers

Gen Z college students are more likely to trust their peers more than an online ad. This highlights the important of influencers in marketing to this demographic.

You don’t need a superstar with a million followers on Instagram for your influencer campaign to make an impact. Instead, focus on micro-influencers with 1,000 to 10,000 followers. This could be a college-age niche online celebrity (like someone with a travel or fashion Instagram account) or just college students with a lot of engaged followers.

By offering these micro-influencers and student brand ambassadors free swag, discounts, or trips in exchange for a post (or more) about your brand, you can reach their audiences.

Reach out to these influencers right around the New Year so they can get on board sharing content during the first half of Q1. Their posts are more about awareness-building than decision making.

And if you want your influencer game to reach even more people, you can enlist the help of your fans on social media. That brings us to our next tip.

4. Encourage Fans to Share Photos and Videos

Because college students trust the opinion of their friends and other people their own age more than others, a marketing strategy utilizing social sharing can be very effective at getting your message out there. Even if the students doing the sharing have small follower counts, the reach is amplified if you can get hundred or thousands of people involved.

For example, you could run a photo-sharing contest on Facebook or Instagram. Encourage your followers to share a photo or video from a trip with you and to tag your brand (or use a certain hashtag) for the chance to win another trip. You could run this kind of contest during spring break to build brand awareness for next year.

Or, in the first half of Q1, you could post a video highlighting a super fun college spring break getaway and ask followers to share it with their own dream vacation — they get entered into a drawing to win a prize, you get your content shared with their followers, increasing visibility for your brand.

5. Market On Campus


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What better place to get in front of college students than where they spend their days (when not in front of a screen)?

On-campus marketing is one of the best ways to build brand awareness with college students. And on-campus marketing for spring break travel can start at the beginning of the spring semester and ramp up right until spring break hits.

Start with posters and other promotional materials around campus in the beginning of Q1. Then expand to an interactive booth with swag giveaways and exclusive deals once the crucial decision-making timeframe rolls around, about a month out from spring break.

You can’t do on-campus marketing at every single university in America, so focus on schools with more students from higher-income families, or colleges in particularly cold places, where students will be dreaming of an escape.

6. Promote Spring Break Deals

When spring break is about a month away, you’ll want to push deals catered to college students. These could include discounts with student IDs, or just travel packages catered to the college spring break lifestyle.

For example, a discount group package including travel, accommodations, and gift cards to local restaurants and bars could be a winner with college students planning a trip with friends.

You could also offer upgrades or discount packages to students who have already planned where they’re going, but not what they’re doing or where they’re staying. For that, you’ll need retargeting ads. That brings us to our final tip.

7. Use Dynamic Ads on Social Media

Dynamic retargeting ads allow you to turn leads into conversions by serving personalized content and deals to each potential customer.

These are especially powerful for travel marketing. On Facebook, you can target people who’ve shown an interest in a certain destination or type of travel, even if they’ve never visited your specific web site.

You can also retarget students who’ve been to your site but have yet to book a trip. Say your content strategy from Tip #1 brought someone to your site, but they haven’t been back since. Retargeting ads can find them over on Facebook, and remind them of how awesome your brand is.

You can also target ads to people who have already planned a trip. If a college student has booked a hotel in Daytona Beach over spring break, you can offer them discounts to your local tour company through dynamic ads.

Combined with promotional deals catered specifically to college students, dynamic retargeting ads can help you seal the deal and boost sales.

Stay Ahead of the Competition with more College Student Marketing Tips

There’s no doubt that spring break is an important time for travel brands trying to reach college students. But this isn’t the only time of year this demographic travels.

Studying abroad, gap years, summer vacation, and winter breaks are all opportunities for college students to go on a new adventure. Why shouldn’t their travel be with your company?

To connect with these travelers, you’re going to need to stay a step ahead of your competitors. And between the seemingly never-ending list of online travel agencies and platforms like Facebook and Google making it easier than ever for brands to target and market to specific audiences, diligence is the order of the day.

Instead of relying on the college marketing trends of today, then, maybe you should be investing in the trends of tomorrow. Read our guide on the future of college student marketing to get a head start »

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