Local tourism marketing: the low hanging fruit

Did you know that shopping and eating at restaurants/cafés are consistently rated in the top three activities that people partake in during a holiday or vacation?

We often think travel is all about attractions, museums and tours, however, Destination NSW tells us that the top three activities undertaken by domestic visitors to Sydney are:

1. Eating out, dining at a restaurant or café
2. Visiting friends and relatives
3. Shopping for pleasure

You will find that these stats are more than likely to be similar in your own city or destination, wherever you are in the world. Even in New York, the top two activities are shopping and eating out – followed by historical sites, sightseeing and museums.

In many outbound markets like China, shopping is consistently the number one activity by far, with 88% of Chinese visitors rating shopping as the number one activity.

Of course for Chinese travellers visiting Australia, all of this shopping and eating out is combined with sightseeing and other activities, such as visiting some of Australia’s iconic beaches like Bondi Beach. But it reminds us that we need to get back to basics and focus on some of the seemingly mundane activities a little more – shopping and eating out – the local stuff. The more shopping and eating out available to the traveller, the more likely they are to stay and spend.

So this brings me to look at how it all relates to local. Travellers all love a local secret. The local shopping precinct, the local ‘best’ café or barista. In the numerous focus groups we have conducted, we often find the trip highlight involves that secret place in the national park tourists were told about by a local in the pub – the place not on the tourist map, or the steak at the local pub that was bigger than the plate it was on!

There tends to be a common theme which involve local activities, local people and local love.

Local trends

In one of their key local megatrends, Trendwatching tells us:

“Despite globalisation, despite online; place still matters. Whether driven by a sense of pride, authenticity, convenience and/ or eco-concerns, travellers and consumers will continue to embrace ‘local’ products, services and knowledge.”

This trend also extends through to travellers looking for local tourism experiences. Local can also translate to authentic. Travellers are looking for local heroes and authentic local experiences. Locally-produced goods offer travellers a sense of authenticity, community and connection to place.

It’s time for destination marketing to go local

Focusing on the local stuff offers easy, cost effective marketing for destination and travel marketers.
There is no need to go and create new tourism products or services, new trails, new campaigns. Work with what you’ve got.

However, it makes sense to leverage and bundle food and shopping with your other experiences and attractions – this makes your offer all the more compelling.

With all this local talk, it is time for destination marketers to get the local travel and commerce industry to fall in love with the local stuff – the shops, cafés and restaurants. Your ROI will be greater. The more there is for travellers to do, the more likely they are to stay and eat, shop, and spend, spend, spend.

Get your locals to try to understand the importance of their shops, restaurants and cafés in the scheme of the local visitor economy when they are in destination. Whether it’s sale or promotion time, or finding out what’s on the menu at nearby restaurants, consumers and travellers naturally want to know what’s going on around them.

Around 90% of travellers say they use their mobile phones when on holiday and more than a third of the world’s travellers use their mobile device more while travelling than while at home.

Now, with the widespread use of the smartphone or other devices, travellers can access information on-the-go and constantly broadcast their location using a host of tools.

These tools include local themed travel apps like the Bangkok Street Food App. Street Food Bangkok is a free app showcasing around 150 shops and stalls serving local foods. The mobile app works in partnership with Google Maps, and all in-app content is available in Thai and English, allowing tourists to easily share locations and addresses with taxi drivers. Street Food Bangkok was developed by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with the Thailand Foundation, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

On a practical level, travellers increasingly need information in regard to their surrounding areas to orient themselves and feel in control. Nobody likes getting lost, not knowing where to buy groceries, where the gym is, etc.

How local could apply to where I live – Newtown Sydney
Our office is in Newtown, Sydney. There is a part of the King Street shopping precinct that is filled with vintage dressmakers, vintage / retro reconditioned clothing, vintage hairdressers, tattooists, vintage homewares and all things vintage. I often wonder why they don’t work together, form an alliance or some sort of vintage social media campaign. But too often, locals see themselves as competitors, or perhaps they just don’t see themselves in tourism.

Also, many of them are without a web presence – not even a website!

I also notice that many of the businesses in this trendy, hip part of Sydney have not been optimised for local search. Many businesses have not claimed their Google My Business pages – there are no reviews, or if there are, only one or two – no content. There are businesses that have closed down and there are businesses that simply have not appeared on the Google Map.

As a result of this, at events like the upcoming Mardi Gras, many of the local businesses – cafés, shops, restaurants and galleries will simply miss out on business.

It is your job as a destination marketer to help your local commerce and tourism industry understand the importance of working together to form a strong, compelling proposition.

It is also your job to ensure all the shops, restaurants, cafés, petrol stations, bakeries, ‘hole in the wall baristas’, tattooists, local designers, and even local services like vets (think travelling with pets) and doctors (seniors) are optimised for local search.

Local is mobile

In a recent study, Bright Local found that 61% of people are more likely to contact a local business with a mobile site. They are looking for information, reviews, maps and physical addresses. As obvious as it seems, businesses do not always have these things.

Whether or not they are food or shopping related, it makes sense to ensure local businesses are optimised for mobile – travellers will be looking and searching on their mobile devices.

Insights to action

Tips for optimising local travel search

These tips will ensure your business shows up when travellers are searching for information on their mobile phones. Simply put, if you do not do these things, your business is not even going to make it to the consideration set.

1. Make sure your destination has as many businesses as possible claimed on Google My Business.
2. Ensure you populate the Google My Business listing with GREAT content, including photos, videos, and sample menus.
3. Ensure you encourage reviews on Google My Business. You need at least 5 reviews before stars are visible. Stars matter and so do reviews.
4. Encourage reviews everywhere – Facebook, Tripadvisor, Yelp
5. Ensure businesses are mobile friendly – if your business is not mobile friendly, impatient travellers will find a business that is.

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