Online Marketing Challenges for Tourist Boards & Destinations

From internal Beyonk research, of the top 50 Destination Marketing/Management Organisations, 80% of their traffic is from Google. Which is brilliant right now. It's free, 'long term' website visitors without the need to advertise or spend a lot of money to get website visitors. Many organisations in e-commerce spend millions to attract audiences of this size. The website traffic shows your authority in the area and in turn helps you gather revenue from local businesses to promote their services through your channel. All sounds good right? Thing again.

Your good friend Google, plays a key role in the customer journey, with 63k searches per second. Most of your visitors start off in Google searching for things to do in different sub-locations of your region, and you currently rank highly for each term and so get website traffic.

However, your fortunes with Google may be just about to change, and here's why...

Google has built a strong ecosystem through user generated content. As people visit local businesses, they're asked by Google phones automatically to leave a review on Google. They've built up a way to capture millions of images via references every image on the internets images and images uploaded when visiting local businesses. They've recorded what each street, summit and beach looks like at street-level. They've even pulled in when the busiest times are, where you can get discounts for local businesses, what are the best places to visit and soon enough you'll be able to book directly through google search. Google's content is ever-evolving, authentic and importantly, almost always up-to-date. All this data is now being used to build up a complete view of each destination and feed it to consumers when they search asking for information on local places. Slowly pushing authoritative destination websites lower in the rankings, which will drastically reduce website traffic over time. Example below:

The result is, whereas you used to feature the top of Google, now they're using their own ecosystem of content to serve searchers directly. In the future, the Google search feed will not be a list of links and webpages as we remember it, but an online shopping experiences to find and book directly through. The DMO website has been pushed down beneath:

  1. Google's high-level overview of the location
  2. Tips to help plan a trip (directing to Google's Travel Guide)
  3. Popular Destinations in said area
  4. Other popular areas people have searched for
  5. Top stories in the news for your area
  6. Wikipedia

> Your website!

Oh and that's not all. Not only is Google favouring it's own aggregated content. It's also making it stand out bold, with rich imagery, videos and more screen-space.

There's some important points to note here:

  1. Google is very sophisticated with rolling out features, and often each time I try these searches, I see a different format. They're clearly experimenting and monitoring user behaviour. They will favour the format that consumers enjoy most, which could mean your website could eventually get a higher ranking if you're able to provide value to consumers that Google can't.
  2. It's currently being used at the 'higher level' search terms. No doubt as time moves on, even smaller regions will get the similar Google information, negatively impacting your website visitor numbers greater.

Caveats: Clearly DMO's roles are constantly expanding to take a larger management role of local tourism than purely marketing and their websites are only a part of what they do in total, so the impacts here are associated with their visibility online. Clearly Google is just one source of traffic and just one factor to marketing prowess. Although this alone could be a sizeable threat, it's unlikely it'll be the 'nail in the coffin' for Destination Management Organisations, given the multi-faceted nature of their operations and roles. However, it's an interesting spotlight to assess one of the key areas of dependency Tourist Boards may have.

So what can you do to response and reduce the 'single source supplier' dependency?

Don't worry. All is not lost. Google's changes will not happen overnight, but more likely a much more gradual change. What this does mean though, is that a DMO/Tourist Boards marketing role will need to change to stay relevant to consumers.

Read here How DMO's and Tourist Boards Need to Redefine themselves to stay relevant.

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