Understanding the Buyer’s Journey for Destination Marketers

Understanding the Buyer’s Journey in Travel for Destination Marketers

The way travelers find inspiration, plan their trips, place a booking and share their experiences have changed over the years. The touchpoints in this journey are completely different from ten years ago.

New technologies, the internet, social media, the pandemic, all of that had an impact on travelers’ behavior and ultimately on the way they consume travel products.

Understanding the stages of the travel buyer’s journey is fundamental for your brand’s engagement with potential visitors and on delivering the right message at the right time to your audience.

This is what we will discuss in this article. Hopefully, it will cast a light on the best approach for your marketing strategy for this year.

The buyer’s journey in the travel industry

Every trip starts with an inspiration which leads to a research phase. When the customer has decided about the right destination to go to, they start planning the trip.

All set? it’s time to book. The next phase is enjoying the trip and finally sharing it with the world.

Each type of traveler has its own way of going through this journey. Maybe a younger traveler gets inspired by watching TikTok videos, and a mature traveler discovers your location reading reviews on a Facebook group.

That’s why before planning your marketing strategy you should know very well your traveler persona and where they go for information.

What is the DMO’s role in this journey?

booking flights ticket airlines or travel book now

DMO’s have a key role in the buyer’s journey, from creating campaigns that inspire travelers, to helping them find all the information to plan their perfect trip. Also, they should provide an amazing in-destination experience, we can’t forget that.

A smooth and memorable trip equals a new advocate for your destination brand.

Having past visitors sharing their good experiences online and offline will lower your marketing costs over time.

Now we will go through the travel buyer’s journey and give you insights to create a strategy for each step of it.

Are you ready for this journey?

Dreaming

The dreaming phase is the one travelers are still deciding where to go. Should I go to the beach, hike in the mountains or enjoy my favorite city?

There is too much noise at this stage. If your destination doesn’t stand out it will not be noticed.

The average traveler spends 13% of their time online conducting travel-related activities.

Here you should invest in attractive content on all your social media. A tip is to put effort into creating videos of your destination. This is one of the most effective media formats to promote a destination.

Alternatively, you can partner with influencers to reach audiences you probably don’t organically. They are on different platforms that maybe you don’t have a strong presence.

Show astonishing visuals, exciting experiences, amazing attractions, and why not, hidden gems? While we are going through this pandemic, keep in mind people are looking for open-air activities and road trips.

Check out the organic engagement Switzerland Tourism got by partnering with a big travel influencer.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by ALTUG GALIP (@kyrenian)

Considering

Once you have the audience’s attention, now it’s time to show them why traveling to your location is the best option for their vacations.

Make clear the differentials and advantages of a holiday in your destination. Share testimonials of past visitors and go deeper into the experiences your destination has to offer.

Here you can also share the touristic infrastructure of your destination, ways to arrive, the event schedule for the year, also the current COVID situation. That creates confidence among travelers looking where to travel to.

Post this info on social media and specialized channels, but also invest in remarketing campaigns on Facebook and Google Ads, as well as email marketing.

You can also use offline media for that. The president of Destination Augusta was interviewed by the local magazine about the best things to do in the destination as a way to invite locals to rediscover the city.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Visit Augusta | Augusta, GA (@visitaugusta)

Planning

Once travelers are convinced that your destination is the place to be, they will start looking for information to plan their trip.

At this point they are interested in ways to get there, things to do, where to stay, where to eat, and everything else they need to have a perfect trip.

Use your blog to share educative content. There you can help your audience in building an itinerary or even create potential itineraries for them. This is also a way to help distribute better tourists inside the destination and reduce tourism leakage.

You can create and share a checklist of things visitors shouldn’t forget to bring. If it’s tropical weather, light clothes and sunscreen. If the main activities are outdoor, remind them of mosquito repeel.

Your goal is to make sure they will have the best holiday possible without any unpleasant surprises!

Visit Austin released a campaign in which locals were invited to talk about what they love most in the city. This is pure inspiration for visitors to create a unique itinerary for their trips.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Visit Austin TX (@visitaustintx)

Booking

Who said a DMO job is only promoting a destination? In the past maybe, but nowadays with so many tools available online, DMO’s can also have a direct role in the booking process.

Keep in mind that a seamless checkout is part of the travel experience, not having one can be a deal-breaker for the traveler.

But how a DMO can do that for all the different suppliers inside the destination?

The answer is, digitalizing the tourism offer! Imagine a platform in which all tour suppliers are listed and travelers can easily find and book online with them.

Learn more about TourExplorer and how it can change the way visitors find and book experiences in your location.

If you are not ready to implement such a solution, you can always promote local tour suppliers on your social media and website. Check out this post from Visit Canberra about ballooning in the city.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Visit Canberra (@visitcanberra)

Experiencing

Now it’s time to welcome visitors and give them full support for a smooth stay at your destination.

But how to do that?

Make sure there are enough tourist signs, the local staff is ready and trained to receive tourists, sights are clean and the tourism infrastructure is working.

If your DMO has enough budget, there are solutions to manage better in-destination distribution, avoiding lines and crowds. That could be a city app that sends alerts about the less crowded sights to visit at the moment or alerts about attractions and events happening near the user.

This app can also ask for real-time feedback from tourists about their travel experience. Listening to your visitors is crucial to make improvements that will attract more tourists.

Have you heard about Augmented Reality (AR)? This is another option to expand travelers’ experience at your location. Check out how AR can give a new perspective for Christmas in Zagreb.

Sharing

Who doesn’t want to share a memorable trip?

Good moments are to be shared, and you should give space in your social media, website and newsletters for those stories.

Create a hashtag and ask past visitors to use it. That is a great way to group up all the testimonials about your location through different platforms.

Reward those spreading the word about your destination. That could be a discount for an attraction or a thank you gift. Nurturing a relationship with past visitors can turn them into returning visitors.

Through the hashtag #VisitCanberra, the DMO managed to find user-generated content and reshare it on their page.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Visit Canberra (@visitcanberra)

Conclusion

The buyer’s journey in travel has essentially six steps: dreaming, considering, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing.

Understanding this process for your target audience allows you to better communicate with potential visitors and to position your destination depending on which stage of the journey they are in.

Don’t miss our ebook: Guide to Tourism Destination Marketing Strategy for DMOs. There you will find what is necessary to market a destination in 2022.

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