Looked for a holiday, left with a story: How to make a tourism website more effective

These tips on How to make a tourism website more effective have been drawn from my presentation to tourist operators at the South Australian Tourism Industry Council (SATIC) conference today, which also spawned last week’s article, Looked for a holiday, left with a story: Why tourism operators should be in love with blogging.

This is not an article about what widget to put where, instead, it is drawn from my observation of how few tourism websites actually understand or convey an understanding of what people are truly seeking during ‘holiday time’.

My key point is that too much tourism advertising and marketing concentrates on ‘the gate’ and not on the fact that we need you to be ‘the gateway’ to experiences and stories.

How to make a tourism website more effective: The gateway not just the gate

What happens on tourism websites happens on all business websites: we get so mired in our technical considerations that we forget the cares and needs of our ideal customers, or target markets.

For example, I found this wording on a South Australian website:

Enter through stately iron gates and follow the cobblestone path through freshly landscaped gardens and our private courtyard. The comfortable sophistication … is yours to enjoy for the night, the weekend or extended stay.

I was careful to point out in my presentation that I don’t think this wording deserves ridicule, rather it just needs to be considered in light of that enterprise’s most attractive guests. Is it focusing on its ‘gate’ or its ‘gateway’ attributes?

To me, there are too many superlatives and my mind glazed over as I read that wording, but if architects, history buffs and people yearning courtly, rustic experiences make up the enterprise’s target market, maybe this hits the spot; maybe it does touch something deeper.

So the first thing I’d like you to do is read your existing website through the eyes of your ideal customer.

Have you ticked enough boxes to get them to book while leaving space to show them you KNOW why they’re coming and you’re at their service to get the most out of their fishing, hiking, wandering, buying, flying, etc, holiday?

For example, if you have a facility that caters for fishing groups, dedicate some space to the XYZ Fishing Experience, noting how much freezer space is available for holding a catch, whether or not you have freezer bags, what cooking facilities you have, and how you cope with smelly fishing clothes, boots, gear, etc (yes, you can tell I am not a fisher).

But who is my ideal customer?

It is nigh impossible for most tourism businesses to anticipate every single need and desire of their guests, which is why it pays time and time again to have invested energy into defining your primary and secondary target markets.

Yes, I can be a broken record on this topic but it’s because I’ve seen how a clear imagining of a specific customer can help an organisation make much more effective websites, better brochures, improve customer service, make better advertising decisions and boost sales.

Whether you have Baker Marketing help you with your marketing planning, or you find some other means, it is crucial to understand:

  • who your idea customer is
  • what wants and needs motivate them to search for a tourism enterprise like yours
  • what fears or expectations will colour their thinking as they plan their visit
  • how you want them to perceive and remember you (your positioning)
  • how might help THEM remember and communicate their experience of you and your region

Armed with this knowledge, you will then get clarity on where to START revisiting your website content and structure.

For example, you will know that if Patrick Patrick is your ideal customer, apart from being a nice guy *cough* he is a coffee snob so seeing ‘tea and coffee facilities’ on your amenities list will be a turn off. Instead, you might write something like: We provide hot water and plunger tea and coffee in our rooms and we are 50 metres from an Italian cafe open from 6.30am until 9pm, should you prefer espresso.

Yes, I know that goes against EVERYTHING you’ve been taught but if you can’t provide an essential element for your ideal customer, you will win by either shifting to a different customer type, investing to fill the gap, or letting them know that you know how important such things are and you’re here to help them have a great time.

Remember, you are on this Earth to be a gateway to stories and experiences for your guests when you work in tourism, and whatever you can do to welcome your ‘strangers’ and give them some inside knowledge for getting the most out of their visit, will reward you over and over again as THEY will become your marketers.

And with marketing planning under your belt, you’ll have a prioritised list of tasks so you can start your transition smoothly and in a reasonable way, picking off the most important changes first at your own pace.

It really boils down to some structured imagination and we all know how a little imagination can go a long way when it comes to holidays.