There's a tried and true advertising adage: “You can't sell travel or food without pictures.” For decades, travel marketers who understand this have wisely spent their money visually displaying what they're selling with quality photography distributed through key print and electronic media.

The adage holds particularly true now that the Internet has become the preferred tool for marketing and selling travel. Today, there's no more efficient and effective way to show a supplier's best marketing visuals to millions of people every day — for a fraction of what it once cost to print, publish and mail hard copy sales collateral.

Nevertheless, many travel marketers still view E-marketing as complicated, technical and costly. Just the opposite is true. There's nothing to store in a warehouse, nothing to ship, and nothing to lug to travel shows. Today, all you need to ensure your visual sales material gets maximum exposure is a solid Internet presence.

Return on one's Internet sales investment far exceeds traditional marketing for two basic reasons: you can't sell travel without pictures, and research confirms that people tend to buy value over rates. Good visuals convince prospects of value.

Furthermore, by using the Internet as a primary marketing tool, little-known, independent hotels can instantly gain exposure to millions of prospects. For a few hundred dollars, hoteliers can showcase their properties to millions of travelers. Internet circulation provides the highest return on investment of any marketing tool used to sell travel today — or in the past.

Research estimates that 75 percent or more prospective travelers use the net to research airline schedules and hotels before making travel plans. Even if they book offline, they first look online.

So, how does a travel supplier take advantage of this? They must maintain consistency with their visual assets and manage their sales material so distribution channels have fresh content. It's amazing how many travel sites have old content and images that are slow to be updated.

A few new companies provide solutions for suppliers interested in getting their visuals managed and delivered to the travel distribution channels with the proper specs, formatting, sizing, meta-tagging and many other technological requirements. They can deliver static images, moving content (virtual tours, streaming videos, flash, etc.) to the industry content hubs (GDS, Pegasus) and more than 20,000 travel distribution channels globally.

Virtual tours are especially popular as they provide consumers with complete, all-around views. Equally important, any change in visual content can be easily updated and instantly sent fresh across distribution channels. The Internet has created such a simple and effective way to showcase travel there's no need for any consumer to visit a travel site with old photos or little visual content.

Henry R. Woodman is president and founder of ICE Portal, a Florida-based content provider for Internet travel and tourism. Reach him at or call 954-893-6778.

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