Virtually every country in the world competes for attention from tourists and travelers. After all, tourists spend money at local hotels, restaurants, transportation companies and attractions, just to name a few. That money can represent a significant boost to the local economy.
But some countries seem to have quite the advantage. For example, how can a country like Iceland compete with sunny Caribbean islands and convince those coveted tourists to dedicate their annual vacation budget to their country's wonders? Tourism and marketing communications are the answer.
Effectively Marketing Tourism Requires Enthusiasm
Marketing tourism can happen on large or small scales. For example, you might be tasked with a national and high-stakes tourism campaign. Or, you might be hired by a local attraction to bring more tourists through the gates. Either way, the quality of your work will be significantly higher with one thing: enthusiasm.
You need to be bursting with pride and excitement about the country or attraction you market because that emotion will undoubtedly seep into your work and be transmitted to your audience. Otherwise, you may end up settling for average-quality photos of the landscape for a brochure or website. With a genuine love for the places you're promoting, you'll accept nothing but the best.
If you can't muster up enthusiasm for your projects, tourism and marketing communications may not be the best niche for you. There's no faking it in this industry, and it can have such an impact on your work that you should evaluate your devotion to the project before you even begin. Both your words and visuals matter.
Your Words Matter
The importance of language in tourism lies in stoking a feeling within the heart of potential travelers. The words you choose need to be so precise and powerful that people feel a longing to visit you. If your tourism communications don't make someone put your destination on their "bucket list," you have room for improvement.
Don't be afraid to break out the thesaurus for some inspiration. Bounce ideas around with other people. Set the writing aside and come back to it later with a fresh mind. Take your time and choose your words carefully to make the greatest impact on your tourism communications.
Your Visuals Matter
When taking pictures for a tourism campaign, put down your smartphone and call a professional. In fact, call several professionals because you need people adept at photographing landscapes, people in action and indoor settings, as well as using drone photography.
You also need a high-quality videography team to capture and edit breathtaking footage for video campaigns, whether you plan to release them on social media or TV.
With today's technology, high-quality visuals can make people feel like they can reach out and touch the places and things shown on the page or screen. Having this level of professionalism in your visuals not only makes you stand out but also speaks volumes to the experience people can expect once they arrive.
Understanding What Makes a Place Unique
Now that you've confirmed you have the necessary internal pride to give tourism marketing your absolute best effort, you need to think about why you have that level of love in your heart in the first place.
Many things make a place unique:
- The landscape.
- The weather or climate.
- Local history and folklore.
- Hometown heroes.
- Local customs and events.
- Delicacies common in the area.
- Music and art, whether traditional or modern.
- The general attitude or atmosphere of a place and its people.
Make a list with as much specific detail as possible. Better yet, interview other locals as well. In particular, people who have lived elsewhere but ended up coming back home to settle down will have great insight into why they feel drawn to this specific place. Your tourism marketing efforts represent a love letter to the area, and this is a great way to start your rough draft.
Performing a Customer Analysis
The next step in your marketing efforts should be customer analysis. You need to determine who's most likely to have an interest in visiting your country or attraction, or who you want to come visit. Once you know more about these potential customers, you'll have an idea of how to reach them. For example, you might target certain social media platforms and not others, or you might run TV advertisements on specific channels.
Customer analysis can also inform your campaign in terms of the tone of the content and the specific features or attractions to highlight. For example, the activities that older populations, families and young couples want to do can vary greatly simply due to energy levels.
Who Currently Visits?
Start your customer analysis with the data you already have. Who currently visits? Where are they from? How old are they? What's their socio-economic status? This information is important to gather to help you perform an accurate customer analysis. If you don't do so already, distribute surveys as a starting point to assist you in learning more about current visitors.
Once you know more about the people who currently visit, make it a goal to reach even more potential customers similar to them. This can be a great way to test out your marketing materials and content because this should be a relatively easy population to encourage into action.
Who Might Want to Visit?
