tourism marketing

How is Tourism Marketing Unique?

There are some near-universal marketing truths, but let’s just say that tourism world has its quirks. A “one size fits all” messaging strategy isn’t going to cut it in this industry. In tourism – specialization is key, and this holds true to everything from sales, to operations, to absolutely every aspect of marketing.

A few of our clients have asked us what makes tourism marketing different from regular marketing. The unique strategies and tactics are boundless! However, we’ve drilled down the top key reasons.

Seasonality plays a huge role in media planning.

Most travelers look to their calendar before making a purchase decision. As a marketer, you have to plan months, quarters, even a full year before they do.

Tourism brands should aim to get the most out of peak season (and this speaks heavy to data), create a large push during shoulder seasons, and plan for creativity throughout non-peak (time to use that data now!)

Seasonality can control your marketing and command buys, so it is your job to do the bidding first! Think: Are my print ads running when I need the brand recognition, or are they out there when people will buy tickets anyway? Do I need to give OTAs so much inventory during peak if I am getting direct bookings anyway? Is my digital marketing heavy enough during non-peak when everyone else is also clamoring for business?

Every ad campaign needs to be geo-targeted.

In-destination decision making is far different from feeder market inspiration branding. The latter is a much longer game and in turn, much more expensive. Tour companies, attractions, and hotels should look to their CVB’s to lead a location’s brand inspiration. From there, it’s either about piggy backing, partnerships, and in-destination emotionally based ad campaigns with strong senses of urgency entailed.

Print ads in local publication are effective, but if you’re trying to keep costs down, digital is the way to go. PPC (pay per click) advertising allows you reach people during a transactional mindset – AND it allows for almost “up to the minute” data testing and perfecting. (We call this optimization.)

You can earn local, organic traffic by incorporating your destination into the alt text on your website photos and social posts. Auto-generated alt text like “hotel bar” is better than nothing, but not nearly as effective as “Boutique Hotel in Pensacola, Florida.”

Finally, maintain personal connections in your community. Networking events that draw in meeting planners and sales teams are a cost-effective way to gain local sales channel flow, especially if you’re a relatively new brand. Now is the time to order extra business cards and practice the wine-and-cheese juggle.

There’s an eye for new customer acquisition.

Okay, this is where it gets weird. Normally, keeping an existing client is far cheaper than earning a new one. That’s not the case in tourism.

Repeat business is fantastic, but it’s hard to come by in the travel industry. Tourists like trying new experiences, no matter how funny their last tour guide was. So keep in touch, encourage reviews and Instagram follows – but turn your acquisition efforts to new faces.

Make sure your website and social feeds create a memorable first impression. Your “brand promise” should be clear and specific, so new travelers know what you stand for and why you’re unique. When potential new customers do find you, you’ll want to capture their attention quickly – and keep it.

tourism ad campaigns

Emotion leads the way.

Unlike traditional marketing for products and home services, the fine details like pricing and capacities don’t always need to be center-stage (although they should be easy to find when customers get closer to making their purchase).

Marketing through travel sites and social media is all about communicating an experience. If you’re selling jet ski rentals, share vibrant images and first-hand videos. New customers should feel the waves lapping their feet and the salt in their hair before even clicking Book Now.

Social proof is priceless.

The #1 most influential advertising is the kind you can’t buy: personal recommendations.

When planning a vacation, people want to make sure they’re getting an authentic, unique experience. It’s not enough to click on the first listing they see in a Google search. They’re increasingly turning to their friends and Instagram feeds for firsthand accounts of the best views, meals and attractions.

So provide an experience that makes it into your customers’ live videos, Facebook photos and Pinterest boards. List your social media handles on your website, in email campaigns, and even on printed materials. This way your customers have a subtle reminder to write a TripAdvisor review or tag you in their photos when they get back to the hotel.

Cross-marketing can be a game changer.

We talk a lot about competition, but there’s also a major teamwork element in travel marketing. Strong partnerships with other attractions benefit everyone involved. These relationships are key in surviving non-peak season.

Come up with creative ways to offer packages with nearby businesses. If you cross-promote your brand in other businesses, then any traffic that comes through their door is likely to visit you, too. To maximize sales, give customers some added value, like discounts or convenient transportation between attractions.

When you do initiate partnerships with other travel companies, don’t forget to ask for a link to your site. It’s added visibility for your brand, and gives you a little SEO boost.

authentic marketing


What digital marketing strategies have worked best for your travel brand? We want to hear your insight! Share your success stories with us on Facebook @vonmackagency.