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7 Ways To Get More Visitors To Your Destination This Summer

by Patrick McGovern - June 5, 2020 - 15 minute read

Amplify your message and create positive word-of-mouth. 

It’s June. The temperatures are climbing, Wisconsin is taking steps to open up, and people are thinking about a possible summer vacation.

Tourism is a huge revenue machine for this state and tourist destinations need visitors to return this summer.

But how to get guests to venture from their homes and feel good about the entire experience is a concern for many. This is all new territory, and no one has a good handle on what comes next.

So, let’s explore this topic and provide some thoughts to help tourism associations, destination marketing organizations, and businesses make this a successful summer season.

To help illustrate some of these points, I’m going to use the popular destination of Door County, WI as an example.  

Before we start let’s face the facts… 

Summer 2020 is going to be a challenge and it’s going to require creativity, thoughtfulness, and some hustle. But there’s also an opportunity. Consider these points:

  • Many experts are saying drive markets are going to be some of the first destinations to bounce back. This bodes well fortourist destinations within one to five hours of a metro hub.
  • Given the state of the world, many who were planning on vacations abroad, going on a cruise, or visiting big cities like LA or New York will probably instead opt for destinations closer to home. This creates opportunity to make a play for vacation dollars that had been earmarked for these other vacations.
  • Most of the tactics I’ll be talking about won’t require a huge capital investment. Many can be accomplished by utilizing existing channels (like social), leveraging existing relationships throughout your business community, taking advantage of current technology, and mixing in creative thinking to spark word-of-mouth.

Tactics To A Successful Summer

1. Tell People You Are Open

It’s an important first step and shouldn’t be overlooked. Destination Door County created this very nice video, welcoming guests. At the same time, the video reinforced the steps businesses are taking to keep workers and guests safe at all times. Nice work team!

As of the writing of this post, this video has 1,924 views on YouTube. It's a great start, but continuing to drive views to a wider audience will be key to maximizing its impact. Boost its reach by utilizing all social channels - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more. Next, the marketing team at Destination Door County should also be reaching out to influencers asking them to share the video with their audience.

For example, head over to Instagram and type in Door County one of the accounts that come up is Door County Mom. From the description, she provides an “insider’s guide to Door County” and has 1,146 followers. Perfect.

Reach out to her and see if she would help promote the video to get the word out. Now it’s rinse and repeat. From there, just keep reaching out to as many organizations and individuals as possible. This is a great and inexpensive and effective way to spread the word.

2. Create a Special 2020 Micro Site

Given the changes in the world, you are going to need dedicated micro site to address the unique needs of customers this summer. The role of this site is to house two key pieces of content. The first is video. I would get as many different videos from guestsbusinesses, whoever showing people having a good and safe time in the destinations.

You don’t need to get picky here, as long as it is not explicit or graphic in nature post these videos. Here’s why -- all of this content will be great social proof for those on the fence about visiting. They are looking for permission to travel because it’s safe. And this will get them over the hump.

The second piece of content is Upcoming Events. Destination Door County is already doing this -- so nice job. However, I would rework some of the description copy to include safety measures that are being put into place. Each time you can reinforce the idea of safety, the more comfortable guests will feel.

The key is to continually update the content. Give people a reason to come back and continually highlight any important changes during the season.

3. Everyone Needs to be a Brand Ambassador for the Destination

Two months ago, a major newspaper published a storytelling visitors to stay out of Door County. It’s easy to understand why.

Residents were concerned about an outbreak in their community. If people started getting sick, they could overwhelm the local health facilities.

Thankfully that didn’t happen. Two months later a lot has changed. Now, the destination wants and needs guests. It’s a bit confusing, right? Visitors may be left wondering should I stay or should I go? That means when guests arrive, the service staff will need to be especially warm and inviting this summer season.

Here’s what to do.

To help get everyone on the same page, pull together a list of guidelines and tips that could be sent out electronically to businesses in the area. This cheat sheet would include the following points such as:

  • Reminding service members to thank people for their business.  
  • Providing recommendations on what to do, where to go, and places to eat. 
  • Reminding people to say hello.  
  • Asking guests how their stay is going.

This is simple stuff, of course. But done consistently across all the various establishments throughout the area – it could have an enormous impact.

This idea of brand ambassador extends to the digital world as well. During this summer season, it will be critical to double-down on social efforts. This will require responding to both positive as well as negative comments as they come up.

4. Use Video to Tell the Story

I know I mentioned video as a tactic up above. But it’s so important it deserves its own separate call out – and honestly not enough marketers are using video to connect and engage. One reason for this is that too many shy away from the idea because of the costs. Those expansive drone shots are great and certainly have their place, but they can get expensive. I get it.

What I’m talking about is smartphone footage. Look at how Walmart used this in a recent spot.

The key is to continually show different areas in and around your destination that focus on guests – the fun they are having, and the steps businesses are taking to make guests and employees safe.

Some examples for Door County could be:  

  • Guests at the Wild Tomato in Fish Creek 
  • Guests enjoying an ice cream cone at Wilson’s 
  • Sunset at the beach in Sister Bay

You get the idea.

Of course, these videos can be taken by your staff, but I would also encourage guests and businesses to film and upload their videos to your micro site (see above)With this approach, you will multiply the amount of content available on your site without having to rely exclusively on your staff, with the added benefit of the authenticity of a customer's true experience.

And once you have these videos use all your social channels to amplify the message.

5. Add Value vs. Dropping Rates

Guests will be looking for deep discounts when it comes to booking accommodations. And those that drop their rates may win in the short-term but may be hurting trying to get rates back up in the long run. 

On this point, I know there’s no easy answer. But keep this in mind, some hotels that dropped rates after 2008, took close to ten years to get them back up to where they were pre-crisis.

6. Add a Gift to the Engagement

Little surprises get noticed. Here’s a story:

Years ago, my family and I were in the middle of a long wait for breakfast at a packed restaurant. While we were standing therethe hostess came by and passed out small boxes of Milk Duds to everyone waiting for a table. The name of that restaurant was Lou Mitchell’s. I haven’t been there since I left Chicago over 20 years ago, but I still remember the experience and the food.

What can you do this summer to stand out just a bit more?

7. Have Fun with the Messaging and Break the Mold

Too many destinations center their messaging on a single concept – there’s something here for everyone. The problem is that every single tourist destination in the country uses the same idea. This year find something new to connect with your audiences.

 

That’s it. 7 tactics to transform your summer. I hope you find this helpful. Put some or all of these in place and let me know how things turn out.

Now, go have a great summer!

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