Tag Archives: tourism

The Do’s and Don’ts of Tourism Websites

By: Kristin Freiburger, BC Hughes Tourism Consulting

Recently I finished planning my honeymoon. I thought looking for a great resort in Ontario would be an easy task, turns out it was harder than expected. My soon to be hubby and I were looking for a resort that offered a range of outdoor activities and cozy accommodations. To my dismay my search turned up very few attractive websites and information was hard to find. This unfortunately had me clicking the back button more times than not.

When booking a vacation, the majority of travellers in this day and age (85% in 2011)[i] use the trusty internet to do their research. This is something operators need to take into consideration. Most of the time a website is the first impression a potential visitor gets. If a website is too busy and photos are subpar, people question what the service will be like.

As a tourism researcher and avid traveller, I visit many tourism websites each day. I’ve seen my fair share of good and bad ones and have decided to share my tips of how you can make your website the best it can be to impress your online customers so they will book with you.

Be Transparent

It is important that businesses feature professional photos of the actual accommodations and activities they offer. Purchasing stock imagery is not good enough. I’ve talked with many travellers and all agree that resorts only showing photos of the town it is located in rather than photos of the resort are hiding something. It’s all about transparency. People want to know what to expect when they arrive, no surprises; unless it’s a bottle of wine waiting for them in their room.

Photo Quality vs. Quantity

Tourists want to get excited about their trip and want to see those epic shots. To give them these visuals, it is essential to hire a professional photographer. Many operators say think professional photos cost too much money. However, they don’t take into consideration that these professional photos could be paying for themselves after a few bookings and will in turn, attract more visitors. Remember your website is a customer’s first impression of your business.

Keep it Simple

Less is more. Keep your pages clutter-free and make information easy find.

Don’t make it a Contact Scavenger Hunt

If you want business, make it easy for your potential customers to contact you. More times than not it feels like a scavenger hunt to find the contact information on an operator website. It is important that every page of the website has both the phone number and general email address visible.

“X” marks the spot

People get very excited once everything is booked. Nothing takes this excitement away more than driving around in circles trying to find the destination. Ensure that your visitors will not get lost or have to spend extra time Googling where you are located. Have a page with a map marking your location and detailed directions coming from different locations. It is also important to include an address that will work when programed into the GPS.  Once on their way, remember that visitors will benefit from wayfinding signage directing them to your location.

Avoid the Guesswork

Many accommodations do not include rates on their webpage. Why not? This saves you and possible customers wasted time. If potential visitors have to phone for prices, they will sometime skip and look for another destination.

Summary

My goal for this post is to make your website the best it can be so individuals choose to come visit you. Just having a website is not good enough anymore. People have certain standards and expectations of what a website should offer. If you keep telling yourself you don’t have enough time to do the updates, hire a professional to take care of it for you. Your updated and professional website will pay for itself in the long run.

Kristin Freiburger is the Product Development and Communications Specialist for BC Hughes Tourism Consulting. Having travelled through Europe, Canada and other parts of North America, Kristin understands what tourists are looking for and the importance of creating unique experiences.


[i] Google/IPSOS OTX Media CT US (2011). The Traveler’s Road to Decision 2011. http://www.blizzardinternet.com/5459/thinkinsights-travel-research/

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Filed under Best Practices, Tourism Management, Tourism Marketing, Uncategorized

When you gotta go!

When you gotta go……

Blog Poem: By Chris Hughes

Visitors we are,

Travelling on bike, foot and car.

Map in hand,

Zig zagging across the land.

While in transit we like to drink,

Not planning ahead – we just don’t think.

We order large double doubles,

58 minutes later, we’re in trouble.

Drinking water from a stainless steel bottle,

Hurry up you’d better not doddle.

It’s easy peasy if you are a guy,

If kids must wait they begin to cry.

Women panic until one is found,

Only to find it filthy and can’t sit down.

It’s a natural fact of our travelling life,

Why on earth does it cause such strife?

We can put a man or two on the moon,

But try to find a clean washroom and you are doomed.

Clean washrooms make people stop,

They’ll buy lots of stuff – the cash they drop.

Business owners, travel and you will see,

What we all go through when we have to go pee.

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The Tourism Layer Cake – Who is the real Boss?

The management of tourism in this country is handled by a wide variety organizations, most have mandates as diverse as the products they sell and represent. If you are a tourism operator, navigating these organizations to figure out where to you should spend your money and your time could be as confusing as navigating an Ikea store on a Saturday.

Why is this? I have maintained throughout my career that the tourism industry is one of the most analyzed, studied, and layered industries there is. The ‘tourism funnel’ is full of organizations all with the best intentions in mind, but sometimes they miss the mark due structural complexity which ultimately creates confusion.

