What is Destination Marketing?
Destination marketing is a form of marketing, in which a destination is promoted to potential visitors, in order to increase the number of people that travel to that location. The destination can be fairly specific, as is the case with town or city marketing, or much broader, as is the case with region or country marketing.
Ultimately, the purpose of destination marketing is to make your location or destination seem more attractive than the main alternatives, boosting the number of people who travel there and assisting the local travel industry. It is also about increasing awareness of the destination, with a view to raising demand and improving its reputation.
Why is Destination Marketing Important?
To attract travellers to a certain destination, it is important that the plus points of that destination are highlighted. This is especially crucial when one destination is competing with another for the same tourists or visitors. An example of this would be both the Caribbean and the Great Barrier Reef offering excellent diving experiences.
The goal of most destination marketing is to promote your destination as superior to alternatives, by highlighting the things that make it unique, or the things that make it a desirable place to travel to. Successful destination marketing can then be of huge benefit to the local tourism industry, including hotels, restaurants, bars, airlines and related suppliers.
Who is Responsible for Destination Marketing?
Responsibility for destination marketing typically falls on a dedicated destination marketing organisation (DMO), or tourist board. These organisations represent the community or destination being promoted and attempt to drive interest in the region amongst travellers by using a range of different marketing techniques.
In many ways, a DMO also serves as a link between the visitor and the destination, encouraging the visit in the first place, but also providing important visitor information. Hotels, local businesses, attractions and their owners are often members of a DMO, and funding tends to come from government sources and/or membership fees.
14 Destination Marketing Strategies to Attract More Visitors
A number of different marketing strategies can be used for destination marketing purposes, helping to boost overall awareness of a destination and increase the number of people who actually visit. Below, you will find more information about 14 of these strategies and how destination marketing organisations can use them to get results.
1. Define the Unique Selling Points
Arguably the single most important step for any organisation engaging in destination marketing is to take the time to clearly define what makes your destination unique. There are a huge range of ways a destination can stand out, such as unique activities to offer visitors, or unique natural features, like mountains, beaches or volcanoes.
It could be that your location has a fascinating history, or unique landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, or the Great Wall of China. Perhaps the culture of the location is its unique selling point and visitors would want to travel to experience local events, museums or sports clubs. Try to identify as many USPs as possible.
2. Define Target Audience & Market
Another of the best destination marketing strategies involves identifying your target audiences. Think about who is likely to want to visit the destination and for what reason. Often, you will need to break this down into several different audiences, who each may have different reasons for wanting to travel to your location.
For instance, it could be that your destination appeals to youngsters on a gap year, and elderly couples enjoying their retirement. It might be that it appeals to people who enjoy outdoor sporting activities and people who want to relax on the beach. You also need to consider the different groups, such as tourists, business travellers and students.
Finally, think about whether certain markets are more likely to be interested than others. This could mean people in nearby countries, if you have excellent transport links, or people who speak the same language.
3. Utilise Data for Analytics
Destination marketing organisations can potentially obtain and utilise vast amounts of data, for a number of different purposes. As an example, the organisation’s website can allow you to use tools like Google Analytics to find out about your visitors, who they are, where they came from and what their motivation was.
Offline, you can find out information about existing visitors, such as the average age, whether your destination appeals more to men or women, and what methods of transport they use. Once you have gathered sufficient data, you can analyse it to identify the best people to reach out to, the best ways to reach them and the best messages to push.
4. Brand Your Destination
Branding is a technique used by businesses, in order to make them easily identifiable. The concept of branding can include logos, colour schemes and other design principles, as well as slogans or repeated use of certain terminology. Ultimately, branding is about being recognisable and standing out from others.
This principle can be fairly easily applied to a destination. Try to come up with a coherent colour scheme, use a tagline that says something about the destination itself, create hashtags for people to use on social media, and try to be as consistent as possible with your promotional messaging, so that people become familiar with it.
5. Involve All Stakeholders
A significant component of destination management involves looking out for the interests of various stakeholders, in order to establish trust and facilitate engagement. The stakeholders might include officials from your country, city, village or state, as well as hotels, attractions, restaurants, shopping venues, travel agents and tour operators.
Try to come up with destination marketing strategies that actually encourage these various parties to participate and support your destination. See if you can get stakeholders to agree to use some of your wider destination branding, and to run their own advertising or marketing campaigns, in order to maximise visitor interest.
