The old way for destinations to use digital involves creating a website with lots of pretty pictures and a list of every single ‘product’ their region has to offer.
These ‘products’ include hotels, B&Bs, venues, castles, bars and much more besides. As a result, these websites effectively act as a virtual yellow pages and allow visitors to make online bookings for their visit.
The approach has been utilised for over a decade within and it’s been successful – so what’s changed?
User behaviour has dramatically shifted from seeing a visit website as a logistical tool to more of an inspirational experience. As a result, destination websites have subsequently seen a dramatic loss in revenue generated from online bookings.
Why has it changed?
There are a number of reasons for this emphatic shift. The dominance of the booking engines; providers such as e-bookers, hotel.com, trivago, laterooms, booking.com, and expedia all have massive advertising budgets and generally market themselves as the place to visit for best value and best selection for ‘products’ within the travel sector. How can a your site compete with these key players? The answer is it can’t. So why try?
The sophistication of users’ online usage – 2015 sees user requirements from an online experience at its most demanding. No longer is a well-structured information architecture the solution for meeting user objectives. They want to be taken on a journey; to discover new things and be led on an experience incorporating social media and content relevant to them. Simply listing a load of products is no longer acceptable.
What can be learned?
The first thing to do is look at the sites using digital well. The likes of Visit Kent , Visit Cornwall and Visit Dublin are generally regarded as leading sites within the sector. Why? Because they offer the user a unique insight into the region they are representing. They stopped being a list of things and started telling a story; selling the region; explaining why someone should come and visit. Gone are the picture postcard images and marketing speak.
These are sites that take the user on a journey of discovery, showcasing what the region has to offer and ‘closing’ the user with relevant calls to action at relevant times. They put the power into the user’s hands; whether it is via an intuitive segmentation of the audience (as Kent does) or by showcasing content tags for popular areas of the site (as Dublin does).
The key point is that users need to be inspired by a region’s website. Let the user do the logistical element such as booking on their preferred online booking provider and away from the destination website. If your site focuses in on its primary task, it utilises the skillsets of your team and allows them to concentrate on what they are good at – selling the region.
Next, we’ll turn our attention to the wider digital marketing mix and its role within destination marketing.