Take Ontario, Canada as an example. Tourism layers really stack up, and in some places even overlap:

  • Operator
  • Industry Specific Associations (ie. Private Campground Associations, Hotel and Motel Associations etc.)
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Convention & Visitor Bureaus /Business Improvement Associations
  • Local Tourist Associations
  • Municipalities
  • Counties
  • Regional Tourism Organizations (RTOs 1through13)
  • Provincial Industry Association (TIAO)
  • Province (Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation)
  • Province (Ministry of Tourism)
  • National Industry Association (TIAC)
  • National (Canadian Tourism Commission)

Looking at this structure, no wonder it seems daunting to your local business or attraction to determine where and how to become involved. Recently in Ontario, similar to British Columbia, the province has formed regional tourism organizations in order to try to make the system more efficient. The goal is to create resource rich, larger geographic organizations designed to have the clout to make a large impact in the marketplace. Will this replace some of the layers? In our opinion, likely not but in a reality of global competition, it will certainly ratchet up the marketing machine.

So why are there so many layers in tourism? Tourism is an industry that is very visible and can shape the ebb and flow of a community. A lot of the attractions and assets in tourism are publically owned or managed (i.e. parks, rivers, mountains, windy roads etc.) and this brings a lot of different groups to the table right off the bat. Then add in the businesses that make their living off of these assets, their associations, supporting attractions and very quickly the layers begin to form.

Local governments like to get into the action for purely economic development reasons. A healthy tourism industry means higher assessments and more money into the local system. Chambers of Commerce get involved almost by default. When a high portion of their members are tourism based, it very quickly shapes how the chamber rolls out its marketing and promotional plans. Local tourism associations sprout up when there is a weaker municipal tourism effort and the industry has to take on the task. As the geography broadens, sometimes representatives of more local organizations join together to form collectives that enable them to raise capital and reach further markets. Provincial governments are in the game for reasons similar to local governments – simply because tourism is big business and has the potential to generate significant tax revenues. Ironically the operators are in the game to deliver a high quality experience and to make money. Should the industry be at the top of the structure of the bottom? That is debatable but one thing everyone needs to remember is that all of the layers represent the industry, the very delivery agents of the products and services.

There is a shift in Ontario to remix the layers to see if it creates a more focused financially viable approach to tourism marketing. Will it solve all of the issues? Likely not, but one thing that is clear is that we need to continually talk about and work on ways to refine the system in the best interests of the visitor, local communities, government, and the real tourism ‘Cake Boss’, the operator.

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Filed under destination development, ontario tourism, tourism, Tourism Development, Tourism Management

Toronto Tap – Creating a Dynamic Dining Experience

There are two types of restaurants.  Those that serve great food and those that serve great food and create a culture at the same time.  One of the world’s largest chains Starbucks has done this since day 1.  They created their own coffee culture.

On a recent media trip in Toronto, we were treated to a dinner at the relatively new Luma restaurant in the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre.  Once seated in Toronto’s newest dining hotspot, our hostess quickly came to the table and asked us if we would like some water.  She said we had choices, many varieties of imported bottled water or our famous “Toronto Tap”.  To me it instantly sounded like some local imported beer and when I inquired what it was, the server said “it’s Delicious”.  We all laughed and I instantly garnered respect for this restaurant, before the meal was even on the table.

Whether this was just the one-off humour of the server, or Luma’s culture starting to form, either way it set the stage for what was to be a great evening.  They created their own culture from the onset of the experience.  The rest of the staff was just as bang on that night as was the food.  If you are wondering what water we ordered – it was the now famous “Toronto Tap”.

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Cabin Living and Expanding the Tourism Shoulder Season


Some of our blog readers will know that I have been working for BC Hughes for five months now as a tourism and economic development researcher, and it truly has been a great experience.  I moved up here for the opportunity to gain practical experience from Bev and Chris and to finally put my years of education to work in a professional environment.

When I was first hired onto the BC Hughes team I did not realize I would be gaining experience in so much more than tourism and economic development.  It all started with a Kijiji search for a place to live in the Owen Sound area for the summer, and when I discovered an “off the grid” cabin for rent on five acres outside of town, I knew my summer was about to take a drastic turn.

So there I was, freezing cold with little electricity in May, wondering what the heck I had got myself into.  I would lay in bed, looking forward to going into work every morning simply for the fact that I could warm up in the office and enjoy a cup of coffee.

But life sure got easier… the days got longer… the solar panels produced more electricity… the showers got warmer, and I became much happier!  Each and every day was a learning experience, not only in the workplace but in day to day living as well.  I learned to live with less.  Less light.  Less heat. Less Water.  Less human interaction.  All this considered it was a truly humbling experience to learn what I could go without.

In my blogs for BC Hughes this summer, I have tried to link the world around us to the tourism industry.  I am always looking for parallels between my life and tourism, in hopes that this helps our readers think about tourism development and marketing in a different way.

