Domestic tourism: Marketing your way to success

Domestic travel market

No matter what country they are from, travellers from around the world have sought variation, change and something a little different from the norm when they go on holiday. With limited annual leave, international exploration was once typically high on the list of priorities with local travel put on the back burner. Fast forward to the end of 2020 and we are now all too aware of how a worldwide pandemic can turn individual thinking on its head, radically alter the fabric of society and instill a deeper desire to participate in domestic travel.

With the temptation to holiday internationally now largely put on hold in the wake of COVID-19, the idea of exploring your backyard, loving local and supporting your people has surged in popularity. Not only is this a unique opportunity for locals to spend quality time experiencing their own country, but it also means that they can do so (for the most part) without the company of international travellers. The tourism industry will undoubtedly revive and regrow, starting with those that are close to home.

As if there is a golden ticket being waved in front of them, tour operators worldwide are now frantically scrambling to dive for the prize and pick up traction with the domestic travel market. While this surge in local holidays can only be seen as beneficial, the way in which operators choose to market themselves in this domestic-heavy world, should be carefully considered. With an oversaturated market and a handful of domestic tourists, marketing that stands out from the crowd is the way to go.

To lend a helping hand, this blog challenges tour operators to think tactfully on how to market themselves domestically and also offers some insightful advice that will set tourism businesses up for marketing success.

tourism marketing

Right off the bat, let’s talk about how you are going to position your brand and tourism offering to the domestic travel space. It is important to consider whether or not your present offering will truly appeal to the domestic traveller. Perhaps you need to refine and reshape your offering to grab their attention?

If a slight alteration of your itineraries is needed to shift towards a domestic focus, then sub-brand marketing may be a great fit for your business. According to Brogan & Partners, “sub-branding is when a main brand creates a subsidiary or secondary brand.” The idea behind this is that by creating an extension brand off your parent brand, you can tap into a new audience and create a distinctive look and feel for that product, while leveraging off the success, brand loyalty and trust of your original name.

Diversifying your offering in such a way because of COVID-19, is beneficial for those that need to go domestic to survive but are worried about the negative effects that may come about from this when international travel returns. Sub-branding is an opportunity to do something fresh, creative and new with your brand and marketing.

sub branding

Online, outdoor or print media; the options for marketing promotions are endless, but choosing the most effective channel for each campaign and your product, can be a nightmare. From placement, target market and reach to building awareness, the decision making process and objectives for each marketing strategy is unique to each business. However, the common thread that ties all tour operators together in the current climate, regardless of their marketing intentions, is the desire to resonate with a domestic-centric market and do it while getting the most bang for your buck. For this reason, we truly believe it is time to think outside the box to get ahead of your competition.

It may sound old-school but using outdoor media could be the key to grabbing the attention of the domestic market. Although people are spending much of their day online, the brain craves variety and is drawn to points of contrast such as billboards and large scale advertisements. By shifting the conversation slightly away from social media, marketers will have less pressure to make waves online where it is near impossible to stand out on countless social media feeds. We are not saying ‘deactivate your social accounts’, we are simply floating the idea of complimenting your online activity with something striking and bold that is in highly trafficked areas for your target market.

With a study showing that there has been a dramatic decrease in the use of outdoor advertising since the outbreak of COVID-19, businesses attempting to tap into the domestic market, should be taking full advantage of this. With less outdoor media presence from other businesses, and presumably a lower price tag for the prime space, campaigns targeting domestic tourists through this channel will undoubtedly be noticed. While it can be nerve-wracking to blow your campaign up onto the side of a building, bus or bus shelter, the brand recognition and awareness you build from it can then flow over to social media engagement and online activity.

Employing the use of traditional media channels such as outdoor advertising, also extends to print. During lockdown, many of us were reminded of the simple things such as baking, knitting and reading. This was so true that over the past few months, subscriptions to travel and lifestyle magazines in the United States of America and the United Kingdom rose by up to 56%. With readers questioning the credibility of online content, the placement of tourism marketing ads in selected print copies, could be all the more powerful in bouncing back from COVID-19. A strong example of this would be purchasing space in an in-flight magazine for your national carrier.

As with any marketing decision, whether you decide to campaign through outdoor or print media, be smart about your selection. Consider the highest trafficked touchpoints of the domestic tourist in your country, think about their primary demographics and how you can capitalise on these, and finally, craft content that will relate and resonate with these individuals.

tourism associations

Tourism is a community; a community that wholeheartedly believes in the power of travel and the beauty of new experiences. While you may feel that you are one business in a sea of many, there is a host of suppliers, fellow business owners and destination management organisations that are also trying to piggyback on the resurgence of domestic travel – so why not collaborate, online or in-person?

From policy makers to local businesses, the United Nations has declared that “the future of tourism depends on building partnerships at all levels.” With this in mind, tourism professionals need to find strength as a community to harness the domestic travel market and get locals genuinely excited about this type of travel. The interactions and connections built within the industry are bound to gain invaluable reach for all tourism offerings.

