If you’re in the travel and tourism industry, you already know firsthand the key role digital marketing plays in your business. Reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Facebook have played an important role in tourism marketing for years now. But limiting your digital marketing efforts to managing your reputation on those platforms is a defensive strategy. It does very little to attract business in your slow seasons.
Successful digital marketing goes on the offensive to strategically attract customers in the busy seasons and even extend peak season for more business year-round. In this blog, we’ll show you how. Read on to discover key digital marketing strategies your travel or tourism company can implement to boost brand awareness, attract business, and extend the peak season to grow your profits.
The Challenges of Tourism Marketing
Before we dive into specific marketing strategies, it’s important to acknowledge the unique challenges your company faces in the tourism industry. Those challenges include:
- Seasonal travel patterns that lead to huge variances in profits one month to the next
- Heavy competition with other brands in your area
- Online reviews from angry customers that can quickly derail your online marketing efforts
- Multiple customer segments that span a diverse target audience
These hurdles are real, but they aren’t impossible to overcome. Using the strategies we’re about to share, you’ll identify customer segments more likely to come in the offseason and attract their business year-round. You’ll also learn how to stand out from the competition, even in a crowded market, with content that captures and engages your ideal customers, then drives them to your door.
Most importantly, you’ll learn how to move from a defensive to an offensive marketing strategy. This means you’ll finally take control of your online presence and shape the public perception of your brand for better business all year long.
Digital Marketing Strategies
Strategy #1: Target Customer Segments with Paid Social Media Ads
If you want to extend your peak season for the travel and tourism industry, start by identifying the customer segments most likely to visit you in the off months. Maybe these are customers with smaller budgets but more flexible schedules eager to take you up on a seasonal deal. Maybe these are locals who could use a staycation because traveling farther from home is difficult.
Once you identify your customer segment, use paid social media advertising to target them with interesting content and deals. This can boost brand awareness and drive sales in the offseason. In peak seasons, cast a wider net with your paid social ads to reach a larger market. Check Google Analytics to identify which audiences are already landing on your site, then create and promote content that further strengthens those relationships.
Strategy #2: Connect with Customers via Social Media Marketing
Targeted ads are only one small part of a robust social media marketing strategy for your tourism business. Maximize your organic reach by using hashtags and tagging local businesses (but only when your content is relevant to them!) Encourage your customers to use hashtags and tag you in their posts as well, then share the best posts on your profiles.
It’s important to treat social media as a platform for conversation, not just marketing. Put a call to action in your posts that encourages people to comment. Positive comments will serve as testimonials to other followers, negative comments will help you identify areas you can improve, and all comments will boost your post in other people’s feeds.
If you do receive a negative comment, make sure to respond promptly with appreciation and concern. Prospects are watching to see if you care enough to make things right. By monitoring mentions and practicing social listening, you can catch negative feedback across the web. It’s important to respond appropriately and swiftly before bad reviews pick up momentum.
Strategy #3: Use Vibrant and Enticing Imagery
While we’re on the subject of social media, please take time to do this right. For the travel and tourism industry, that means portraying your destination in its best light with vibrant, enticing imagery on your website and social media profiles. And don’t stop at stunning photos! Virtual tours, videos, and 360° videos are all great ways for people to explore your business and see why they should visit in person.
If you want to extend your peak season, don’t forget to show the benefit of visiting your destination in the offseason. Do visitors enjoy fewer crowds? Unique excursions? More value for their dollar? Highlight that with beautiful photos to give people the travel bug when business is slow.
Strategy #4: Practice Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Everyone takes to Google when researching a destination and planning a vacation, so it’s critical that your website is showing up in those searches! Make sure you perform keyword research to identify keywords you can use in on-page content, title tags, and meta descriptions to help customers find you 12 months out of the year.
While you’re working on your Google presence, don’t forget to make sure your Google My Business profile is up to date. This is a free tool that ensures the info displayed when someone searches for your company is accurate and helpful. It doesn’t take long to update this info, and the payoff is well worth the effort.
One final note on SEO: Reviews really help! Run a campaign to encourage reviews, especially among customers who had a great experience with your brand. Bad reviews may happen from time to time, but prospects are far less likely to be deterred by them if the negative feedback is outweighed by lots of satisfied customers.
Strategy #5: Practice Content Marketing On Your Blog
One way to boost SEO is to keep your blog updated with compelling, relevant content for your target market. Brainstorm topics your customers will find interesting, like answers to FAQs or helpful reviews of local attractions. Just like you want to provide above-and-beyond service to customers who visit you in person, look for ways to “wow” those who visit your website with content that engages and serves them.
To extend your peak season, consider posting blogs that address common objections to traveling to your destination in the offseason. Are people deterred by your weather in those months? Do they believe there’s nothing fun to do when the crowds disappear? Create content that challenges those assumptions and shows exactly why they should visit during those slower months.
Strategy #6: Identify Influencers
In addition to content marketing on your own blog, consider identifying and working with influencers your target audience already follows and trusts. Work with them to create blogs, videos, or social media posts that can increase your visibility and drive sales in and out of season.
Influencers can be a wellspring of opportunity for the travel and tourism opportunity, but proceed with caution. Consider using a contract to protect your brand. Outline what the influencer is expected to do and how you’ll compensate them. And remember, if the person you’re working with gets into trouble, it could damage your own brand’s reputation. Choose influencers wisely!
Strategy #7: Offer Value in Email Newsletters
We can’t talk about digital marketing for the tourism industry without mentioning the importance of email marketing. Whether you already have a long list of email contacts or want to make that a goal in the coming months, email marketing is a digital marketing strategy well worth your time and efforts.
Email newsletters are a great way to stay in front of your audience, increase brand recognition, and spread the word about special promotions or new attractions. As you plan your email content, remember: Successful email newsletters are never spammy. Offer deals, yes, but don’t limit your email marketing to just promotions.
Instead, create value by sharing helpful travel tips for people visiting your area, like must-see attractions, reviews of new restaurants, or info about local hotels. Open their eyes to the other companies that strengthen tourism in your area, and provide a peek at the incredible experience they can have when they visit you—in peak season and beyond.
Pull It All Together
Each of these strategies can help you extend your peak season and grow your profits, but none of them are “set it and forget it” methods. Instead, take a growth driven design approach. For the best results, use tools like Google Analytics and Hotjar heatmaps to monitor your data, inform your decisions, and continuously improve your digital marketing.