Trip Tips: 6 Ways to Create Compelling Content About Your Destination

May 1, 2019

[destination madison]
[destination madison]

Psst. I’ve got a secret to share: Print isn’t dead. If you’re in travel and tourism public relations, destination-marketing organizations across the country say now is the time to evaluate your print strategy — and perhaps buck the digital-only trend, as your successful tourism peers are doing.

For the towns of Silverthorne and Dillon, Colo., my agency helped create the “Exit 205” visitor guide (exit 205 from Interstate 70 leads to Silverthorne and Dillon, destinations for recreation, arts, culture, dining and lodging). We knew print was the right medium for our audiences and distribution strategy when we launched the guide three years ago.

I asked other destination-marketing organizations whether they’re seeing the same trend, and found that print is still the top format for visitor guides. It’s even growing in distribution for many destinations. With publication schedules ranging from one to four print issues per year, most visitor guides are also available online and via mobile devices.

But according to representatives of Kentucky’s Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau; Destination Irvine in Orange County, Calif.; and Visit Spokane in Washington state, demand for tangible, printed guides far outpaces requests for digital guides.

For older visitors drawn to high-end motorsports attractions and classic car events, “It’s quite nostalgic to have their glove compartment stuffed with maps and travel brochures,” said Marissa Butler, marketing director for the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Bowling Green’s location on a major interstate and the region’s spotty internet service are other reasons why visitors request paper guides, she said.

Regardless of the medium, a trend that rang true for every destination we spoke with is the evolution of content to be shorter and more visual.

“To achieve a travel guide with an authentic voice, our content focuses heavily on user-generated content,” said Kara Baber, content manager for Hamilton County Tourism Inc., in Carmel, Ind. “Images are sourced from Instagram, and traveler reviews are pulled from Yelp and TripAdvisor. To allow the most space for engaging content, “Our travel guide does not include any advertisements.”

Upgrade your visitor guide

Consider ways to customize your print, digital and mobile strategies to suit your visitors’ behavior. Here are six examples of how pros across the country are upgrading their visitor guides:

  1. Customize content. The visitor guide for Tualatin Valley, Ore. includes itineraries geared toward specific types of travelers and vacations — such as business travelers, cultural travelers and girlfriend getaways. “VisitMadison” uses visual storytelling that appeals to moms traveling with kids and convention-goers with a half day to explore this town in Wisconsin.
  2. Encourage user-generated content. Nevada’s visitor guide features extensive user-generated content from paid partnerships and local residents while “Visit Alexandria” highlights the “Top 5 Photo Spots” for visitors seeking the most Instagram-worthy spots when visiting this Virginia city near Washington, D.C.
  3. Grow your list. Approaches are split on whether visitors should be required to provide their email addresses and other personal information to receive a print or digital copy of a visitor guide. About half the guides I researched require people to provide this information on request forms. Destinations should consider how important it is for them to capture user information — including those valuable email addresses — versus offering easy access for readers.
  4. Listen to your visitors. Visitors still rely on the pull-out map in “Destination Madison,” making it a staple of the guide. In response to visitor feedback, “Visit Alexandria” changed in size this year; the new, slightly smaller guide fits more easily in a purse or pocket.
  5. Localize everything. Visitors want authentic local experiences. Content in visitor guides is increasingly hyper-localized, focusing on where to eat, shop and explore.
  6. Modernize history. By showcasing how historic buildings such as an 1800s morgue and a 1920s airplane hangar have been reborn as trendy barber shops, breweries and restaurants, Columbia, S.C., helps visitors explore the new purposes of its iconic neighborhoods. Charged with grabbing the attention of Washington, D.C., tourists, Alexandria has added more pop-culture content this year. A feature called “Alexandria’s Most Famous” highlights celebrities who have lived there, along with movies and TV shows filmed in or based on the city.

For many people, visiting American towns means looking for the charm of times gone by. Printed visitor guides fit that ideal beautifully.

Ashley Lowe

Ashley Lowe is the founder and principal of Betty Ashley Public Relations, where she leads a team of experts with 50 years of travel, economic development and real estate experience. Betty Ashley PR received the 2017 Colorado Governor’s Award for Outstanding Marketing Program for its work with the Town of Silverthorne. Email:



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