At its height tourism is one of the biggest and most lucrative industries across the world. It is also highly competitive and mercurial depending on the tourism season (as in weather) as well as other larger phenomena (such as pandemics). The mercurial aspect of tourism is beyond any business owner’s control other than trying to adapt and prepare as best as possible for the worst.
The competitive nature of tourism is something you can work through by using smart and engaging marketing.
Marketing is how the world knows your brand exists, what makes your business unique, and gets your metaphorical foot in peoples’ doors so you can convince them to be customers. Tourism is a unique industry in that you are not only selling hotel rooms, tours, or a stretch of beach to relax on, you are selling an experience. Marketing for your tourism-related business- whether that is a bed-and-breakfast, a scenic boat ride, or a private tour of historical monuments- means marketing the idea that only you can provide the experience a customer is possibly looking for.
All that said, marketing can be an imposing task especially if you have little to no experience or knowledge in it. Fortunately there are tips and tools we can suggest you use. In addition, if you are still struggling to figure out what to do and how to best do it, it never hurts to ask for help.
Make a Plan
This might seem simple and obvious but too often- not just in tourism or marketing- business owners set off on projects without planning things out. Without considering whether what they will spend time, resources, and money on will have actual tangible benefits beyond nebulous and ambiguous returns. Thus having a plan and creating a step-by-step strategy is vital.
- It helps you keep track of what you will be doing, when you should be doing it, and what returns you should be watching for.
- Having a laid out plan will in addition help you make adjustments as circumstances change.
Know Your Customers
There’s an old if cynical saying: “You can fool most of the people some of the time. You can fool some of the people most of the time. But can’t fool all the people all the time.”
While you are not trying to fool anyone- nor should you as that will always come back to bite you- it does raise an excellent point for marketing. Know your primary customers so that you can focus your marketing on reaching those customers and thus maximizing the time and resources you spend on marketing.
- Learn who are the customers most likely to enjoy and spend money on the service you offer.
- Research their demographic information.
- Find out what motivates them to acquire your kind of service and their preferred method of booking that service.
- Think about: What drives your ideal customer to travel? What restricts them in their travel options? Where do they learn about their target destinations? Where and how do they prefer to book? What inconveniences annoy and frustrate them.
Brainstorm and figure out possible answers to these questions so you can design your marketing plan to capitalize on those answers. Try to tailor the journey of learning about, booking, and experiencing your service as much as possible to your potential customers. In this way you don’t spread yourself and your resources too thin thus minimizing marketing expenditures.
Take Care of Your Website
The adage of ‘take care of your tools and they’ll take care of you’ still applies when the tools are digital. Your website will be one of the first and most convenient ways by which potential customers will learn about you and your business. It will be their first glimpse. Not only of the services you offer but of the effort you will put in on their behalf.
- Make sure your website is optimized for easy navigation so viewers can have no trouble finding both the information they are looking for and booking your services. Few things turn away customers as quickly as a barebones website that barely works even if it tells them what they need to know.
- Keep your website constantly updated with the latest news that might affect their experience with your business- such as weather or travel restrictions.
- Regularly add new content for multiple reasons we will get into later in this article.
- Make sure all the pages of your website work, do not lead to deadends, or do not contain any broken links.
Social Media is the other convenient method by which most people will try to learn about you and your business.
- The two platforms most suited for the tourism industry are Facebook and Instagram.
- Facebook is probably the most frequented social media platform on the planet and probably the most crowded with your competition. You can still carve out a place for your brand by using marketing and ads that target your ideal customer base. Use Facebook to create a place where customers both old and potential can easily interact with you and where you can answer their concerns. People are more likely to trust a brand that listens to them and responds to questions with information.
- As a platform Instagram sees about one billion users every month. In addition to the sheer number of users Instagram is also a primarily visual platform. Which synchronizes incredibly well with tourism. Use images that capture both the visuals of a destination but also potential experiences customers can have with your service: people having fun on a boat ride, people getting amazingly but still safely close with local wildlife, exquisite looking food, to name a few examples.
When we say ‘go mobile’ we mean optimize your online platforms- both your website and your online booking- to work on mobile devices.
- Think with Google points out that 48 percent of US smartphone users are perfectly fine using their devices to research, plan, and book their travels. Similar numbers have been seen in the UK and France.
This means it is vital that you design your website in such a way that users can go from discovery to booking as conveniently as possible on their phones.
- Conversely, Think with Google also discovered that 33 percent of users tend to have negative opinions of brands with websites that are not mobile device optimized. That is a potentially 1 in 3 loss of possible customers.
Having good content is also important to tourism marketing. Whether it is content on your website, social media, landing pages or other marketing ads you need to make sure the content is good. Granted that can be easier said than done.
What constitutes ‘good’ content?
- Generally it is content that engages readers by being informative, educating, emotionally evocative.
- Your content should contain answers to what your ideal customers are typing into search bars.
- Make sure your content is relevant to your brand, to your destination, and to the experience you offer.
Do not underestimate the effectiveness of Search Engine Optimization- SEO. It can mean the difference between all your marketing being effective or being a money sink.
- SEO is exactly what it sounds. It is optimizing your website, social media presence, ads, and content to appear as high as possible in search engine results. This means catering to the unseen algorithms of search engines though primarily Google.
- Approximately 90 percent of people only click on results that appear on the first page.
- That percentage becomes higher the closer you get to the number one unpaid position on that first page.
But how do you make your content search engine optimized? What does that entail? Fortunately it means doing much of what we already talked about on this page. Everything we already advised above Google looks favorably on and can help you with your SEO placings.
In addition there are other things you will want to do to improve your SEO ranking.
- Regular SEO audits to see what pages and keywords best improve your rankings.
- Avoid things that penalize your placement like repeating content, keyword stuffing, broken pages and links, and links to suspicious websites.
SEO is itself a massive sub-field of modern digital marketing that wouldn’t hurt you to look more into.
The tourism industry is rarely if ever a singular business for most destinations. The majority of the time your business is one part of a larger experience travellers enjoy from a network of businesses and providers. Only some of these other businesses would actually be your competition so be encouraged to partner with the ones who are not.
- Work with agencies and local businesses that provide things beyond your scope.
- Put links to them on your websites and see getting links to you posted on theirs.
- Create a community of services and businesses that help each other via advertisement.
Focus on Local
Early in the article we mentioned you will likely have to be adaptive in how you market. This is especially the case with the still-shifting landscape caused by the pandemic. A major way tourism businesses have adapted is shifting their marketing focus from international customers to local ones. People from the local area or neighbouring countries who don’t want to or can’t afford to undergo long distance travel and all the risks that entails.
Let this shift color your marketing.
- Make sure your content speaks more to local customers in words, needs addressed, and concerns they might have.
- Find out what potential customers in the local area or nearby countries are looking for and see if you can speak to that.
We hope these tips and suggestions have helped you in shaping the marketing strategies for your tourism business.