Posts Tagged ‘online marketing’

Website development: Edge Resorts describe their experience

Western Australia’s new luxury resort group, Edge Resorts, has just launched a $16 million resort at Kalbarri, the first of a number of new coastal resorts.

Being able to manage their own websites has already proved a huge benefit. In a recent interview, Group Principal Jon Jessop said:

Being a new business means that we aren’t always getting things right the first time. Our opening function date changes, policies change, rates go up and down all the time, or we realise we’ve forgotten key information; so it’s great to be able to jump onto the website and change things whenever we need to. We don’t have to worry about calling up someone and waiting a week for the changes to take place, not to mention a possible bill at the end!

OM4Tourism has developed 2 websites for the group –, which will go live shortly, and

Read the full interview with Jon about the Edge Resorts website development.

4 myths of website development and design

SailingFor tourism businesses, website development and design is like a coastline full of hidden rocks.

The choices you make right at the start can make the difference between a boat wrecked on the rocks and a yacht on the open ocean with wind in its sails.

I’ve written an article about the 4 most common myths we have come across when working with small businesses – particularly tourism operators. The myths are listed below, and you can read the complete article here: Website Development and Design – 4 Common Myths.

Myth 1. The best person to create my website is a graphic designer

If you were building a hotel, would you get the interior designer to choose the location, draw up the plans, construct the building, put in the wiring and plumbing, install the telephone and Internet system? Of course you wouldn’t!

Myth 2. When someone comes to my website, I need to grab their attention

Your website isn’t a billboard attempting to attract attention by distracting viewers from other things. It doesn’t need to shout, flash or entertain with moving images. It needs to inform – easily and quickly.

Myth 3. To create an effective website, all I have to do is put my brochure online

Transferring a brochure online to make a website is often the first step in online marketing, but a website is a bit like a sailing boat. It won’t go anywhere unless you remember to give it sails.

Myth 4. The more people who visit my website, the better

If 20 people enter Arcadia Bookstore and 1 person buys a book, then another 10 people enter Zenith Books and 9 people buy books – who wins? Arcadia got more visitors, but Zenith sold more books.

Tell us about myths that you’ve come across either by commenting here or by posting on our Tourism Marketing Forum.

Getting website traffic but no enquiries?

Online-conversationA colleague told me today that although she is doing everything she can to optimise her website, and is getting lots of site visitors, very few of them are interacting with her via her website.

This set me thinking about what takes people that extra step from reading your stories to responding to your stories by commenting or making contact with you.

My colleague felt that trust might be an issue. As soon as someone clicks, responds, signs up, asks a question, they reckon you’re going to zoom in on them with the hard sell.

Another colleague recently mentioned the issue of confidentiality – many in his profession don’t want to lay themselves open to others and are reluctant to ‘trust’ the web medium, such as blog comments and forum posts.

We already know that building trust is an essential objective for all small businesses, and that this can be done by blogging your story to the world, by being authentically you and conveying your experience, expertise, track record and authority.

Then I came across this Smart Company blog post: Sell Like a Woman. If you’re male, don’t let the post title put you off! There’s an interesting point made here.

You can tell your story in two essentially different ways, and getting your head around this is important if you are going to market your tourism business effectively.

When you tell me a story, it can be all about you … or all about me. Yes, of course all your posts are going to be about you in some way – but the point is to look at what you are essentially conveying.

Are you saying to your readers “We do this” or “We offer that” or “We are great because”, or are you looking at your business from their point of view and enabling them to engage with you from their starting point? Are you essentially saying “You can do this” or “You can have this experience” or even “Look at these guys – they did it and so can you”?

For example, have a look at this blog post: Planning Your Great Ocean Road Drive Holiday.

Yvonne Hunter is a great blogger who understands how to give people what they want in order to build trust. The effect is to get you thinking, this looks interesting, I’d like to do that, I CAN do that. The post is about the reader, not about Yvonne, although it is based on her experience and she includes a link to the most relevant page on the website.

You will rarely, if ever, find a blog post by Yvonne that talks about her accommodation and how great it is. And yet, as her partner, Tim Kottek, told me recently:

“The site is now getting about 1000 visitors per month. The blog as well as the authority pages have helped the home page to a Google Ranking of 4 out of 10, with internal pages ranking at 2 and 3 out of 10. Three of the 10 most viewed pages are from the blog. And it is those popular blog pages that have lead to e-mail requests.”

So it is possible to build trust through your site content, which leads to enquiries, especially by blogging.

For some businesses, this takes longer than for others – and I suspect this is the case with my colleague – but persistence invariably pays off. In tourism, our experience is that it doesn’t take long at all to see a significant improvement in traffic and enquiries – but only if you are blogging effectively, keeping site content up to date, and giving people plenty of opportunities to click and contact you.

