The tourism and travel sector has been steadily gaining ground in digital, as online bookings have earned the top spot for securing a holiday. As researching and purchasing trips is increasingly done online and on the move, shifting more of your advertising budgets towards online campaigns will offer you a major competitive advantage. Below are nine best practice tips we’d like to share with brand managers on how to get the most out of online destination marketing.
1. The destination is the product
Set out with the destination in mind, the context and its characteristics, then map out the perception gap between the current and the desired one. Ask yourself questions such as: what are the attractions and the experiences tourists will enjoy? How can these be promoted as unique and enticing? The destination is the product, therefore all promotional activities should be centred around its features.
2. Getting the timing right
The outcome of your travel campaign also depends on the timing of its launch. It might sound like we’re stating the obvious, but very often this aspect is overlooked and campaigns fail to deliver sales just because they are marketed too late. For example, if you’re looking to increase tourist flows around Christmas, advertise your destination in September or early October and complete with a short reinforcing campaign in November.
3. Know your travellers
Knowing your destination’s customer and the best ways you can reach them online are key factors in building your strategy. Once you have created your traveller segments, clarify what drives them to your destination or to competing destinations. By understanding their requirements and motivations, you will be able to target them specifically and present each tourist segment with the travel proposition most appealing to them. Digital technologies have driven radical behavioural changes, revamped the face of the travel sector and the dynamic between customers and destination brand. Find out how your audience uses various devices and where they spend their time online, and include these insights into your strategic planning.
4. Jazz up your website
Your website will be the main information hub. Potential and returning customers will arrive on your homepage to find out more about the destination or compare it to other options. Creating a great impression online will reflect in the initial perception of the places they wish visit or experiences they will have. With mobile and tablet usage the preferred devices for travel research, optimising your website for smaller screens is imperative. Your website should showcase the destination with attractive images, engaging stories and easy navigation. Offer your online visitors clear sign-up options and persuade them with compelling calls-to-action. Create a memorable, immersive experience by combining videos and music with the static visual component. Top tip: One of our favourite tourism websites is Tourism Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way; its full screen, looping header and breath-taking panoramic images are charged with the wow factor.
5. Enhance the experience with mobile apps
The tourism sector is a leader of mobile app development. Travellers prefer the comfort of using one app to help them plan and book their trip as well as guide them through the places they visit. Trips are planned with shorter notice and tourists arrive less prepared. Apps are a great aid in discovering the destination and constitute the top method of researching in-destination: things to do, places to see, restaurants or directions. The all-in-one feature of mobile apps is a fantastic opportunity to improve visitors experience and generate positive brand attitude with the ease a few taps.
6. The giveaway
An irresistible giveaway coupled with an engaging competition has become the norm for a good reason: it’s a great way to attract audiences for a chance to try out a new destination for free, and it will offer you a leading advantage over competing brands. Partnering up with an accommodation or transport providers will further increase the destination appeal, especially if the co-brand is favourably perceived by your customers.
7. Where to channel your message
There is a whole range of media that can accommodate various marketing objectives, but choosing the right ones will help you achieve the campaign goals you’ve set. Powerful digital marketing tools such as email, social media, search and display, retargeting or online PR can help spread the word about the destination and position it as desirable to travellers. Social media has given the power to the travellers: research and booking, reviews, praises and complaints, brand conversations are all channelled online. Facebook, Twitter, YouYube, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn are the most popular advertising platforms for the tourism and travel industry, for both leisure and corporate customers. These networks are also a great place to engage your prospects in conversation and content sharing. Use email to excite their curiosity: catchy subject lines, attractive creative and locally adapted language and messaging. Native advertising in the form of advertorial blogposts is another great way of spreading the word about your destination. Unlike other promotional activities with a temporary effect, these will provide your destination with a long-term presence on a specialised blog. Regardless of the channels you choose for your online destination marketing mix, it’s crucial to keep the creative message consistent across all touch-points for integrated brand messaging.
8. The importance of good creative
The quality and attractiveness of your creative design will impact the successful outcome of your campaign. Use powerful visuals and brief, clear messaging to intrigue and attract customers to find out more about the destination and the offer. For consistency purposes, take visitors to customised landing page and encourage them to discover further. Top tip: Our experience has shown that designing emails using large, stunning images and concise messaging yields better click-through rates than text-heavy ones, as users find them more stimulating and enticing.
9. Complement online with offline
Your digital and offline marketing efforts will achieve maximum impact when the message they convey is consistent. Engage your customers cross-media by encouraging them through print advertising and other supporting media to discover the destination online or in person.
Bonus tip: Think mobile!
Your reach on mobile will have a definitive impact on your campaign performance: having an optimised website and a brilliantly designed app are only part of the mobile strategy. Adapt your whole campaign to include this aspect: optimise your social media and display ads, create mobile-friendly emails and even retarget your customers across devices. Offer them a great experience wherever they browse or see your message displayed, and they will repay you with greater brand favourability and more visits to your destination.
- Decide on the best timeline for your campaign
- Know your customers
- Optimise your website for mobile
- Select the channels that can help you reach your KPIs
- Create attractive assets
- Integrate your online and offline marketing
Digital Dialog specialise in creating successful online destination marketing campaigns.
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