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TripAdvisor for Destination Marketing Organizations

by Daniel Edward Craig
February 14, 2012

Over the past few years, TripAdvisor has been expanding its content offerings, evolving from a hotel review site to a comprehensive resource for planning trips. And while the majority of content is traveler-generated, if you’re a tourism bureau you have a variety of options to contribute content of your own, to enhance existing content and to promote travel to your destination.
“TripAdvisor offers a comprehensive suite of content products, both free and paid, that allow destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to enhance their websites with user-generated content and drive more traffic,” says Kevin Carter, TripAdvisor’s Manager of Business and Trade Media Relations. In the past two years, he says, TripAdvisor has worked with more than 600 global DMOs.
With 50 million unique monthly visitors worldwide, TripAdvisor might just be the most important site for marketing your destination aside from your official website. And unlike social networks like Facebook and Twitter, people go to TripAdvisor to shop, not to socialize.
In its 2010 Travel Trends Survey, TripAdvisor asked travelers at what stages in vacation planning they are most likely to visit the site. 54% of respondents indicated “at the beginning”, when either “looking to be inspired with a destination to visit” or “choosing between destinations.”
For DMOs means lots of impressionable travel shoppers ripe for the picking. Here’s how to harvest them.
Put yourself in the traveler’s shoes
Start by exploring your destination’s positioning from a traveler’s perspective. Read reviews, peruse content and sign up for weekly TripWatch newsletters.
Check out Facebook applications like Instant Personalization and Cities I’ve Visited to see how travelers are sharing trip activities, reviews and wish lists with friends. And download TripAdvisor’s mobile app and the recently launched City Guide app to survey how (and if) your destination is represented.
Based on the information you find, would you visit your destination or just end up confused? Now it’s time to manage content. I’ll start with the free stuff.
Badges and Widgets
In the Tourism Organizations section you’ll find free badges and widgets that can be uploaded to your destination site. These include Travelers’ Choice® award badges, widgets of traveler photos and review feeds of top-rated attractions, hotels and restaurants. These feeds will help provide a stream of fresh traveler-generated content on your site. But bear in mind the content is not searchable and therefore offers no SEO benefits to the host site.
Some DMOs have opted to integrate TripAdvisor reviews and ratings within member listings on their official site. This might not please all of your stakeholders, especially those unpopular with travelers, but it will show confidence in your offerings overall and will help keep travelers on your site.
A survey conducted by VisitScotland in October 2009 found that travelers were highly in favor of seeing TripAdvisor reviews on its website and that 75% of businesses that had opted for this feature were satisfied with the results. VisitLondon and VisitMesa also feature reviews on their websites.
Articles, Local Info and Imagery
You’ll find a range of content in the Travel Guide section, accessible on the left sidebar of destination pages. Here you can upload photos, videos and articles to help orient travelers to your destination.
In keeping with the community spirit of TripAdvisor, keep it real. That means editorial not advertorial, no marketing babble or fairytales, and go easy on the superlatives. And only include material you have permission to publish.
“Destinations can also add relevant information to traveler articles on the site,” says Carter, “including links to their website and email, as well as details about their tourist offices’ opening hours.”
The wiki feature allows you to edit content uploaded by others. Check it for accuracy, revise as appropriate and add comment to explain your revisions. Use the “Report inappropriate content” button if warranted. To monitor content on an ongoing basis subscribe to the “Watch Articles” feature.
For more information visit TripAdvisor’s Content Policies section.
TripAdvisor forums can be a great medium for engaging travelers, sharing information and gaining insight into topics and issues related to your destination. “They essentially offer free market research,” says Carter.
You can also clear up any misconceptions and point travelers to available resources. Leave your sandwich board at the door, however. “No commercial messaging is allowed in these forums,” says Carter. “And we request DMOs to clearly indicate that they are the official Tourism Board in their profile name.”
TripAdvisor selectively invites valued contributors to become Destination Experts. These people can be highly influential advocates. Introduce yourself, thank them for their efforts (they do this on a volunteer basis) and offer yourself up as a resource.
And now for the paid stuff.
Much like individual businesses can enhance their TripAdvisor listing with paid Business Listings, DMOs have a number of paid options to increase visibility and drive traffic. These include Tourism Sponsorships, custom branding campaigns, advertorials, interactive microsites and forums sponsorships. 
Banner campaigns can be targeted to travelers who live within primary feeder markets or are actively considering trips to competitive or nearby destinations. For example, on the North Carolina page I encountered ads from the South Carolina tourism bureau. Cheeky, but effective.
Pricing is based on cost-per-thousand impressions. To cut down on clutter and ensure advertising is relevant, TripAdvisor limits the number of ads per page and doesn’t work with third-party advertising networks.
Advertisers have access to a wealth of data about their destination and competitors as well as analytics packages for monitoring campaign performance. “We are able to review a region’s traffic over time, looking at seasonality within the year as well as the development of inbound markets to the destination,” says Carter.
Tourism Sponsorship
Available exclusively to DMOs, Tourism Sponsorship offers the opportunity to “feature premium content such as photos, videos and an events calendar on high visibility pages on TripAdvisor, as well as a number of promotional text links and fixed branded advertising units,” says Carter.
Sold as an annual subscription and priced based on traffic to the page, Tourism Sponsorships have been purchased by more than 300 destinations since launching in 2010.
As examples, on the Whistler, BC and Tourisme Québec landing pages you’ll find official photos, direct links to the visitor bureau and an events calendar. Carter cites Aspen, Colorado and  Scotland, Arizona as other examples of well managed Tourism Sponsorship pages.
Selling the destination: a group effort
Your destination’s reputation is only as strong as the sum of its parts. In addition to educating local businesses on the importance of keeping TripAdvisor listings up to date, managing reviews and not being lame, you can encourage them to participate in forums, feature Travelers Choice award badges and “What’s Nearby” widgets on their website and use resources in TripAdvisor’s Management Center. Oh, and remember to offer training in online reputation management. 
Carter points to South Africa as an example of a DMO that has effectively combined TripAdvisor tools with newsletters and presentations to educate industry stakeholders on opportunities.
Master Classes
Finally, TripAdvisor has been holding Master Classes in select cities around the globe to show local businesses how to make the most of the site. I’ve given presentations on online reputation management at nine of these events to date, and they’re definitely worth attending for hoteliers, tourism operators and DMOs alike. See you in Toronto on March 8?

Daniel Edward Craig is a former hotel general manager turned consultant specializing in social media strategy and online reputation management for the travel industry. His blog and articles attract a worldwide following, and he is a frequent speaker at industry events. Visit

Copyright © 2012 Daniel Edward Craig. All rights reserved.


Daniel Edward Craig

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