By Tom Mcloughlin, Founder, SEO Travel
When it comes to booking a travel experience, what drives you to visit a new destination? Have you been given a recommendation by a friend? Was the location promoted by a publication or influencer whose judgement you trust? Or have you seen the destination promoted in video ads, on billboards or in print, and been inspired by the captivating visuals and promise of a unique travel experience.
If your answer is the latter, then you’ve had a firsthand experience of the impact of destination marketing.
From promoting an entire country to trying to get more people to visit an unheard-of town or village, destination marketing uses a range of engaging techniques to sell the benefits and features of a location to inspire more people to visit it. This post discusses the use of destination marketing in the tourism industry, explaining how this approach impacts tourism and what brands need to know to make an impression in this sector with their destination marketing campaigns.
What is Destination Marketing?
Destination marketing is a specific approach used by brands in the travel and tourism industry to promote a specific location. Whilst more conventional travel marketing tends to showcase the service or product of a travel company, destination marketing illustrates the features and benefits of a place to get more people to come to it.
The overall aim of destination marketing is to increase customer awareness of a location. By promoting it as a desirable place to visit, the idea is that travellers will think of that destination when they decide to plan a holiday and want to go there. And if it’s a travel company that is promoting a destination, the idea is that the customer will be motivated to book their trip through this brand.
Whilst destination marketing is used by plenty of travel brands as a way of promoting the tours, accommodation or services they offer in specific countries, it’s also a key method of marketing in the tourism industry. Tourist boards and local authorities often rely on destination marketing as a way to promote their town, region or even country with the intention of getting more travellers to visit to boost the local economy and improve their reputation as a holiday destination.
How Does Destination Marketing Impact Tourism?
When used as part of a tourism marketing strategy, destination marketing can have a big impact on how many people visit a location, the kind of travellers that book trips there, and the overall image and reputation of a place.
The goal of this approach is to generate more interest in visiting a location, which increases tourism by bringing more people to an area on holidays and day trips. When done successfully, this can impact a range of factors.
Perhaps the biggest impact that destination marketing has on tourism is that it can massively boost the local economy. Bringing more tourists to an area is better for all kinds of businesses, not just ones providing accommodation and food, and enough growth in popularity also means that there’s the capacity for more businesses to open or expand to meet increasing demand.
Having more people visit a location because of successful destination marketing has the potential to improve its reputation through word of mouth, as if tourists have a good time during their trip they’re likely to recommend a visit to others. This increases interest in a destination further, helping a positive reputation to reach a wider audience and bring in even more tourists.
Destination marketing can also have an impact on the kind of tourism that a location receives, depending on the approach used in marketing campaigns and material. For example, if a destination is advertised as a prime place to visit for outdoor pursuits like hiking or cycling, the majority of the tourists that are going to visit will be interested in these kinds of activities. This means that the location’s most successful attractions and facilities will appeal to this demographic, which may lead local businesses to change their offering to remain relevant.
A more negative impact that destination marketing may have is that it can lead to over-tourism. There are many recorded instances where the popularity of a particular destination has led to environmental damage, locals getting driven out by rising living costs, and overcrowding to the point where the destination gains a negative reputation for being too busy.
This isn’t an issue that many destination marketing companies have to deal with, but it is a potential outcome to bear in mind.
How to Make It Work for Your Brand
Whether you’re a marketing agency working with a tourism board or as part of a travel and tourism marketing campaign, or a travel brand wanting to take a ‘tourism’ angle in your destination marketing approach, here are some of the most important things to remember when it comes to delivering a successful destination marketing campaign.
Find What Makes You Unique
When you’re marketing a destination with the aim of attracting more visitors, what’s going to have the biggest pull is the appeal of a unique attraction or experience. Therefore, all of your destination marketing content should revolve around this unique selling point so that you have the best chance of standing out against competitive destinations.
The more specific your destination, the easier it will be to draw out a unique quality. When marketing a country or a region to increase tourism this can be harder, so instead of trying to identify an attraction or feature that stands out, think about advertising a unique travel experience that the location can provide.
Build your entire destination marketing campaign around this unique selling point, even if it’s not that explicit in some approaches. It will help to deliver a much more cohesive campaign overall and ensure that your location sticks in potential visitors’ minds.
Choose a Traveller Demographic
Any kind of marketing campaign works best when you have a specific audience in mind. Advertising a location is no different.
