In-depth with Wheels of Morocco

Every so often we try to arrange interviews with inspiring travel startups from all around the world. Our industry is colourful and diverse and these type of pieces are a great way to explore that diversity. Having said that, many of the challenges and pitfalls faced by travel startups are the same across the board.

Our deep dives are a chance to learn from the experiences of others working in travel. We hope they’re interesting and insightful, too!

This week we’re featuring Viktoria Barsony, co-founder of Wheels of Morocco. As the name hints at, Wheels of Morocco offer motorcycle tours around Morocco, giving intrepid travellers the chance to explore the country on a two-wheeled adventure.

The company launched in January 2016 and only started taking bookings in March last year, so it’s still very early days for this adventure startup. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a closer look at the how and why behind the way things are progressing.

The key to Wheels of Morocco is the destination. Although motorcycle adventures will appeal to a certain audience no matter the location, Morocco is a country that ticks all of the scenic boxes. As Viktoria explains, it’s an amazing country that has everything you’d need for an incredible motorbike tour: beach, mountains, desert, forests, all of which you can visit in the space of 10-14 days.

This setting makes for an ideal motorbike tour. It allows riders to really feel like they’ve travelled as the landscape around them changes dramatically and in quick succession.

As we’ve written about before, a growing trend in the industry is that tourists are looking for more immersive trips than before. They want to genuinely experience a country and culture, not just lay on a beach and top up their sun tan.

Just as food tourism offers an authentic travel experience – which we explored in a separate in-depth interview with Foodie & Tours – There’s something equally liberating about hitting the open road, not knowing exactly what or who you’ll be coming across.

The Importance of Experience and Passion

Setting up a niche travel / tourism service isn’t easy. To genuinely appeal to travellers you need to show that the experience, knowledge and passion you have for what you do is unparalleled – especially when you’ve only just started operating.

It’s fair to say the Viktoria and her partner Greg have this in abundance. “We had been living in Morocco for about 3 years when my husband’s expat contract came to an end last year. We had the choice of moving to another country, but the whole family wanted to stay in Morocco,” she says.

“As we have travelled extensively [around Morocco] in those 3 years, we knew this amazing country and thought that other people would love it too, especially on a motorbike. We started the pre-work in January 2016 and got our first bike and client in March 2016.”

Travellers need to be convinced to part with their money. That’s always been the case, especially when an adventure or excursion is involved. The fact that Wheels of Morocco has already got its business off the ground says a lot about the strength of its appeal. Effectively portraying knowledge and expertise alongside the product has been vital in that progression.

Finding a Niche

There’s no doubt that Wheels of Morocco has successfully found a niche to cater for. But the company has cleverly selected products that are niche in terms of the expertise you need to run them without being unappealing to the majority. For example, it takes a lot of local knowledge, logistical skills and specific qualifications (Greg, Viktoria’s husband, got his BMW ITA Certification last April) to get a business like this off the ground. It’s not something everyone could do. But the result is a range of tours that many, many travellers will find appealing.

Considering setting up your own travel business? We’ve written extensively on finding a niche for your travel marketplace.

The widespread appeal Wheels of Morocco has is there to be seen in the diversity of its clients. “We’ve had many English, American, Canadian, Israelis, Australian, Swiss, Turkish, German, Italian and Hungarian clients, so I guess it doesn’t depend on nationality. It’s more about the passion for travelling motorbiking. We have touring clients from the age of 28 to 68, said Viktoria.

wheels of morocco tour motorbike

Dealing with the unexpected

The challenge of running tours built on a two-wheeled adventure is the number of things that can go wrong. “The biggest challenge,” Viktoria says, “is when a tour is on the road. Because no matter how amazing and well-prepared the tour guide is (he is trained in first aid, can change tyres on the spot and repair the bikes) there might be unpredictable problems. An accident, (replacing an imported side-pannier in the middle of the desert is no mean feat); crossing the most amazing passes in the Atlas mountains above 3000 meters but 40 cm snow has just fallen the day before…”

When the unexpected happens, Viktoria and Greg need to re-plan the remaining days, in terms of hotels and the itinerary.

Thinking on your feet and dealing with whatever comes adds to the sense of adventure, and is probably one element that motorbike enthusiasts enjoy with a tour of Morocco. But it’s still important that the team has backup plans in place.

Marketing and Recommendations

You might think that small travel startups struggle to compete with major operators. And that the big travel businesses dominate online traffic. You’d be right. But it’s still possible to cut through the noise, especially if you are targeting a niche market and localising your content.

