tour operations AI

You might know why someone should visit your town, but does the world? If not, you have a unique opportunity to put your destination on the map (metaphorically) and showcase it to people looking for a change of scenery. 

Getting your destination on the map is easier said than done. Selling a destination is like selling a story, and it’s up to you to paint that picture for your potential guests. 

From highlighting quaint weekend getaways and day trips to luxurious romantic vacations, this guide will help you plan a destination tourism marketing plan for your unique corner of the globe.

Questions to Ask About Destination Tourism

Research before action! Having your informational ducks in a row will streamline your destination tourism marketing strategy process. Answering these questions is critical before you spend your time or budget making marketing decisions. 

Who Do You Want to Reach?

What types of people are the perfect fit for your destination? These are the people you should be reaching out to. This can be based on their group type (families, couples, companies, etc.), budget (affordable trips vs. ultimate luxury), interests (adventure vs. relaxation) and so much more. 

Luxury resort cities are prominent honeymoon destinations. Cities with unique nightlife may see a lot of bachelorette groups. Affordable nature areas with diverse activities could be magnets for families or friend getaways. Understanding the most common demographics of your visitors will impact your messaging, budget allocation, and marketing efforts. 

For example, Scottsdale is a top bachelorette party destination, with thousands of bachelorette groups traveling to the small western town each year. As each bachelorette party group spends, on average, more than $10,800 per trip, that would be a substantial demographic to pay attention to as you plan your destination marketing strategy. Additionally, the Ocoee River in Southeast Tennessee, a popular whitewater rafting destination, is incredibly popular for families and friend groups looking for a fin trip not too far from Atlanta. 

What Do You Offer That No One Else Does?

Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Yosemite has Half Dome. McCarthy Alaska has Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. What does your destination have?

Promoting your unique value as a destination will perk ears and catch eyes. Every destination has something that sets the area apart from others – so what is yours?

You can find your unique value in history, attractions, affordability, nature, or local culture. No matter where your value lies, leaning into the distinct nature of your destination will have people saying, “I NEED to go there and experience that.”

How Far Do They Need to Travel, and How Do They Reach Your Destination? 

Your visitors are coming from somewhere – is it a short drive? A plane ride? Do they need a passport and a Visa? Understanding the effort your potential guests need to put into visiting your destination will impact your marketing plan timelines and marketing funnel. If your guests only have to put in an average of a few hours into trip planning, the decision-making process will be much shorter than destinations that require months of planning. 

Where Will You Find Your Audience?

You know the age-old marketing tip – show up where your audience is!

Younger travelers are on TikTok, family-oriented travelers often research itineraries on Pinterest, and older travelers or larger groups definitely often work with travel agents. Understanding where your audience is researching a trip will help you prioritize your marketing efforts and optimize your budget spending.

Tips for Destination Marketing

Tips to Build a Destination Tourism Marketing Plan 

Website/SEO

Tip #1: Keep Up an Active, Informational Blog Page

A thoughtful, active blog page is the most straightforward way to expand your online presence and cover important topics your potential guests may be searching for. Creating quality itineraries, guides, and informational pieces will be great resources for your guests during the research stage and establish you as a thought leader traveling to this destination. It also helps your website show up for more search terms. 

Tip #2: Build Leads Through Gated Online Content

Save your best content for people willing to share their contact info in exchange for an incentive! This could be an in-depth itinerary, a ‘top 5 things to do’ guide, or a resource highlighting exclusive discounts to local partners. You’ll be able to grow your lead base and build an email list for outreach to potential visitors.

Destination Tourism Marketing Tips

Social Media

Tip #1: Leverage Social Influencer Accounts. 

If your accounts aren’t getting the traction you want, you can boost audience interest with local or travel influencers. While this can be a significant investment, strategically choosing and working with micro-influencers can get you more reach with less money. 

Tip #2: Invest in In-Depth Guide Reels

One of the best ways for your destination to catch eyes is a well-made guide Instagram reel or TikTok to the favorite parts of your area. It does not need to be a huge video investment – these videos can be shot on a phone and potentially gain consistent interest and traction for years after posting.

