It’s that time of year to assess your digital marketing strategies for your tour, activity, or attraction business. What’s working? How are you going to grow? And where should you focus in 2023? I’ve put together a list of priorities operators need to think about when planning their year. In addition, our team has added a priority list that Blend Travel Marketing is working on in 2023, which will offer operators some opportunities in the future.
Master The Fundamentals
There’s a plethora of articles about 2023 marketing trends on the internet, but focusing on the latest digital marketing trends won’t help much if your online marketing fundamentals need to improve. There are at least three essentials that will play a big role in your performance. Here’s the priority list:
1. Good Online Website Fundamentals
A healthy website will keep your business running and generating bookings.
- It needs to be findable. SEO is still critical, and it isn’t going away. Plan an ongoing search engine optimization strategy to ensure your audience can find your brand in search engines. If nobody’s watching your rankings and optimizing your site for this purpose, this should be one of your top marketing priorities.
- It should be fast. Website speed is a factor in conversion rates, and Google recommends watching your Core Web Vitals (which you can do in Google Search Console or https://pagespeed.web.dev/) as a measure of speed.
- It should convert well. Visitors who land on your website should have a great user experience on each page, which leads them to find the information they are looking for. This should result in solid conversion rates and the sought-after, full-margin direct booking. Look at your Google Analytics conversion rates (segment by channel, landing page, device type, campaign, and more) to understand where things are working well and where improvements are needed.
It seems simple, but website fundamentals require TLC and effort throughout the year. Find out how your website can be an additional ROI generator with this handy tool.
2. Video, the must-do format
Your consumer prefers video content and is experiencing it in different formats on different mediums. Now, more than ever, video is an essential medium in tourism marketing. Increase your video content to promote your business and look at video that has seen immense growth in 2022, like vertical video formats and short story content. User-generated and produced content are both useful assets. All these formats can be used to market your brand across various platforms.
a. Why Vertical Video and Short-Story Content?
TikTok is no longer a niche social medium; it’s mainstream, and its vertical video format has spread to other mediums. We’ve tested campaigns on this platform with tours and attractions and learned some tips and tricks for TikTok advertising that can help you decide whether it’s a suitable medium for your brand. This vertical video format is going to be important in 2023.
The rise of vertical video is not surprising since mobile phones are a primary consumption device. The perfect pairing for vertical video is short story content. This combination has led to growth on mediums such as YouTube Shorts, Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, Twitter, Pinterest, and even LinkedIn. Even platforms like Twitter have added TikTok-style swiping to move from video to video to keep consumers engaged. Let’s put vertical videos and short stories in your marketing toolkit this year.
b. User-Generated and Produced Video Content. Both Work.
All kinds of videos can work well to promote your brand. You don’t need an expert videographer to create all your videos. There is room for both “in the moment” video content developed by influencers and visitors, and high-quality produced content. Those short videos of wildlife sightings in a national park from a phone are golden, and so are those video sequences taken by a videographer that capture the emotion, scenery, and perfect lighting of a customer ziplining. Both kinds can be useful for advertising, websites, marketing materials, and social media.
c. Use your video across different mediums.
Share your videos across different mediums. I saw a business take their video from TikTok (which achieved over a million views), then launch that same video on YouTube Shorts, which reached 10X the views it did on TikTok. Different platforms can sometimes lead to better results, so reuse your content for various purposes and platforms—the bonus is it saves time and effort too.
3. Good data management for informed decision making
Making informed marketing and business decisions can’t happen without good data; otherwise, you’re just guessing. Operators should be thinking about these three priorities:
a. Measuring and understanding your data
More often than not, I speak to operators who need help understanding and interpreting their data. Unfortunately, when an operator can’t understand their data, they aren’t equipped to make smart, data-informed decisions. Let’s make 2023 your year to understand your data better. We regularly share tips on improving your data knowledge on our blog.
b. Move to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible.
As of July 1, 2023, the current Google Analytics will stop working and will be replaced with Google Analytics 4, which won’t allow you to port old data. Since our industry uses year-over-year data comparisons to track and gauge performance, the right time to move to Google Analytics 4 was the summer of 2022. Unfortunately, the booking platforms have lagged behind. We recommend adding GA4 tracking as soon as possible, even if your booking platform doesn’t yet let you track purchases in the platform.
Own your data
For years, brands have been using 3rd party cookies to track website visitors and collect data that help target advertising to the right audiences. As a result, digital marketing performance has hinged on the cookie. Legislation changes such as the European Union’s GDPR and California’s CCPA have tightened how advertisers can track users. We no longer have the breadth of data on visitors we once had that is helpful for targeted advertising.
As we head into a cookie-less world, now, more than ever, owning your data is imperative. Capture as many direct bookings as you can (giving you customer contact information and better historical data about each customer). As well, build and manage another golden 1st party data source—your email list with offers, surveys, and newsletters. Even if you don’t use email marketing as a major marketing lever, your list is a vital tool in effective advertising targeting.
2023 Tourism Marketing Opportunities
Along with tourism marketing priorities, there are significant opportunities for tours, activities, and attractions for future growth. Our team has put together our list of priorities to improve our capabilities and better serve our clients. These are your future opportunities. We’ll be testing out some strategies with our clients, and most likely, you’ll hear about our findings in our newsletter as we test and summarize our conclusions.
Here is what Blend is working on in 2023:
Chat—including SMS—has been around for years as a customer service support tool with some benefits for operators (reaching customers at the consideration and purchase phases of their journey). However, that communications channel is still underutilized—perhaps in part due to skepticism around chatbots, and the need for staffing chat. Today, AI-based chat promises to have a significant impact on the usefulness of the channel, possibly improving the customer experience and simultaneously reducing staffing demands. How can you utilize chat or AI chat for customer service and keep the relationship going with customers for future bookings? Which tools are the best for tours, activities, and attractions? We have those questions too and it’s on our priority list for 2023 to find out the best approaches and tools.
2. Content AI
The likes of ChatGPT, DScript, and other AI content tools have hit the digital marketing and content world in a big way by creating copy and design in a flash, but what are the best tools for tours and activities? These tools can potentially save tremendous time in creating ad copy, blog posts, and social or ad images, but how can we overcome the risks such as wildly inaccurate and invented data and a potential risk to SEO and rankings? That’s why we’re putting Content AI on our list of things to do this year.
3. User-Generated Content and Short-Form Video
We’re building our plan to help you use more short-form videos in your business and to help navigate how to get results from user-generated content (UGC). UGC has been important for years, but the explosion of short-form video and the influencer economy is changing the landscape. We’re looking for the best way for you to create short form, in-the-moment videos with your visitors to leverage those moments like the change of the seasons or key holidays or themes. You also need to know how to find competent creators to produce content efficiently for your brand and track and measure your results. Stay tuned for more help in this area.
4. Continuously Improving Your Advertising Mix
Digital advertising is constantly changing. Algorithms evolve, policies change, user behavior shifts and platform performance varies, whether it’s Google, TikTok, Instagram, or any other medium. These changes force every advertiser to adjust advertising strategies to get the right mix of paid search and paid social for clients. In addition, we need to share the benefits and risks of each platform so our clients can feel well-informed about our advertising recommendations. This item hits our yearly priority list as we continuously fine-tune our advertising strategies.
Let’s make 2023 an exceptional year for tackling priorities and finding attractive opportunities (backed by facts and data). Stay tuned for future updates in our newsletter as we learn, test, and fine-tune some strategies over this year. Stay up to date and get updates directly to your inbox.
Are you interested in discussing your 2023 priorities to grow your tour, activity, or attraction business? We’d love to chat about it.