A destination visitor guide is an important marketing and visitor servicing tool for many of the destinations we work with.
When done right, it will both inspire and encourage visitors to stay longer, spend more and disperse around a region more widely.
With the upheaval of 2020, there are a number of visitor and wider society trends impacting our visitors which need to be considered in your next destination visitor guide update.
Following are 15 tips you can use audit and then evolve your destination visitor guide to ensure it’s aligned to your destination visitor economy strategy and it’s adding real value to your visitors, local businesses and wider community.
1. Know your Region’s High Yield Visitors + Niche Interest Segments
The first thing to start with when reviewing your Visitor Guide is to ensure you’re clear on who your Destination’s high value visitor and niche segments are, and what experiences your destination has that are of interest to them.
Based on our work with destinations over recent years, most Australian destinations will have will have high value leisure visitors who fall into the following segments:
- Families – Either with younger preschool + lower primary aged kids or older more independent and active kids/tweens/teens.
- Older couples – Travelling without kids, or possibly as extended family groups.
- Younger Couples – Often travelling with other couples or friends.
From a visitor guide, make sure you can answer the questions such as
- Who are they travelling with? Kids/Couples/Their Pet?
- What’s their motivation for travel? Holiday? Work? Event?
- Are there any accessibility needs? Wheelchair bound, walker, prams, mobility considerations?
- What experiences in your destination are they most interested in?
From there, you have a solid base to audit your Visitor Guide from.
2. Inspire and Motivate First
Show and tell your readers early in your Guide about the hero experiences of your destination.
Research tells us that 85% of leisure travellers wait until they are in a destination before finalising their itinerary planning.
Don’t assume visitors who are already in your destination know about the things to see and do.
Have sections early in your Visitor Guide covering your destination experience strengths relevant to your high value visitors, which are likely to fall in the following categories:
- Outdoor, Adventure, Nature, Wildlife
- Food, Wine, Beverages
- Art, Culture, History, Heritage
Keep these sections editorial only, with great storytelling copy and stunning images. Leave the advertising for later in the Visitor Guide.
Refer back to your strategic planning documents to clarify your destination’s key experience strengths to help guide you in this space.
Example: Adelaide Hills Visitor Guide inspires visitors around their Food Experiences
Example: Port Lincoln Visitor Guide inspires visitors around their Seafood strength early in the visitor guide.
3. Elevate your Outdoor, Nature and Adventure Experiences
Building on the previous section, thanks to Covid, people are looking for experiences and activities that are, by nature, away from people and socially distanced.
Every Region in Australia has mix of walks, cycle trails, lookouts and other natural attractions through natural landscapes, national parks/reserves and recreational spaces.
Whist they may not have a paid tourism offering for visitors, or be run by a private tourism operator (who can pay for a visitor guide advert), it’s a missed opportunity to not talk about them.
Share very specific and detailed information about best walks, cycle trails, natural attractions, national parks.
Example: Mudgee Visitor Guide – Specific Walking, Cycling and Family Outdoor Adventures
4. Touring Routes, Itineraries and Scenic Drives
Domestic road trips are booming and will continue until international borders re-open and airline capacity lifts.
Therefore ensure your Visitor Guide has relevant self-drive information for your high value visitors.
Ideas on how to support your self-drive visitors through your Visitor Guide includes:
Suggested Itineraries to and around your Region
- If relevant, share suggested touring routes to/from your region from key source destinations, such as your nearest Australian capital city. If it works, share alternate drive routes there and back so they disperse more widely around your destination.
Day Trip or Scenic Drives
- Many destinations have central towns where people most likely stay, so share suggested day trips out to your smaller communities, with a focus on scenic drive routes and lesser know experiences.
Top Instagram Spots
- People love visiting the most photographic spots in your region. Therefore consider an Instagram Trail, which shares the most instagrammable spots such as public art, historic buildings, lookouts, stunning vistas and natural phenomena in your destination.
- Based on your high value visitors, share themed itineraries relevant to their interests, such as:
- Family Friendly itineraries
- Art + Culture itineraries
- History + Heritage Itineraries
- Foodie + Wine Itineraries
- Outdoor, Nature + Wildlife Spotting Itineraries
- Seasonal itineraries are also great, however these can date, so you can mention seasonal happenings in your Guide, but then direct them back to your Destination Website for most up to date suggested itineraries (eg. things like Canola Trails, Almond Blossoms etc).
