For travel companies, enough is not enough anymore. Or, rather, what was enough isn’t sufficient today.

As travel and leisure companies increasingly shift to becoming broader lifestyle brands, the consumer is expecting ever greater levels of service and personalization from this sector, much of it driven by the promise offered by digital technology and social connectedness.

That said, becoming a lifestyle brand, whether focused on luxury excursions or budget-conscious business travel, has become the growing trend used to innovate and expand the product offering. As noted in the 2015 Skift report on travel megatrends, many companies are mixing up offerings with “increased emphasis on design, wholesome food offerings, and local cultural integrations.” In some cases, the report notes, this can lead to the launch of a completely new category of products.

However, while travel companies may be increasingly adept at expanding their offerings, they have had a “relatively slow reaction…to the Internet and social media channels,” as reported in the ITB World Travel Trends Report 2014/2015, published in December 2014. As noted in that report: “Some travel companies are good, some are not. Some focus purely on generating bookings and do not have a full social business model that, in addition, can create customer loyalty and long-term brand equity.”

And that is the crux of the issue. No matter how good the brand experience may be, it will never reach full potential until it is supported by a true social business model that fully maximizes the potential of today’s digital tools.

It used to be that consumers would compare brands within a category to define best practices. No more. Today’s consumers are becoming savvier each day with rich multimedia experiences delivered cross-device, cross platform and in a personalized manner. The key is to engage travelers in a meaningful way while exposing them to new products and services.

We still tend to think of the major brand players when considering the travel space, but there is certainly evidence of emerging companies – like Airbnb –delivering innovative experiences and disrupting the sector while doing so. With consumer expectations at an all-time high, 2015 may be the year that the established travel sector truly embraces digital opportunity across all components of business.

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