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Travel-related businesses must be mindful of what, where, and how they craft communication. | Photo by alevision.co on Unsplash

The Importance of Attracting the Right Traveler — and How Messaging Helps


Published on March 29, 2022


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry contributed US$8.9 trillion to the world’s gross domestic product, and it was responsible for one out of ten jobs around the world. The number of travelers zipping across the world was accelerating so fast, it exceeded the UNWTO’s forecast for 2018

“International tourism continues to show significant growth worldwide, and this translates into job creation in many economies,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili. “This growth reminds us of the need to increase our capacity to develop and manage tourism in a sustainable way, building smart destinations and making the most of technology and innovation.”

Even at the time, this response — that sustainability should be achieved by increasing capacity to manage an excessive amount of travelers — seemed to be rather unsustainable for a lot of destinations. Dozens of destinations around the world were heaving under the weight of overtourism. The idea of simply “managing” these astronomical numbers as a reasonable solution to the problem was, quite frankly, laughable.

Coming out of the other side of this pandemic, many of these same destinations clearly signified that they’re prioritizing local residents over tourism. Further, they’re being very intentional in the type of visitors they want to attract. Or, as this Bloomberg article coined it, they’re embracing “curated tourism.”

There’s a reason for this: Not all travelers are created equal. They have a wide range of impacts on the places they visit — economically, socially, culturally, and environmentally.

Internationally owned all-inclusive resorts cause far more leakage than when people stay in locally owned accommodations and buy from locally owned businesses. Cruise ship passengers don’t financially contribute nearly as much as land-based travelers. People who pay for and visit museums have a much different mindset and intention than weekend partiers in town for the cheap drinks.

There is a common branding and marketing exercise that encourages people to detail their ideal persona. In tourism, it’s important to be very clear in who, specifically, you intend to attract. It might seem logical that a destination or tour company should want to attract “anyone who travels,” but, as noted, not all travelers offer the same overall value.

The tourism industry can (and should) do a lot of things to attract the right travelers. This includes everything from setting appropriate price points to setting standards for high-quality providers across the supply chain.

However, intentional and mindful messaging matters too. Keep these tips top of mind the next time you’re creating and delivering content to ensure it helps — and doesn’t hinder — your efforts in attracting the ideal traveler.

Think about your ideal traveler’s voice and vibe. 

The language, imagery, and delivery of your content should appeal to the person you want to attract. What words and formats will attract them? 

Avoid generic niceties.

Using generic, cookie-cutter language and imagery will attract generic, cookie-cutter travelers. We see this play out when destinations become backdrops without context on social media platforms.

Be clear in your intention.

The content you put out into the world is the content that people consume, so ensure the stories you share match your intentions. This is a surefire way of signaling your expectations.

Meet your ideal traveler where they are.

The placement of messaging matters too. If you intend to attract mature adults looking for luxury experiences, don’t double down on your TikTok strategy.

State expectations clearly and throughout the customer and traveler journey.

Be clear about how you expect travelers to act and behave in your destination or on your tour. Share that information across platforms and in a variety of consumer-facing content.

Amplify stories and content that encourage more nuanced visits.

People looking for travel experiences that embrace complexity will be attracted to messaging that encourages them to do so. If your business is willing to grapple with complex issues like the climate crisis and gentrification, incorporate messaging that reflects this early, often, and throughout communication.

Spread the message to the media.

Travel media is highly influential. Be mindful in crafting and distributing press materials to garner the kind of coverage that attracts the right kind of travelers.

JoAnna Haugen

JoAnna Haugen is an award-winning writer, speaker, consultant, and solutions advocate. She is also the founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainability, storytelling, and social impact.

Hire her as a consultant or to speak at your next event.


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