These are not the best of times for destination marketing. Travel journalism is in a transition. A hotel group recently purchased Travel + Leisure, one of the great top shelf travel magazines.
Newspapers have cut their travel content, and in some cases the entire travel section. At the same time, people are full of an intense desire to travel – but due to the pandemic, cannot. So this presents a unique challenge to a destination- how can you promote yourself to people who cannot travel or are hesitant to travel? And, with the traditional travel media in a flux, where do we turn for promotion?
Let’s start with influencers: These stars of social media use stunning photography to harvest likes and shares. Influencers did well on their photography back in the day, not always being just about place, but with audiences that tend to be very general, and not always travelers. It is like the old story about the meeting between the ad director of the Chicago Sun Times and the ad buyer for the famed retail store, Marshall Field’s. The Sun Times rep was unhappy that the big department store had bought full-page ads in the Chicago Tribune, but not in the bigger circulation Sun Times. “It is simple,” the Marshall Field’s buyer explained. “Your readers are our shop lifters.” And, with influencers we need to ask, are we paying to reach people who will never use or experience our product? Is it about the photo or the destination? And for a lot less, couldn’t we invest in our own Instagram feed that we control, and that echoes our brand?
So, it comes back to your site. That is your home, your brand, and if you are a hotel – it has to fight third party sites that want to sell your rooms, and compete with you on your own product. Take a big step back, and ask: What makes us unique? What do we offer that you can’t get anywhere else?
Make your website reflect your brand, make sure it has strong Search Engine Optimization. Have it be clean, clear and accessible. If you put money in an ad, it runs and then is gone – but if you invest in your website, you get the benefits day after day – through booking, SEO and the ability to tell your story. Communicating directly is crucial – and puts the effort into your own news feeds, by creating content that is easy to share, and that tells your story.
Run your blog as you would a magazine; use it to build your brand. Match up content to what a potential guest might be looking for. A guest who wants what you offer, but does not know who you are.
As a case study, we helped Visit Alentejo launch a brand new blog in two languages: English and French – two of the top languages that travelers use to find information. The new blog has exceeded expectations, and has a unique feature – much of the content was written for us by travel writers who are happy to craft professional content that rivals what you find on magazine websites. Good content is key to a good website, and using professional travel writers we now have a magazine that takes our story and brings it to a new audience at a new level.