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Mission Control / Travel

Is Your Destination’s Travel Guide Behind the Times?

Innovative DMOs are rethinking and re-inventing the concept of travel guides in destination marketing. These seven examples will inspire you to bring yours into the future.

Destination Travel Guide

By Ellen Olson

When was the last time you planned your vacation using a travel guide? This once hard-working stalwart of DMOs has largely lost its mojo, and yet many DMOs are clinging to an outdated model that neither engages travelers nor offers real value to partners and sponsors.

But if you look closely, you’ll find there are innovative DMOs that are transforming their travel guides. We take a look at seven examples that can help inspire your organization to connect with new audiences via immersive content, interactive formats and bold design.

1. Take an Editorial Approach

Whether it’s a digital content hub, a printed piece or a combination of the two, the most effective travel guide is one that’s both inspirational and trustworthy. Focus on the very best and the only-here of your destination — then highlight those attractions with stunning imagery and rich storytelling. And don’t forget to delineate between editorial and sponsored content to gain readers’ trust.

Inspiration: In the Prior World Guides, like this one for Mexico City, the design is evocative of the destination, the stories are immersive and intriguing, and the call to action is direct and compelling.

2. Consider Your Imagery

Before creating new content, take an image inventory, and be realistic about what you’ll be able to obtain. Nix photos that feel dated and invest in original imagery that is both beautiful and useful.

Inspiration: Travel Oregon uses stunning imagery to help delineate the state’s seven regions, giving travelers a quick understanding of what each region is known for.

3. Don’t Sacrifice Function for Form

In an effort to create a destination travel guide that inspires, it can be easy to lose sight of usability. Attract users with design, then work to keep them engaged by presenting clear next steps for them to take. Whether it’s signing up for emails, creating an itinerary of their own or simply reading related content, keep messaging clear and concise, and let your best imagery do the heavy lifting.

Inspiration: Black Tomato’s Experiences page makes it easy for users to discover the trip that’s right for them, based on interest and traveler type.

4. Focus on Distinct Themes

What is your destination best known for? Lean into that. Avoid the temptation to try to sell your destination as a food city and an outdoors mecca and a hub for arts and culture and a global shopping destination. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, position your destination as a must-visit getaway by amping up its unique character and offerings.

Inspiration: Marriott Bonvoy’s destination-specific landing pages tap into each location’s most iconic attributes to inspire (beaches and nightlife for Cancun, big city sights in NYC), while also providing recommendations of where to stay and what to do.

5. Find Your Niches

The savvier travelers become, the more curated your content needs to be. Today’s travel guide should go beyond lists of restaurants and shops and provide recommendations that are truly rooted in a sense of place.

Inspiration: Visit Maine dives deep into the state’s icons, with highly specific content tailored around lobsters, parks, lighthouses and moose. The site also offers seasonal trip ideas, recognizing that Maine in the winter is wildly different than Maine in the summer.

6. Segment Content for Traveler Type

One key to an effective DMO content strategy is to recognize the differing needs of various audiences, and work to create content that meets those needs. Go beyond the basic segments like families, retirees and friend groups, and incorporate content that speaks to Black travelers, the LGBTQ+ community, solo travelers and the like.

Inspiration: Seattle has one of the largest percentages of gay, lesbian or bisexual residents among large U.S. cities — and travel content on the Visit Seattle site reflects the city’s ethos of acceptance.

7. Incorporate Planning Tools

Provide users with a seamless transition from “Wow, this place looks amazing,” to “I’m ready to start planning my trip,” by integrating planning tools throughout your travel guide. Serve up recommended itineraries for different interests and allow users to create their own adventure with interactive trip-building tools.

Inspiration: The Nemo Travel Trip Builder provides the best of both worlds: curated pre-built itineraries as well as the flexibility to build your own.

Ready to Rethink Your Travel Guide?

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Author ellen ranta olson
Ellen Ranta Olson Senior Editor

Ellen has created content for a plethora of brands, publications and websites, ranging from The Ritz-Carlton to UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center. A former editor of Southwest travel magazine Dorado, she has managed content marketing programs for various destinations, including Visit Tucson, Visit Charlotte and Discover Gilbert. At C/A, she also oversees content and website design for her alma mater, the University of Arizona.

As a mom of two toddlers, Ellen’s weekends are typically spent at the park or the Phoenix Children’s Museum. In her rare solo time, she’s on a mission to run an 8-minute mile and can often be found pounding the pavement of downtown Phoenix.

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