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Promoting Tourism to the Local “Stay-cation” Audience

Travel has become more demanding than ever, especially air travel with its security lineups and hassles, and people are time-starved. Add the effects of the recent recession and the bottom-line result is discouraging for destination marketing organizations – at least for long-distance travel.

The Hotel Association of Canada projects that hotel occupancy levels will be only 59% this year, up slightly from 58% in 2009. In the United States, after averaging 55.1% last year, occupancy will tick up to 55.4% this year, according to a forecast from PricewaterhouseCoopers. That’s still well below the 20-year average of 62.8%.

Within this dark-tinged picture there’s a contrasting light patch in the market segment called “stay-cations.” This is a vacation that does not involve long-distance travel; instead, an individual or family stays at home or takes day trips from their home to area attractions.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence in the tourism industry that the popularity of stay-cations has surged since the recession began. Many destination marketers in small to mid-sized towns and regions are promoting stay-cations for their residents to help replace the tourism dollars lost from a drop in far-away visitors.

This trend, like all others in tourism, has implications for the web. The design of tourism websites should include elements that appeal to stay-cationers and encourage them to explore tourism products close to home. Here are some design objectives to keep in mind:

  • Devote a section of the site to stay-cationers
    On the home page of your destination marketing organization (DMO) website, place a visible icon where visitors can click to see information compiled specifically for those that live locally. This is in line with the principle that tourism websites should be designed primarily to satisfy the personal goals of tourists (see Niche Tourism Websites published in this series February 23).
  • Maximize opportunities for tourism operators
    Enable local tourism operators and event-planning organizations to post their own events and attractions on your DMO website. This can be done with simple web tools and is by far the most effective way to provide tourists, including stay-cationers, with up-to-date information. It also improves productivity within your DMO by relieving staff of tedious updates.
  • Emphasize events, no matter how small
    Most tourism organizations find it impossible to inform local and regional tourists about all of the many and varied events being planned in their community. Yet this is the primary interest of stay-cationers. Make sure they can easily find any kind of posted event by means of searchable listings, calendars and itinerary planners.
  • Publish maps, maps, maps
    Always assume that your web visitors do not know how to get to the location of any given tourism product, even if they live locally. Integrate information about any and all sites, organizations and events with maps downloadable from the same web page. Integration with Google maps is one simple and inexpensive way to do this.

Chatting and Notification

One design element of a DMO website deserves special attention in connection with stay-cations. The impact of social media is likely to be most pervasive when the services are being used by people discussing where to go for fun and relaxation in their own region.

It has become an inescapable reality in the tourism industry that travelers use social media all the time to consult one another on the desirability of events and products, and often make decisions based on those interactions. Research by Forrester Research has shown that two-thirds of US travelers who use DMO websites engage in some kind of social media activity, whether that’s creating their own content with blogs or videos, collecting and organizing content or consuming content that others have created.

It is a high-priority job, then, for DMOs to contribute to these interactions, supply accurate information available through social media services and draw the participants to their websites. One effective way to attract stay-cationers is to invite them to keep informed of local attractions through RSS feeds.

Many tourism and economic development sites are now RSS enabled but the service pushes out information that is drawn from the entire site. Much of it may be irrelevant to stay-cationers. When setting up your niche site for them, consider establishing an RSS feed that draws specifically from that site and will be more effective in stimulating comment and inquiries about the attractions that your local region offers its residents.

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