Watch Your Language: Words Matter in Tourism Marketing

Watch Your Language: Words Matter in Tourism Marketing

Word use and phrasing in every industry is an important part of how you persuade the target audiences that will influence your success. The marketing language you use matters. It can provide clarity, but it can also cause unnecessary confusion. Here, I’ve included a few travel and tourism industry communications “opportunities” as examples below. These situations could have been mitigated (and may have been by now) if the DMOs in each of these destinations:

  1. Viewed every communications “opportunity” through the eyes of each TARGET audience
  2. Revisited the target audiences ROLE in their success
  3. Reviewed the required BELIEF in order for them to succeed with that TARGET audience

Are you a tourist?

Marketing Language: What is Tourism Enforcement?

I was in a very popular tourist destination a few years ago when I saw this guy on a bike with the words “Tourism Enforcement” on the back of his jacket. He was out patrolling the areas that were popular with visitors to this destination. This combination of words struck me – over all of the years helping develop hundreds of Marketing Action Plans for clients, I had never seen a marketing process like this: “hire people to ride around on bikes to make sure there are tourists”. (I honestly could not think of what else “Tourism Enforcement” could mean).

Ah, if DMOs could hire patrolmen to “enforce” tourism in their destinations… Of course, I knew this was not literally this guy’s job but, since I had NO IDEA what he could be doing, my sense of curiosity about all things tourism kicked in and I had to ask. Turns out he was part of a team that was not “enforcing tourism” at all. They were employed to ensure that the tour guides and operators that sold and led groups in this historic city were vetted operators with a current permit from the city to do so. Ultimately, his role was to ensure safe and consistent experiences for visitors to this destination.

Are you a belonger?

While traveling in another very popular tourist destination whose tropical island economy depends almost 100% on tourism, I was struck by the marketing language used in the customs terminal. There were three signs that designated the different lines. After an hour-long ferry ride everyone had been waiting outside in these lines for quite some time. The signs above each read “Visitors”, “Citizens” and “Belongers”. As we stood waiting in the Visitor line (because we knew that’s what we were), a thought struck me – I don’t think they mean that visitors and citizens don’t “belong” in this destination, but the longer we waited in the visitor line we started to joke that maybe we don’t “belong” here. So who are the “Belongers”? Apparently, non-citizen residents are referred to as Belongers in this part of the world. But how many visitors to this destination know this? NONE. And how many visitors are allowed to pass under the sign that says “Belongers”? NONE. As we waited in the non-belongers line, how much better did we feel about making the effort to visit this destination for our vacation? NONE.

Are you a patron?

Another great example that Roger Brooks of the Destination Development Association often references in presentations are “Closed” signs in storefronts. Imagine visitor impressions when they walk around upon their arrival to your destination and are greeted simply by the word “Closed”. Roger has a great strategy for this most unwelcoming word – click here to learn more about the Destination Development Association and consider joining to get full access to all of their resources related to the ever increasingly important future of Destination Management.

Always (at least) try to think like a visitor.

Remember the expression “can’t see the forest for the trees?” That is sometimes the case with Destination Marketing Organizations when it comes to the marketing language they use to communicate with their audiences – visitors to your community and other target audiences often see things differently than you (natives) do.

Even consider when you are using abbreviations like “DMO” or “CVB” in communications efforts – they might be unfamiliar to some of your local stakeholders and SMERF meeting planners. And it’s almost a certainty that visitors don’t know they are the “V” in “CVB”! When you are out-and-about, keep your eyes open for other stakeholder communications “opportunities” as well and help those stakeholders help themselves – and help your destination as a whole.

As you consider the words you (and others) use in marketing and communications efforts, referencing the TARGET audiences, the ROLES and the required BELIEFS in your destination’s Marketing Action Plan is a great way to put yourself in the different frames of mind of each of the Target Audiences you need to influence for your success.

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