• Lifting your region through digital

Your tourism products are sorted, your website is looking flash, you might be listed on newzealand.com and you’re building a healthy stack of TripAdvisor reviews.

However you’re not seeing that expected increase in visitor numbers because tourists are still choosing to go to the ‘high-profile’ destinations such as Queenstown, Milford Sound & Rotorua.

So how can we encourage them to explore our more remote destinations? How can we get the Tarawera’s and Te Anau’s of this world on a traveller’s itinerary? Read on to learn how to boost your regions online presence and redirect tourists into your own backyard.

Local Partnerships Will Strengthen Your Region

It’s easy to view other tour operators as competitors within the local industry – and rightly so given you’re competing for financial gain. However, on a broader scale the competition is actually between your local region and competitive markets elsewhere in New Zealand.

Before competing with your immediate neighbours, band together to create solid destination marketing strategies, and get the visitor arrival numbers growing in your region first. Ask yourself: how can you combine powers with other operators in order to tell a deeper regional story? How can you work together to keep visitors staying longer? Can you team up to offer more inclusive holiday packages?

We need to do this first in order to change travellers’ perceptions of these regions. They need to feel like there is a lot to do, and participating in these activities is easy before booking. Combining powers allows us to tell this deeper story, mitigate our visitors’ perceived barriers to entry and eventually grow visitor satisfaction and willingness to spend in the first place.

Destination PR

PR can raise the profile of emerging destinations and enhance the prestige of established ones. Having a pro-PR approach to marketing can make or break your bookings and attendance. It will also boost your organic search rankings on Google as more businesses and visitors choose to ‘talk about you’.

Getting coverage in the media is a great way to raise the profile of your business and Tourism New Zealand’s PR team can often help with this. They work with media locally and offshore to generate positive coverage for New Zealand and are always looking for new story ideas from our regions. They welcome ideas and press releases from operators via email, so give it a go and send them some information – news@tnz.govt.nz. We worked with Stuff.co.nz to drive coverage for Gisborne’s RTO as part of a summer campaign – here’s an example of the results.

Influencer marketing is another way to build positive PR. Can you trade product for reviews with up-and-coming influencers? Can you get those with a respectable social media following to shout about your region on Instagram? The big-name Instagrammers are generally quite costly, however there’s a lot to be said for those smaller influencers with deeply engaged audiences (a great example would be Travel Mad Mum’s Rotorua coverage). Ask your RTO for local influencers who may already be on their radar, or browse for those sharing great content via the apps location-based services.

Drilling down to the local level to inspire domestic visitation, explore content opportunities with local i-SITE’s, their newsletters and travel bulletins.

Getting the Te Anau’s of this world into the average traveller’s itinerary via clever digital activity isn’t as hard as it seems.

What About the Role of RTO’s?

In a competitive sector such as tourism, businesses need synergy in order to maintain advantage. As a result, public-private partnerships play an integral role in improving the visibility of your region and that’s where the RTO’s come in. Their mandate is to market YOUR region both in New Zealand and internationally. By working closely with Tourism New Zealand and other tourism organisations, they promote your region to not only consumers, but also travel agents, travel wholesalers and the media.

Keeping them up-to-date on your latest products and offerings will help them promote your business through their paid marketing activity. Likewise they can keep you up to date with what’s happening in your region and their latest marketing strategies, so that you can deliver the correct mix of products and services.

Creating Epic Destination Content

Travellers are the lifeblood of our industry. Therefore our marketing material needs to be centred on their specific needs. Most travellers have limited (or no) understanding of your region so you can help by creating content that helps them while positioning your business as regional expert and opinion leader. Ideas to guide your thinking:

  • What are the visitors’ challenges?
  • What travel barriers can you address that would make their lives easier?
  • How do they get around in Te Anau without a rental car?
  • What are the best walking and hiking options in Tarawera with children?
  • What can I do in Gisborne when it’s raining?
  • Show me great itineraries around The Coromandel.

Think about questions or concerns they may have and then create content that highlights how your region addresses these. Check out these examples of great destination content that is both informative and ranking well on Google:

Link Building & Local SEO

When it comes to putting your destination on the digital map, a lot can be said for link building. It is a strategy we often overlook – again due to the perception that local businesses can only be seen as competitive. However link building is an important way of achieving long-lasting local search visibility. It’s also a method less reliant on high profile sites and those that take commissions.

Think of businesses [bars, cafes, transport operators, Airbnb hosts] in your area that operate within your niche, speak to a similar audience to you and have a solid online presence. We’re sure there is a wide range of highly trusted and relevant sites that could play an invaluable role in your SEO/ destination building campaign. A few ideas to begin with:

  • newzealand.com & RTO websites
  • Travel Bulletins & Newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Local digital magazines and social accounts

This list would expand greatly based on your customer understanding and knowledge of local markets.

NOTE: It’s important that your links – to and from partnering sites –add value to the customer and speak in a way that is relevant to the stage of their consumer journey. If they’re still dreaming about holidays then placing booking links and blunt sales messages across the web is only going to damage your reputation. A great rule of thumb is that content marketing activity is like a first date: If you only talk about yourself and try to sell your offering, there won’t be a second one!

Don’t forget the SEO basics

What we often see when it comes to operator websites, is a lack of simple elements that will boost your organic visibility such as the use of proper title tags, keyword-rich URLs etc. It’s unfair to expect your business to rank well for a regional keyword (example) if you never mention that keyword at all.

Use location-based keywords in your meta descriptions, image alt tags, use in your Google business listing, on your Facebook and social media accounts. Everywhere you can use those words to promote your region and strengthen its visibility is advantageous.

HOWEVER: Do not focus on the same keywords throughout your website. Use different keywords for different pages, that speak directly to your range of products and services. If you use the same keywords everywhere then Google may think its spam and actually decrease the visibility of your page.

Examples of how to use regional keywords

Location Specific Page Title Tags

Do you offer tourism products or services within a specific region? Let your customers know this:

  • Example Company, Gisborne | Example Tourism Products in Gisborne
  • Example Company Te Anau| Your Local Te Anau Activity Specialists

Location Specific META Descriptions

META Descriptions allow more detail to describe what your business does, and where your business does this. Include both your regional keywords and product/service keywords:

  • Example Company Tarawera offers Example Tourism Products for travellers visiting New Zealand.
  • Example Company Tarawera, provides guided walks, glamping and water taxi services in the Tarawera area for over X years.

Remember – Our industry is stronger together

Community is the catalyst for local growth and development. Take the opportunity to band together and dream up ways to improve visitor knowledge and satisfaction. Your region will only grow if you’re working towards a set of mutual goals, so start those conversations within your industry now.