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Bali Hai Cruises Captures Millennial Travelers with Google Ads

Bali Hai Cruises, a marine tourism operator based out of Bali, found that they could reach a wide, new audience with targeted online ads.

Connecting with customers from abroad

Bali Hai Cruises was founded in 1990, right when the island opened up to mass tourism from all around the world. For nearly two decades, the company has provided unique marine adventures for families and independent tourists, with a deep commitment to environmentally friendly operations. Everyday, the Nemo, one of their vessels, carries recyclable waste from Bali to be sold and reused.

Bali’s booming tourism industry has provided no shortage of demand for Bali Hai’s services, and now the team is nearly 500 members strong. Yet the business landscape has changed drastically since its inception: Bali Hai now faces stiff competition, and has to keep up with a client base that is younger and more tech-savvy. These clients come mainly from the Asian continent and are less reliant on travel agencies, which have long been Bali Hai’s key marketing channel. By 2012, it became clear to Andrew Sutherland, General Manager, that he needed to change tactics and reach his potential customers where they spent the most time: online.

Without a digital expert on its team, Bali Hai used third-party resources to go digital. It built a website, online reservation engine, and an online payment system. The team dove into SEO, trying to boost Bali Hai’s website onto the first page of search results and increase site traffic.

Shifting up a gear and moving into digital advertising

Two years later, Bali Hai were still not meeting their business goals. The team was frustrated by their inability to break through to the top of search results, and by the low volume of online bookings. Anxious for a solution, Andrew decided to widen his digital toolkit. The Bali Hai team started using Google Ads to attract more customers. This platform allowed Bali Hai to show its ads at the precise moment when potential customers were searching for them.

Google Ads works by identifying and targeting keywords; terms that are used when someone searches online. By targeting certain keywords, a business’ ad will appear when someone searches using those terms. Bali Hai’s first Google Ads campaign was very basic and targeted general keywords related to tourism services. In one month, online bookings increased by ~150%. Excited by these fast results, the team sought to find out how they could do even better.

To its surprise, the campaign’s Analytics report indicated that the impressive jump in sales masked an even larger underlying opportunity -- many people who also clicked on their ads did not make a booking. In fact, choosing general keywords had caused some of Bali Hai’s ads to be less related to its services. Some people who clicked on these ads found that the results did not match their needs, and left the site. Bali Hai was missing out on a lot of interested customers due to poor targeting. With this learning, the team set out to create a laser-focused digital campaign.

Better targeting helped direct the right customers to Bali Hai’s website

Vanessa, Bali Hai’s marketing manager, reorganized its Google Ads account based on insights provided by Google Ads and Analytics. A key change was creating new ads for specific customer interests. For example, customers searching for “cruises in Bali” would be brought to ads specifically offering Bali Hai’s cruise services, instead of its home page. The reaction was immediate: In just one month, site bounce rates reduced from 70% to 56%, this meant that people who came to Bali Hai’s site found it useful, and spent more time there. Phone calls to the business also jumped by 29%.

Within a year, average online bookings increased by another 108%. Today, targeted ads have reduced site bounce rate to only 10%. These results have motivated the team to expand Bali Hai’s website with multiple language settings, and improve its mobile site. Indeed, this is becoming increasingly important as 81% of Indonesians are more likely to go online from their mobile phones than any other device. The Bali Hai team is very excited to see how this will boost traffic and sales in the future.

“At this stage in our growth, we urgently needed to revisit our digital marketing and redesign our website using the latest tools from Google Ads to keep up with market innovations.”

Andrew Sutherland - General Manager, Bali Hai Cruises

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