Profile: A search for cost-effective marketing

Hobart Historic Tours logoCost-effectiveness is a top priority for small operators when it comes to marketing.

If the experience of Elizabeth Fleetwood is anything to go by, online marketing seems to offer the best solution.

Elizabeth runs Hobart Historic Tours, and is relatively new to online marketing. The path that led her there is probably familiar to many small tourism businesses.

“I had made some efforts to join in Tourism Tasmania’s international marketing efforts,” she told me. “But I find it too expensive and cumbersome for my operation. For example, it would simply not be worth my while to go to ATE [the Australian Tourism Exchange], as the minimum cost would be about $10,000.”

Another avenue to reach international visitors is through the magazines that go into hotels that attract overseas visitors. But again, advertising in these publications is prohibitively expensive for a small operation like Elizabeth’s.

“I think the future is more likely to be on the web,” she concluded. “And I am more likely to look at marketing opportunities in that medium.”

So far, Elizabeth has concentrated on links, including Discover Tasmania, which brings most of her online enquiries, and the Tasmanian Travel & Information Centre, with brochures in the Centre’s physical office in Hobart, which still brings the majority of her bookings, thanks to a great staff who know her product well.

She has recently signed up with BookTasmania, an interface that places her product on travel distribution sites at her discretion on a commission-only basis, while allowing a booking system directly linked to her own site.

Linking out to other relevant sites to encourage back links is a good strategy for achieving higher search ranking, and you can read more about how Elizabeth is doing this in my blog post.

With the percentage of international visitors booking her tours now at 40%, Elizabeth’s attention is focusing on the quality of her product and marketing online. Getting these two things right will take her a long way towards building her business cost-effectively.

The Hidden Jewels of tourism

Pearl in shellWinning an award gives small tourism businesses a real boost, but it’s hard for smaller operators to find the time and resources to put together an award submission.

That’s why we created the OM4Tourism Hidden Jewel Awards, and the result has been a long and fascinating list of tourism enterprises that deserve more attention.

We’ve seen a particularly impressive turn-out of entries from Tasmania and Queensland this year, and overall the businesses have been wide-ranging and imaginative – many of them clearly bursting with energy and potential for growth.

We’re right into the judging process for the 2008 Awards now, and as ever, choosing one business over another is proving challenging.

The first stage is to choose the national winner, and then we move on to selecting the state and territory winners.

From an initial shortlist of 40, each judge has chosen their top 3, which has given us a final list from which to sift out the Hidden Jewel for 2008.

Both John Walsh, executive producer of Getaway, and Quentin Long, publisher of Australian Traveller magazine, join us for the first time in judging the Hidden Jewel Awards, and both have been surprised by how difficult it has been to choose just 3 out of a possible 40.

The winner must be a quality enterprise that has something unique or unusual about it. It must be a genuine ‘hidden jewel’ – so those that already welcome thousands of visitors a year, have won a string of awards or enjoyed significant publicity in the past are unfortunately out of the running.

And the judges need to see the potential for the winner to benefit from the additional exposure that will come from the prize – a new online marketing website from OM4Tourism and a publicity campaign from PublicityShip.

Even with these clear criteria, we are struggling to make a choice, which only goes to show how many quality tourism businesses are out there – and how many remain relatively hidden from the mainstream travelling consciousness.

The name of the national winner will be in our hands by the end of today, and then we move onto the state/territory judging.

All winners will be announced on 20 March.

Converting your existing site for better online marketing

Live History HobartYou don’t have to create a whole new website to get better at online marketing.

Live History is an example of a site that we have converted to our platform, giving the business owners, Judith and Chris Cornish, more opportunities to get their story out to their target audience.

The new site has the same look and feel of the old one, and the content has been transferred to the new structure. So why is this one better?

Because it has all the online marketing tools that are vital for positioning the business, bringing in traffic, encouraging conversation, increasing conversion and boosting bookings. For example:

  • Keyword analysis told us to put Hobart into the domain name to attract more searchers wanting things to do when they visit the city, helping to put Live History on the Internet highway instead of the backstreets.
  • Like all OM4Tourism sites, this one is designed to be highly visible to search engines, bringing more traffic to Judith and Chris’s door.
  • A blog with email subscription enables Judith and Chris to post regular news and updates to keep visitors engaged and enrich their site content.
  • Clearer testimonials and accreditation are important conversion tools – they tell site visitors that this is a good quality experience.
  • Easy access to booking and travel information with a prominent contact form helps visitors to incorporate the tour into their holiday and encourages them to enquire and book online.

In addition, Judith and Chris now have access to Google Analytics to help them track where their site visitors are coming from and what terms they key into Google to get to the site. They can then incorporate these search terms into their content to attract even more attention.

