Whatever your tourism business is – whether a restaurant, attraction, hotel, or museum – you need to find ways to reach more consumers visiting your destination. People planning to visit a destination often turn to digital resources like search engines, travel websites, online directories, and social media to get ideas for what to, where to eat, and places to stay. So it’s in your best interest to figure out ways to get in front of your ideal customers where they frequent. Here, we cover 10 ways to reach tourists online that are planning to visit your destination. 

1. Improve Your Website User Experience

Your website is your most critical marketing asset when it comes to reaching more of your ideal customers. Websites allow consumers to learn about your experience and how to proceed with a booking. Even when they discover your brand from some other sources, such as a travel magazine, brochure, or visit to a local visitor’s center, they will often turn to your website to get more details and to make a reservation.

Make it easy to find key information by having simple and easy to understand navigation. Develop excitement for your experience by including stunning images and videos and vivid descriptions. It is also critical to develop trust by including social proofs such as customer testimonials and reviews. And don’t forget to ensure your website does well on mobile devices as the majority of travelers use their phones when searching (and booking) once they in your local destination. Most importantly, make it easy to make an online booking either directly on your website or with a third party booking tool. 

For more info on optimizing your website, check out this article and video:

7 Ways to Improve Your Travel or Tourism Website to Get More Bookings

2. Optimize Your Website Content for SEO

With over 80% of consumers turning to search engines to make online purchases, search is your most important online channel. To complete in search, you need to ensure that your website content is optimized to ensure that your website can be found easily by people browsing online. You also need to develop your online presence beyond just your website so that your brand can be discovered on third party websites that rank for important tourism keywords like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, etc. 

SEO or search engine optimization is the name used to describe various techniques to help your website rank higher in search engines. There are a lot of factors that affect SEO, but those factors are often grouped into 2 broad categories: 

  • On-page SEO: Ensuring your website code is structured in a way that its content can be easily indexed and that your website content is unique, relevant, and valuable to users.
  • Off-page SEO: Building up your online presence and establishing links to your website from trusted websites and industry-relevant sources. 

Want to learn more about how to optimize your website for SEO? Check out this recording from a recent “Accelerate Tourism Marketing Meetup”: How to Grow Your Bookings with SEO

3. Manage Your Online Reviews

When it comes to travel marketing, you’re selling an experience, rather than a physical product. Most of the time (if not every time), you’ll be promoting your content to people who live all over the world, most of which have never heard about you before. In these cases, many people will consult online reviews. In fact, a recent study indicates that 87% of consumers use online reviews to make decisions about which local businesses to frequent. This is the reason why it’s important to take full advantage of the power of reviews.

The best places to collect reviews are on platforms like Google, Facebook, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. Consumers tend to trust these sources and reviews from these platforms show up prominently in search engine results as well. Plus, you can leverage this “social proof” on your own website by adding graphics that show your average review ratings. You can also add text from selected customer reviews on your tour pages to help your website visitors get a first-hand perspective of what people think about your experience. 

Need some tips on how and where to get more online reviews? Check out this article: How to Grow Your Travel Business with Online Reviews

4. Create Amazing Videos

Did you know that it is projected that people will spend an average of 100 minutes a day watching videos in 2021? It’s no wonder then that 92% of marketers say that video marketing is an important part of their marketing strategy. Don’t get left behind and start using videos!

Videos convey a lot of information in a small amount of time, so it’s a great medium to tell the story of your experience to show potential visitors exactly what you do and who you are. Create a one-of-a-kind series of videos that contain beautiful scenery, fun facts about the area, tips for getting around, as well as locals-only knowledge. When finished, share your videos on social media and on your website and use them in your digital ads. 

 Looking for more tips and ideas for how to incorporate video into your marketing? Check out this article and video: Video Marketing: A Beginners Guide

5. Influencer Marketing

Making connections with online influencers is becoming more and more popular in the tourism industry these days. It only makes sense though – influencers already have an established following with a highly engaged audience. It’s like asking a celebrity to represent your business and brand, except they’re from Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, and other forms of social media, rather than Hollywood. And because influencers have thousands of followers who happily watch their content, you just have to find one who caters to your industry and you’ll have yourself a following in no time.  

Want a deeper dive into “influencer marketing”? Check out this article: A Destination and Tourism Business’s Guide to Working with Digital Influencers

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6. Social Media

Technology has drastically changed the way we travel and select our vacations, and social media has played a large part in our advancement. Consumers use social media to discover new destinations, consume content such as videos and consumer reviews, and consult with their network to make choices. It only makes sense to have a professional and engaging presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn.

