Five Tourism Marketing Trends We Can’t Ignore

by: Ashlee Akers, VP/Client Services

My Takeaways from the Visit California Outlook Forum

This month, I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Outlook Forum through Visit California. I serve on the Central Coast Tourism Council Board of Directors and the marketing committee for Visit SLO CAL and I’m always eager to learn new ways that our region and Verdin’s clients can complement statewide marketing efforts.

The two-day event was jam packed with seminars, speakers and breakout sessions. I appreciated the camaraderie and openness as industry professionals gathered with a common bond: supporting our state with thriving tourism.

There were five takeaways that particularly stood out to me from the forum. Destinations need to take these trends into account in 2018:

1. It’s time to pay attention to voice activation. Nowadays, 20% of searches are voice activated – think Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa – and that percentage will continue to climb. These voice activation assistants answer questions by pulling up top search results, adding another level of significance to SEO optimization. At Verdin, we’re exploring how voice activation search will continue to evolve with SEO so that we can guide our clients in the keywords that are rising to the top.

2. Be ready to use that crisis communications plan. Brush the dust off your destination’s crisis communications strategy, because when the time comes to implement, you need to be ready. I was so inspired to hear from professionals at the forum who work in Sonoma County, Montecito and Ventura. During and after a crisis, communication within your region is just as important as outward communication. For example, Sonoma County turned off all outward media for two weeks following October’s fires, and turned inward to rally their community together.

3. The rise of the HeroGen. Millennials get a lot of labels, but let’s recognize that this generation will guide the future. They’re passionate about getting behind causes and solving our world’s problems. Sasha Strauss of Innovation Protocol gave a fascinating talk about this group that he calls the “HeroGen” – the generation that will save us. Because millennials are everywhere, your content needs to be, too. And it’s critical to speak their language. When millennials become exposed to new destinations, 75% of the time they’re in “learn mode,” meaning they want to know about a destination, not be sold to. They enter into “buy mode” just 5% of the time... and by then, they’ve probably made their decision.

4. Content is driven by data. Content is everything, and it needs to be backed by research. We have access to sophisticated measurement tools, so let’s use them – and I mean beyond heads in beds. For example, it doesn’t matter how many people are clicking to your site if they’re all bouncing off after a few seconds. How many pages are visitors seeing per session? How long are they spending on site? This data will tell you what content is working and what isn’t.

5. Your destination has a story. And the way you tell it will make or break marketing success. Don’t dismiss the essential elements of a story that you learned in school – the backstory, the rising action, the hero’s journey, the disruption, the victory. It’s how we make sense of the world around us, and we all want to be part of a good story. How is your destination telling yours?

If you’ve met me, you know I’m passionate about destination marketing. The CA Outlook Forum was an energizing and inspiring week and I look forward to the chance to return!

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