I recently took a trip to the heartland of America. I like to take trips, and have been interested in how tourism functions ever since I was a about 6, sitting on the sidewalks of Salmon Arm, B.C., watching the vast array of American license plates driving by in the summer and, occasionally, hanging out in the lobby of the motor inn just to see the strangers, and wonder where they were going, and what brought them here?
So I’ve spent a lot of years being involved in the fascinating process of how tourists make their decisions about where to go, and what to see. And, in some ways, the process hasn’t changed much. What has changed is the vast volumes of data that barrage and overwhelm the traveler at every turn. So the bad news, from an operator’s point of view, is that your message is diluted, distorted, and overwhelmed. The even WORSE news is that most of the tourism marketing agencies, websites, guides, CVBs and DMOs have done very little to address this data deluge, and in fact are mostly just throwing moreof the same-old, same-old on the pile, just like they did in ‘the old days.’ Except, in the old days, I probably had, at most, two possible ‘guides’ to Salmon Arm. One from the provincial government, and one from the local newspaper. Today, there are probably thirty or more places I could potentially get information from. But, as a tourist, that is NOT an improvement. It’s actually made the job of finding relavent information harder!
The point I’m working up to here is this: in order to be seen or heard by the tourist, your message must be MUCH MORE LASER-LIKE than in the past. You have mere seconds to make an impression, so you better damn-well know who you are, and what you offer. And it better be unique, and it better be compelling! Which means it CANNOT be ‘generic,’ it CANNOT be ‘all things to all people,’ you CANNOT ‘specialize’ in five things. Tourism marketers today must be brave enough to eliminate most of their messaging. To ruthlessly delete that which is generic or, even worse, untrue.
So how are most tourism marketing vehicles doing? Horribly, sad to say.
I looked at about a dozen different CVB and town and state websites before my last trip to Kansas. Most of them were a complete waste of my time. Why? Because they had TOO much data, that was too generic, and they were trying to be all things to all people. And so, to me, they were nothing.
There are exceptions, of course. Thankfully! A site with “The Top Ten Things to Do in..xxx” Useful. The Hutchison Cosmosphere‘s list of “What to do if you have one hour. What to do if you have two hours.” Useful.
The funny thing is I discovered the Cosmosphere – America’s 2nd biggest Space Museum, and a highlight of my entire trip – from – wait for it - Wikipedia! Not from any tourism website at all.I only ended up on their website because I needed to know their hours of operation.
So most of the marketing dollars that the Cosmosphere spent online completely missed me – and I am their PERFECT target market – a sci-fi movie-lovin’ quasi-tech-geek, who couldn’t WAIT to see the Apollo 13 capsule!
Stop wasting your money on generic tourism marketing. Focus your marketing communications on meeting the informational NEEDS of your target markets, and try and get your message in front of them WHERE THEY ARE LOOKING. First steps? Get the Wikipedia and Google information about your business up to date, accurate, and interesting. Spend more time on this than on writing ads! Getting the ‘right’ information out in to the ‘real’ world is far more important for most small operators than any ads you can afford. Because tourists don’t want your ads, they want your info – and even then only if it fits with their interests and their existing travel plans. And that’s an amazingly small window of opportunity in the course of their busy, info-overloaded lives.
I could go on…and on, and on…but I know you’re already overloaded with this stuff. So I’ll shut up now. And hope that I caught you at that rare moment where some of this information might actually sink in. And if you are a tourism marketer, I just say this: Good luck!
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