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4 Destination Website Tweaks to Support Visitor Demand in ‘COVID Times’

We’ve been living in our new COVID reality now for nearly 8 months, and it goes without saying that everything has changed for the travel industry in Australia.

One of the biggest opportunities to come out of our current situation, is that Regional destinations across Australia are experiencing high demand.

Recent data shared by Hayley Harris at the Australian Regional Tourism (ART) Convention today highlighted that the demand for RoadTrips by Australians has risen back to nearly 60% of the pre-COVID19 lockdown, after an initial drop.

The insights also suggest that people are looking to travel to regional areas as a priority, new destinations, exploring small towns, indulge in food and wine experiences and outdoor adventure activities.

So, below are some tips, along with some case studies, on how you can update your website to ensure the right type of content is available to support and service the increasing number of visitors as they flock to regions for their COVIDSafe holidays.

1. Elevate RoadTrip Content

With people still very cautious about getting on a plane, it’s no surprise people will be opting for a true blue Aussie roadtrip instead. Wotif reported that roadtrip destinations close to cities are trending on their platform, which is supported by the fact that 70% of Aussies are planning a roadtrip in the next 12 months, with half of them planning to take multiple roadtrips.

Roadtrips really do cut across all ages and demographics and for this reason present such a huge opportunity for a regional destinations. Therefore, it is optimal timing to elevate the content on your destination site specific to those taking roadtrips, in order to capitalise on this current and future potential demand.

Some of the key considerations for destination websites include:

  • Ensure accurate content on main driving routes to/from and around your destination. There was a great discussion at the Australian Regional Tourism Convention in 2020, noting that there are a lot of first time Australians travelling to regional destinations. So you need to ensure that accurate information about routes and travel times and road conditions are clearly outlined on your site to ensure travellers have the safest (and most stress free!) holiday.
    It may be worth consulting Google Maps and checking that the platform is sending your visitors on wild goose chases either! If it’s not, you could create your own travel routes using Google’s MyMaps platform, save them and embed them in your website to ensure your visitors take the most relevant route!
  • Create new / update existing content on all of your scenic drives, ensure they are optimised for search engines and double check that all of the roads on those routes are accessible.
  • Create new/ update your existing Touring Map for your destination, ensure this map can be downloaded, or is in a realview format for ease of sharing (and for tracking engagement on your website) and to ensure you have Electric Car charge points located on that map across your destination too.
  • Create new 5-7 day itineraries to attract those looking for the extended holiday. Given that people are opting for driving holidays, they will, by necessity, need to plan longer holidays given the time it takes to drive to regional Australia. Creating itineraries is the perfect way to pull together a ‘done for you’ holiday for your destination’s visitor personas, and helps them plan the correct amount of time to really experience all your destination has to offer. This article written by the team at Southern Downs and Granite Belt in Queensland is the perfect example of what I’m talking about!
  • Leverage your state developed RoadTrip Content, or create your own! Most Australian states and territories have developed RoadTrip functionality on their websites, just like New South Wales and QLD below, which you may be able to embed in your destination website. Other states have marketed drive journeys, like South Australia and Tasmania, so working with your state bodies to leverage the promotional content, or to increase the exposure of those Journeys that pass through your destination is another opportunity.
  • Develop your own roadtrip itineraries for your destination using software such as Alpaca (which is the software that has created the NSW content). Adelaide Hills Tourism and Grampian Tourism are already using this functionality to develop
  • Don’t forget your Caravan and Camping market content! Big players in the roadtripping scene will undoubtedly be those from the caravan and camping market, and with sales of vans, trailers and camp gear surging in 2020 post COVID, it’s game on for this market for our regional communities. So, the time is nigh to ensure your destination site has content that curated for these travellers to ensure their visitor servicing questions and challenges are answered so they can plan their next trip (because they will be making multiple trips) to your region!

2. Enhance + Elevate Nature Based Experiences

Reconnecting with nature and spending time in the great outdoors is likely to be a key experience driver in COVID times, especially for regional destinations, so elevating your nature based tourism experiences will be a great opportunity.

Some of the key updates to your destination website could be:

  • Ensure all of your free and paid, active and passive nature based tourism experiences are listed somewhere on your website, or are on the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (if you use this database to populate your listings). This will not only show your website visitors all the amazing experiences to be had, but it will increase your website’s digital footprint in Google search engine result pages (as long as those listings are optimised!), and help to attract new website visitors!
  • Curate user generated content from your destinations promoted hashtag to develop new itineraries on your blog based on the nature based niche interests in your region. People are absolutely travelling for their passions – like birdwatching, mountain biking, hiking, canoeing etc. So if you have experiences in your destination that can drive demand from these niche interest groups, then the time is now to give them every reason to choose your destination for their next holiday (check out Discover Tasmania’s blog article on Mountain Biking for inspiration >)
  • Create and highlight content that educates your visitors on how to protect your natural icons and experiences. Whilst there is huge demand for nature based experiences, and it’s great to convert that demand, it’s important to encourage visitors to travel mindfully just like NSW national parks have published on their blog “How to leave No Trace”

3. Curate Virtual Experiences

I’ve just been listening to the Virtual Australian Regional Tourism (ART) Convention today, and heard Hayley Harris of Tourism Australia share that the perception of Australia as a travel destination for international visitors has shifted since the inception of COVID19, whereby aspects of Australia that were once barriers (sparsely populated, isolated from the rest of the world) are now key drivers, along with our ability to contain the virus and a growing perception of premium quality experiences (see below slide from her presso – thanks Hayley!).

Whilst it will still be a few years until global travel resumes, it will be important now for destinations across Australia to provide as many virtual experiences as possible, ensuring we maintain our perception and demand for when the air routes open again.

A couple of great examples of some destinations that are curating virtual experiences on their websites include:

  • Bathurst Tourism Region, the team at Bathurst Tourism have developed a suite of videos sharing key experiences in their city.Bathurst Regional Tourism Virtual Experiences
  • I found this fantastic VR experience of Uluru which uses a software platform to share stories along with a tour of Uluru Kata Tjuta National ParkUluru National Park Virtual Reality
  • On a larger scale, the US state of Travel Oregon, have curated some virtual experiences for their website visitors, including a Zoom background (which I thought was fun too, considering COVID times!)Travel Oregon Virtual Experiences

So have a hunt around your region or state and see if you can curate and showcase some VR content for your website. There may be a great opportunity to invite your tourism industry to develop their own virtual experiences, of which you can then curate onto your site!

4. Share up to date COVID19 Travel Advice/Information

It really goes without saying that providing up to date, relevant travel advice for people thinking of visiting your destination is a key safety message that all destinations websites must publish – and most of the destination sites i’ve seen are absolutely doing this, which is great.

  • Frankston Visitor Centre have absolutely nailed it! They have provided succinct and helpful information for their locals and visitors with regard to safely exploring their municipality. I particularly also love their blog articles which support locals throughout their lockdown journeys in Victoria too.
  • Travel Oregon have a dedicated hub on their website, which is a great structure that smaller destinations can mimic with their own content. They not only cover all of the important travel safety advice, but they have created, curated and published content that supports people to explore their state offline, online and in their own home too, which is the part about this hub of content that I like the most!

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