We know that it is all well and good saying that collaboration is a helpful approach, but if you are new to the industry or don’t have a number of connections within tourism, it can be hard to know where to start building these networks. Firstly, we recommend looking to your supply chain; who are the suppliers that you work with, what influence do they have in the industry and do you think collaborative input would create an even more impressive offering to present to your travellers? By initiating a free-flowing conversation with suppliers, tour operators can ensure that all touchpoints of the domestic travellers’ holiday offer the same level of assistance and standard of service.

Leading on from this, finding other local businesses that share similar values and offerings to your business can boost the appeal of your offering in the eyes of travellers. With the chaos of COVID-19 still lingering, now could be the perfect time to craft beautifully packaged itineraries for travellers that showcase the best of your region. This consideration to showcase your tourism offering alongside other tourism products, will give you an added edge as collaborative itineraries are made which local travellers will be hard pushed to say no to.

Building out your tourism community even further, Destination Management Organisations or Regional Tourism Organisations are going to be your biggest advocate and helping hand in pushing your product out to the domestic market. With invested interest in injecting cash into the local economy and drawing greater numbers of visitors to the region, Destination Management Organisations not only have ample connections but an almighty knowledge of their region’s tourism opportunities.

Tuning in with the power of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) can be as simple as subscribing to their regular newsletters. Filled with handy tips and insider know-how, Destination Management Organisations’ newsletters are known to advertise upcoming events, media/marketing opportunities and seminars for tour operators to establish industry connections.

destination management organisations

If you thought that newsletters were all that Destination Management Organisations were good for, think again! These organisations can help to generate a significant amount of free advertising for your business if you take advantage of opportunities to feature in their marketing promotions. There is no harm in reaching out to the media team at your local Destination Management Organisation to see if they would be willing to collaborate or generate traction for your business through their marketing material. Contact details for these teams should be easily found on their website and a quick email with an expression of interest from your end could create huge demand for your product.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get – isn’t that how the saying goes? We know that it can be daunting to seek out opportunities and put yourself or your business out there but if 2020 has taught us anything it is to be a proud ambassador of your product. With many governments and national or regional tourism organisations providing funding to businesses that have been the hardest hit by the worldwide pandemic, you could be well placed to receive a little extra help. Although putting in an application for additional funding can take up time and energy, approved requests will pay back tenfold if your business is able to invest more heavily in products, resources and ultimately, marketing, to boost your presence in the domestic travel space.

Giving you more food for thought, joining a local association or leveraging a tourism membership is a clever way to open up additional marketing opportunities for your business. Bringing businesses together with similar interests, such as tourism or specific niche markets, associations and memberships offer great advice to their networks and also provide businesses with access to a large pool of tourists.

domestic traveller marketing

Just as you do when baking a cake, it is important to think about all of the ingredients that go into presenting a beautiful, mouth-watering itinerary for the local travel market. By leaving out one essential ingredient, may it be sub-branding, a valuable partnership with a fellow business or standout imagery, you could have an itinerary that remains untouched and completely misses the needs and appetites of travellers.

That’s why we feel compelled to stress the importance of shaping your itineraries towards the domestic market. While they still call themselves travellers, the domestic traveller is a completely different breed to international travellers who often lap up luxury and culture and are willing to pay top dollar for once in a lifetime experiences. It would be worth your while to research your local audience and ensure you understand what their preferences, style of travel and expectations are in order to negate any chance of wasted time, money and energy on your part.

When crafting your itineraries, think about the tone and personality you are going to infuse into your text and images to best communicate to these local travellers. While you might have shied away from it when working in an international context, slang or local lingo might be well placed in your domestic focussed itineraries to establish a deeper level of connection with travellers.

tourism marketplaces

With such well thought-out, stunning itineraries that truly capture the travel desires of the domestic tourism market, your goal should be to maximise the number of locals that see your offerings. As seems to be the running theme with this blog, often collaborative projects and team work goes a lot further when gaining traction with these travellers, than if your business was to ride solo. In today’s online world there are new online marketplaces popping up that are great for matching your itineraries with enthusiastic travellers.

For those not in the know, a marketplace, according to Idea Motive, is “accessed by users or end-customers from around the world who use it for browsing offers from a variety of providers. Providers reach hundreds of thousands of customers and the latter can freely browse through the great number of bids.” The idea of grouping together the offerings of different businesses has been around for a while with the likes of AirBnB, and Expedia being great examples of thriving online marketplaces. The point here though is that marketplaces are especially successful for niches, such as domestic travel.

Marketplaces for domestic tourism will of course be specific to your country and more local area, so take a look around online, talk to other businesses about what marketplaces have worked for them and what hasn’t, find out information from your local RTO and get yourself front and centre on a range of national and regional marketplaces.

With this in mind, our team at Tourwriter has recently launched a New Zealand based marketplace for local tour operators to showcase their beautiful itineraries to the hungry domestic market. If you want to see how a marketplace can work for your business, check out

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