6. Create An Amazing Destination Website
Regardless of their reasons for travelling, the majority of travellers now use the internet to research their destination before booking. A destination website is the ideal place to showcase unique selling points, communicate directly with your target audience(s) and promote your destination through images, videos and virtual reality tours.
You can use the website to provide travellers with all of the information they need ahead of their trip, and to promote accommodation options, attractions, events, places to eat and drink, and more. It is important that your website is optimised for mobile users, while an on-site blog can help to encourage people to keep coming back.
7. Search Engine Optimisation
When people use search engines like Google to look for things related to your destination, or features that your destination can offer them, you want to make sure your website is near the top of those search engine results pages. The best way to do this is to create a comprehensive search engine optimisation strategy.
This involves researching keywords, creating content that targets those keywords, and using a range of other techniques to improve your placement. You can also use SEO principles to promote videos and images too. An on-site blog can be beneficial here too, as it will give you plenty of fresh content to optimise with strategic keyword usage.
8. Experience Marketing
Most travellers are motivated by experiences, so it makes sense to market a destination this way. Instead of showing attractions, use promotional material to show how people experience them. One way to do this is to stimulate the sharing of user generated content, so that people share their own moments on your website and on social media.
When you achieve this, you turn your own visitors into ambassadors for your destination. Word of mouth promotion can be extremely successful, because it is considered more trustworthy than hearing from an organisation with a clear motive. On top of this, VR 360 tours can be a great way to allow online users to enjoy their own experiences.
9. Video and Virtual Reality Marketing
Both video marketing and virtual reality marketing can go a long way towards boosting your destination marketing efforts. Video content can be easily shared across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. These videos can promote local places of interest, or can feature local people speaking about your destination.
Virtual reality marketing goes a step further and provides ways for your target audience to actually experience aspects of your destination from the comfort of their own home. This could be a virtual tour of a local hotel, a virtual travel experience of a nearby entertainment venue, or 360 degree tours of attractions or landmarks.
10. Social Media Strategies
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram serve as an ideal means to reach people and promote your destination. In truth, the destination marketing strategies on offer here are almost endless, from simple promotional posts, images and video content, through to competitions and even viral content or memes.
Additionally, most social media platforms offer paid marketing opportunities, such as advertisements or sponsored posts. These can boost the visibility of your social media marketing efforts and can be aimed at very specific demographics, meaning you can target people based on age, gender, location and even their online browsing habits.
11. Work With Influencers
Many modern internet users have a natural distrust for direct advertising and other overt marketing methods. However, many of these people may be able to be reached indirectly, through influencers. In simple terms, influencers are people with an established following on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or their own blog.
Their followers tend to be loyal and tend to trust the influencer’s opinions more than they would trust an organisation. By partnering with influencers, you can promote your destination across different platforms, even to niche audiences, who are then significantly more likely to react positively to the message that is being promoted.
12. Promote Your Destination On Travel Websites
In addition to having your own destination website, it is important to be able to reach people who do not have existing awareness of your destination. Travel websites provide a perfect solution and this can include international travel websites, such as TripAdvisor, as well as local websites, or websites aimed at specific demographics.
There are various ways you can use travel websites to promote your destination, including posting images, publishing stories, creating video content and even promoting virtual reality tours. You can also use travel websites to monitor reviews, respond to criticism and improve feedback over time.
13. Online Advertising Strategies
The information and data you have gathered about your visitors and your target audience can be used to inform your online advertising. Using this information, you can target search advertising to specific regions, pay for display advertising on the right platforms and promote content on third-party websites your target audience use.
In addition, re-marketing allows you to reach out to people who have previously engaged with your destination website, or your DMO’s social media channels. This gives you the ability to remind people of your destination, knowing that they have already previously shown interest, which can be great for encouraging them to commit to a visit.
14. Offline Promotional Strategies
Once you know your target audience, what they are looking for and where they are coming from, you should also be able to identify when they are likely to travel. For instance, some destinations attract visitors in the summer months, while others attract people for winter sports. Some might hold greater appeal at Christmas, or another holiday.
This then makes it easier to devise a comprehensive offline promotional strategy.
Some of the offline methods you use might include television advertising, radio advertising and promotion within newspapers and magazines. With the latter two examples, you could pay for advertisements, write features on your destination, and target specific local publications in areas where your target audience reside.
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Almost any destination will have unique attractions, natural features, places of interest or cultural aspects that will appeal to visitors. The destination marketing strategies listed can all be used to highlight these qualities, so that potential visitors become more likely to travel to the destination and spend money, boosting the local tourism industry.