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What are Top Digital Marketing Strategies to Promote Tourism Destinations?

November 10th, 2022 | 4 min. read

By Julia Elliott

What are Top Digital Marketing Strategies to Promote Tourism Destinations?
 
 

People everywhere are itching to get out of town. Domestic travel is thriving, the U.S. Travel Association says; in fact, it's back at pre-pandemic levels. 

That's the good news. The challenge is that many getaways are beckoning folks to pack their suitcases. What's the best way to stand out and convince travelers to book a trip to your destination?

At Zoe Marketing & Communications, we've helped tourism bureaus get their message to the right audiences — especially the desirable family market — for 35+ years with our sister media companies, Metro Parent in metro Detroit and Chicago Parent.

In this blog, we'll highlight several proven digital marketing strategies and insights:

By the end, you'll have a solid roadmap (or reminder!) of how to invest your digital marketing dollars best to move forward with confidence.

Segment your audience and find out who 'owns' them

Where does your ideal traveler live? Start here. Consider factors such as:

  • Are they flying to you? 

  • Are they driving to you? 

  • Do they live close to you or farther away?

  • Do they have a certain income?

  • What are their interests/hobbies?

  • Are they single/coupled?

  • Do they have kids?

Next, consider: Who "owns" this audience? For example, is there a niche publication or influencers that really know this market? Advertising on content creators' websites might be a good alignment.

Marketing agencies can also help you get in front of your target audience, especially with opt-in email subscribers, digital ads and other tactics (more on those below).

Consistency is key; seasonality is huge

When do people visit your destination? When do they think about visiting your destination? How long does it typically take them to book a reservation? 

The answer for a balmy lakefront beach town will differ from a snowy skiing haven — and be miles from a year-round resort that isn't as dependent on the weather. A mini checklist:

  1. Determine your "key times." Marketing may be more robust in some months; dialed back in others.

  2. Consider both your "pre-planners" and your "last-minuters." People usually need time to plan and save; they can also sometimes splurge.

  3. Launch campaigns at least 1-2 quarters before any given season, to build excitement.

  4. Think of marketing as a year-round effort. Always keep a steady "drip" going.

Digital ads on the general web + social media

Digital ads are a strong strategy for tourism. There are many choices, but it comes down to being strategic about who you're trying to reach — and testing it.

Here are a few digital ad methods worth trying.

1. Search engine marketing (SEM) ads

Search engines like Google Ads and Bing Ads offer various options to get your ads in front of the right audience. It's all based on what people are searching for. If it aligns with what you're offering, you can serve up these types of ads to them:

  • Search (text-only ads)

  • Display (image-based ads)

  • Video (ads most often shown on YouTube)

  • Local (ads that appear Google Business Profile results)

You can also narrow in on your ideal geographic regions and interests, including:

  • Location: filters by state, ZIP code, city, metro area, etc.

  • Radius: a set number of miles around your location

  • Affinity segments: targets people by search interests ("vacation," "travel," etc.)

  • Demographics: sorts by age, household income and other data

2. SEM retargeting campaigns

What if someone clicks your ad, looks at your site and clicks away? Super common, right? People don't typically book a trip on the spot like that. So you want to remind them you exist.

The best way to do this is with retargeting ad campaigns. By placing a piece of code called a "pixel" on the page, you can later serve "reminder" ads to these folks. Those follow them around as they browse other sites and apps.

It's a savvy method because you're targeting people who've actually shown interest in you.

3. Social media ads

Finally, grab eyeballs where they're cruising most often: social media. Facebook and Instagram in particular draw high traffic. And, since they're both run by Meta, posting ads to both is easy.

As with SEM, you can target people by geography and interests on social, such as:

  • People who like similar travel destinations

  • People interested in activities at your destination (skiing, hiking, sailing, etc.)

  • People interested in events and things to do

  • Parents of kids of specific ages (if applicable)

Of course, remember to schedule organic content for your followers, too. Your posts, Reels and Stories are good ways to showcase what's happening at your destination now — and soon.

Emails that plant seeds + push decisions

Email marketing offers a powerful combination. You can give people the idea to visit you. And you can include a direct call to action to explore your website and hopefully plan a trip.

Inboxes are high-visibility places to connect with key travelers (chew on this: millennials spend over 6 hours a day checking their email!). Work two angles here:

Paid email lists

Put your message in front of hungry prospective travelers. Teaming up with a media partner is one choice, if they allow you to reach their audience via email.

A more common option is connecting with a marketing agency with access to opt-in subscriber lists. In these cases — as with social media — you can target the interests, demographics and geography that best match the audience you're trying to reach. Consider:

  • Display emails. These have a strong image, minimal copy and a clear call to action. 

  • A-B testing subject lines for your emails. Which one entices more opens?

  • Creating a series of emails. You can send strategic follow-up emails to people who opened your emails but didn't click anything, and those who didn't open them at all.

Your email lists

Of course, you also have free, direct access to those who've signed up for your enewsletter, if you have one. Use it to your advantage, showcasing upcoming events, seasons and specials.

These emails can (and should) be a bit more conversational and "familiar" than paid emails. That's because you're reaching folks you already have a relationship with.

Content marketing for longer-term SEO

Finally, blogs and articles can boost your organic web search volumes over time.

Publish pieces to your website that give the 101 on what's outstanding about your destination. Aim to inform, educate and — most of all — answer common questions. Plus, aim for quality, consistency (at least monthly) and substance (600 words per article, at least).

After time, once you have enough content, pooling it into a pillar page is another excellent way to let Google know you're the definitive source for your destination.

Remember, though, that this content requires a dedicated in-house or hired writer.

What are the next steps to marketing my tourist destination?

Marketing your tourism destination takes a multi-pronged approach. As we explored, knowing your audience is big. Consistency is key. And digital ads, emails and content can all help.

As you might have guessed, only one approach won't do the job well. Your tactics should work in tandem. A professional marketing agency can help map your visitors' "buyer's journey" — before they book their actual journey.

Looking for some guidance? Talk to your advisor at Zoe Marketing & Communications. We'll pull from our 35+ years of experience marketing travel destinations, especially to the family market.

In the meantime, keep exploring your options! Discover our top two next-step articles for tourism marketing:

Julia Elliott

For 17 years, Julia Elliott crafted strategies and stories for Zoe, along with its sister companies, Metro Parent and Chicago Parent. A deep background in journalism helped her create customized content marketing to drive client success.