By Tom Mcloughlin, Founder, SEO Travel.
There are plenty of different tried-and-tested marketing strategies out there in the travel industry, from email campaigns to influencer collaborations and wacky PR stunts. If you’re a travel business that offers holiday experiences or services in one specific area, likely, you may already have heard of destination marketing, which is one targeted approach that can make a big difference to business growth.
In recent years, destination marketing has occasionally fallen out of favour as certain locations have become overcrowded or saturated with tourists to the point where local people can no longer enjoy their hometowns and cities in peace.
However, when done correctly, destination marketing is a very effective marketing approach that is particularly beneficial to smaller travel companies who are looking for a way to increase visibility and carve out a space in the market.
In this article:
Destination Marketing Defined
Destination marketing is a marketing approach in the travel industry that involves promoting a specific location and its benefits instead of the product or service that a company offers. This could be a country, a town or city, or even a specific holiday resort or attraction.
The purpose of destination marketing is to increase customer awareness of a certain destination so that they start to think about visiting, or to help them remember the location when they are ready to book a holiday. By slipping in subtle calls to action and mentions of a brand’s offering, the idea is that potential customers will decide to book a holiday to that destination through the company that is promoting it.
Destination marketing is also often used by the tourist boards of certain countries or regions as a way to try and bring more visitors to the area to boost the local economy and establish themselves as a desirable holiday destination.
The main aim of destination marketing is to make the customer aware of and interested in the target location before they arrive. You want to spark an emotional desire to see and experience the place you are offering, as this makes the likelihood of paying for a holiday much higher.
What are the Benefits of Destination Marketing?
One of the key benefits of destination marketing is that it tends to use an emotional hook to engage potential customers, which leads to much higher conversion rates. The whole approach is about selling the experience and benefits of a location by showing customers what their travel experience could be like if they visit, encouraging people to imagine a holiday there and planting a seed of intrigue in their minds.
Not only does engaging your target audience’s emotions make them more likely to convert, but it is also likely to build more affinity with your brand. Techniques used in destination marketing include things like video content, offering exclusive guides and recommendations and sharing customer testimonials, all of which will make your company seem more ‘human’ and build a relationship of trust with your audience.
Another benefit of destination marketing is that it focuses on the offering of a location instead of the specific holiday packages or travel experiences that your brand sells. By producing marketing material that is not explicitly pushing a product, your target audience will trust the recommendations and advice you share and view you as a true expert for your target destination, instead of just a company trying to sell holidays.
Finally, a wider benefit of destination marketing is that it improves the reputation and increases the interest in the location that you offer travel experiences. This will encourage more tourism and boost the area’s local economy, which in turn will create more business for your company.
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8 Successful Destination Marketing Strategies
Whilst the majority of marketing techniques can be used as part of a destination marketing strategy, several approaches work particularly well. Here are 8 strategies to consider if your brand decides to focus on promoting a destination as part of its marketing plan.
1. Understand Your Target Audience
This is a piece of advice that you’ll likely have heard countless times when it comes to successful marketing in the travel industry. If you want to get your target audience’s attention, you need to understand what they care about and what they want to engage with.
In destination marketing, this approach is particularly important. If you just highlight generic benefits or features of your target destination, you’re not going to appeal to anyone in particular and your advertising material is going to have much less of an impact.
Before you think about what attractions and experiences you’re going to focus on in your destination marketing strategy, first go back to the segments of the audience that your travel brand targets. Identify what they’re looking for from travel and holiday experiences, whether that’s specific activities or personal benefits.
Then, use these focal points to decide what elements of the destination you’re going to highlight in your marketing campaigns.
2. Target Pain Points
Leading on from that last point, you should also ensure that you’re using the benefits of your destination to solve your target audience’s pain points.
This is a particularly successful approach because destination marketing is a strategy that engages potential customers’ emotions by tapping into their desires and offering an experience instead of just a product. You can take this emotional response even further by targeting their pain points and offering a solution through the destination.
