Motivating Travelers with Imagery
Sometime around the early 2000s, I saw a photo of Hallstatt, a village in the lake district outside of Salzburg in Austria, printed in a copy of National Geographic Traveler. I had a visceral reaction—I wanted to know what it felt like to stand on the streets of that little town where mountains plunged into the lake. Years later, I booked a backpacking trip, and Hallstatt was at the top of my list. I took my own photos of the picturesque town and posted them on social media, and since then, I’ve recommended Hallstatt to my friends traveling abroad.
One photo inspired me, and my photos inspired my friends—but, this story is not unique.
Postcards have never really conveyed the ‘wish you were here’ vibe—instead, they’ve inspired travelers to get out and seek utopian destinations. Similarly, people today scrolling through Instagram feeds aren’t just looking for the perfect breakfast balcony view, they’re looking to be transcended to a destination through a visual experience. Today, the travel brands that satisfy their audience’s demanding cravings for visual content will reap the benefits for generations to come.
Below, take a closer look at how some of the best tourism websites in the world inspire wanderlust in travelers worldwide. Then try some of their visual storytelling tactics to engage your brand’s audience!
New York City and Company’s NYCGo.com website rebrand in 2016 was launched alongside the Mayor’s Office’s new Digital Playbook, which emphasized a push toward sharing more transparent communications with city residents. It also includes a citywide visual media gallery of assets shared through their PhotoShelter library.
We’re excited to share with you the new NYCgo.com, reimagined to reflect the energy of New York City. The site marries beautiful design and timely content with bright imagery and video to capture NYC like never before, showcasing the endless possibilities the five boroughs hold for all visitors.
The new website aims to convey the energy of the city to visitors through iconic visuals and clean design.
The homepage is designed similarly to a traditional DMO website with sections like “Hotels,” “Museums & Galleries” and “Restaurants.” However, instead of reading long lists, you’re encouraged to scroll through gorgeous photos that you’d probably stop to double tap on your Instagram feed.
Tip #1: Celebrate what makes your brand iconic and blend that with your audience’s preferences through visual storytelling to help your destination stand out online.
While Visit Seattle’s homepage is simple and organized for potential visitors, it’s also visually engaging. The real highlight is VisitSeattle.tv—their branded video studio’s online TV channel. The investment in a branded content studio itself shows that the organization prioritizes video content in its marketing strategy, but when you watch the content they’ve produced so far, it’s clear that video content captures the destination’s versatility so much better than static images can.
In their series ‘Seattle First Takes,’ you watch a real traveler visit Seattle for the first time—experiencing what they’re sensing while incredible footage brings the trip to life.
Check out this story about the feeling of Seattle from the perspective of a New York web developer:
Tip #2: This video-first content strategy puts Visit Seattle ahead of the curve, so wherever it’s feasible, start experimenting with producing original video content. 94% of marketers say video has helped them increase the understanding of their brand’s product or service and 86% of marketers say video has helped them generate leads. Bottom line: The importance of video content will increase in the future.
Visit Finland uses full-page photos and a responsive design to make you feel immersed in its website’s stunning imagery. The homepage seamlessly integrates high-quality photography, video thumbnails, and social posts to give you a holistic sense of the country digitally.
Where the brand really excels with the power of visual storytelling is with ‘Tour De Relax,’ a spoof on shows like Amazing Race where the challenge is not to race, but to r-e-l-a-x.
The Tour De Relax is comprised of 9 teams made up of photographers, bloggers, content creators, and more. You can see their content by following them individually on social media, or by scrolling through a mix of all the team’s photos on Visit Finland’s website.
Tip #3: Turn your destination’s culture into a celebratory campaign that people want to naturally be a part of! Plus, when you launch user-generated content campaigns it’s easier to ask influencers to participate because you’re likely asking them to create content that resonates with their personal brand, and consequently their thousands of followers. This experiment is one to watch! Has your brand launched an experimental marketing campaign you want to share? Tweet @PSforBrands and share your work with us!
If you’re visiting a tourism board’s website, chances are your end goal is to explore the city. When you land on Visit Zurich’s homepage, their call to action is just that—come explore! An aerial image of the city fills the page before you scroll anywhere, and bright colored pins on the photo invite you to explore specific spots, from Old Town to Lake Zurich. When you click a photo, a pop-up opens to list what that location has to offer.
