This probably won’t be one of my most popular posts on destination marketing for now since we’re coming out of a pandemic. But over time, I think it’ll gain more attention as more aim for higher-value tourists.
Even after the events of 2020, overtourism is still a thing. Many cities around the world were – and still are – dealing with overcrowded streets, reduction in wildlife, and increased wear and tear on their buildings and infrastructure. There are just too many people crowding popular destinations, cities find it hard to manage, and residents are increasingly vocal about the problem.
I understand that if you’re reading this, overtourism may not be a problem. And if that’s the case, then this article is written for you. A lot of the strategies that are used to reduce overtourism and attract higher-value tourists can be used by smaller destinations to improve the revenue per visitor and reduce their impact on your environment.
Strategies to Attract Higher-Value Tourists
1. Lure tourists off the beaten path.
Create itineraries or an “insider’s guide” on your website that draw people to lesser-traveled attractions. Visitors want increasingly unique experiences – the kind that they can share with others that may have been to that city or town but don’t have the same story to tell.
A great example of this is Estes Park, Colorado. About 90 minutes north of Denver, this mountain town is a great hidden gem for those that want to find something off the beaten path. Promoting areas like this (or even shops located away from Main Street) can give your visitors a more custom experience, intensify their interest, and prolong their stay.
Just one tip if you decide to go there yourself: Estes Park is about 7,500 feet above sea level, so the air is pretty thin. Expect to take your time checking it out, as I learned. 🙂
2. Adjust your personas to attract higher-value tourists.
You probably won’t increase the percentage of higher-value tourists unless you have a plan to reach out to them specifically. And this can take some research.
First, ask to compare your website traffic (Google Analytics data, probably) to higher-dollar hotels or restaurants in your destination and surrounding area. In doing this, you’ll find ideas for referral sites, social media platforms, and more that you can focus on to get the attention of this type of traveler.
Second, develop the messaging you will incorporate to attract this type of visitor. Going back to the itinerary concept from above, you may want to develop a “luxury itinerary” that aims to satisfy this persona. This will require the use of imagery to support that message, which you may already have from the aforementioned, higher-dollar locations.
Next, promote this itinerary on the referral sites and social media platforms that you’ve recently discovered. As you begin to draw traffic to that itinerary section of your website, you’ll get your own data of higher-value tourists and can tweak your messaging and imagery to optimize this attraction.
Finally, look for opportunities to encourage user-generated content from these visitors. As we all know, very few people take trips they perceive to be luxurious without sharing their experiences on social media. Take advantage of this opportunity with prominent hashtags and recommended photo opportunities.
3. Encourage longer visits.
As people are less bound to their cubicles and working from home (or a hotel room, cafe, RV, whatever) is more of an accepted concept, people can travel longer. This results in more revenue per visitor, which aligns perfectly with the behavior we want from our visitors.
One approach is to incorporate language and imagery on your website that shows this work-from-anywhere approach in action. This can include photos of people working on their laptops at cafes, on the beach, etc. Make it look normal and welcome, and they’ll be more likely to consider it.
Another is to promote specific resources (hotel business centers, coworking spaces) you may already have that are perfect for the traveler on the go. Similar to the above approach, this reinforces the idea that travelers can stay on top of their career commitments. This can encourage them to consider a longer trip.
A visitor that stays for a week is worth more in revenue than three visitors that stay a weekend. That’s a simple, mathematical solution to overcrowding that many cramped destinations are putting into place.
These are just a few ways to leverage lessons learned from overtourism into your destination marketing plan. The goal – and hopefully, result – is to attract value over volume, reduce the wear on your infrastructure, and begin to position your destination as one that brings in higher-value tourists. As with any adjustments to your marketing plan, make sure to monitor and measure the changes that these adjustments create.