Important Marketing Activities for Companies in the Tourism Industry
“Before the Internet era, travelers would plan their voyage using a number of different mediums […] the Internet has simplified the process by amalgamating all of the previously mentioned mediums into one convenient space that virtually everyone now has access to.”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article was originally written in 2014, but is still very relevant for tourism companies today. Many still need to step up their marketing game in an industry that has been transformed by the Internet.
Like any traveler, I was very busy planning my trip to Japan. I started preparing for the trip several months in advance. The planning frenzy began when I made the ultimate commitment: purchasing the rather expensive plane ticket. From there, making reservations for hotels took only a few clicks. It didn’t take me very long to pinpoint the best tourist attractions in the cities that I would be traveling to; I even decided which restaurants I would eat at based on reviews and specialty menu items.
Then it hit me. I planned my whole trip wirelessly. This phenomenon would not have been possible 20 years ago. Before the Internet era, travelers would plan their voyage using a number of different mediums. Word of mouth, travel agencies, travel guidebooks and telephones were among the most popular ways to search for information during a time when planning tourism was a more complicated consumption process. The Internet has simplified the process by amalgamating all of the previously mentioned mediums into one convenient space that virtually everyone now has access to.
So what can be taken from this? As the search for information occurs almost exclusively within the digital space nowadays, companies that operate in the tourism industry should have a marketing strategy that is digitally focused. Here are a few ideas that should be considered:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
I would argue that SEO is the most important activity these companies should engage in and continually monitor. Even more so than online advertising, since consumers accord more trust to organic search results. Simply having a website or online presence is not enough, especially when more than 99% of searchers only view the first page of Google results. Thus, being at the top of Google search results should be a priority. I didn’t bother looking past the second page when searching for hotels and tourist attractions. As such, there is too much lost opportunity for many high quality tourism-based businesses because they are unknown gems on the Internet. This is unfortunate for both tourists and business owners.
On the same token, being search engine optimized also means having your website professionally translated in multiple languages, if not for English which is the universal language. More specifically, companies should consider translating their website in their customers’ native languages. This way, they will be able to easily find your website when they are searching for information prior to the trip. Of course, Google can translate websites that are in foreign languages. Their language translation proficiency is increasing and will one day be near perfect. So why should companies bother doing this? For one, it shows initiative and is good practice. However, it can also inspire confidence among potential customers and this can make or break a purchase decision. I personally chose one hotel over another because it wasn’t clear to me if one had free WIFI, as the site was written in Japanese only. I later learned that most all hotels offer free WIFI in Japan...
Engaging Online Content.
However, SEO tricks simply aren’t enough. Tourism-based websites need to provide information in the most engaging way possible. For example, restaurants should not only include a menu on their website, but one with pictures of every meal or product offering. Hostels should seriously consider writing blogs (in multiple languages) about must see tourist attractions and how to access them. The more engaging and informative the travel-related website is, the more site visits it will obtain and consequently, the more customers will come through the door.
Quality & Quantity of Reviews.
Something that is very important for tourism-based companies is both the quality and quantity of customer reviews. Before the Internet, family and friends’ opinions had an incredible influence on purchase decisions (and it still does). Now, it is as if the online community has become the researcher’s virtual family. So, the decisions of consumers that do most of their research online are heavily influenced by the opinions of customers that have already experienced the service or product offering. Thus, to obtain more business, it is very important for tourism-based businesses to ask customers to rate their experience to get a large number of quality reviews.
Finally, once a business obtains a customer it’s goal should be to retain them. This isn’t feasible for every tourism-based business. For example, tourists aren’t likely to return to a museum for a second time. Tourists seem to adopt a “been there, done that” attitude upon visiting tourist attractions. It is clear that customer retention doesn’t apply to every business that serves tourists. However, customer loyalty should be a serious concern for chain restaurants, hotels/hostels and transportation companies, to name a few. Customer loyalty programs are a fantastic way to retain customers. Stay 4 nights and get the 5th night free. Buy 6 coffees and get the 7th free. The picture (SEEN BELOW) is of a 10% discount I received for my next purchase at Genki, a chain of sushi bars in Japan. Customer loyalty programs are profitable for businesses and very convenient for travelers.
Of course, there are many other marketing activities to consider in order to be truly successful in the tourism industry. Let us know what else you think these companies should do:
Meet the author.
Meet Fortified Marketing's founder and lead marketing consultant. Taro loves reading fascinating articles on various marketing-related subjects, just as much as he enjoys writing about them. When he isn’t savouring a latte while working on his newest blog post, he can be found at a coffee shop in Ottawa's Little Italy, or marathoning shows and documentaries on Netflix.
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