Here’s Judith’s response to the site set-up process:

Thank you so much to both you and Glenn for getting us set up with this new site. I know that it won’t be long before I am blogging with the best of them and our testimonials are flowing in from satisfied clients!

As Live History develops, Judith and Chris will be blogging their news regularly and uploading more images and testimonials. As they develop new performances, they can add new pages to the site very easily – if you can manage Word, you can create a page in an OM4Tourism website. And as the content builds over time, so will the authority and PageRank of the site, turning it into an online magnet for Hobart visitors.

Profile: Tourism success means getting to know your segment of the travel market

Rainbow Connection Stained GlassFor small operators in particular, knowing your market is at the root of business success. It means that not only can you offer exactly what they’re looking for, but you can reach them and communicate with them effectively.

The Rainbow Connection is a useful example of a business that has a clearly defined market, and uses that knowledge to build business.

As the first and only gay and lesbian designated accommodation in Central Australia, the business is ideally positioned to corner a growing and lucrative market segment. Around 80 per cent of guests come from overseas.

“Our guests are looking for stylish, soft adventure experiences and iconic visitation,” said The Rainbow Connection’s Phil Walcott.

“They are aged from early 20s to late 70s, gay or lesbian (including transgender, intersex etc.), cyberspace savvy, professional, with a medium-high level of disposable income.”

Knowing the market well means understanding that a significant proportion of guests will find the accommodation through online search, coming directly to the site or via the major gay and lesbian online associations: GALTA (Gay & Lesbian Tourism Australia) and IGLTA (the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association).

Phil is Regional Director of GALTA for the Northern Territory and finds that ‘bundling’ of product through GALTA is a highly successful strategy. GALTA works hard to support similar businesses around Australia and has a presence at significant events across the country.

Linking to organisations and agencies that target your market is essential, and needs to go beyond listings to proactive packaging and participation in collaborative marketing initiatives.

“We have benefited from forging strong links with mainstream operators locally, domestically and internationally, and with RTAs [regional tourism associations], STOs [state tourism organisations], ITOs [inbound tour operators] and Tourism Australia.”

Phil also seeks out links and listings on other relevant sites and ensures that The Rainbow Connection is marketed through the international gay and lesbian Spartacus Guide.

Getting the word out is only part of the picture though. Once travellers find the site, effort goes into personalised email contact, and The Rainbow Connection keeps in touch with past guests through email, encouraging word of mouth marketing.

This is a market that values personal service and attention to detail, so this kind of follow-through is vital.

Significantly, the marketing strategies that The Rainbow Connection has found most effective don’t involve expensive advertising campaigns. Online marketing is bringing and retaining virtually all their guests, along with a presence at carefully targeted events, and one important international guide listing.

Success comes from a clear knowledge of where their prospects are, how they research travel, and what they are looking for.

Profile: Building on a destination

Seppeltsfield Vineyard CottageEven when a tourism business is either new or relatively unknown, it can benefit greatly from being in a well-known and sought-after destination.

Seppeltsfield Vineyard Cottage – the second in my series of tourism profiles – has become very popular thanks partly to its location in the Barossa region of South Australia.

Seppeltsfield’s Sharyn Rogers describes this as a “huge plus”, since many visitors are already searching for the Barossa and naturally come across the cottage in their search.

Nevertheless, there’s no time to sit back on their laurels and wait for bookings to roll in. Sharyn pays a lot of attention to their site content in order to keep it alive and lively.

As a small business – the cottage sleeps two – Seppeltsfield is well positioned to benefit from online marketing, where there is no battle for space. Sharyn also finds that, at little over $300 a night, paying 30% commissions to intermediaries isn’t worth their while.

So Sharyn and her partner Peter choose to market their accommodation directly via their site and with a presence on destination and accommodation sites such as, and the B&B and Farmstay Association.

Seppeltsfield also markets through the Barossa Regional Guide which helps to capture last-minute bookings and encourages word-of-mouth recommendations to friends and relatives overseas.

Sharyn and Peter do a great job of packaging their accommodation with other tour operators, so that visitors can get the best from the region as a whole. They are finding that one in five of their guests will book a package rather than just accommodation.

“Packages are especially popular with overseas visitors,” Sharyn told me. “And over 90% of our internationals are now booking directly online.”

Sharyn recognises the benefit of having a self-managed site: “We are updating our site contantly,” she said. “And I insist on having good images on there to help people see the experience.”

By posting regular news with a subscription facility on the site, they are able to express a personality and maintain interest in Seppeltsfield as an ideal base for a Barossa holiday. This is also a great SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy.

And Sharyn has included a link to TripAdvisor, encouraging guests to write up their experience on this social media site as a fantastic way to attract links back to the Seppeltsfield website.

