Tourism marketers play a vital role in attracting and educating prospective visitors about the allure of their regions. However, the increasingly oversaturated digital world and abundance of travel content competing for attention means that destination marketing organizations often struggle to get their content noticed - and that’s before throwing COVID-19 into the mix.
These days, a typical traveler visits 34 websites over 8.5 sessions when planning a trip, and DMO sites account for only 6.4% of website visits among people looking to book a vacation.
Now, with international travel likely taking a while to recover and many states starting to ease stay-at-home orders, tourism marketers are gearing up for a surge in local travel by revamping their content marketing strategies.
But if only a small fraction of travelers are visiting a DMO site to inform their destination decisions, how can marketers behind these organizations ensure that their valuable content gets the visibility it deserves? How can destinations make sure they are top-of-mind once the pandemic is over?
Let’s take a look at how DMOs can implement holistic content strategies that go beyond their owned websites to better connect with travelers looking for safe, local getaways.
Start with the right audience in mind
Successful content needs to be created with the audience’s interest in mind, and now more than ever, DMOs need to be honest about who that audience is if they want to create content that’s going to resonate.
When it comes to domestic destinations, a much greater importance should be placed on local and drive-market travelers, as 68% of travelers report feeling safest exploring in their own vehicles, and more than one in two travelers are more likely than before to keep their trips domestic.
And what about the types of people that will be traveling once they receive the green light? Depending on how the pandemic shakes out, younger travelers may be more willing to return to normalcy by electing to take leisure trips, international vacations and cruises sooner than other age brackets, while travelers ages 50-plus might find road trips and beaches more appealing.
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The question is not whether, but how, these shifts will impact your destination and the kinds of content, guides and resources you share.
For instance, North Dakota Tourism historically targets both domestic drive-market and Canadian audiences. In response to the pandemic and subsequent travel restriction at the Canada-U.S. border implemented on March 21, they quickly pivoted their content distribution strategy to exclusively reach domestic family travelers while the restriction is in place.
With this shift, they created relevant messaging that emphasizes road trips, national parks, outdoor escapes and adventures “away from the crowds.” By focusing on a more hyper-local audience, North Dakota Tourism has been able to drive average read times 3X higher and clicks to the North Dakota site more than 2X higher than our tourism benchmarks, solidifying their state attractions in the minds of travelers this summer.
Go beyond the usual content suspects
DMOs should command attention from potential visitors by creating unique, informative content. Virtual guides and videos were an effective pivot for DMOs looking to provide readers with a digital escape over the past several weeks, but as destinations prepare for reopening, the content shouldn’t stop there.
Restaurant roundups (especially those offering takeout, outdoor dining or new protocols), scenic escapes, road trip routes, updates on popular attractions and unexpected adventures are just some examples of angles that can help to showcase destinations favorably as travelers begin to make moves.
DMOs can use this time to consider new ways of telling the unique stories of their regions, like featuring resident movers and shakers, designing interactive infographics or telling longer-form stories through a docu-series about off-the-beaten-path adventures. Simply doing something different is an excellent way to capture the attention of readers who haven’t previously considered DMOs as a source of useful information.
Find the right influencers
The impact of COVID-19 has fueled a surge in appetite for digital content consumption, and 73% of influencers and brands are reporting significant spikes in engagement as readers flock to blogs and relevant publications for information. DMOs should consider partnering with local influencers and creators with relevant geographic audiences to help communicate their destination’s reopening plans, support local businesses and share safety policies for visitors.
Now more than ever, the key for DMOs in activating an influencer program is to find the right voices and ensure they’re working with influencers who can embody their destinations, activities and target audiences. Travel marketers should avoid influencers who are just looking for free hotel stays and popular photo ops.
And, if your destination is not ready to welcome influencers just yet, you might be able to tap into the power of influencers authentically without requiring those individuals to physically travel to your destination.
Syndicate content to find new audiences
Above all, DMOs need to remember that their content’s life cycle doesn’t end when they hit “publish.” In fact, that’s just the beginning. Destination marketers invest a tremendous amount of time and resources into creating quality content, and that content shouldn’t live only on the DMO’s site.
To accomplish this, DMOs need to put money behind content distribution on social media, leverage trusted third parties to syndicate their content across the web and leverage self-service advertising platforms to amplify articles and videos within trusted publisher feeds. If readers aren’t coming to a DMO’s site on their own, then it is the DMO’s job to bring that content to them - wherever they may be reading related content already.
Especially now, as content consumption surges across categories like travel and food, tourism marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to tap into this awareness by distributing timely articles and videos that can help inspire at-home readers dreaming of their post-pandemic escapes.