Winter is almost over and with gas prices at their lowest levels in nearly a decade, retailers should be expecting to see a lot of travellers this spring and summer. This is great news for local retailers and travel brands, and now is the time to use internet marketing to get the most of the upcoming travel seasons. Several recent studies provide some tips that business owners can use to improve their online, in-store and local marketing.

We can start with the usual refrain of internet marketing use social media. This may seem like cliche advice, but until the lion's share of people around the world decide that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram aren't cool, social networks will remain ideal locations for advertising travel destinations and venues at them.

A recent study by EyeforTravel showed that most travel companies are using social media to help entice would be travelers with things like accommodation specials, photos of locations, and guides to local hot spots. The research reveal that only one out of 20 travel isn't using Facebook.

Facebook may be used by 95 percent of travel companies, but there has been significant growth seen on other social networks. The EyeforTravel researchers point out that three out of five travel companies (60 percent) are now using Instagram to showcase travel destination photos.

The way the travel companies use social media is continuing to evolve. Though not yet seeing the numbers of Instagram, a number of the newer social networks have made significant gains according to EyeforTravel. Their report found that Pinterest, Vimeo, Foursquare and Tumblr also now among the top 10 travel marketing channels.

Another way the internet is changing the way people market travel opportunities is through the use of user-generated content. Professional photos are nice, but with a battalion of tourists armed with smartphones, travel marketers can get an almost endless supply of photos and videos of people enjoying the location.

Social media marketing makes it easy to find user generated content with the helps of tagging. But the benefit of pictures and videos from the audience goes beyond social media marketing. The EyeforTravel study reported that 70 percent of travel brands are increasingly incorporating user-generated social content into their websites.

"Imagery is a critical part of the travel decision-making process and we can see that from our results with the ascendancy of sites specializing in this and video," said Alex Hadwick, head of research at EyeforTravel, according to media reports. "This should open up exciting opportunities for travel companies to engage in more direct marketing to consumers through social media channels. They are also now able to close the loop, with several of these sites adding 'buy buttons' that can redirect to a brand's booking pages."

It's important to keep in mind that there are more travelers than just vacationing college students and families. Business travelers are an important audience for travel destinations. Just because someone has traveled to a location for business doesn't mean they can't enjoy themselves while they're there. In fact, a recent study shows that the majority of business travels enjoy their trips.

More than two-thirds (69 percent) of the more than 6,000 business travelers surveyed by Egencia reported they enjoy their business trips and find them more enjoyable than everyday working life.

Marketers can use this information to create ad campaigns that cater to the things that business travelers want to enjoy when they get a break from work. According to the Egencia study, business travelers were most likely to cite things such as "enjoying local cuisine" (59%), "being able to think more creatively" (38%) and "being more sociable than usual" (37%), when describing why they enjoy business travel.

With winter almost finished, now is the time to think about marketing campaigns for spring and summer travelers. As this research shows, business owners would do well to consider a social media component to any travel marketing campaign.

For more information on travel marketing, read this article on mobile technology and the future of travel.

Published on: Feb 29, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.