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Creating Effective Tourism Marketing Websites

June 14th, 2006 · No Comments · Destination Marketing

Update: Official Tourism Brochures

Marketing Sherpa has a case study about the Virginia Beach tourism website’s redesign. Effective websites are extremely important for destination marketing and this article sums up many issues that those of us in the industry should consider when creating or redesigning our promotional sites.

Their goal was to both increase content and slim down their site. Wow, I’m glad I didn’t get that assignment. Very simply, here is what they did:

  • #1. Boil down home page creative to fit above the fold.
  • #2. Focus horizontal navigation by major demographic.
  • #3. Keep all navigation visible (no Flash).
  • #4. Keep five key offers on the home page.
  • #5. Remove content if it’s not useful that day.

These are all logical and likely could be applied to most promotional type sites. Let me reiterate, Please No More Flash! Fancy, but useless. It is awful stuff and should be banished for a variety of reasons, most simply because users and search engines don’t like it. Expensive flash sites often require additional marketing funds (buying adwords) dedicated to promotion since they have practically zero search engine visibility. They also mentioned frequent updates and content management. This can be problematic as most tourism agencies out-source web design and management. Either the agency must have an easy-to-use CMS function built-in and dedicate staff/time to its use or they must suffer ongoing operational costs associated with website management.

I’m was also surprised to see that they are targeting Hispanics and French-Canadians. I’ll bet now that the Canadian Dollar has strengthened, they will reap rewards for their foresight. Here in the North Country we have long neglected the Canadian market and have taken their visitation for granted. With increasing competition for visitors, it might be time for us to start learning French. Did I just say that? Mon Dieu!

Here’s the beef:

80% of surveyed Virginia Beach vacationers said they used the Internet to get some information before their visit. 39.3% said they had purchased tickets or made reservations related to their stay either through the site or elsewhere online.

Tourism sites are ideally positioned to convert visitors to buyers. This is a no-brainer.

Roughly 10% of unique visitors download an English-language PDF (although this can shoot up to 18% during March, a heavy vacation-planning month).

Consumers prefer PDFs to printed-and-mailed materials – Currently 350-400% more consumers will download a PDF from the site than fill out a form requesting a printed copy be mailed to them.

Whaaaat?!! You mean I could have quadrupled the number of people getting my material, use their printer, and save postage!?!? 350-400% – this I’d like more information on, but even if it was 50%, I’d still take it.

Critical — the PDF will never ever be barricaded behind a required form of any kind. … a required form would stop roughly 95% of downloads, and it’s far more valuable … to have thousands of brochures in people’s hands than to collect hundreds of visitor registrations.

Making people fill out forms is lame. Unless of course you are targeting visitors that like to fill out forms.

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