In its broadest sense, tourism marketing is the business discipline of attracting visitors to a specific location. Hotels, cities, states, consumer attractions, convention centers and other sites and locations associated with consumer and business travel all apply basic marketing strategies to specific techniques designed to increase visits.
In many cases, tourism marketing centers on attracting people to a specific location without recommending specific sites or accommodations. For some locations, the attractions are so well-known, the tourism marketer simply needs to remind consumers that the area offers a good time. Las Vegas, for example, uses the slogan, “What Happens In Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” Florida takes a more benefit-oriented tack, marketing itself as “The Sunshine State,” promising an attractive climate to those who want a beach, golf or other warm-weather vacation.
Some areas market themselves based on their attractions. For example, Williamsburg, Virginia, markets “Colonial Williamsburg” hoping to attract families and individuals interested in history. The National Park Service promotes destinations such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park as camping, hiking and nature vacations. Resort communities such as Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, segment the tourism market, creating different campaigns to attract golfers, tennis players and individuals and families looking for a beach destination. Other tourism activities marketed to consumers include hunting, annual festivals and theme parks.
More than 225 million people attended some type of corporate meeting in 2012, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. There were more than 1.8 million such meetings that year. To attract attendees, convention and trade show planners often consider the tourism aspect of their location. More attendees might be willing to come if they can bring partners or families members and enjoy the locale. Tourism marketers tout the fact that they can provide both the business and pleasure aspects of their locations to meeting planners.
The Four Ps
Basic marketing addresses four pillars of creating and selling a product or service: product, price, place and promotion. In tourism marketing, the four Ps are often applied in the following ways:
Tourism marketing includes determining the unique selling benefit or benefits one area has over its competition. A destination might offer people looking to combine business and pleasure ease of travel to and from the area, ample convention halls and hotels, interesting nightlife, and activities for adult partners and children.
When trying to attract tourists, locales often use discounts, loss leaders and bundling to draw visitors. For example, a local chamber of commerce might solicit money from local businesses to hold a free concert, sporting event or festival that generates hotel stays, restaurant visits and other consumer spending. A hotel might offer discount coupons to a local restaurant. The restaurant gets free referral marketing, while the hotel offers a value-added service to its guests. Some hotels and resorts offer guests free shuttle service. Tourist centers carefully analyze tourism trends and raise and lower their prices based on a busy or “high” season and an off-season, and based on what their competitors are offering, to maximize occupancy rates.
The “place” in the four Ps refers to where a business distributes its product or service, such as in a store, online, using catalogs or through wholesalers. In tourism sales, location and destination marketers sell through tour operators, travel agents, inside sales teams and by setting up websites and phone operators to handle incoming inquiries. Spring break cities are well known for working with packaged vacation tour companies that bring college students to specific hotels by the busload. Destinations often offer free “site visits” to meeting planners, providing free rooms at different hotels, meals, golf, tennis and guided tours to vetted business professionals who select the location of meetings, seminars, retreats, conventions and trade shows.
Tourism marketing uses a wide variety of communications strategies and techniques to promote areas and destinations. A convention center might purchase advertisements in trade magazines for meeting planners and send direct mail materials to corporations that hold events. They might place ads in tennis or golf magazines to attract those consumers. Destinations build websites and place ads in consumer publications read by their target customers. Chambers of commerce are involved in promoting their areas generally and the businesses within their areas specifically. This often includes offering potential visitors packets filled with brochures, discount coupons and other materials.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.