Marketing your small tourism business in the 21th century: #2 Get your website in order

By William Bakker | 03.25.08 | 10 Comments

This topic probably needs more than one post because I receive a lot of website related questions from tourism businesses. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that when you operate a tourism business that doesn’t rely on walk-by traffic only, your website is your most important marketing vehicle. Your website has to be up to snuff. I’ll try to keep it simple.
First of all; hire a professional, or a company who build websites. There are still people who think that buying a copy of dreamweaver or frontpage will save them a few bucks by building a website themselves. Please don’t. You’re busy enough already. A simple way to find the right company or professional is to look at your colleague’s websites and get a recommendation.
You first need to think about what you want to achieve with your website in a way that you can measure; sales, transactions, customer emails, phonecalls, etc. The more tangible the better. This is your objective. Your exact objective depends on your type of business. But as a tourism business, I think in most cases you should go for the sale.
There are 4 main aspects to building a website; visual design, content, usability, technology. Most people focus on design and technology (because its fun). Instead, you should worry about content and usability (not so much fun). Content is what your website visitors need, usability is organizing content and providing the functionality to make things easy for your website visitors. The design should reflect your business (if you run a flowery B&B, your website can be flowery as well). Finally, technology is what enables you to deliver everything above.
Your web professional(s) should be competent in all areas. But you’re the expert of your business and should know what content is needed to turn a website visitor in a customer. In general, people don’t visit tourism operator websites for the fun of it. Their visit has a purpose. They want to validate their intent to visit your business, sort out the details and hopefully purchase.
Validating the decision is about the excitement of the experience. Consumers want to picture themselves having fun kayaking a river, playing a round of golf or relaxing in the hot-tub of your B&B. Pictures, videos and testimonials are the most compelling ways to achieve this. The details they nedd depend on your type of business and it can include simple things such as opening hours, your location, pricing, policies, etc. Some consumers just want to make sure a business is legit. Providing contact info is often crucial to meet this.
Make sure you get the content your professional need. Don’t just focus on making your website look pretty. It’s about the content. You probably don’t even need a ‘redesign’, you just need better content (ok, I think I made my point). Finally, you need a mechanism to get the sale. If you can offer an online reservation often, great. If you can’t there are other options.
Looking for an example of a good operator website? Nahanni River Adventures won the Canada eTourism Award for best website. It’s a great example of using pictures, videos and testimonials to validate the intent, provide detailed information, and provide a mechanism to get the sale.
I hope to provide a bit more detail in certain areas soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions about any of this, or have anything to add, or need help finding the right online professional, please leave a comment or drop me an email. My email address is under my picture in the right column.

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