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Destination Marketing for Airports: Tips, Trends and Content Ideas

18 Jan 2024
Sarah Marks

Fasten your seatbelts, put your tray tables in the upright position, and prepare to soar through the skies. After suffering from losses in the region of $1.2Trillon thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry is bouncing back in a big way.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation reports that international tourism recovered 87% of pre-COVID levels between January and September 2023, with 975 million people travelling internationally during that time.

With airports, booking sites, and online travel agencies alike keen to capitalise on consumers’ renewed desire to travel, marketers must find new ways to stand out from the crowds. One of the best ways airports can differentiate themselves is with destination marketing.

What is destination marketing, and how does it work?

Destination marketing is the practice of promoting a specific area, such as a city, region, or country, as an appealing travel destination to potential visitors. This strategy involves highlighting the unique attractions, culture, history, and experiences of the place, using various marketing techniques and channels to attract tourists and encourage travel to the destination.

In essence, destination marketing is a very pure form of brand marketing typically undertaken by a Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) such as a tourism board or visitors bureau. DMOs want to attract people to their destination and must build belief in their brand. They want travellers to immerse themselves in everything the destination offers and share their experiences both during their holiday and once they return home.

Introducing destination marketing to airports

But destination marketing isn’t just for DMOs. Destination marketing is an effective strategy to unlock revenue for airports from direct bookings for flights, hotels, holidays, and other travel ancillaries through your airport website. To encourage travellers to book through your website for a specific destination, you could have strong campaigns highlighting the destinations you offer.

Planning a destination marketing campaign

Before brainstorming content ideas, you need a clear picture of your target audience. Here’s how to get a clear view of who you’re marketing to and why they might want to visit your destination:

  • Look at past sales trends to identify who has been travelling to a destination through your airport. This could include age groups, families, solo travellers, or business professionals. Understanding who has already been attracted to a destination gives you a base to work from.
  • Conduct surveys or interviews with past visitors. Find out what they enjoyed, what attracted them to the destination, and any feedback they have. This information helps tailor your content to match the preferences and needs of similar potential visitors.
  • Monitor social media and online forums to see what people are saying about your destination. What aspects are they excited about? Are there common themes in their discussions? This real-time feedback can offer a fresh perspective on what draws people to your destination.
  • Using the information gathered, create detailed profiles of your typical visitors. For instance, one profile might be a family looking for kid-friendly activities, while another might be a young couple interested in cultural experiences. Each profile should include motivations for traveling, preferred activities, and any specific needs or preferences.
  • Recognise that you might have several different audiences, who may each have various reasons for wanting to travel to a particular destination. For example, some might be drawn by historical sites, others by adventure sports, and others by relaxation opportunities.
  • All the information you gather can help you tailor your destination marketing strategies to specific travellers and make your content more relevant and appealing. The goal is to connect with potential visitors by addressing their specific travel desires and needs.

New destination marketing trends to consider

When creating destination marketing campaigns, focus on what’s important to your customers. Today’s travellers have different expectations and behaviours for you to capitalise on.

Some of the current destination marketing trends to consider include:

1. Travelling to meet others

Many people are separated from loved ones, with people and families moving for jobs and better opportunities and lifestyles abroad, and trips will revolve around connecting with loved ones. The people they’re with may be more important than the destination, so you need to focus on why your destination is the perfect place to meet and make new memories.

2. Unique off-the-beaten-track escapes

People seek out more unique escapes and long for the extraordinary. Millennial and Gen Z travellers, in particular, are seeking uncharted territories on their travels. Spotlight your destination’s most unusual accommodations and hidden gems, showcasing them as new locations with a sense of exclusivity.

3. Bucket list breaks

The 18-24 market is engaging in “revenge travel” to compensate for time lost during the pandemic and visit a destination on their bucket list. Use your marketing campaigns to show why your destination should be on their list. Highlight once-in-a-lifetime experiences, local culture, and other unique selling points.

4. Hibernation holidays

After a tough few years there’s a strong desire for escapism, with 42% of travellers escaping to warmer climates on a ‘hibernation holiday’ over winter and others turning to their holidays as a means to get away from the challenges of everyday life back home. Focus on which destinations are warm or hot during your colder months.

5. Eco-friendly travel

While many people are keen to escape their homes, experience the outdoors and tick off experiences on their bucket list, a new wave of eco-conscious travellers is emerging. The inability to fly and travel through much of 2020 undoubtedly had a positive impact on the environment, and with our need to tackle climate change, many travellers are researching destinations, hotels and travel providers that align with their eco-friendly values.

6. Professional travel booking advice

According to Travel Pulse, holidaymakers used the services of a travel professional to book 70% of their long-distance travel in 2023. This data suggests travellers need the expertise provided by trusted travel professionals. So why not use your destination marketing campaigns to position your airport as the expert on your destination — a go-to, trusted source?

As well as sharing engaging and expert-led travel content, make it easy for customers to get answers to their questions and concerns. Consider creating bespoke landing pages for your destinations with key travel information and insider tips from professionals.

Destination marketing and travel sales

To increase travel sales, airports need to connect with customers right at the beginning of the buyer journey when they experience that ‘I want to get away’ moment and start researching a trip. How? By providing content that customers will find valuable when they’re fact-finding and researching a destination.

