Destination marketing in the digital world has become of vital importance, given the increased competition between destinations and today’s rapid travel speeds. The internet allows travelers to find and compare potential destinations quickly.
That means that customers increasingly start their vacation planning on the internet, looking at different possibilities. Although word-of-mouth still affects destination choice, marketing has become a more significant piece. Tourism is booming, and with a 4% global growth rate, competition between destinations is vital.
Customers used to go to travel agents and get advice. Now, they expect to find out all of the information they need while sitting at their computer. Independent travel (i.e., without an agent) is more popular than it used to be because it is virtually effortless. Although guided tours will always have their place, many travelers, especially younger people, want to decide the itinerary and move at their own pace. On top of that, authenticity has become more important to younger travelers. Most tourists now want to experience something of the local way of life, explore off the beaten track, learn the customs, and try the food.
Technology also encourages impulse buying and fast decision-making, and travelers have come to expect this. With flights showing up on the Google search page, it’s possible to plan and book an entire vacation quickly. Those who make a call without the right information will likely regret it later. Destination organizations need to both capture that fasts decision-making and ensure that travelers make choices that will satisfy them; bad reviews help nobody. That means providing content that accurately captures the feel of the destination. Video content has become critically important.
Also critical is making sure that travelers can get all of the required information and make bookings on their phone. Travelers are judicious in their use of agents, and if their lives are stressful, they want control of the planning process. Organizations that understand this provide information that people need to plan their trips on their own.
Destinations also need to capture the right records and analytics that will allow them to count the visitors to their website and find ways to make it easy for people to book hotels from the site. Destination organizations need this information to know the people to whom they are marketing, as well as how the company should move forward.
Finally, the importance of social media cannot be overlooked. Destinations need to be active and responsive on social media, ideally across multiple platforms. Keeping in touch with travelers after their trip can encourage destination loyalty. Today’s travelers tend not to be loyal to a single destination. Instead, they are more likely to have “horizontal loyalty” and have a few favorites, probably due to the ease of travel and reasonable price of flights. Companies should think about developing loyalty programs. Although relatively few customers will come back every year, they are likely to show up every few years.
Destinations should consider providing a platform which allows potential travelers to quickly gain such information as hotels, restaurants, and activities. That encourages sensible, independent planning, which will enable visitors to make reservations and buy tickets with one or two clicks. Said platform also needs to be mobile-friendly and adequately integrated with social media. Today’s savvy traveler expects to be able to get what they need quickly and is inclined to make rapid decisions based on the information available.