Whilst you may think that promoting a location as part of tourism efforts should try and target as many potential visitors as possible, it also means that a lot of your marketing efforts are going to be quite vague as they try to appeal to numerous different groups. Sure, you’ll still get a reasonable response from some people that are engaged by your promotion of the place, but conversion rates tend to be lower when you don’t have a specific demographic in mind.
After you’ve identified what it is that makes your destination unique, establish the kind of traveller to whom this unique factor is going to appeal. You should create profiles for typical people within this demographic, detailing the kinds of travel experiences they enjoy, their pain points when visiting new destinations, and any particular content formats or marketing techniques they respond well to or frequently engage with.
Once you have this target audience in mind, try and shape your destination marketing around them. You may be appealing to a smaller group, but you’re likely to get a much higher percentage of them to engage with what you’re sharing.
Make it Personal
One of the most effective techniques you can use in a destination marketing campaign is using a personal hook to make your content more engaging.
This is particularly useful when you’re simply promoting a location, as your main intention is to get your target audience to start picturing themselves there so that they develop the desire to visit. It’s much easier for them to do this when you present a personal, relatable experience with your content, be that in text, video or audio format.
One of the simplest ways to make destination marketing personal is to capture real people experiencing the location, focusing on finding the best ways to present different sensory elements. Video is one of the best formats to do this, especially when you create content with lots of stunning visual elements that elicits an emotional response.
Getting local people to tell stories about a destination is also a brilliant technique for making your destination marketing content more personal, which also works really well in a written or audio format. This also allows you to share exclusive insight into a place, giving a more authentic feel to your marketing material.
Recognise Trends, but Think Long-Term
The popularity of plenty of destinations is affected by travel trends. Whether your destination offers a desirable climate, activity or cultural experience, responding to trends to capture audience interest as it peaks can seem like the ideal marketing strategy.
The thing to remember with trends however is that they don’t often last for long. Your destination may be all the rage for a single season, but hype often quickly dies down as travellers find something new to get excited about, meaning that what was once ‘trendy’ about your location may not stay that way for long.
Acknowledging and capitalising on trends as part of your destination marketing campaign is a good idea, but it’s important not to put all of your eggs in this brand new basket and keep long-term planning in mind as well. The last thing you want is to splurge all your resources on an approach that’s only going to be relevant for a few months. So use more instant channels like social media and email to respond to trends, and ensure that things like written and video content and advertisements are more evergreen.
Utilise Reputation and Association
Influencer marketing is an incredibly useful approach to include in your destination marketing strategy if possible. A key objective for destination marketing companies is to increase awareness of a location, and having an affiliation with a well-known figure can have a really positive impact on this.
The more famous or recognized the person you work with is, the more attention your marketing campaigns are going to get. But whilst we’d all like to dream of partnering with an A-list celebrity to promote our target destination, this probably won’t be a reality for most brands, which is where working with influencers comes in.
Whether they’re known for their presence on social media, in print or on a video channel like YouTube, we recommend working with either a travel influencer or someone who has a following that overlaps with the demographic you’re trying to appeal to. Having your destination endorsed and associated with someone that already has a trusted reputation will bring positive associations to your location and increase the reach of your promotional material.
Deliver What You’re Advertising
This last piece of advice might seem obvious, but it’s very important not to oversell your target location in any of your marketing material. You’re obviously going to promote the best version of your destination to catch as much attention as possible, but when people do actually visit you need to ensure that they’ll experience what they were promised.
If the place you advertise is nothing like the place visitors arrive, your destination marketing campaign is quickly going to stop bringing in any kind of tourism. It’s okay to romanticise and glamourise aspects to engage your target audience, but ensure that you’re promising an experience that you can deliver on if you want word to spread about your location in a positive way.
Whilst destination marketing was initially just associated with tourist boards and adverts for different countries, it’s an approach that has been used by a wide variety of travel brands as a new way to reach customers and subtly promote their services. It’s still important to understand the best practices and the potential impact if you’re using destination marketing in tourism to help raise awareness and improve the image of a location, and we recommend you check out our other posts in the destination marketing series if you’re looking for more information and inspiration.
If you need more information or help with your travel marketing strategy or want to find out more about approaches like destination marketing, get in touch with SEO Travel for a chat and to find out more about the range of marketing services that we offer.