As a traveler, my early life was spent doing road trips with the family throughout the US. Fun trips, low on budget but big on experience – a favorite meat market in Rawlins, WY; a stop at Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD; the mountain drive to Big Bear Lake, CA; fishing on a lake outside of Hayward, WI. This wasn’t tourism that was the focus of any marketing campaigns, but it was what my family loved to do.
Fast forward a few years and the next phase was a backpacking trip to Europe. No reservations except a Eurail Pass and an overview for the time we’d be there. We thought we needed to hit every country in Europe, not realizing how far it was from one place to another. But we also loved overnight train trips because it didn’t mean renting a room to sleep!
Today, my personal travel has taken me to rural Bhutan, South Africa, the villages of Peru and Mexico, the Tuscan countryside and even a farm in Croatia. It’s less about all of those spots where everyone has gone and more about an entire world that may not include previously well traveled tourist destinations.
So what’s the point, you ask? When my family did road trips in the US, there was no internet, there weren’t so many people traveling, and the choices for those adventurous few were limited. Today, we have access to research, tour companies, homes to trade or rent, points and miles. The world of travel is filled with options that are easy for even the non-seasoned tourist to find. And the bigger challenge for those of us who would also like to attract those travelers is to stand out in the clutter of a very competitive industry. So where does a marketer of tourism start?
All marketing should be driven by the connection with the target audience. And by that, I’m suggesting that if you’re marketing Airbnb, you’re probably going to use different tactics than if you work for Viking River Cruises. The first will be almost completely online driven, where as the second needs to also connect with potential guests in more traditional ways. But here’s another recent development worth considering. We’re not just marketing to Americans any more, whether we’re marketing destinations in the US or around the world. In 2014, more than half of all overseas travelers (excluding Canada and Mexico) to the US originated in emerging markets – versus the early 2000s when only a third of overseas travelers coming into the US came from these countries.
Tourism marketing, like any marketing goes back to some real basics. First identify who your core market is for your guests. And then don’t take the shot gun approach. Look at where these people spend their time and how they make decisions. Spend your money in the strongest places to reach these potential travelers. If you still have more money, then go after your secondary markets as well. But do a good job on who your primary target is first.
Oster and Associates has always done a good job of getting the most for our clients’ marketing dollars. We ask you to spend wisely, not lavishly. And we think each thing you do should have a purpose. Let’s look at what your purpose is!