Looked for a holiday, left with a story: Why tourism operators should be in love with blogging

Next week, I am addressing the cream of South Australia’s tourism industry with my presentation, Looked for a holiday, left with a story. A Marketer’s guide to making memories for fun & profit, at the SA Tourism Industry Council’s 2016 conference.

I love working with tourism operators because they are sitting on the biggest gold mines of all when it comes to fodder for content marketing.

For example, last year I urged operators to embrace Instagram and ‘they got it’. By embracing my ‘media habit’ they have been able to build a bountiful supply of images to paint pictures of their offering to share them with the world through social media.

But this year, I want to go a step deeper, into the very roots of what business tourism operators are actually in; the business of experiences and memories.

Feature feature on the wall, who’s the boringest of all?

Ouch, that grammar hurt. However, I wanted to get your attention because I believe the reason most tourism ventures look alike, is that most operators suffer from the universal business owner problem of ‘feature fixation’.

ALL people in business get drawn into the details and features of what they are offering the world; coffee machines in your room, 20km from wineries, segways with extended battery life, or my favourite, newly refurbished luxury accommodation.

While there is no doubt that various features or facts about our tourism ventures will help seal the deal with some visitors, the magic of tourism and the focus of this post and my presentation is to ask what are we doing to help customers have great experiences and return to their friends, family and colleagues with captivating stories to tell?

As with all marketing dilemmas, the pathway to an elegant answer starts with getting strategy set and developing a deep understanding of your ideal customer.

The further we can go in identifying and humanising our ideal customers, the bolder we can be in thinking through the questions they’ll have before arrival and during their stay.

And this is where blogging can be a godsend.

Why tourism operators should be in love with blogging

Imagine using the blogging mechanism of your website to load short, focussed stories and guides that could be cobbled together into clusters of helpful content for your ideal customers.

Without knowing your ideal customer and the types of things they enjoy, this could be a futile mission of generating lots of content that nobody cares about.

However, by thinking deeply about who your ideal customers are and what they might want to know BEFORE they arrive and discerning what questions they might have while they are experiencing your operation, you can start creating useful content that sets up your customer for stories worth sharing later.

What could effective tourism blogging look like?

I would love to have a tourism website that has a ‘juicy’ section of content to help me prepare for my visit and another with how to get the most out of it.

By structuring that information in bite-sized blog posts and gathering them in relevant places on your website, you could really show me how much you’ve thought about my visit and your region. As an example, look at this page about Marketing Planning on our website (it will open in a new tab).

See how we have three stories midway down the page that add extra depth to the content? They are all blogs that are not only working to help us with our Search Engine Optimisation, they are also being used to help a visitor interested in marketing planning to get more flavour.

To bring this back to tourism, in researching accommodation for a Mount Gambier trip recently, my eyes began glazing over as accommodation facility after accommodation facility offered me pages droning on and on having an ‘elegant queen bedroom with spacious suite’ or being ‘within walking distance to tourist attractions’.

These are all facts or features, they do not communicate the ‘what’s in it for me’ that I wanted to know as a particular type of  traveller with a particular mission to fulfil.

For this trip, I was travelling for business so, as an example, I needed to know where I could get quality espresso around 7am on a Tuesday (yes, I know some hotels/motels have instant coffee, drip coffee or nespresso machines but if I fit your ideal customer type you will know I wouldn’t drink that).

Had I been travelling with my kids on holiday, I would have liked some detailed suggestions about morning and afternoon activities and a suggested plan of attack. After all, you know your location better than me, so I am looking to you to be my ‘friend’ to make me feel at home and to benefit from the best your location has to offer.

We are strangers in new places when we travel, tourism operators have the challenge of making us feel at home while we experience ‘the new’.

So please have confidence in your opinions and your favourite places; these insights are valuable to us because most of us are not looking to transplant our home town on your location (like many mindless travellers from Sydney and Melbourne who bemoan that Adelaide doesn’t have every single thing their town has instead of appreciating what is here), most of us just want to get a taste of the world they way they serve it where you are.

My challenge to you is to become clear about who your most ideal customers are and think about their experience of your operation from their perspective. What are they really seeking, how can you make that easier for them?

By using your blog as the first stepping stone along this new way of thinking, you are not only going to help your site get found by the right people, you’ll also be providing them a resource to refer to while they are with you and a URL to share with others (potential new customers) upon their return.


Photo: Sasha Sachs from Hannaford and Sachs on Kangaroo Island, making Patrick Patrick feel at home in her enchanted restauruant. Image is from a video Steve shot of his experience.