Viktoria admits that Wheels of Morocco’s marketing efforts have been varied so far, “testing different channels, print media, online banners, PPC advertising, Facebook and Instagram ads. We are having promotional offers, email newsletters, and we are in collaboration with travel journalists.”

As with all startups, it will be a case of refining the marketing strategy to focus on the channels that are most effective. Something the company can definitely rely on though, is positive reviews. As well as leading to repeat business, a bunch of 5-star ratings and positive feedback is incredibly effective at pushing new sales over the line.

The Future

Because we approach things from the marketplace mindset, we couldn’t help but ask Viktoria whether or not there were plans to expand the company’s products to include tours outside of Morocco.

wheels of morocco

The answer, understandably, was no. Expansion at this stage would risk the loss of what makes Wheels of Morocco such an appealing prospect for tourists: local knowledge, expertise and a family-run business. “As we are living here, we have specialised Morocco knowledge and I think that the best thing to do is to keep on offering this unparalleled expertise and knowledge of this country. We are offering tours that no other motorbike touring companies are doing in Morocco and that’s only possible because we are here all year, know the actual road and weather conditions and have tested all the hidden passes and roads.”

Inspired to go on a motorbike tour of Morocco? Visit the Wheels of Morocco website to find out more.

The Changing Trends of Travel Industry Marketing

Travel industry marketing is changing. And, for better or for worse, travel operators need to adapt. In this blog post we’re going to be taking a closer look at how travel marketing is being turned on its head, what challenges these changes pose to operators in the industry, and how Travelshift software can help you overcome those challenges.  

We’ll start at the beginning. Why is travel marketing being transformed? And what are these emerging trends in travel industry marketing that operators need to get to grips with?

Changing traveller attitudes toward advertising

Quite fairly, we think, travellers now have much higher expectations of brands and operators when it comes to marketing. Younger tourists (-30) in particular are increasingly tech-savvy and spend more time online than any generation in history.

This has several knock-on effects. The first is that brands now need to work harder to grab travellers’ attention. The move away from traditional forms of advertising on TV and in print is well underway.

But it’s not as simple as moving marketing efforts online. Many of today’s internet users are immune to spam campaigns, neon banners and click bait. They’ve seen it all before and won’t be falling for it anytime soon. They are adept at filtering out irrelevance and heading directly to what they’re looking for, fast.

This leaves operators with an obvious challenge: be relevant or get left behind. Be informative and inspiring or be ignored. Be interesting or watch your revenue shrink.

Nowhere is this trend played out more than in the sphere of social media. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are unique places where travellers can create their own bubbles of content that are tailored to their ‘likes’ and interests. Let’s look at this in more detail and think about how travel industry marketing needs to adapt.

The growing importance of social media

Social media is the new travel marketers’ battleground. It’s where millions of potential customers are active, engaged and there to be influenced and sold to. But the increasing importance of social media platforms is forcing marketers to adapt. In the travel industry, it’s not enough to spread links to your products and special offers.

Travel operators need to be more creative than that.

Content is King

Instead, operators are pivoting towards creating long-term relationships with potential customers, through the creation and promotion of inspiring content. It’s this element that is seeing a massive rise in terms of budget and focus.

We’ve previously highlighted the importance of content marketing, and quite rightly, too. This is an area where spending is on the up because it’s an easy way for travel brands to connect, engage and grow an audience. According to a Skift report on the state of content marketing, “the aspirational appeal of such content, combined with its increased credibility, helps it succeed with travel customers.”

But it’s not enough to simply produce content. First travel operators have to define what content even is, and what kinds of content they’re going to use to spread their message or philosophy.

And once that has been done, and content has been created there are still plenty of challenges. But first…

What counts as content?

The answer to the above question is largely subjective. For many travel brands, the simple act of posting something on social media might be seen as content marketing. For others, it might be the production of a GIF, eBook or podcast to go alongside a new product release.

All of these possibilities have an element of truth about them. Sure, anything can be content, whether it’s 140 characters in a Tweet or a 10-minute promotional video. But to understand what content marketing is really driving at we have to think about its purpose. Only once the aim is clear can travel brands think closely on the message and the medium.

What is the point of content marketing?

Content marketing is not just about putting your stuff in people’s faces. It’s about become established, a leader, a respected voice in your field.

In many cases, it’s entirely separate from the direct-sales marketing we’re all familiar with. Instead of pushing a specific product with an in-your-face advert, content marketing aims to build an audience and grow an operator’s influence.

