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Tourism numbers are up across the board this year, from local day trips to international travel. While it can be compelling to ease back on your marketing, we all know that things won’t stay this way. In fact, now is the time to do some heavy lifting on your strategy, value proposition, and that all-too-important consumer-facing website.

Tourism websites need to do the following to be successful:

  • Attract and compel visitors to book a trip to your neck of the woods – the longer, the better.
  • Seriously, that’s it.
  • I’m not kidding – that’s really all your website needs to do.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Provided that you’ve done the basics to improve your website, below are a few considerations to up your game.

1. Make your tourists feel like locals.

Wyoming does a great job of making tourists feel like locals by giving them road trip itineraries and step-by-step brewery and distillery tour guides. Remember, people coming to your area don’t know the lay of the land, how far things are from one another, or even what traffic is like. The more familiarity you can give your visitors, the more comfortable they’ll be to visit.

Wyoming Tourism Website

The Cayman Islands even went so far as to give you a VR experience on their website. While we may not all have the luxury of white beaches to promote, the idea is the same: create as much familiarity as possible.

2. Make booking effortless.

I’ve made it no secret that I love how Chicago uses its website to make planning a trip absolutely brainless. While you can book a trip through Expedia right from any page on their site, they have custom itineraries based on their target audience segments. First time visitor? Here’s your trip. Couple’s getaway? They’ve got you right here. It’s as if you don’t even need to think about it.

Chicago Tourism Website

Instead of thinking about what you have to offer, consider what your audience wants to do and work back from there. What you’ll find is that your content is more concise, your bounce rate will drop, and you’ll attract more of the visitors you want.

3. Leverage your area’s culture.

Parks, breweries, museums… they’re on every tourism website. But what about showcasing the people that choose to live in your area?

By having your residents tell their own stories, you accomplish a couple of things. First, and most obvious is the give third-party validation. You’re no longer just talking about yourself. Second, you project your culture through storytelling – one of the most powerful ways to connect with people. Finally, you can gather user-generated content for social and other forms of promotion. The burden of telling your area’s story no longer rests squarely on your shoulders.

4. Ditch those vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics are numbers like pageviews or newsletter signups. They’re numbers that make you feel good, but ultimately blind you from the numbers that matter. Instead, look at your conversion rate (how many visitors actually convert). You can do this through UTM codes – a tag that’s put into your page URLs so that they can be tracked by destination websites. Here’s an example:

The URL above may look like gobbledygook, but let’s unpack it. First, we have the domain of a local museum. We then see the UTM source, the name of your tourism website. Following that, we have the type of content that someone was looking at on your site – a blog post. Finally, we can tie that to a campaign – in this case, a campaign promoting the area’s top museums.

When the museum looks at their Google Analytics, they can see how many visits and even online registrations they received from your campaign. And that, my friends, is how you get the conversion info necessary to track your conversion rate.

5. Go beyond Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a great tool for measuring general website activity, and you really can’t beat the price (it’s free, guys). But there is way more intelligence that you can squeeze from your website. Here are a few tools:

  • ADARA is an analytics suite that’s designed for destination websites. One of its most impressive features is crystal-clear revenue attribution, where you can tell which campaigns are performing vs. spend. It also gives actionable insights into your visitors, even including their organizations.
  • VWO is an A/B testing and conversion optimization platform that uses session recordings, heatmaps and more to help you optimize the front-end of your tourism website. They even help re-engage lost visitors through Facebook Messenger after they’ve left your site.
  • If a full-featured suite like VWO seems like too much, there’s Hotjar. You get heatmapping, recordings and surveys in an easy-to-use (and free to start) platform. If you’re not familiar with website heatmapping, check out this article and prepare to have your mind go “pop”.

6. Check your tech game.

Virtual reality has come a long way, and its uses in tourism marketing are astounding. Check out the virtual tour video below.

If VR seems a bit too pricey or over-the-top, consider an update of your tourism video. Drone footage can be particularly compelling. First, your visitors can see far more of your area. Second, when is it not awesome to feel like you’re flying?

7. Never stop improving your tourism website.

Web trends evolve quickly, and the trends of today may be gone in a month. In order to keep your website on point consistently, you need to make sure it’s given attention consistently. I recommend monthly reviews of your heatmaps and analytics, and a constant curiosity of what other websites are up to – and not just tourism websites. The more diligent you are with making a website that’s designed for the visitor, the more successful it’ll be.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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