The days where users rely solely on travel agents to help them plan vacations are becoming more and more obscure. Instead, travelers are turning to technology to help them determine where to go and what to do on their next vacation.
In today’s digital age, destinations should look into incorporating technology to increase visitors and engagement. Here are four key ways to create meaningful interactions.
An active social media account is the best way to stay engaged with your digital audience. We recommend starting with Twitter and Instagram, but once you are well established in those profiles, feel free to expand to other networks like Facebook, Pinterest and Vimeo.
Visit England is taking the use of Twitter to a new level with their #RealTimeTravelGuide initiative. According to Visit England, “This initiative, a tourist board first, will deliver real-time visitor information via Twitter. Participants including tourist information centres are encouraged to engage with and support local businesses to share their announcements, offers, updates and reasons to visit specific locations. This initiative focuses on developing the in-destination experience; specifically the provision of responsive, real-time visitor information to ever increasing numbers of mobile consumers”.
Tourism Boards and DMOs can also take advantage of Twitter hashtags and reach new users looking for vacation inspiration. When incorporating the tags, use terms that are broad enough to reach a bigger audience, yet still refined to target the right audience. By tagging the location or activity as a hashtag, you can better target the attention of people who are looking for a specific experience. GoHawaii’s Twitter account is a great example of a destination offering a variety of engaging content: beautiful images, tips and fun facts.
#TravelTuesday is a popular weekly hashtag where people share travel tips, deals and destinations on social media. As the hashtag suggests, people searching for ideas for their next vacation first turn to networking sites. Travelers can view and share photos and videos, gather tips and see trending topics in their destination area.
After connecting to your page from their searches, you will need to engage with your followers. Vary the types of posts such as quick tips, travel guides, itinerary examples and, of course, inspirational images on Instagram. Also for your page, we suggest giveaway announcements on a regular basis (day of the week, bi-weekly, etc.) to create incentive for people to come to your website or promote your brand. An easy way for people to spread the word about your destination can be a contest where participants need to tag a friend and comment on the photo to be entered.
An App for That
Your desktop website may have great, in-depth functionality, but a mobile app provides easy, on-the-go resources. While traveling, it may be hard to connect to Wi-Fi on a laptop or tablet, even a smartphone. An app with offline capabilities can best serve travelers abroad or with limited service.
Some additional features that your app could incorporate would be an uploadable, offline itinerary from the desktop site, to keep travelers on track from place to place. However, inclement weather, delays in travel or other setbacks can alter the schedule. While connected to internet service, a map function or suggested sites around their activities can be especially helpful. Location-based alerts to let them know that something interesting or helpful (gas stations, restaurants, hotels, etc.) is around them. Push notifications can also notify users of events, real-time weather, traffic and more. They are also a good way to draw your users back into the app.
Partnering with Another Platform
By partnering with travel companies that have other capabilities, your brand can join forces to target a larger audience and amplify overall exposure for the destination. For example, Alaska’s tourism bureau can offer their social media followers a chance to win a cruise to their state. The destination can team up with an online travel agency (OTA) that is willing to sponsor and promote the giveaway. Neither of you have overlapping products and both of your customers benefit.
Another idea is to integrate other platforms on the destination website which offer added value, additional services or help make the travel planning process to your destination less time consuming and more enjoyable. New technologies to help travelers in different ways are emerging, one example is the trip planner Inspirock. Users simply answer a few questions about where they are going and their travel preferences and, in seconds, Inspirock’s trip planner platform builds a detailed personalized travel itinerary which can be customized, downloaded, or shared with friends and family by email or social media. Users get help in planning their vacations, and DMOs get to promote their destination in a unique and deeply engaging way.
In the study, Exploring the Traveler’s Path to Purchase, by Expedia Media Solutions and Millward Brown Digital it is reported consumers search an average of 38 travel sites when planning a vacation, leaving a trail of valuable data for DMO’s to take advantage of. There are many different ways destinations can leverage big data.
Gather information about what potential clients are seeking to narrow the scope of marketing efforts moving forward. Using data you already have, you can analyze consumer behavior. Social media analytics show what types of statuses are being clicked on the most and shared. Use this to find when people are most visiting your pages to time social media pushes. Your website should also gather similar analytics to see the connection between other pages.
Gain insight by looking at consumer interactions, such as reviews, downloads in relation to social media blasts and other IT analytics. Through these analyses, find what people are looking for when traveling to certain high-traffic areas. For example, a surge of people traveling to Burning Man might need to rent a car or fly in, but don’t need a deal on a hotel. Use your data to focus your discounts or services, gather interest through tailored marketing outreach and seal the deal with your exclusive capabilities.
People haven’t given up on travel agents or bureaus, they’re just looking to connect with them in other ways. By incorporating technology, you’re meeting the demands of consumers on their terms. If your outreach is consistent, across platforms, and meets traveler’s demands, your brand will succeed.