Tip #3: Leverage User Generated Content

Your visitors are having a blast at your destination – make sure you leverage their experiences! If you are short on content, a quick social search will connect you to thousands of great pictures and videos you can share (if you get permission from the original poster).

Print and Out Of Home Marketing

Tip #1: Include QR Codes and Trackable Info on your Print Media

Curious if a print ad is successful? Try including a QR code. This allows you to track website visitors who were engaged by your ads. Another option is to share a discount or incentive code to include at purchase to track how many people engaged with your ad. 

Tip #2: Leverage Your Understanding of High and Low Season to Time Your Print Investments

The best time to run print ads is when your market is in the research and planning phase of their trip prep. Understanding the high, low, and booking season will help you schedule your ads to show up at just the right time. For example, a day trip could be right before the high season, but an international bike tour would be several months before. 

Tip #3: Strategically Use Printed Visitor Guides 

While some consider leaving brochures in rest stops or gas stations a thing of the past, your warm leads can keep mailed or digital brochures around for several months or more. A good way to still leverage your brochures is to mail them to your vetted lead/customer list or put in high traffic places vetted for your destination’s ideal customer types.

PR

Tip #1: Calibrate Your PR Goals to Your Audience

Chasing those shiny, big-name publications can seem attractive, but it can also use a substantial amount of your budget and energy. Many smaller, region-specific publications can be more relevant to your specific traveler and can seamlessly include your destination as a travel must-see. For example, Worldly Adventurer has an avid readership with very specific trip interests that pay off for related travel companies and destinations.

Tip #2: Have a Crisis Management Plan

Understanding local current events and how they can impact your destination tourism marketing plan is crucial. Keeping your finger on the pulse of your destination and surrounding areas can help you avoid embarrassing mistakes, like posting about planning a “super spread” …during the 2020 global pandemic. Know what communications are needed and have a plan for getting them out fast, in the event of a crisis at your destination. The time to make up an effective crisis communications plan is not in the middle of a crisis!

Tip #3: Lean into Travel Awards

A shiny “Best Place to Visit” badge can be very helpful in establishing your destination as a must-visit. Winning an award sounds daunting, but often, it’s just letting publications that share awards know that you are a great choice in thoughtful applications and powerful pitches. Don’t be shy, include all the awards you have gotten over the years like TripAdvisor Certificates of Excellence, World Travel Awards, USA Today Reader’s Choice Awards, Best Campgrounds, or whatever accolade is relevant to your destination, small and large. 

Paid Media

Tip #1: Build Your Initial Engagement Ads with “Eye Candy” Overviews

There’s a good chance that many people haven’t heard of or aren’t actively considering your destination as a potential vacation option yet. Dazzle them with your area’s best views, activities, and attractions! This highly engaging content will grab eyes and have some potential visitors ready to learn more about your vacation or getaway opportunities. Building this type of initial engagement ad is the first step for social ads on your marketing road map.

Tip #2: Build Your Retargeting Ads with Actionable Content

Once people are actively searching and looking into your destination, your ads should reflect that intent! You can start sharing content with more actionable information like itinerary videos, information on how to reach your destination, planning tips, and more. These retargeting ads should help your viewer envision their vacation, from planning the trip to reaching the destination.  

Tip #3: Consider Creating Distinct Campaigns for Each Type of Traveler

Different types of travelers will react to different types of content. Segmenting your ad content will help you reach all kinds of travelers with personalized content. For example, they could target families with pictures of children having fun or older travelers with photos that show peaceful comfort or accessible adventure. Creating these different campaigns will increase the likelihood that each type of traveler will see content and information that speaks to them. 

Schedule a Consultation

Creating a productive destination tourism marketing plan takes time, energy, and substantial know-how. Our team at Liquid Spark has several years of collective experience creating powerful and thoughtful destination marketing roadmaps and have helped unique areas like the Ocoee River Corridor gain more traction with nature lovers and adventurers. If you need help getting your destination on the traveler’s map, reach out to our team. We can help you share the best of your destination with potential travelers.

Destination Tourism Marketing

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