To Ponder by C. JoyBell C.

Hiking the hills of North Carolina

The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.

C. JoyBell C.

Technology and Today’s Traveler

Norwegian Cruise Lines Terminal A at PortMiami

Technology is changing the game when it comes to today’s traveler. With all the ways Google is getting your site visitor to what they are looking for faster and easier without you – whether that’s to be inspired by incredible imagery of a view never before seen, answering a question about a location on the spot or to actually show flights and hotels directly – what’s the travel industry or a DMO to do to make sure they and their digital experiences are not only found by a potential visitor but used by them… And ideally used over and over.

Since for a DMO, the goal is to promote a location to influence visits and ultimately multiple night stays, how can you do that when people are finding what they need directly on the SERP page or being inspired directly in social media? Well, for one thing, you stop worrying about it and you let them. 

Your Website Needs More

Your image-laden, beautiful and dare I say inspirational website is no match for a user looking for a specific thing. They want it now and want it fast and they will go where they know and enjoy going and that’s places like Instagram and Google. Initial vacation inspiration is often spotted in social media. That’s typically where people look for it. Instagram, Pinterest and even can really bring on a sudden feeling of FOMO. 

Unless your website pages are giving away free Amazon gift cards to every visitor who stops by, it’s likely not going to be the place they will end up going to first and revisiting again and again. It doesn’t happen anymore. Just accept it. After all, you do the same thing. Why would you expect others to act differently?

There is no linear conversation anymore. The web is well… A web and people will navigate it as they see fit based on their experience and choice.

Me 😉

Whew! Glad we got that out of the way!

Don’t get me wrong, your website absolutely needs to have incredible images and immersive video of all the amazing hot spots in your destination and your posts should all have them. But it is going to need more to compete for actual clicks. So what can you offer that will not only lead a person to your website but keep them coming back?

At the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau we came up with a complete experience platform that we felt would help people in all stages of the journey, even on the ground once they arrived. It’s still in development, but it’s something not found in any other site today and the elements we are putting together have already shown through surveys and usability testing to have great value to users. 

Helping Travelers Through Data

Using what you learn from a person through offered information and behavioral data is truly table stakes for business these days. Travelers are no different. They want you to know them and show them what they would be interested in. (I’m not going to go into the “content in context” thing here. You already know it. It’s been around for ages now. But, if you need a refresher, check out Hub Spot for a great many articles on how to utilize data through marketing automation to help drive engagement and sales.)

What I’m talking about is knowing your user and developing tools to help them throughout the journey. Here are just a few potential opportunities with today’s technology:

  • Personalization with algorithms to help showcase other things they might like
  • Shareable drag and drop itinerary builders
  • Webapps that allow users to look at the things they were most interested in seeing and doing while in the destination
  • Geo-location based push notifications while they are in the destination, of nearby things they showed an interest in – with coupons or specials thrown in
  • Walking directions via Google maps
  • AR and VR mapping to immerse the visitor in the location even deeper

Learn from Others, But Be Yourself

Now think of your destination and what may help a potential traveler. I’m sure you can come up with a lot of ideas that are specific to your location’s unique charm. You aren’t going to get anywhere following others, so don’t just run to the nearest big DMO website and copy what they are doing. It may not be right for your visitor. 

Think about what your users want or can use to make their visit easier to plan or how to help them have more fun or make the trip easier. The exact details are going to change depending on where you are, but the underlying needs and wants will be the same. Then do some prototyping and testing to see how people react. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big (or any) budget for testing, use friends or family from other areas of the country to test. There are also a lot of online crowding testing you can do for minimal cost. See what works and doesn’t. It’s an easy entry with a fast fail so if it doesn’t work, you can go into the next idea. 

Technology is changing daily and it’s finally caught up to the travel industry. You could even say it’s taken off. Don’t be left on the tarmac. 

The Traveler’s Journey

Norwegian Cruise Lines Terminal A at PortMiami

Recently I’ve been working on digital experiences in the travel industry. By “Travel Industry”, I mean all stages of the travel customer journey from Dreaming to Doing stage and all points in between:

Dreaming Stage

I will say it’s undergoing quite an upheaval recently due to a few factors in the space.

On one hand, we have the whole Google Travel side of things. Google has been working with DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) for a while now, helping to disseminate content and further brand (and by “brand” I mean City, State, Country, Town, and the like) value and messaging throughout the world for the whole “Dreaming” stage. From SERP blog posts, Google Earth and Voyager explorations, and the ever-growing Street View 360 Point of Interest photospheres and walking tours, Google has changed the game when it comes to getting people information they are looking for when deciding where to vacation, when to travel and what to do when they are in an unknown town whether for business or pleasure (or both).

Planning | Booking Stages

Recently they have plunged into the “Planning” and “Booking” stages with direct booking options, hotels, air rates and the like. It’s to get people the info they are looking for faster and easier than just linking to other sites where people then bounce back and forth multiple times before they find the “right” site to help them.

Doing Stage

They are even doing an amazing job now with the “Doing” stage, with events on SERP pages directly to help people find fun things to do while they are in town or for locals looking for something new or exciting to do over the weekend.

It’s working. People want that. People want easy and fast. It’s a great thing, but it’s scaring the rest of the industry.

I say – it’s all good. As one of those looking for ways to reach people to inspire and influence their decision on travel, it just asks those in the travel space to think a bit differently at finding ancillary and alternative inspirational opportunities.

Let’s talk about what that looks like in the next post.