Building and managing a successful tourism destination website is hard, especially if you’re a destination management organization (DMO) that doesn’t have a large budget. This post is the first in a series outlining how to make your tourism destination website successful. It aims to answer a lot of the questions our clients have asked us over the years, and is applicable to all DMOs from convention bureaus, resorts and hotels, to sites run by municipal or regional government organizations. It’s especially applicable to government DMOs here in Japan.
The full series includes:
- What do we want the site to do?
- How will the site be used before, during, and after travel?
- What do we want site visitors to do?
- How can we structure it to achieve these goals?
- How do we get traffic to the site?
- How can we best manage available resources?
- How do we measure the success of the site?
- How do we adjust site performance to meet our goals?
- How do we use the site to gather intelligence and set future goals?
- How can the site be used for additional promotions?
Part 1 – What do we want the site to do?
First of all, why should a DMO build a website at all? Why go to the expense and trouble of building a site and all the work required to maintain and keep it up to date? After all, these days there are multiple promotion channels that can be used, from print and broadcast to social media, so why not just use a Facebook page or TripAdvisor DMO account?
The answer basically comes down to control; control over content, conversions, and data. A DMO website is a brand ambassador for the destination. It sets the official story and is the trusted source of factual content about the destination. This differs it from user generated content (UGC) sites like TripAdvisor or social media sites like Facebook, which consist primarily of user’s opinions. By creating your own website you get complete control over the content and can ensure that everything on the site is factual and trustworthy. You can set, track and optimize conversion goals (more about this to come in future posts) to ensure that the site is performing correctly. And you can gather data on site visitors which helps you to better understand your audience and drive future decisions.
Speaking of data, Google’s 2014 Traveler’s Road to Decision study found that 74% of leisure travelers and 77% of business travelers use the web as their primary source of research, and Google’s Travel Trends 2016 report states that 50% of international travelers use their smartphones to look for things once they’ve arrived at their destination.
It uses the funds from local businesses, through their taxes, membership in chamber of commerce or other organizations, or direct sponsorship, to attract visitors to the destination. It should be able to show these local businesses an ROI on their investment. It is a portal to the destination and surrounding area. It should at the least give visitors enough information to plan their trip and support their information needs during the trip. It should also create fans of those visitors, encourage them to come back again, and turn them into evangelists for the destination who will tell their family and friends, thereby encouraging more visitors to come.
It should provide information in visitor’s native languages where possible, especially taking into consideration the needs of non-English speakers. It should be easily manageable by the DMO staff. This often means a team of only a few people, who will need to manage content in their native language.
This team’s native language should be the parent language from which translations are created, to make it easiest for them to manage.
This site needs to meet basic needs for usability. This includes site speed (page load time), mobile friendly (responsive) architecture, and optimized user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).