Tip #4: Use universal visual cues to entice travelers and website viewers to explore beyond their pre-set destination! Using the location pin symbol and strong calls to action direct visitors where to go next, and encourages them to go further than the home page.
5. Visit Norway
Is that a sheep on the beach? A sheep on a sailboat? Yes, it is. If you want to catch people’s attention and make them want to know more, creating unusual visuals is a great way to get people to pause and say, ‘What was that?’
Visit Norway created the #SheepWithAView campaign to highlight their country’s beloved animal and the playful trailer they created filled the homepage to draw visitors in with humor and incredible visuals. When you click to learn more, you’re introduced to four sheep who live in different regions of Norway. You learn that millions of sheep just like them are released to roam the country every year—and you’re invited to come along:
But, it’s not just sheep that enjoy this freedom to roam. In Norway the right of access has been traditional since ancient times, but in 1957 legislation governing the right to roam (“allemannsretten”) was set out to ensure that everybody in Norway can experience nature on equal terms.
The site integrates campaign content, including an interactive map, stories about the sheep, and a behind-the-scenes video with evergreen content that celebrates Norway like features on the places you’ve seen the sheep enjoying on their travels. They also share links to additional campaign content on their social media channels, mainly Instagram and Pinterest and as you might expect, those feeds are full of gorgeous high-quality photos of landscapes, and, you guessed it, sheep! What do people love to see on Instagram even more than unbelievable landscapes? Cute animals in front of unbelievable landscapes!
According to Campaign, the Instagram account @SheepWithAView picked up nearly 9,000 followers in ten days. That’s 9,000 people who will start seeing content from Norway on a regular basis, giving Visit Norway the opportunity to entice followers to book a trip.
Tip #5: It may seem scary to take creative risks on your website, but it’s crucial for conveying your brand purpose and personality. This campaign shows how risks can be well worth taking, especially when it is on-brand, visually engaging, and clever. 🐐
After Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, Discover Puerto Rico was founded as Puerto Rico’s official destination marketing organization (DMO). At the time the one-man team, Jean-Paul Polo powered the creative process alongside an outside agency based in New York City, but as the organization’s content needs expanded, he built out an in-house team of creative producers to make content to inspire travelers to visit the culturally and biologically diverse island of Puerto Rico.
Watching his team’s creative strategy evolve over the years has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. We learned how they pivoted their content marketing strategy to attract tourists once traveling became safe after COVID began, we learned how they developed an Emmy award-winning campaign ‘Sounds of Puerto Rico’ that portrayed the sensory experience of being in many locations on the island, and how their award-winning content landed them a partnership that created global support for an endangered animal native to the island.
Tip #6: Here’s a groundbreaking way to shift your mindset right now — don’t be afraid to highlight the vulnerable, beautifully fragile parts of yourself, your country or your brand, whatever business you’re in. Highlighting the one-of-a-kind characteristics of your destination while simultaneously teaching people to responsibly celebrate and honor those characteristics is the only mutually beneficial and sustainable way to do tourism marketing today.
While these inspiring examples of visual storytelling may be specific to the travel industry, any brand in any industry can leverage these timeless content marketing tips to discover new audiences:
- Tip #1: Celebrate what makes your brand iconic and blend that with your audience’s preferences through visual storytelling to help your brand stand out online.
- Tip #2: Start experimenting with producing original video content. 94% of marketers say video has helped them increase the understanding of their brand’s product or service and 86% of marketers say video has helped them generate leads, so the return on the investment, even if you start small, will be huge.
- Tip #3: Turn your brand culture into a celebratory campaign that people want to be a part of and get influencers involved.
- Tip #4: Use universal visual cues to entice website visitors to go beyond their pre-set destination!
- Tip #5: It may seem scary to take creative risks on your website, but it’s crucial for conveying your brand purpose and personality.
- Tip #6: Don’t be afraid to highlight the vulnerable parts of your brand. What you think is a flaw or a limitation, your audience might see as a one-of-a-kind characteristic to celebrate. Find the beauty in what makes your brand unique and honor it, respectfully.
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