Example: Port Lincoln Visitor Guide – Day Drives from Port Lincoln
Example: Bathurst Destination Planner – Themed Itineraries
Example: Barossa Visitor Guide – 24 Hours in the Barossa
Example: Bathurst Destination Planner – Beautiful Bathurst Instagram Trail
5. Accessibility Travel Tips
With 1 in 5 Australians having a disability or long-term health condition, combined with our ageing population, this means some of your high value visitors need specific accessibility advice for your destination.
Whilst your destination website is the best spot for detailed accessibility travel advice, your Guide can provide tips, particularly in the area of mobility issues, as 55% of these travellers identify as travelling with a mobility issue.
This could be older family members who may not be able to navigate stairs or long walks, families travelling with young kids in prams or wheelchair bound travellers looking for fully accessibly experiences.
Therefore highlight in your Visitor Guide mobility friendly experiences across your experience strength areas (refer back to Tip 2 and 3).
Example: I haven’t found a good one, so if you have one in your Visitor Guide, let me know and I’ll add it in!
6. Local or Insider Tips
People love in-person tips from locals on what to see and do in a destination. Therefore why not extend this idea into your Visitor Guide?
Consider asking local residents or icons to share tips for their favourite hidden gems in your local town or region.
Also allow them to mentioned specific business names – this is what visitors are looking for. Don’t dilute the authenticity of these recommendations by letting them talk about businesses that advertise.
Example: Bathurst Destination Planner has local residents sharing specific business recommendations throughout the Visitor Guide.
7. Touring Map
Maps are king in a Visitor Guide. They are a fantastic way to communicate a lot of information to visitors in a succinct and visual way.
If your Region has the budget, a separate, full-colour, fold-out Touring Map that complements your Guide is highly recommended.
Small smartphone screens are no match for a great paper-based map, which shows key experiences and attractions in a succinct way.
However, if a separate touring map isn’t possible due to budget limitations or the size/layout of your destination, a clear and easy to follow Touring Map within your Guide is a must have.
Considerations for what to include are:
- Able to use to navigate by driving (eg. a stylised map wont do)
- Key natural attractions and built experiences
- Suggested drive routes
- Walking and cycling trails
- Town maps
- Not too cluttered – use a key and icons instead of individually labelling every attraction/experience/trail on the map if your region is larger.
If you can’t get enough detail of a specific feature into your larger Touring Map (eg. Town Maps), then break it out to a separate, smaller map in the relevant section of your Guide.
Touring Map Example: Adelaide Hills Visitor Guide – A double page centre spread.
Town Map Example: Tenterfield Visitor Guide
Walking Map Example: Mudgee CBD Walk
Cellar Door Map: Mudgee Region Magazine
Publishing dates for specific events is going to be a challenge whilst we live with COVID.
Covid clusters and hotspots, that pop-up a short notice, mean events are at risk of being cancelled or having date changes at short notice.
A good way to get around this in your Visitor Guide is to list key destination events by month only, combined with a great photo. From there, direct readers back to your destination website for specific, up to date event information.
Example: Adelaide Hills Visitor Guide
Examples: Mudgee Region Magazine
9. Elevate Smaller Towns
With the boom in road trips, it’s a great opportunity to help your visitors disperse around your region and explore your lesser-known towns and communities.
Don’t rely on the smaller towns or Visitor Centres to advertise to get a feature in your destination Visitor Guide. If they offer something of value to your visitors and they fall in your marketing remit, then make sure you tell your visitors about them.
To encourage this, we need to give our visitors a reason to visit those towns, so start by auditing all your smaller towns and communities.
What facilities do they offer visitors?
- RV Camping
- Dining Options
- Historial Experiences/Buildings
- Public Art
Then using a mix of maps, engaging copy, symbols and great photos to showcase these towns in your Guide.
Example: Dubbo Visitor Guide does a great job sharing what to see and do in its smaller villages.
Example: Bathurst Destination Planner also does a great job highlighting what to see and do in their smaller towns.
10. Acknowledgement of Country
There’s a growing expectation by visitors that there is acknowledgement of your destination’s First Nations history and heritage.
A visitor guide that talks about your region from a post European settlement point of view is not respectful to your local Indigenous communities and is not well received by many visitors.
Therefore, a thoughtful and respectful Acknowledgement of Country at the start of your Visitor Guide is a small, but powerful gesture.
Example: Tenterfield Visitor Guide
11. Connect Offline with Online
Many destinations we work with have a suite of printed brochures that provide detailed and specific visitor information niche experiences in their destination.