Keep an eye on the Seppeltsfield site, because Sharyn and Peter are in the throes of revamping it to give it a more contemporary feel.

Revamping and refreshing their web presence is reflected in their approach to the product itself. As a 19th century cottage, Sharyn recognises the demands of their market and keeps the cottage fresh with contemporary facilities, including free wireless broadband internet access (and free use of a laptop computer if required), a Bose iPod Docking Station and “Wave” sound system, and, soon to be installed, a Bose entertainment system.

Congratulations to Seppeltsfield for being declared winner in the Hosted Accommodation category at the South Australia Tourism Awards this year for the third time running, taking them into the Hall of Fame.

Profile: Tailored tours bring overseas visitors

Over the next few weeks I will be writing profiles on a dozen small tourism operators dotted around the country – all of whom have contributed valuable information to OM4Tourism on international marketing issues.

The operators featured have all agreed to share their marketing experiences, and you are equally free to comment, add advice or ask questions.

The first operator is attracting an international clientele to its small-group customised tours with some impressive online marketing.

R+L logoRich + Lingering offers luxury food & wine tours and customised tours, all for very small groups (no more than six), in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale premium wine regions.

After less than two years in operation, the business has just become the SA Great 2007 Regional Award Winner for Tourism Services, and taken home the SA Tourism Commission New Business bronze medal.

Targeting a Niche Market

According to Rich + Lingering’s Jason Miller, the business depends on clear and targeted branding to overcome the general perception that wine tours involve large buses and little specialist knowledge.

“There are a number of low to mid-priced mass market operators who basically provide a transport service for which there is a big market,” he told me.

“We are at the other end of the scale – private, small group, high levels of international wine knowledge, personalised service. It does take time to break these misconceptions, which is mainly done by developing relationships and having a strong brand.”

International guests make up 35% of Rich + Lingering’s total visitation. They are aged 30-60, professional/white collar, high net worth individuals, looking to develop themselves with food and wine activities and education. Most come from the UK and northern Europe, North America, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Jason reaches this market online (his website and others), as well as via agents, ITOs and magazine advertising – all carefully chosen for synergy with the business’s brand. To capture unplanned visits after arrival, he also works with Visitor Information Centres and has a presence in regional guides.

Online Marketing Insights

Jason puts great emphasis on web content, as 43% of guests find Rich + Lingering online, with most coming directly to the R+L website. He shared some valuable insights:

“Our key online strategy is to drive traffic to our site by achieving high Google rankings for specific searches (e.g. ‘private/luxury wine tour south australia’), but also a broad range of links and other good relevant content, such as travel tips, on other sites.

“Having good content on your website which isn’t too sales focused shows you ‘know your stuff’, is of value to the reader, and helps SEO [search engine optimisation].

“We also produce a seasonal newsletter which people subscribe to and can distribute themselves to their friends etc. This has been a great way to broaden the net. A number of our newsletter articles are further used in blogs.”

All great strategies. Interestingly, Jason finds that most guests use the site for research rather than bookings, and only a small proportion are booked completely online.

He believes this is due to the nature of the business. Offering customised, high-end tours means personal communication with guests to ensure all their needs are met. This is hard to do via a booking engine, so guests are encouraged to contact Rich + Lingering directly with their requirements.

Register now for the Hidden Jewel Awards

Small tourism operators across the country are invited to register interest in the 2008 OM4Tourism Hidden Jewel Awards.

Hidden Jewel logo mediumWe launched the Awards in late 2006 because we were coming across so many wonderful tourism businesses struggling to get the word out.

This was a chance for those smaller operators to win recognition, without a prolonged and time-consuming entry procedure.

We decided to invite a panel of judges from the tourism industry. This meant all entrants came to the attention of some influential tourism icons, including Australian Traveller magazine and national tour company, AAT Kings.

State winners won some excellent media coverage – each seeing between two and four editorials in their target travel and lifestyle publications – and the national winner,, are now the proud owners of an OM4 online marketing website.

This year, we have equally influential judges on the panel, and some amazing prizes.

We’re thrilled to be welcoming the Executive Producer of Channel 9′s Getaway travel show, John Walsh, to the panel this year. Respected travel publisher, Quentin Long, will be representing Australian Traveller, and Les Cox, CEO of AAT Kings, is once again bringing his contagious enthusiasm to the judging process.

Each state winner will get an OM4Tourism blog-enabled website with hosting, design package and keyword analysis to kickstart their online marketing.

The national winner will also get a publicity campaign targeting national print and broadcast media, with global internet distribution as well.

The entry procedure is straightforward and quick. Register your interest now and you’ll receive information shortly on how to enter. To register, go to our Hidden Jewel page and scroll down to fill out the form.

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