According to research by Skift, the majority of travel companies around the world are experimenting with at least some form of personalisation.
It’s been suggested that consumer resistance to sharing data is complicating matters, with this – to some extent – leading to limited success.
For tourism boards, concern over data privacy remains a continual challenge, but with travellers increasingly desiring unique experiences, it is one many are tackling head on.
Recently, a number of tourism boards have revamped their websites with greater personalisation in mind, taking steps to further tailor the user experience to individuals and their travelling needs.
Here’s more on how the industry is striving to become all the more personal.
One of the biggest traps tourism boards can fall into is to market to the generic traveller, and to promote their destination in a rather broad and non-specific way.
However, many tourism boards are now recognising the benefits of promoting their destination in a more nuanced fashion, and creating an online experience that reflects its varied appeal.
This has been the motivation behind Visit California’s website revamp, specifically in terms of its content strategy. Instead of marketing California in relation to ‘everyone’, with content based on what it believes people want from a trip, the tourism board has delved into Google query data to find out the type of questions people are actually asking. The results were surprisingly specific.
Lynn Carpenter, vice president for Visit California told Warc that “consumers aren’t saying, ‘give me five amazing things to do in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’, but rather, ‘what five things should I do in June with kids on a budget in Anza-Borrego.’”
On the back of this insight, Visit California has since revamped its content to be more relevant to users. It does not set out to answer specific questions, but by taking insight from what people are searching for, it has re-focused on where and how it can be the most helpful.
It has expanded its travel guides for specific locations, for example, now including more detailed information about all aspects of the place, and again, moving away from generic to more targeted content.
— Visit California (@VisitCA) August 29, 2018
While Visit California has used keyword research to find out what users want to know, other tourism boards are taking a more overt approach to personalisation.
Skift explains how The Greater Miami Convention & Visitor’s Bureau does this, letting website users create their own accounts to ensure that the site experience is entirely curated to their needs.
The ‘personalise your experience’ feature enables users to determine how relevant 10 categories are to them by selecting different options on a scale. For example, on the Foodie scale, users can choose whether they are a ‘simple palate’, ‘quick & delish’, ‘classic cuisine’, ‘epicurean appetite’ or ‘culinary daring’.
The categories are wide ranging, providing options for users to convey information on how romantic, active, and cultural they would like their trip to be.
From this information, signed-in users then receive relevant recommendations for hotels, events, and things to do. Furthermore, users also have the option of adding to a ‘trip planner’.
This shows how tourism boards like Greater Miami are no longer satisfied with providing information (and a passive user experience). Rather, many are delving into the territory of travel operators, finding ways to become more valuable for users, by creating tools to help with the active planning and organisation stages.
Not all tourism boards think in terms of far-flung or international visitors. Some, such as Visit Philadelphia, have discovered that most of their traffic comes from locals looking for things to do.
As a result, much of Visit Philadelphia’s content is designed with this in mind, involving a real-time context to appeal to locals looking for news about events, launches, and new openings (as well as visitors who might be interested in this).
From new outdoor gardens to expansive restaubars, these new restaurants in Philly are worth the visit! https://t.co/5xhuFtlR5g
— Visit Philly (@visitphilly) September 2, 2018
Another effective tactic for tourism boards with a local audience is to used location-based targeting. This can potentially entice visitors from nearby or surrounding areas. It also acts as an effective form of personalisation, too, with communication often being based on where people are from or how far they might have to travel.
The tourism board for Washing D.C, does this, detecting IP addresses from New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and delivering customised content based on what might be most relevant to these locations.
For example, it might serve content geared around short weekend visits for New Yorkers, or more cultural imagery for Los Angeles-based users.
DC events, plays and museum exhibits you must experience before it's too late! https://t.co/FXR32rNBs2
— washingtondc (@washingtondc) September 2, 2018
Personalisation largely extends to email, display advertising and possibly to site content like travel guides and destination-based information. Video advertising though is a trickier medium to personalise.
It can be done, however, as shown by the Tennessee Tourism Board, which decided to draw on data to serve personalised, pre-roll adverts to online users in its video campaign.
In order to do so, it looked at online behaviour (drawn from web cookies) to determine a picture of the user’s interests. Creating 2,000 different variations of the ad in total, it then served a pre-roll ad based on what would be likely to appeal to them the most. The video ad included a link to a landing page, where the user could take further action, such as build a personalised itinerary or enter into a competition.
According to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the campaign generated a 46% increase in online traffic to the website, perhaps then proving the power of relevant and highly targeted travel content.
For Tennessee, the benefits extend to more than just engagement, too. By showing off the diversity of its destination, the campaign is likely to have generated new interest in the destination, and maybe even an entirely new set of travellers to re-target.