As tourism bureaus across the nation work to reinvent the ways to attract visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism-focused websites need to refocus their content strategy. Pre-pandemic, promotion often revolved around events: live music, annual celebrations, and sporting events. And while everything has changed, the desire to travel remains, and visitors will seek travel information on the web more than ever.
Despite new health protocols and social distancing, people still desire to travel – safely. According to the New Future of Travel Survey from Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global strategy and marketing consulting firm, thirty percent of respondents indicated that they would travel as soon as they are allowed. Forty percent said they would only travel once they are confident that travel providers have taken appropriate measures regarding things like health screenings and social distancing.
Now’s the perfect time to review your tourism website to meet visitors’ new needs and deliver rich content to influence their travel decisions. This blog post highlights four key tourism website elements that reflect travel trends and the kinds of information travelers desire.
Forbes Magazine author, Christopher Elliot, explains in his article, “The Surprising Reason Staycations Are The New Vacations,” that “you can blame the pandemic or the recession for the abbreviation of your vacation, but that only begins to explain what’s happening. The way we take time off is changing — has been changing for years — and this is only the latest stage in the evolution of the American vacation.”
Destination marketers are noticing the same pattern. In Los Angeles, a new program called L.A. Love has special locals offers from more than 100 hotels, restaurants, and tour companies. Experience Burnsville in Minnesota has changed it’s geographic scope following this trend. They shifted their target to a 250-mile radius and regularly highlighted local businesses on their blog as part of their “Locally Strong” campaign.
Tourism websites can shift their content strategy to include sample itineraries – staycations based on interests, such as mountain biking/outdoor rec, relaxation, family fun, etc. Sometimes people forget all that’s around them: remind them they can have a fun family weekend or a romantic one-night getaway that isn’t far away but still special.
Popular searches for “things to do” and “restaurants” remain at the top of travelers’ list. However, with Google business listings, Yelp, Travel Advisor, which include reviews, posts, links to menus, and other details, it’s fairly difficult for CVB websites to rank for those listings. When analyzing travel website analytics, listings are rarely actually used.
Instead of listings being front and center, highlight stories. For example, readers engage with helpful insights and local perspectives: What are the best brunch places in town? What are unique dishes, some of your local restaurants offer? Where are some secret walking trails? What special gifts do your local boutiques feature? Dig into the authentic offerings your audience craves and create stories that help people visualize the experience.
If you still want to offer listings, offer various relevant posts to capture your readers ahead. Try to spark their imagination and make travelers curious about your city or destination.
When traveling, there’s little better than local tips on where to find the best tacos, or where’s a nearby recreation area for a short run? People love the inside scoop. They like to discover unique experiences and believe that locals know best. For example, maybe a well-respected chef could offer his favorite dishes around town; they get publicity, and you get a great article for your website. Posts like this typically draw strong engagement on social media.
Tip: Try to identify influencers in your area that might be willing to guest post on your website or conduct an interview over Zoom or phone and write the post yourself (or give it to a copywriter to edit into an article) for you. This way, you also alleviate the stress of writing for your local contributors.
The next best thing to taking a vacation is visualizing your vacation through authentic imagery and videos. Quality photography deems absolutely critical when it comes to tourism marketing. Potential visitors need to visually imagine what it’s like visiting your destination before they’ll ever commit to a vacation.
Pictures and videos deliver what words often lack: they showcase the scenery and facial expressions that evoke an emotional connection to your destination. Photos also know no language barrier — they can be understood by anyone.
Focus on a few key highlights that appeal to your kind of tourist. What are you known for? How can you showcase your destination’s unique attributes in a new way? Hone in on your destination’s strengths and let your visuals tell your story.
I’m often surprised at missing calls-to-action (CTAs) on destination websites in my years of tourism marketing. Calls to action should align with your marketing goals and the goals of your visitor. It’s important to direct website visitors to take action that leads them to the ultimate step of booking a vacation. Calls to action may include subscribing to your newsletter, following you on Instagram, or requesting a mailed vacation guide.
You should include CTAs on every page of your website that helps the user moving. Keep primary calls to action (like requesting a vacation guide where you can capture lead information in a form) front and center, and be sure they stand out from the rest of your content using a contrast color or bold font.
Also, always use action verbs: download, subscribe, read more, or plan your stay. You can get creative, but be direct, so the user expects what will happen next.