March 2010 – Tours in Destination Marketing

How can you update your tours for a digital world? A tour group in their yellow hats (courtesy SpecialKRB on Flickr CC)Welcome to this month’s Tourism Currents newsletter, where we hope to help get your mental idea machines kick-started with a discussion about adding some social media flavor to those familiar tours of your destination or attraction.

Yes, we’re talking about souping up that “guide-holding-up-an-umbrella” staple in your destination marketing toolkit, and also helping people “visit,” “tour around” and get a sense of what you’re all about by using Web and tech-based assets.

In-person tours are still relevant because they put people in direct contact with what is best and most engaging about you, but we’d like to help you do more with them by adding audio, video, mobile-friendly and blogger elements.

This is one information-stuffed newsletter; hopefully you agree and we certainly welcome and encourage your feedback down in the comments. Thanks!


Audio: Podcasts and Internet Radio

Nope, the Internet did not kill the radio star; it’s alive and well online through services like….

  1. Podcasts (downloadable audio programs, including travel shows like Indie Travel Podcast, the Amateur Traveler and This Week in Travel.)
  2. Blog Talk Radio (Web-based programming very similar to radio in format, but available worldwide with archived shows. Becky was recently interviewed on the Australian online entrepreneurship show Des Walsh and Friends.)
  3. Traditional radio stations that also stream live to the Web, thereby reaching many more listeners.

Many of your visitors listen to audio products when they are commuting, traveling, doing things around the house or exercising.  It may be worthwhile to include audio in your tourism marketing strategy in order to reach them.

iPhone earbuds - think about audio elements for your tours (courtesy Bennigan at Flickr CC)

Audio tours are a pretty standard service for people who are physically in your town, but you can “talk” to people online using other means.

For example, you could host your own Blog Talk Radio or podcast show for your town or for regional attractions like historic highways; take call-ins, participate in chat with your listeners and occasionally broadcast live from somewhere in town.  To get you started, Des Walsh has a resources for starting podcasting.    Think about partnering with one of those local radio station that streams to the Web in addition to over the AM or FM airwaves – maybe do a 30 minute weekly “What’s up at the CVB?” or “Let’s visit XYZ attraction” show.

If that’s too much commitment, then look into being invited onto an online radio or podcast show that will help you promote an upcoming event (we talked about special event/festival promotion in the February 2010 newsletter.)  The Beaumont (Texas) CVB was recently featured on local Beaumont AM radio station KSET; and when Sheila found out about it and talked about it in her Twitter stream, it resulted in even more listeners because of a Texas guy who happened to be in Oregon.


Well, read more about this case study in the social media-aided spread of information.


The power of music

It’s music to their ears; the right melodies can be a powerful enhancement to the visitor experience, so think about how you might bring music into your Web presence.  It may also be worth noting that a March 2010 Fast Company article on innovative companies said in a sidebar that “out of every 10 Google searches, 2 are music related.”  Hmmm….

A recent LinkedIn Group discussion about making tourism Web sites more social media-friendly gave us some ideas for incorporating music, starting with suggested playlists (make them on Amazon and iTunes and link to them from your site.)

We do NOT mean obnoxious music that auto-starts and makes people want to stab their computer, but rather something similar to:

***  Wonderful National Geographic Traveler destination-themed playlists (for example, movies, books and music for Shanghai, China.)

***  The UK’s Guardian newspaper’s 50 songs for 50 states.

***  From Heritage Ohio (they coordinate the Main Street program for the state) a playlist called Back Home to Ohio.

One quick way to get some tunes onto your blog or other site is to use an embedded player from a service like (recently acquired by Google.) Here’s an example of their player with one of Sheila’s favorite road trip songs….go ahead and click.  We’ll wait!

Boy from Tupelo – Emmylou Harr…

Now, how cool is that?

(Update on the empty box above) Well, this is one of the things that can make bleeding-edge tech frustrating. used to provide streaming online music that included downloadable and one-click playable little boxes that you could embed in blog posts and other places online, so people could listen to a specific song. When Google bought, they just shut the service down without a replacement option. Hence, our sad, empty box. We still love “Boy from Tupelo,” though.)


Ever I Saw Your Face – Video

With the pocket-sized, relatively inexpensive video cameras available today, there’s no reason that every tourism organization couldn’t do some visual storytelling.