But it’s not just a case of sharing your flights, hotels, and holidays for a specific destination. You need to sell them on the experiences and memories created from their trip. It’s about inspiring rather than merely informing customers.

Consider all the different ways you can reach your customers and influence the buyer journey:

  • Develop a presence on any relevant travel websites and forums where people turn for inspiration.
  • Create keyword optimised landing pages for your destination.
  • Up your social media game with high-quality photo feed posts, stories and reels – according to Travel Weekly, 35% of all respondents and 26% of Gen Z and Millennials are using social media for holiday inspiration.
  • Include destination hashtags on your posts to increase your visibility to customers researching trips on social media.
  • Create inspirational travel guides and video content for your destinations to show customers what they can experience and evoke emotion.
  • Partner with travel influencers and bloggers to reach a wider audience.
  • Create a unique hashtag to make sure travellers can tag your airport/destination on arrival and during their stay to influence other social media users.

Make booking on your website easy

Comprehensive destination guides, links to social media profiles and online reviews all help to build consumer confidence. But if your checkout process is lengthy or complex, it can put potential customers off. In fact, slow loading times frustrate 72% of people completing an online transaction. A smooth ecommerce experience and an easy checkout process once they reach the booking stage reduces the risk of cart abandonment and increase the chances of completing the sale.

With Rezcomm’s travel modules, your customers can compare and book flights, hotels, holidays, and travel ancillaries in a single basket. We even have an inspirational search tool where travellers can look for destinations according to their interests or preferred travel schedule. This tool can feature content such as destination guides, maps, special offers, weather guides, images, and video to boost your destination marketing efforts.

Build ongoing customer relationships and attract new leads

One of the principles of destination marketing involves turning customers into brand ambassadors. Once they’ve had a wonderful time at a destination, you want them to tell the world about it and influence more people to visit.

For airports, this involves building ongoing customer relationships. Use automated personalised emails to check in with your customers before, during and after their trip to ensure they have a positive experience. This interaction will improve your customer’s relationship with your brand and increase the likelihood of a repeat booking.

Don’t forget to ask for feedback and reviews. Encourage customers to share photos and videos of their trip on social media, tagging your airport brand. The more user-generated content out there, the stronger your destination marketing campaign will be and the greater chance you have of generating new leads.

Destination marketing content ideas for airports

When it comes to creating destination marketing content, the possibilities are endless. Ultimately, the type of content you put out there comes down to what your customers are looking for from the destination you’re selling and what you want to achieve from your destination marketing campaign.

Create content that gives customers FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Some ideas for this could be:

1. High-quality local area guides

Cover all the exciting things customers can see, do, and experience at a particular destination. Look for unique and unusual offerings or destination-specific experiences that customers won’t find elsewhere. Local area guides are highly shareable and great for boosting your authority.

2. Video content

Video is one of the most engaging and widely consumed forms of content, so why not use it to sell the destinations your airport serves?

Show travellers what they can do, the feelings they’ll experience, and what makes a particular destination unique. Feature real customers and reviews to make customers who haven’t already booked feel FOMO.

Remember, video content doesn’t always have to be polished. Sharing user-generated video content on your Instagram stories or TikTok is a great way to boost your airport brand’s authenticity.

3. User-generated content

86% of people make decisions on travel destinations based on user generated content they’ve seen. Leverage happy customers by encouraging them to share their experiences with your airport and the destinations you serve online. Build up a bank of user-generated content such as photos, videos and reviews you can share on Facebook and Instagram. Doing so will improve brand advocacy and, in turn, generate more sales.

4. Travel influencer partnerships

Followers of travel influencers are highly engaged and look to them for travel recommendations, with 45% of Gen Zers trusting influencer’s travel recommendations. So why not partner with them to increase the reach of your destination marketing?

Destination marketing and SEO

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your website using best practice techniques that help your site rank higher in the search engine results pages. In turn, this drives more organic traffic and more business to your airport’s site.

Ultimately, SEO for destination marketing campaigns relies on the same basic principle as marketing — knowing your target customer. There is no point in spending time, effort, and money attracting more traffic to your online flight ticket booking page if those who land on the page aren’t interested in what you have to offer.

SEO basics to consider:

  • Research and use keywords within your content that are relevant to travel searches, and more specifically, the destinations your airport serves.
  • Focus on long-tail keywords, such as questions people commonly ask questions online searches. Consider answering these questions within your destination marketing content to boost your search rankings and encourage click-throughs.
  • Optimise your airport website for mobile search and checkout.
  • Continue to monitor and track your progress (destination trends are constantly changing, so make sure your SEO efforts reflect this.)

Simple navigation and top-quality content will boost your traffic. But for strong SEO benefits, each page should be built around keyword themes, which is ideal for content that focuses on marketing a destination. Content should be natural and focused, so visitors interact with it positively, boosting your search engine ranking. A higher ranking for destination-based content should translate into more bookings as your website becomes a valuable resource for people to research their trip.

Start planning your next destination marketing campaign with Rezcomm

Successful destination marketing requires good data, a clear strategy, engaging content and ongoing testing to achieve a high return on investment.

With Rezcomm’s plug-and-play marketplace you can select from a wide range of travel, marketing, and customer modules to make building and executing your campaigns a breeze. What’s more, our travel marketing experts are on hand to support you in getting the most from your airport’s destination marketing. Download our brochure, watch our video, or contact one of our experts to find out more today.