Believe it or not, I think living off the grid is very similar to the tourism industry in Canada. For tourism operators, July and August are the best months of the year.  This is when visitor numbers and spending are at their highest as families go on holidays.

Living off the grid, July and August were the best months of the year because I had more electricity then I could possibly use, could shower outside (with deer running past) and enjoy the delicious vegetables from my garden for dinner every night.

July and August were so great (and much easier) that I quickly forgot about the hardships of May and June, however I am remembering them all too well now as Thanksgiving approaches.  As the days get shorter, my bed gets colder, and my lights turn off earlier, I often think about ways I could make May, June, September, and October more enjoyable living in the cabin.  I could do things like add more solar panels, or get a properly working hot shower… the list gets longer each and every day!

It almost goes without saying, but as tourism attractions and operators, it is important to continually think about ways to expand the busy (and much easier) summer season to make the shoulder season more enjoyable (and hopefully more profitable!).   Now that we are in this slower time of year, start thinking of creative ways to expand your season… and if you need some help… feel free to give us a call!

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Filed under Product Marketing, Tourism Development, Tourism Management, Uncategorized

COWS

There are some things in the tourism industry that are unexplainable…this is one of those things.
On the weekend while in the Niagara region, we decided to bike along the incredible waterfront trail that follows the Niagara River. Our goal was ice cream in Niagara- on-the-Lake 10km downstream on what was a perfect spring evening. As we cycled along my friend Anne told me about this ice cream store we were headed to called COWS, that originated in PEI and how it is the best ice cream ever. Being a sucker for any kind of unique food reward while cycling I was instantly intrigued. As we rode into town on what was the Sunday evening of the Victoria Day long weekend, the town was buzzing with restaurant patrons, horse and carriage rides and people simply meandering along in this beautiful historic town. We parked our bikes in front of the store and found it mysteriously dark. I went to the door to find it locked…I yanked on the door thinking it was stuck, with enough force to set off the alarm.

Nothing gets in my way of world famous ice cream.

The only thing on the door was a Health Notice about not bringing pets into the store, no hours of operation, no reason why it was closed. Dumfounded why an iconic ice cream store would be closed in what I would consider prime time ice cream eating time, we collected ourselves and parked our sorry butts on a bench in front of the store. As masses of evening tourists streamed passed I said to Anne “Watch this…lets just sit here and see how many people try the door”. Within 15 minutes, group after group yanked on the handle only to have the same reaction we did. We estimated that they missed atleast $250 dollars of revenue within 15 minutes selling their premium dairy treats and merchandise. Their loss and my loss as I was excited to try it. Not sure what their reason was for being closed, like most small tourism businesses it could have been staffing issues, product issues, or simply a bad judgment call.
The moral of the story is to always call ahead like Ron, Anne’s husband said before we left and we both replied: “Yah right, its an ice cream store in a tourist town on a long weekend” “Its COWS”.

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Airports – The Launch Pad for your Destination’s Brand

If you are a frequent traveler, you have the pleasure or displeasure of spending way too much time in airports. With increased security and a heightened sense of awareness, it seems as though the airport authorities are forgetting about the image that their facility portrays about the destination.  Do they have to be so sterile, grey, and institutional? Do staff learn how to maintain a scowl during training seminars to purposely make people feel uncomfortable?
The airport is often the first impression a visitor has to a destination. In marketing we all understand that that 2.3 seconds is some of the most impressionable face time you can have with a potential customer. In the case of an airport it becomes more like 1 hour of impressionable time upon arrival. Why not use it to our advantage, to welcome our guests, and create a positive environment that is the starting point of their journey to this new and exciting destination.
Lets look at a Canadian facility that does it right.
Calgary – It must be the western hospitality that shines through that even the Calgary based Westjet has based its entire brand around. You arrive into this facility with broad smiles from the white cowboy hat touting ambassadors. They are friendly and are there to assist visitors with any needs or questions. While waiting for your luggage the centre of the luggage carousels are decorated with themed western messaging that creates a sense that you have arrived in cowboy country. Two simple approaches that work. It is no longer a sterile institution but is a themed welcome centre that is a direct extension of what Calgary stands for.
For an example of actually doing a disservice to a destination brand lets look at the Toronto Airport. Recognizing that the larger the facility the more utilitarian they become, but I see it as even more ‘wall space’ to create a very unique portrayal of the destinations identity. The Toronto facility is all business with any space available for displays or imagery is sold for advertising value, that turns it into a very generic place.
Start at the arrival level, it could be anywhere in the world, there is absolutely no connection of where its located. Standing, waiting for your baggage is often stressful, and this facility’s prison like feel doesn’t make you excited to be in Toronto.
Airports are gateway points of entry to spectacular destinations. Lets make the facilities themselves more exciting and celebrate the beginning of a great vacation, productive business meeting, or reconnection with friends and family. Destination managers need to get engaged with their local airport authority.

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