How do you encourage people to visit your tourism business? Word of mouth and a few good reviews isn’t enough these days. Online access is the catalyst for change in the tourism sector.
Online customers have greater access to information about tourism locations and events than ever before. Meanwhile, tourism businesses have a great opportunity to reach out and engage with their audience on an unprecedented level.
With its own 300-acre island and views over Loch Linnhe to the Morvern peninsula, the five-star Isle of Eriska Hotel is one of the west coast’s most picturesque locations. It’s a family-run enterprise, and Beppo Buchanan-Smith has found that just being in a beautiful spot isn’t enough on its own: you have to be discoverable on the web, and keep up with all the change and innovation that the digital age has brought.
The digital world has also transformed Basking Shark Scotland, says Shane Wasik. The company runs wildlife spotting trips from Oban, as well as playing a key part in the Coll of the Sharks festival each summer. It’s a particularly visual business: from the impressive underwater shots of the basking sharks, to breathtaking aerial footage of the islands and sea around Oban. Sharing all of this with an online audience brings its own challenges – but, like the Isle of Eriska Hotel, engaging with customers online is one of the key elements that’s driving the company’s digital strategy.
Both Shane and Beppo were present at the Digital Tourism Scotland webinar in April 2016. This video looks at some of the key points they made.
Get the fundamentals right
Simply having a website isn’t enough. If it’s not working hard for you, you’re probably not getting the value from it that you need. For example, if your site doesn’t adapt for viewing on a tablet or phone, you could be missing your intended audience. A responsive website means your potential customers can access your site from any device, and from anywhere. This is important as tourists often look for things to do which are near them at the time.
These days, you should also be aiming for a content managed site. This makes updating easy and means you don’t need to involve your agency or IT guru to keep your site current.
Keep it up to date
Fresh content is what keeps visitors coming back to your site. If they identify it as a good source for information, they will return. Having a content plan is the first step in making this happen. It doesn’t need to be too onerous to begin with. Perhaps you’ll aim to add a new blog each month, and feel better about adding more content once your confidence in what you’re doing grows a little. Don’t be afraid to remove content either. If it doesn’t add any value, or no one visits the page, it’s probably not worth having.
Good quality photography and video are great for enhancing tourism sites – especially those about accommodation or activities. Show off the best assets in your area by building them into your content plan too.
Don’t overload your site
A word of warning about using videos. Yes, we said they were great but too much video can slow down the speed at which your site loads, especially for those using mobile devices. Think about using sites like YouTube or Vimeo for those longer videos. At Isle of Eriska Hotel for example they tend to shoot a single three-minute video and use that to create six 30 second versions, and a whole lot of ten second ones they can easily upload to social media sites.
Understand your audience
An analytics package – such as Google Analytics which is free to use – helps you build your understanding of your site visitors. For example, it can very quickly let you see which pages people are visiting, and the ones they’re not. You’ll also be able to see where people are leaving your site – is it the clumsy booking form or the page with the picture of your cat? If you discover a trend, you can take some corrective action.
Analytics packages give you lots more information, including the location of site visitors and the type of device they’re using. All of this information can give you clues about the ways you can adapt your site to meets their needs better.
Use blogs to drive traffic
Blogs are a great way to attract visitors to your site, and identify you as someone who knows about the local area and what’s going on there. They don’t need to be about your venue or event but they can be about activities or attractions that are happening nearby – though watch out you’re not promoting your direct competitors. The other key benefit of blogs is that they can help improve your search ranking.
Make sure whoever is writing the blogs has a set of guidelines that covers the type of information that’s right for a blog from your business, and also the tone of your blogs. Generally, you’ll want them to be friendly, helpful and conversational, and avoid boasting or ranting.
Understand what social media can do
If you’re new to social media, set aside some time to figure what it’s all about and how it can help you. Look at what similar businesses are doing on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The great thing about social media is that it’s incredibly easy to use and doesn’t need to be a great burden on your time. But there’s no need to get carried away. Shane at Basking Shark Scotland warns about jumping into using paid services, such as Facebook’s offers to get your post in front of a large audience. Unless you know that Facebook audience matches your customer profile it’s probably not for you. The secret is simply to find out what works best for you, and keep on doing it. It might take a bit of trial and error in the beginning but the results should be worth it.
Manage your reputation online
Love it or loathe it, TripAdvisor can’t be ignored, and it’s better to engage with it than feel like it’s victim. Beppo of the Isle of Eriska Hotel points out that using good TripAdvisor reviews on your own site can bring positive benefits, but warns against ignoring the poor ones, believing it’s best to respond immediately to guests who leave a poor review. If they’ve made a mistake it’s important that you point this out and emphasise the high standards that you usually apply while being careful not to be disrespectful of any guest.
You might also want to consider issuing questionnaires to guests yourself. This way you still get some honest feedback on their experience with you, and perhaps circumvent any harsh reviews appearing online.
The next Digital Tourism Scotland events will run in autumn 2016: sign up now to make the most of digital.
Find out more