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Beyond the basics: how travelers are really finding your destination

Nadine Long

June 2017

Destination marketing is constantly evolving. Travelers are increasingly savvy, finding new ways to discover things to do and places to see. DMO marketers have learned how to harness the standard tools – social, web and influencers, to name a few – but how are they changing, and how should you adapt?

We did an informal survey of the Native Digital team to uncover some of the tools they use when researching a new destination, and ultimately what helps them choose their next adventure. We found a few tactics that might slip through the cracks in a traditional DMO strategy. Read on for tips that go beyond the typical toolset and dive into the ways different types of travelers are choosing your destination.

Social media: more options than you think

Facebook events
“If I’m traveling and want to see what’s going on, I just browse Facebook Events. If I am interested in an event or a friend is – it will send me reminders and recommendations.”
-Jessica Kenney, Sr. Account Manager

Facebook Events is one place where potential travelers can quickly browse what’s going on in your city. According to Facebook Events, 35 million users view a public Facebook event every single day, and over 41% of all users engage with public events each month. With exposure like that, consider creating Facebook events for your destination’s major events, or create a promoted event for your partners’ events to ensure that they find their way to potential travelers considering visiting you.

Geotagging on Instagram
“I’ll go to Instagram and type in a location and see what people are doing; they’ll be geotagging it, so that can open up cool spots that you wouldn’t normally find.”
-Aaron Mull, Videographer

Awareness on social is easier said than done, but it’s important to explore promoting your brand in unique ways. Managing social media keeps you busy enough, so it’s easy to miss checking in on other features like hashtags and geotags. We all know that including hashtags on your social posts make your content more discoverable and easier to find, but have you tried adding geotags? Try including both in your next Instagram post, as HubSpot shows us that the average Instagram post receives way more engagements on average, when tagged with both. It’s worth taking the time to regularly explore your options on social; you may find overlooked opportunities or potential ambassadors excited to share their experiences.

Responsiveness is another social essential. Pay attention to your mentions (duh) and look for opportunities to engage with people. If you discover someone looking for things to do in your city on a Sunday night, don’t just leave them hanging, let them know what your city has to offer. Tools like MomentFeed can save you time on discovering and tracking what people are saying within a certain distance of your destination. Make sure to frequently search for hashtags that may include your state or city name and jump into the conversation.

Travelers expect a customized experience

“I don’t like touristy things that much. I like being able to do stuff that people who actually live there do and go where they go.”
-Jeremy Murray, Designer

“Walkability and Uberability is important – it needs to be easy to get around.”
-Nadine Long, VP of Content Strategy

We know that many travelers are looking for an experience beyond just the typical tourist spots. Discovering local restaurants, bars and hangouts are important to some people, but every traveler’s interests are different. Content that informs the general population is good, but don’t be afraid to create very specific content, catered to the unique needs of each of your specific types of travelers. Here are some examples:

The walker: If someone wants a spot where they can walk everywhere – make it clear that the downtown attractions are all within walking distance. Incorporate simple maps with notable locations and their close proximity.

The naturalist: If someone wants to visit the best hiking spots with the incredible views, show them what to expect with breathtaking pictures and directions to the local hiking spots and scenic routes. Include details or links to hotels, restaurants or spots local to these incredible views.

The culturalist: When some people travel, they want to dive into the culture and experience the essence of the local community. In that case, provide local transportation options. Many tourists are taking advantage of the simplicity in ride-share services like Uber or Lyft, especially when it comes to exploring local bars and clubs. In fact, more people prefer a ride-sharing program like Uber, to a vehicle-sharing program like city public transportation.

Every visitor is going to be a little different, so your content should help them tailor their trip and do so with ease. Another way to lead travelers down a custom path is to add related recommendations by interest to your more touristy attractions (“After you finish up at the Alamo, check out this local favorite for a quick bite.”)


Need help building your destination’s content strategy?


Website: UX is more important than ever

“I always visit the city’s website to see what’s going on from an entire city standpoint. I don’t just want lists – I want the big picture and I want it to be clear.”
-Jackie Romero, Director of Project Management

Social media has taken over as a huge influence for travel audiences, but your website experience still plays an important role in how travelers choose their next destination. A great user experience can take a traveler from slightly interested to booking a trip – especially if they can do it all in one place.

Website and content strategy are just as important as ever. Nowadays, nearly 30-40% of all traffic coming to your website comes through organic search – and over 30% of referral traffic comes from social media, which is increasingly considered a signal for well-developed site content and SEO. That’s why we believe that content is the new SEO. Simply put, the content on your website plays a huge part in making your destination known to travelers.

Tourists also need a web experience that is easy and straightforward. When was the last time you audited your website experience and user pathways? How do new visitors feel about navigating through your site? Are users able to easily make purchases or book reservations? Do your users typically find the resources they are looking for? Is your website optimized for mobile devices? More and more users are researching from their mobile device and your website needs to adapt to these evolving tactics. Your site’s experience should be simplified, user-friendly and just as inviting as your city. Custom content can stretch your experience to help travelers at every stage of their planning process and interest segments.

What it all means
If there’s one thing we took away from talking to our team about how they travel, it’s that no one travels the same. Because of this, your marketing game needs to be top-notch in order to prepare for the many different ways people will find you, whether it’s through Instagram, Facebook, your website, display ads, etc. The name of the game is understanding your diverse audiences and personalizing content that connects with them – and meets them where they’re trying to find you.