Tourism boards have come a long way in recent years.
Once a forgotten-about resource, now an increasing number are actively reaching out to international travellers, and using their online presence to persuade and motivate people to visit.
But, how exactly are they doing it? Here’s a look at of some of the most interesting trends in online tourism marketing, and why certain destinations are leading the way.
In 2015, both Facebook and YouTube introduced 360-degree video, leading many tourism destinations to experiment with the medium.
The benefits are obvious. If done well, 360-degree video enables viewers to immerse themselves in a destination as well as specific activities or events, generating much higher engagement than standard video.
Research from Skift backs this up, but also shows that getting people to actively watch 360-videos is still somewhat of a barrier. It found that while only 13% of users say they’ve interacted with a 360-degree video, 51% of those that have say they find them much more engaging.
So which tourism brands have been getting involved? Here are a few of the best examples.
Philadelphia Virtual Tour
Visit Philadelphia allows viewers to jump into the sights and sounds of ‘Philly’ with a series of immersive videos of the city’s most recognisable spots.
Viewers can skate along the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, look around Elfreth’s Alley and experience what it’s like to be in the middle of Washington Square. With a full-screen format plus the option to use a VR headset, it offers a great way to get a glimpse of what’s it like to actually be there.
Lexington in Kentucky is known as ‘horse country’. The city’s tourism board, VisitLex, chose to hone in on this niche appeal this with its 360-degree video, Horses.
The video immerses users inside the world of horses, allowing them to see a 360-degree view of race day, the animals being groomed, and the fields in which they roam. By focusing on this rather than the general location, VisitLex is able to target a much more specific audience.
British Columbia: Whistler Within
British Columbia uses action to drive its 360-degree video, Winter Within, showing viewers exactly what it’s like to ski in the area. In fact, by allowing viewers to navigate wherever they choose, it offers more of a view than the skiers themselves can enjoy.
While 360-degree tour video might serve a more functional purpose, adventure videos can be effective for really ramping up excitement in the run-up to a trip.
Slick UX and design
Last year, I wrote about five tourism websites guaranteed to give you wanderlust, and one thing they all have in common is a particularly slick and engaging UX.
While most other types of travel-related websites rely on bookings, focusing on avoiding abandoned user journeys and so on, tourist board sites have the luxury to concentrate on beautifully designed and informative content.
Tennessee Vacation grabs the user’s attention with highly visual and arresting imagery, designed to highlight different aspects of the state. It also helps different types of travellers navigate the site depending on what they’re interested in.
While indoor and outdoor activities might appeal to families, Nashville’s nightlife is bound to appeal to younger travellers.
Another example of great design is Visit Finland – specifically its animated map.
Users are taken around the map as they scroll, with each section detailing information about key attractions within four regions. The map itself is deliberately cartoon-like, however I think this adds to its charm, with the main enjoyment stemming from the easy user experience and bright design.
In the UK, Visit Cornwall also makes use of striking design, integrating site-wide video into its homepage.
Showcasing the county’s beautiful coastal views, it effectively captures the user’s attention and shows off its unique appeal.
Another element that tourism boards are increasingly focusing on is food. Gastronomy is a huge motivation for travellers around the world – the AAA found that an estimated 22m Americans will take a culinary-focused holiday in the next 12 months, while 75% feel that food is an integral part of their trip.
It’s not just about recommending local restaurants either. Content relating to tasting experiences, food markets, and regional produce can all be effective for engaging foodies – all the while helping to boost local businesses.
Catalunya is one tourism board to have a dedicated food section on its website, where it features videos about the region’s famous cuisine and wine. As well as increasing engagement from people interested in food, this type of content also helps to promote the authenticity and unique identity of a place.
NYCGo also has an extensive focus on food, using a magazine style format to delve into the restaurants, food trends, and quirks that make its dining scene so famous.
It also promotes food events happening in New York City, helping users to plan specific trips and events as well as gain inspiration.
It’s unsurprising that most tourism sites have a very strong presence on Instagram – it’s a trend that’s seen across the entire travel industry. However, it is a great way for tourism boards in particular to establish themselves as a standout brand, using the platform to increase visibility and awareness.
Whereas Twitter or Facebook might create a more passive user experience, an increasing number of people are using Instagram to search for inspiration.
Tourism boards are able to capitalise on this, delivering stunning and inspiring imagery based on destination-interest.
PureMichigan has an impressive 516,000 followers on Instagram. Compared to VisitCalifornia’s 295,000 and NYCGO’s 212,000 – the US state is clearly doing something right.
Most of its success appears to be down to a focus on user generated content, with the channel continuously posting and crediting imagery to others.
Greenland makes the most of its photogenic landscape, using Instagram to showcase everything from its epic icebergs to magnificent wildlife.
It doesn’t only just focus on the imagery, however, with its captions providing users with informative insight into life on the island.
Finally, VisitLondon shows that you don’t always have to use Instagram to target international travellers.
Posting imagery that celebrates all aspects of life in the capital, it is able to become a source of interest for locals as well as potential visitors.