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It’s not enough to have stunning brochures, attractive websites and widespread advertising to stand out from the crowd. Potential visitors want to know what a destination is like from people, not places, and the best way to achieve this is through captivating travel content writing that engages your audience in meaningful ways.

It’s more about telling stories than selling holidays.

New TNS research for Google looked at research and buying habits of travellers from the UK and found that 9 out of 10 research their trip online at least once before booking.

The study also identifies that 5 out of 10 are using mobiles or switching between devices and 73% of smartphone research is carried out spontaneously. This presents a real challenge for travel brands and the key, according to Google is to be “findable cross-device in the moments that matter for the consumer”.

Destination Trailblazers

Destination marketers are tapping into this trend, and the best have become experts at providing the inspiration travellers are looking for, with high-quality content that can easily be found in the places where people hang out online.

From travel blogs hosted on their websites to content seeded out via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it’s possible to get up close and personal with travel brands that seek to capitalise on their growing online fan base.

The South West is leading the field.

It’s the UK’s most popular destination for domestic visits out of all English regions. With 16 Blue Flag beaches and some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes from moor to sea, as well as world-class visitor attractions, it certainly has a great deal to offer.

Despite this, visitor numbers for some parts of the South West have in fact seen a decline in recent years (-2% across the South West overall: Visit England Great Britain Tourism Survey 2014) and at best they have remained relatively static.

The English Riviera is bucking the trend. The South Devon resort has been named as the top ten of destinations in the UK in TripAdvisor’s 2016 Travellers’ Choice Awards, and visitor numbers are on the up.

Carolyn Custerson, Chief Executive of the English Riviera Tourism Company, explains why:

“Destination Marketing plays a vital part in influencing where people visit, with research confirming that it is the ‘destination’ that is decided upon first, followed by decisions relating to where to stay and what to do.”

“The English Riviera has put South Devon’s beautiful bay at the forefront of our marketing and communications and as a result, we’ve been placed in the top 10 for TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice awards for the past three years.”

Putting the destination first and modernising how it is communicated to potential visitors is key to its success. When the English Riviera Tourism Company (ERTC) was established in 2010, its main aim was to turn the tide on Torbay’s declining visitor economy.

In just five years it achieved all its objectives through modernising the way the English Riviera is promoted with investment in professionally coordinated destination marketing that included:

  • A new responsive website with authentic content writing
  • A visitor attractions app
  • A new brochure
  • Professionally managed digital marketing and social media

Soon after it relaunched its website and digital marketing strategy (Big Star Copywriting were responsible for much of the website copywriting), the English Riviera Tourism Company saw a big increase in both visits to the website and visitors to the destination. This was in stark contrast to the preceding five years when tourism had in fact been in decline in Torbay for the previous two decades.

Carolyn says:

“The English Riviera needed to keep abreast of the market. Our refreshed content across all our marketing from the brochure to the website and our newly developed app made all the difference.”

The result is that this area of Devon is now outperforming the rest of the county and the general tourism trend for the UK.

By staying relevant to the modern traveller and keeping up to date with technology, the ERTC is now gaining the support of local businesses to continue to invest in its destination marketing for the benefit of its hugely important tourism industry which employs 21% of its population, more than anywhere else in the UK.

Great Content is King

Cornwall is equally dependent on tourism and receives millions of domestic and inbound visitors every year. But it’s not one for resting on its laurels, and it still has a job to do to compete with other destinations both at home and abroad.

The distance and time it takes to get to Cornwall from some parts of the UK, for instance, makes it quicker, easier and potentially cheaper to take a short haul flight to sunnier climes (at the time of writing the repercussions over the cost of European holidays post-Brexit have yet to be fully realised).

Nevertheless, Visit Cornwall is doing a great job of putting Cornwall on the map of the world’s tourism hot spots. As the tourist board for the county, it has created a dynamic website that is perfectly optimised to deliver fully integrated digital marketing campaigns and has picked up a string of awards to prove it.

It’s currently ranked number one in the English Tourism Social Media Index out of 129 regional tourism bodies and last month (June) it won the Social Travel Britain Award for ‘Best Overall use of social media for a tourist board’.