It’s not supposed to be marketing-y.

Instead, the fundamental principle goes something like this: If you, as a travel provider, produce content that entertains, engages and informs your target market, they will be more inclined to buy your products and trust your brand as a result.

We’re a lot more cynical than we used to be when shopping. Our relationship with advertising has changed. Travellers now appreciate honesty and authenticity. They want the truth, and enough information to make informed decisions.

The concept is simple and it’s proven to be effective. And there’s another reason that travel brands are investing so much in fresh content…

Perpetuating traffic: The by-product of great content

Great content is great for SEO – there’s no getting around that fact. On the one hand, travel operators can create extensive written content that will be shared and viewed by thousands of readers. This, in turn, will generate more sales through a higher amount of traffic to the website in question.

But more content also boosts traffic organically by bumping agencies up the search engine rankings. Because of this, a by-product of any content marketing efforts is usually in an increase in relevant traffic and a natural growth in sales.

And it’s not only written content that boosts your traffic. Search engines also take into account an operator’s popularity on social media platforms and the reach of their brand beyond a simple website. This means that having a strong presence as a content creator on sites such as Youtube is also highly beneficial.

From this, we can clearly see that content marketing is an easy way to perpetuate traffic and sales. This also goes some way to answering one of the questions posed above. Namely, what kind of content should travel operators be using as part of marketing campaigns?

Content marketing in the travel industry: How and where?

So the two main questions here are what types of content should travel operators be using to reach potential customers, and where should they be employing these tactics?

The How

‘Content’, as we have seen, comes in many different forms. But to be an effective content marketer in the travel industry you need to understand which of those forms pushes the buttons of prospective travellers. More often than not marketing in this industry is about aspiration and inspiration.


For that reason, content often needs to be visual and engaging. Sure, there’s room for thought-provoking writeups and detailed travel guides. But pictures still say a thousand words. Videos say even more.

So let’s focus on media content for the time being. It’s not only that pictures, videos and GIFs have the potential to highlight a product or destination better than words ever can. In an online world where we sift through huge amounts of information in seconds – whether it’s on timelines or scrolling through a website – media content offers immediacy. A quick fix, a powerful punch of inspiration.

Because they force an immediate reaction, snippets of visual media stand out on social media and general websites. It’s a medium that people can engage within seconds without complication.

If something can be engaged with quickly on social media platforms, it’s more likely to be shared and spread. As well as being increasingly good for SEO, this peer to peer sharing can be the foundation of the authenticity a travel brand is trying to develop. Even in the digital world, a share or recommendation is a pretty big compliment. It suggests that a travel operator is doing something right.

content marketing travel

Take Facebook, for example. The world’s most popular social media platform has seen a huge rise in the use of video content on its pages.

Twitter last year introduced its new GIF search feature, encouraging users to share media content to improve the quality of their tweets. And then you’ve got Youtube, the video behemoth that’s quietly become the second-largest search engine in the world, with countless hours of video content uploaded and watched every day by people all over the world.

Youtube also gives travel operators the ability to create channels, which fans can then subscribe to and watch regularly. That same video content can then be shared across social media platforms. Which leads us to an interesting question:

If we agree that visual media content is 1. the most effective at portraying aspiration and inspiration that travel lovers love and 2. growing rapidly in terms of engagement across the web….

Should every travel operator be a media organisation?

It’s difficult to get away from this as a conclusion. But it needn’t be an intimidating one for those working in the travel industry. As the traditional need for travel agents has evolved, customers are looking for more than great prices. They want information, insight and inspiration. If a travel operator can offer those things, the need for conventional marketing could disappear completely.

The Where

A few of the platforms we’ve already mentioned are prime for content marketing campaigns dedicated to travel. Facebook and Twitter, in particular, offer easy avenues to viral content if the media is engaging enough.

Instagram content marketing travel

Instagram is the perfect platform to build a loyal band of followers.

But other platforms, including Instagram and Youtube, are also proving popular arenas for content marketing – just with a slightly different edge. Although photos and videos can also go viral on these platforms, the focus is more on building a fanbase, a group or subscribers or followers that receive regular updates and believe in the message travel brands are portraying.

But of course, it’s not only on social media platforms that content marketing can boost travel brands.

You’ll struggle to find travel operators these days who don’t provide some kind of insight, information or inspiration to potential customers, free of charge. Most often this will be in the form of blog posts, travel guides and other shareable content.