It is also good for helping people find you on the Web – search engines like Google try to bring in a mix of results from text, video and images, and there is a lot less keyword competition in video and photos.  Always title, keyword-tag and describe your videos as completely as possible; the Google/Bing/Yahoo/etc. bots do crawl and index the words you choose.

Becky caught author, speaker and consultant Chris Brogan as he was heading out after a recent conference, and she used a digital camera to do a quick interview with him about the power of social media for tourism.   Any of you can do interviews like this.

Here’s the direct link to the YouTube page if you can’t see the video embed box below.

You may have noticed that we’ve mentioned and linked to Chris a lot; it’s because he really “gets” the social Web, he’s interested in tourism and heck, he’s a nice guy.

Here’s another example – the bloggers at Traveling Mamas interviewed several attendees at the SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive) tech conference, asking them what they liked about the host city of Austin.  People like PR expert Jason Falls and Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s Consumer Travel Editor Wendy Perrin talked up Austin restaurants, retail establishments, parks and recreation and friendly locals.  There’s even a bit of live Austin music at the end. This is the kind of organic, “earned media” praise from visitors that must make the Austin CVB drool!

Here’s the direct link to the YouTube page if you can’t see the video embed box below.


Put Your Town in Their Purse: Mobile

Folks, the numbers tell the story.

Millions of iPhones, Android handsets and BlackBerry smartphones sold in 2009, with more carriers releasing new units practically every month.

Big announcements out of the just-finished Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, including the arrival later this year of a Microsoft Windows 7 smartphone that’s getting rave reviews so far.

Travel guides and travel apps. People driving through your town scrolling through Google Local listings to find a place to eat.  People perhaps finding your CVB Web site and trying to look at it on their phone (is your site automatically set to shift to mobile-friendly for them?)

We think this area is absolutely critical to your current and future success. It’s encouraging that museums, for example, are beginning to rework their sites to be mobile-friendly (and some, like the Brooklyn Museum, now have mobile gallery guides.)

Update:  Here’s how some museums and cultural organizations are using QR codes for arts marketing and updated tours that anyone with a smartphone can enjoy.

Think about how you could develop mobile tours for smartphones, and for now, make sure that at least one information-packed page of your Web site is configured for good smartphone access.


The Press Trip/Fam Tour

We advise against spending too much time these days trying to invite the usual travel writer gang on your press trips unless they can deliver more for you than print coverage.

Sorry to be brutal, but you can do better.

Focus on getting the word out not only through print writers, but also quality bloggers, photographers and videographers.  Jeremy Head has some thoughts on skills to look for in the online writer.  Occasional all-blogger fam tours (like the one organized by the Hawaii Tourism Authority) or at least including a few bloggers in your regular tours is a good marketing move in today’s digital world.

Do not devote too much of your outreach efforts on pure travel content producers, either….culinary bloggers and foodies, for example, are dynamite for unique coverage that cuts across multiple visitor demographics.  Here’s what a food blogger can do and here’s one blogger’s foodie walking tour in Queens.  History and heritage enthusiasts, birders, geocaching/letterboxing people, classic car fans and crafting/quilting/knitting bloggers can be tremendously effective in reaching your potential visitors (depending of course on whether they know about and actually like your specific local attractions.)

If you have a spot carved out in a particular travel niche, it is likely that there is a blogger out there covering it.  For example, Nancy Brown’s Writing Horseback blog features horseback riding vacations, equestrian travel deals and lodging reviews.

We discussed connecting with wired visitors and locals alike in the January 2010 newsletter on building your online champions network, so jump back to that for how to find bloggers, and then read this post about how to evaluate quality.

Start your outreach at home – locals are networked, too. Consider offering a one-day local bloggers/wired communicators fam tour.  Start by reaching out to some of the most active Facebook Fan Page or Twitter followers in your area (you’ll probably get an even warmer response if you’ve had them into the Visitor’s Center for coffee first.)  You know those folks haven’t seen all of your highlights even if they’re lifelong residents;  people don’t get around to doing things that are right under their noses.

CVBs invest in educating and training “front-line” people like taxi drivers, hotel desk clerks and highway visitor center workers all the time; think of your local bloggers the same way.  Nurture relationships with them for the long haul and they can help promote your destination/attraction.

Thanks for visiting!  Comments, thoughts and feedback are welcome below.


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