Lowenna Pascoe, the Marketing Manager at Visit Cornwall says;

“Visit Cornwall works extremely hard to drive its social media channels. Our editorial and content strategy helps us to deliver innovative, and engaging interaction with visitors to benefit Cornwall’s visitor economy and tourism businesses.


It’s great to be recognised as one of the leading organisations in the UK for our social media communications.”

Visit Cornwall’s fan base across its social media channels alone is now more than 300,000, and it’s the content that fuels the digital fire, as well as a fully integrated digital marketing strategy across platforms that makes use of that rich content to maximise its reach.

This is proof positive that good quality content, distributed through the right channels and for the right audience, is a highly effective and cost-efficient way to reach your market.

Both the English Riviera Tourism Company and Visit Cornwall are maximising budgets through effective content marketing on behalf of the destinations and tourism businesses they represent.

So What’s The Secret Of Their Success?

Here are three techniques that we’ve gleaned from the experts in destination marketing to create great content for travel brands.

1. Making holidays memorable

Once a destination has got the attention of visitors online with inspirational content, they need to get them engaged. To this end, destinations are more focused than ever on the experiences rather than simply the special qualities that an area can boast. It is these special experiences that make a holiday truly memorable.

Visit Cornwall’s recent #KidsLoveCornwall campaign, for example, targeted family visitors that already have an affinity with Cornwall, who perhaps spent their family holidays in there or they grew up in Cornwall and have since moved away.

In creating content that reminds us of our happy childhood memories of days out beside the sea and what made them great, it teaches us how to see the world through a child’s eyes. Visit Cornwall’s round-up of ‘where to go for incredible ice cream’ appeals to the child in all of us. We’re encouraged to seek out these experiences to create new special memories for our families.

Similarly, the English Riviera’s strapline ‘a lifetime of memories’ does what it says on the tin. It has stepped out of its image of being the cheaper alternative to its French counterpart and is attracting a younger, more outdoors and active audience, that’s increasingly interested in new experiences. These include exploring the UNESCO designated Geopark and the watersports offering rather than the traditional bucket and spade holiday. These experiences have been communicated consistently across all its digital marketing channels.

2. The insider’s view:

Modern travellers want to hear from local people and businesses for the best advice and expert opinions on what to do to ‘live like a local’. Encouraging your staff to share their top tips to visiting a destination provides a more human face that’s relatable and offers a more authentic voice.

Collating top tips from partners is an excellent way to do this too. Here, a Cornish Surf brand Finisterre, offers their expert advice on the top 5 summer surf spots in Cornwall, providing great content for the destination and the consumer, while raising the profile of the brand Finisterre at the same time, so it’s win-win.

Making use of local knowledge from your existing fan base is another great technique, as shown in this example of where to find the best Cornish pasty. This is great user generated content that extends your reach to the friends of your existing fan base and beyond.

3. Traveller’s tales:

When travellers book their holidays, they want to tell their friends about it too. For millennial travellers in particular, and digital natives who have grown up with the Internet, they want to be able to stay online whilst travelling, pick up the insider’s tips on where to go and what to do and then share their experience.

The English Riviera even provide a dedicated platform for visitors to share their story with an incentive to win a holiday to encourage entries. Visit Cornwall’s blog provides inspiration for user-generated content with their round-up of top selfie hotspots.

Both the English Riviera and Visit Cornwall each has a dedicated hashtag, #MyRiviera and #LoveCornwall respectively, which they encourage their fan base to use so they can easily collate and share their content. This provides great user generated content for destinations and, used effectively, it builds on that customer relationship and trust.

Not only does it make the visitor feel truly valued, but it also provides the perfect testimonial for their destination brand. Nothing is stronger than ‘word of mouth’. What’s more, the visitor, having had a great experience, will want to return time and again.

Persistence Pays Off

All this takes time, and it needs to be consistent to build an affinity with your audience. But persistence pays off.

People spend hours, weeks, and months researching their holidays. It is what they spend their hard earned cash on after all and this year, 1 in 3 are expected to be spending more of it because they say, ‘they deserve it’ and ‘it’s worth it’ (Tripadvisor).

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