The post you’re reading right now could be deemed a form of content marketing, for example. We’re not simply trying to sell you our services (indeed, we haven’t even mentioned them yet) – we’re addressing the issues of interest to our target market, establishing ourselves as visionaries in our chosen field and generally informing, entertaining and inspiring the next generation of travel startups.

Those same techniques can be found in blog posts, website content, email newsletters and more.

Things to think about

With the move toward content marketing, different challenges are now being faced by operators in the travel industry.

The biggest challenge is obvious: How do we make and measure great content? 

Although we’ve highlighted the popularity of images and video on the platforms above, that’s by no means the end of the line. What type of content depends very much on the audience and product in question.

Another huge challenge for travel brands is finding talented content creators, whether that’s writers, video editors or creative thinkers – they don’t just grow on trees, after all. Because travel businesses are primarily setup to give their customers memorable experiences, content creation is not usually an area of expertise.

Perhaps for that reason, we’ve seen an interesting trend develop in travel alongside the popularity of social media: partnering with influencers.

In many ways, these influencers provide a shortcut to exposure. The idea is simple: pay a well-known, influential figure to feature your product or service, and reap the rewards by reaching their audience directly.

Read more: The Power of Influencers in the Travel Industry

But working with influencers comes with an interesting set of challenges.How do you go about choosing who to work with? And what’s the best way to measure their effectiveness and ensure high-quality results?

What if you could create your own ‘influencers’ and measure their impact on your travel business in real time?

Where Travelshift Comes In…


You might be wondering how all of the above could possibly be related to Travelshift. As you may or may not know, we build travel marketplaces. We’re not a content marketing agency. We don’t specialise in creating original media, so what do we know about content marketing?

We lied about only building marketplaces. We also build communities. And we’ve pioneered a whole new type of content marketing off that back of it. We call it community-driven content, and it works like this:

Our proprietary marketplace software allows our clients to build travel platforms with a difference. Built into these platforms are all the tools you need to bring together a community of writers and bloggers. In the first application of our software, our community of Icelandic locals, bloggers and travellers helped (and still helps) drive a huge amount of traffic through our GuidetoIceland marketplace.

You can read more about our GuidetoIceland marketplace in the case study.

With our community-driven framework, the authenticity and insight of locals and genuine travellers do plenty of the content marketing for you.

Interested in finding out more? Get in touch today!

How the Travel Industry is Using Wearable Technology

We’ve touched on the potential of various types of technology in the travel industry before. Whether it’s virtual reality or instant messaging, the current wave of innovation could transform the travel industry for the better. But today we’re going to get a little more specific. Today we’re going to take a closer look at how wearable technology could impact travel, from both a customer and an operator’s perspective.

What is wearable technology?

The clue is in the name with wearables: The term covers any technology that you wear, whether that’s a heart-rate monitor around your wrist, a self-heating jacket or a rucksack with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.

As more and more devices become connected and technology continues the trend of growing smaller, ambitious manufacturers are able to incorporate advanced capabilities into everyday items. So how can travellers and travel industry operators benefit from the rise of wearable technology?

Selling more products

The first is something that will appeal to every travel operator: the chance to sell more products and generate extra revenue.

So how can more money be made with the help of wearable technology?

For starters, there’s virtual reality – which is something we’ve written about extensively in the past.

Many travel agents are now using virtual reality technology to give potential customers an immersive view of a destination, accommodation or excursion. Check out the video below which, although more of a marketing exercise from Lufthansa, is a good example of the kind of tactics travel operators might employ in the coming years.

When deployed in this way, virtual reality gear can give prospective travellers a vivid idea of what a seat on a plane, room in a hotel or even walk down a nature trail would be like. This can be the tipping point that pushes them towards making a purchase or booking.

On top of the direct benefits VR can have on influencing customer decisions, the fact that operators are even using the technology serves as a marketing stunt in itself. As a concept that’s on the edge of innovation at the moment, people tend to sit up and take notice whenever virtual reality is involved. That includes the press, as well as the general public.

There’s one final advantage to virtual reality advertising: it’s inherently personalised. Because all virtual reality experiences include an element of self-determination – you can choose where to look, and to an extent where to go and what actions to take – it’s the ultimate in direct marketing.

Eventually, VR experiences will be tailored to the individual, giving every traveller a specific insight into what they’re interested in seeing and doing abroad.

This combination of benefits makes diving into the world of Virtual Reality a no-brainer for travel operators. As the technology becomes more refined, it will quickly become clear that VR is the marketing tool of the future. Nothing can match it for giving someone a sense of what a trip, hotel or experience would be like. While it’s also a great way to gain publicity for new offerings.

