Your DMO and TripAdvisor

By Jim Leonard

Your DMO and TripAdvisor

Does your marketing plan factor in trip planning tools like TripAdvisor? Take advantage of the impact these sites have on your destination’s online reputation by including them in your DMO’s online marketing strategy.

Not too long ago, people who were traveling to a new destination often booked the same hotels and activities that their friends and family members enjoyed on previous vacations. Long before they could search for this information on the vast expanses of the internet, they knew they could count on their trusted inner circle to provide important insight and reliable recommendations. Today, savvy travelers only have to do a quick search on TripAdvisor to get crowdsourced feedback about a destination they are considering. Information can be found about everything from hotels and attractions to tours and activities. TripAdvisor has grown to become the number one destination and accommodation website in the United States with more than 570 million user reviews and opinions covering nearly seven million listings for destinations, restaurants, hotels, attractions, and more. Aside from your official tourism website, it is arguably the most important website for promoting your destination. Which makes it a critical Process to include under multiple target audiences in every destination’s Marketing Action Plan. Over the years, TripAdvisor has expanded its content offerings from a platform for reviewing accommodations to a comprehensive resource for trip planning. And although the content is mostly traveler-generated, DMOs do have a variety of options to contribute content of their own, including enhancing content already there and promoting travel to their destination. In a TripAdvisor travel trends survey, travelers were asked at what stages in the trip planning process they are most likely to visit the site and over 54% stated “at the beginning.” For DMOs, that means a lot of opportunities to reach and influence travelers researching their next vacation destination. In the “About/Tourism” section of your destination’s page, you have the opportunity to enhance the content. Examples include Travelers’ Choice award badges, widgets of traveler photos and review feeds of top-rated attractions, hotels and restaurants. In addition to these free enhancements, DMOs have a number of paid destination partnership options from TripAdvisor that will allow you to include more meaningful content, increase visibility, click directly to your DMO’s website, generate an email directly to your DMO’s staff, download your official visitor guide, measure results, and more. It is important to remember that travelers typically don’t go to TripAdvisor for inspiration – that’s what your website is for! And while TripAdvisor is crowdsourced like virtually all social mediums, keep in mind that people generally don't go there to socialize. They go to TripAdvisor to use it as a helpful tool during the travel planning and decision-making process. But it is still critical to power up your destination's image on TripAdvisor and work consistently to provide a unified vision of your destination on your own website, on TripAdvisor, and on other online platforms you identify as important to your success.

Your destination’s online reputation is only as strong as the sum of its parts.

It’s important to analyze your destination’s positioning on TripAdvisor from a traveler’s perspective. Survey how (and if) your destination is represented. For example, are the top 10 restaurants, hotels or things to do in your area as portrayed on the site a good representation of your offering? After you review the findings, make a strategic plan to curate the content over time to match the best of what your destination has to offer. If you haven’t seen our video to help encourage positive reviews on TripAdvisor, I highly encourage you to check it out. But you may not want to share this strategy with all of your stakeholders. After you objectively review all that your destination has to offer and what visitors feel is truly special about your place, share this strategy with select stakeholders to have them encourage and manage reviews to help shape your top 10s and position your destination in the best light. After you have gotten TripAdvisor to a place where you truly feel it will be a contributing factor in your DMO's ongoing success, inform all of your stakeholders of the importance of keeping TripAdvisor listings up to date and interesting, and educate them about all the free and paid opportunities TripAdvisor offers to drive traffic to your destination.

With an effective online strategy as part of your Marketing Action Plan, you will be able to increase your destination’s brand awareness online while also increasing the number of visitors. And as more people come to know your destination and are encouraged to share information about their own trips on TripAdvisor, your online reputation will continue to improve.