Next, you need to think a little broader. Who might want to visit but doesn't yet? What stops them? How can you break down any of the barriers that have prevented them from becoming tourists?
For example, maybe people in nearby countries don't speak the same language and worry about getting around. Let them know what resources are available to them, including guides who can give tours in their native language. Another barrier might be transportation within the city, which means you should thoroughly explain the bus, subway or train system, as well as car or bike rental options.
Your website is the perfect place to curate a resource section to put potential visitors at ease, and you can also turn written resources into videos for YouTube and other social media channels. But you can also try to explain these aspects in shorter blurbs on banner ads and other types of advertising.
Who Do You Want to Visit?
The people in this audience category have one thing in common: They've probably never even thought about visiting your country or attraction. It's your job to show them everything they've been missing out on.
This is the broadest "pool" from which you can net potential tourists, but it's also the most competitive. Therefore, you need to dig deep to understand who they are and what they desire. If they're city folks, maybe you offer an incredible countryside retreat. If they're used to rural life, maybe you offer historical city tours that will interest them.
Families with small children will be looking for ways to keep the little ones entertained, and they'll also want to know that routes are stroller-friendly. People on a budget will want to feel like they get a great deal on activities, tours, transportation and food. You need to consider all the possibilities and have different campaigns to reach people with different wants and needs.
Types of Tourism Communications and Marketing
Once you know more about the people who currently visit, who might visit with a little encouragement and who you'd love to have visit, you need to determine the best marketing channels to reach them.
For example, you don't want to place an advertisement on daytime TV if you're targeting working professionals because they won't be tuning into the TV at that time. However, if retirees and stay-at-home parents are part of your ideal demographic, then this can be a great way to reach them.
It's important to have an understanding of all the different types of marketing channels available to you, including those under the two main umbrellas of traditional and digital marketing.
Traditional Marketing for the Tourism Industry
Traditional marketing includes print advertisements like brochures, flyers and direct mail, as well as placements on billboards, TV and radio. Even though we live in a tech-heavy world, traditional advertising isn't dead. Plan how to best use these avenues according to your customer research.
For example, brochures remain a popular option in the tourism industry. In fact, tourists fully expect to pick up brochures at rest stops, travel stations, hotels and other tourist hot spots when they're looking for things to do in the area. Billboards strategically placed near airports, bus stations or major highways are another smart option for catching tourists' attention as they arrive.
Consider creating beneficial relationships with other companies in the tourism industry for cross-promotion. For example, if your restaurant is near a tourist attraction, create material that markets both venues. People can see the attraction and then stop at the restaurant for lunch, so it's a partnership that makes sense.
Digital Marketing Techniques for Tourism
On the other hand, digital marketing encompasses everything you can do on the internet to reach potential tourists. Common digital marketing techniques include email marketing, pay-per-click marketing, social media marketing, content marketing and search engine marketing.
As long as you've done your homework and understand the people you want to reach, you can create highly targeted digital marketing campaigns to promote tourism primarily to these people. For example, you can run Facebook ads that show only to people with certain interests or within a certain age range, among several other characteristics.
Digital marketing also offers you a unique opportunity to directly engage in conversation with people who show interest in learning more about your tourism campaign. Use this to your advantage to create a welcoming and fun voice for your brand. Help people understand what kind of atmosphere they can expect when they visit by keeping your comments and messages friendly and positive.
Other Ways to Use Technology in Tourism
Mobile applications represent another way to use technology in tourism to attract visitors. You can develop and market apps with numerous functions related to tourism. Tackle the things that might be holding people back from visiting or from truly enjoying their experience. Then, creatively provide the solution in an app.
For example, you could develop an app that provides self-guided tours in the user's native language. Or, a simple "What to Do Here" app can give information about attractions and personalized directions to them based on the user's location and available transportation, such as walking routes or bus lines.
Regardless of how you choose to market tourism, remember to always keep your customer in mind and to put forth the highest quality content you can afford. Tourism is a competitive market, but with a plan of action and plenty of enthusiasm, you can persuade travelers to stop by for a unique experience.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.