Social media provides a platform where you can create content that will connect to your ideal customers, stand out from the competition, and tell your story. While you can (and should) do some of this on your website, social media offers the unique opportunity to have your content greatly amplified as users engage with your content and share it with their network. Furthermore, social media can also give you the ability to provide great customer service when you establish your audience. 

Here are some great resources for how to succeed on social media from the mouths of tour operators and other tourism marketing experts:

Managing Social Media with No Time and Zero Budget

 Leverage Social Media Now to Build Business for the Future

7. Search Ads

Formerly known as Google Adwords, Google Ads refers to their paid Google advertising, which helps businesses to sell more tours and get more guests. This service allows you to directly put your business right at the top of Google’s search results page. Such tools give businesses the possibility to have their ads attract only users who are most interested in what you have to offer. The biggest advantage that Google Ads provides is that your ad shows right when a potential customer performs the search.  

New to the topic of search ads? Check out this article and video: Google Search Ads: A Quick-Start Guide to Drive Bookings

8. Retargeting Ads

If you’re not familiar with the term retargeting, it is is an advertising strategy where ads are targeted to the group of people who have already shown interest in your brand through some sort of trackable interaction. Retargeting has quickly become a key marketing strategy because it works – in fact, research shows that engagement with retargeting is 400% higher than other ads, and website conversion rates from retargeting ad visits are 147% higher!

Retargeting audiences can be built using trackable interactions such as a website visit, watching a video on YouTube, or engaging with a post on Facebook. As noted by the stats above, these audiences have a much higher potential to make a booking because they are already aware of your brand and have engaged with your content. Retargeting ads offer the ability to tailor your messaging based on those interactions, enabling you to highlight specific features of interest and make specific offers. This will build the momentum you need to encourage your visitors to take action. 

Not sure how to get started with retargeting ads? Check out this article: Getting Down and Dirty with Social Media Ads (includes a segment on how to effectively run retargeting Ads on Facebook)

9. Partner with DMO’s and TPA’s

Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO) and Travel Promotion Agencies (TPA) play an important role in the tourism industry. This is because DMOS’s and TPA’s represent the destination and community being promoted in an attempt to increase the interest of travelers in their region. As a result, DMO’s and TPA’s serve as the bridge to connect visitors to their destination, which encourages a visit and providing crucial information for visitors. 

For this reason, it makes sense for tourism businesses to partner with their local DMO or TPA. Many of those organizations offer “free marketing” opportunities through community event calendars and also offer paid advertising opportunities through online listings and digital ads as well as printed media and local PR. Most DMOs and TPAs are funded in part by local or state programs to promote local business, so your marketing investments may go reach a broader audience than your own marketing efforts. It’s like having someone who wants your business to succeed as much as you do. 

Want to learn more about how to best work with local DMOs and TPAs? Head over to this article, which includes a video interview with two local DMOs and an experienced tourism marketing company: Digital Referrals: How to Leverage Local Destination Marketing Organizations and Tourism Promotion Agencies to Get More Bookings

10. Distribute Your Experience on OTAs

Online Travel Agencies (OTA), such as TripAdvisor and Expedia, can serve to help you connect with more travelers who are planning a trip to your destination. This may seem counterproductive, as most of these sites charge a commission or some sort of fee, but if you ignore the OTA’s, you are missing a key channel for bookings. For example, over 50% of travelers use an OTA to make a hotel booking vs. booking direct. 

Making a partnership with destination-specific OTAs can help you take your experience right to the audience. And while most OTAs require a commission to promote your experience, this also works in your favor because you only pay them if their services result in a booking. With such an effective, yet budget-friendly business model, OTAs are a great partner to have in your business.

Want more perspective on OTA’s? Check this resource:  Working with Online Travel Agencies to Grow Your Tourism Business

Wrap Up & Next Steps

For tourism businesses, the business case for investing in your online presence is clear. But the results of doing so are just as clear – when you invest in improving your website and establish your presence in the places where travelers conduct their research – you will reach new audiences and gain new customers.

Do you have a comprehensive digital marketing strategy for 2021?

If not, make a commitment to developing a marketing plan so that you can position your business to grow your business.

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Meet the Author:

Carl Lefever

Carl Lefever, Founder & Strategist

Carl is the founder of Improve & Grow, LLC, where his primary passion is helping businesses grow by improving their online marketing. He leads the team and is involved in developing and executing internet marketing strategies for our clients. Carl's background is in continuous improvement disciplines, focused on sales and marketing operations. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is a proud father of 4 girls and loves traveling and supporting missions work.