An example of this may be that a key pain point for your target audience is finding holidays that include meaningful experiences instead of just mindless rest and relaxation. You could target this by creating advertising content that showcases the different cultural attractions in your destination or the opportunities to learn about the area’s history, promising a holiday that is enriching and enlightening.
3. Identify USPs
The start of every destination marketing campaign should begin by listing all of the unique selling points of wherever you are focusing on. This approach is all about standing out from other popular destinations, and the only way to do this is to shout about what makes your location so special.
You don’t need to be subtle about showcasing the unique qualities of a destination either. In fact, many well-known travel marketing campaigns have been so successful because they’ve taken a specific and often bizarre quality about a location and turned it into the key attraction for visiting wherever they are promoting.
For example, the Faroe Islands tourism board capitalised on the destination’s remote quality, and the fact that it has such a high population of sheep, to create the ‘Sheep View’ marketing campaign, which massively boosted the islands’ popularity with travellers.
4. Analyse Your Competitors
We’re not just talking about analysing other destinations that are frequently pitted against yours when we talk about competitors, although this is something to consider when analysing the business landscape. We suggest going even more specific and identifying other travel brands that market your chosen destination, particularly ones of a similar size to your business.
If you want to stand out in the industry and build a customer base of dedicated travel enthusiasts, you need to ensure that your marketing content is advertising a totally unique experience. Before you come up with a destination marketing strategy of your own, take time to see what’s already out there and ensure that you’re not going to be targeting a niche that has already been taken care of.
5. Use Video
This is one of the most common techniques used in destination marketing, but for good reason. There’s no better way to showcase a destination and give a glimpse of the kinds of experiences on offer than through video content, whether you’re making full-length guides to a place or just adding little snippets of video to your website and social media profiles.
Sometimes, it can be enough just to shoot stunning visuals of a location, accompanied by simple captions or overlayed text, to catch potential customers’ attention and start to inspire their wanderlust. Or you can take a more direct approach and create video testimonials from previous customers, introductions to attractions or accommodation from staff, or even vlogs and short video diaries illustrating a first-hand experience of a trip to your destination.
6. Focus on Visuals
Whilst video is probably the most effective content format you can use in destination marketing, anything visual is going to have an impact. From the photos you use on your website to the images shared on social media and graphics included in press releases or email newsletters, having a strong visual identity is a key part of marketing for a specific destination.
Not only do you want to inspire and engage your audience with every piece of visual content you share, but you also want to establish a “look” that becomes synonymous with your brand. That way, potential customers are more likely to remember you and start associating your company with a particular destination, which means they’re more likely to think of you first when it comes to booking a holiday there.
7. Collaborate With Influencers
Influencer marketing has taken off in the travel industry in the last couple of years, and it’s a technique that works really well as part of a destination marketing campaign. There’s no better way to showcase what a trip to a location is really like than showing a real person’s experience, and working with an influencer is perfect for this.
The type of influencer campaign you run will depend on the kind of travel business you are part of, your brand’s offering and your target audience. Some companies offer free holidays in exchange for an influencer to share their experience across their own channels, whilst others will work with influencers to create informative, promotional content that is shared by the brand themselves.
8. Go Beyond Stereotypes
When coming up with ideas for destination marketing campaigns, it can be tempting to fall back on stereotypes of what locations in certain parts of the world are like, or what the benefits of popular holiday experiences are. Whilst these kinds of stereotypes tend to be based on truth, they are much less likely to make an impact on potential customers, as they’re likely just showcasing features that have been seen before.
Instead of relying on predictable visuals, formats, and slogans, try and offer your audience something genuinely valuable and unique with your content. Don’t fall into predictable patterns with what you advertise (eg: safaris in Africa, beach holidays on tropical islands, winter holidays in classic ski locations) and instead think about undiscovered areas of the market you can conquer.
Destination marketing is an essential part of the travel industry and is an approach used by everyone from large tourism companies to small travel brands. By focusing on the benefits and offering of a location instead of a specific holiday package or travel deal, businesses can build up more authority as an expert provider for a specific destination — also appealing to a wider audience with marketing content that inspires and engages instead of steamrolling with a hard sell.
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.