- Bird Watching Trails
- Caravan and Camping Trails
- 4WD Trails
- Fishing Guides
- Short Walks Guides
- Food and Wine Guides/Maps
Instead of putting all this information into your Guide, or relying on people to find these guides by chance in a Visitor Centre, reference them in the Guide and let visitors know where they can get a copy. This is ideally online, as well as through your local visitor centres.
QR codes are also a way to connect print publications with more detailed visitor information online. Most smartphone cameras can now read QR codes without the need to install a QR reading app. QR Codes are also being used widely for business check-ins and contact tracing thanks to Covid, meaning people have the technology and now the familiarity to engage with QR codes.
Therefore consider using QR Codes in your Visitor Guide to connect people easily with digital destination information.
Example: Visit Shoalhaven reference their niche interest visitor guides in their Main Visitor Guide.
Example: Port Lincoln Visitor Guide uses a QR code to allow people to download a digital version of the guide to their smartphones.
12. Visitor Centre Connection
If you have Visitor Centre/s in your destination, tell people about them early in your Visitor Guide. Don’t leave it to the very end of your Guide.
Encourage your visitors to connect with them in person or online for local, personalised advice for your destination.
It’s a very important call to action for your visitors, and you don’t want it hidden away as an afterthought in your Visitor Guide.
Also tell people about the experiences they can also have at the Visitor Centre (in addition to picking up Guides). Many Visitor Centres are evolving their experiences to remain relevant to both visitors and local through offerings such as:
- Virtual Reality Experiences
- Local Retail, Food, Wine and Art
- Interpretive Exhibitions or Museums
- Tour or Hire Offerings
Example: Both Tenterfield Visitor Guide and Mudgee Regional Magazine feature their Visitor Centres at the start of their visitor guides.
13. Shop Local
Covid, bushfires and drought have supercharged Australians positive sentiment towards shopping local and supporting smaller, local, family-owned businesses.
Help foster this connection in your Visitor Guide by showcasing local businesses that are relevant to your high value visitors, but who may not consider themselves part of the visitor economy.
To do this, start with an audit of your local towns, and their shops. Think along the lines of…
- Food, Wine and Produce Suppliers – eg Local Butcher, Fishmonger, Wine Cellars, Gourmet Foods, Supermarkets etc
- Art + Craft Galleries
- Clothing – Ladies, Mens, Kids, Sportsware, Surfware etc
- Plant Nurseries
- Niche Interest – Fishing, 4WD, Golf etc
- Book Stores – New and secondhand (eg Our family likes to search out secondhand book stores when we travel, and we always come away with a few gems and great keepsakes from our trip!).
If your Visitor Guide is part of your membership offering, consider a cost effective category that covers the inclusion in the Visitor Guide for local businesses.
Alternatively, work with your local Local Commerce/Business Association or Council to see if there is a way to provide some funding for a retail stories for your destination in the Guide, even if individual businesses don’t take out an advert.
Example: Mudgee Region Magazine has a Shop Like a Local Section, including a Shopping Trail.
Pages of accommodation listings aren’t adding huge amounts of value to visitors, as they often aren’t listed in a way that’s relevant to visitor specific interests or needs.
A way to elevate the accommodation section in your Visitor Guide is to add editorial around experiential or themed accommodation relevant to your high value visitor accommodation needs, such as:
- Families – Holiday Parks, Self Contained Homes, Farm/Station Stays
- Couples – Quirky, unique self contained cottages
- Extended Groups who want to stay together – Eg hotels, motels, holiday parks.
- Business Travellers – Hotel or Group Accommodation
- Pet Friendly Accommodation
- Accessibly Accommodation
Example: Shoalhaven Visitor Guide get specific with Pet Friendly Accommodation information in their Guide.
15. Encourage Visitor Advocacy on Social Media
Social Media is a key storytelling tactic for destinations, and also the foundation of storytelling content for your destination’s social media channels.
Therefore, don’t hide your destination social media channels and hashtags away in the fine print of your Visitor Guide.
Encourage visitors to share their photos and videos of your destination by using your destination hashtags and tagging your destination social media accounts.
Example: Tenterfield Visitor Guide
Our Current Favourite Visitor Guides
Whilst we’ve shared screenshots from the above guides, they can be hard to read on small screens, so here are the links to the full Visitor Guides we’ve showcased for you to view online.
Over to you
We’d love to hear from you if your destination has evolved your Visitor Guide to include many of our above suggestions or you have other tips we could add to the blog to support other destinations? If so let us know and we’ll add it to the above list.