Improving the traveller experience

Sure, virtual reality gear can help sell holidays and boost the marketing of travel brands. But how can wearables impact travellers once a trip has started?

Easy boarding

You’ve probably seen the slow emergence of smartwatches in recent years, in particular the Apple Watch. But did you know that both easyJet and British Airways are among the airlines to have created apps for the Apple Watch? These enable passengers to store boarding passes and receive real-time updates – directly on their wrist.

And smart watches can go beyond just storing boarding passes. A new wrist gadget from timepiece experts Mont Blanc does a whole lot more. Thanks to several hands-free functions, boarding pass barcodes can be scanned directly from the screen; exploring a new town can be done with turn-by-turn navigation, and a collaboration with Uber offers quick access to cars. Users can also take advantage of a preloaded Foursquare City Guide app, which helps travellers find the best restaurants and experiences in any city and locates you immediately. Impressive.

Perhaps even more impressive is that the latest smart watches are essentially just a shrunken smartphone. They can do more than you might think. The Mont Blanc Summit watch includes a voice-activated translator, which can tell its user things like how to order coffee in Italian or how to buy train tickets in Japan. It also provides direct translations from several languages direct to the watch’s display.

So that’s more good news: There’s no longer an excuse to be lost for words in the local tongue.

Smarter cruises

There are other wearables out there dedicated to improving the customer experience. For example at CES 2017 in January, cruise company Carnival launched a smart wearable for its customers. Dubbed ‘Ocean Medallion’, the device will do a number of things, from opening cabin doors for guests to facilitating transactions for drinks, food and merchandise.

Carnival suggested that the Ocean Medallion will also be connected to an app. Through the app cruise-goers can personalise their vacation and travel preferences. And just like other wearable makers, Carnival will have accessories for sale to allow its guests to customise their Medallion, allowing you to wear it on your wrist or around your neck. Is this fashion meets travel technology?

On the subject of wearables entering the cruise sphere, Adam Coulter, UK managing editor of CruiseCritic, said:

“The use of wearable technology solutions within the cruise industry is growing, and this marks a significant development in supporting personalisation at sea. Though the smaller cruise ships have been renowned for offering a tailored, and personalised experience to guests, it’s generally been a little more challenging for larger ships to offer this level of personalisation. However, wearable technology solutions, which enable cruise lines to obtain data about their passengers’ personal preferences, such as dietary restrictions, and restaurant preferences, mean that cruise lines should be able to deliver a holiday to suit individual travel styles.”

Wearable tech could bring new safety and security to travel

It’s not just in terms of the customer experience that wearables are changing things in the world of travel. Small devices can also make a big impact in terms of safety and security. Check this out:

At CES 2016, skincare giant L’Oreal launched a revolutionary new wearable, My UV Patch, a stretchable skin sensor designed to monitor UV exposure and educate users about sun protection. It’s being marketed as the modern traveller’s best friend. Although clearly you don’t have to be on holiday to benefit from this kind of wearable.

“Connected technologies have the potential to completely disrupt how we monitor the skin’s exposure to various external factors, including UV,” said Guive Balooch, Global Vice President of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator.

“Previous technologies could only tell users the amount of potential sun exposure they were receiving per hour while wearing a rigid, non-stretchable device. The key was to design a sensor that was thin, comfortable and virtually weightless so people would actually want to wear it. We’re excited to be the first beauty company entering the stretchable electronics field and to explore the many potential applications for this technology within our industry and beyond.”


So that’s one example of wearables improving traveller safety covered. What about security? Okay, so we’ll be the first to admit this is not strictly a wearable, but it’s certainly a step in taking luggage in a smarter direction. This is Bluesmart, an innovative UK luggage company developing smart suitcases for the world’s tech-savvy travellers.

They’ve developed a suitcase packed with technology that solves many of the problems faced by travellers. Built-in GPS means you’re never permanently separated from your bag; an electronic weighing scale tells you exactly how much more you can pack in; smart locks kick in when you’re a certain distance away; the case has a USB socket to charge your other devices. And all of this can be interacted with via smartphone app. Wonderful.


The Bluesmart app

These are just a few examples of how wearables are beginning to emerge on the travel industry scene. As well as helping operators market themselves, sell more bookings and products and keep travellers safer, they are improving the customer experience and generally making everything run more smoothly.

Here’s to many more innovative wearable devices in the future of travel.