How to use Facebook Ads for Tourism

Facebook advertising is one of the most affordable digital ad channels around. It’s also where a majority of people are spending their time. With 2.4 billion monthly active users, over a third of the total world population, Facebook remains one of the best channels for reaching people with messages. What does that mean for those of us working in the tourism industry? It means that a big chunk of your target audience uses Facebook. Whether you’re putting the ads together yourself, or working with an agency (like us!), these recommendations can help you assess your strategy when using Facebook ads for tourism purposes.

Optimization Strategy

Facebook offers several optimizations to choose from when running a campaign. Optimizations mean that the platform will serve the ads to the people most likely to take a certain action. So for example, if you are running a campaign that’s optimized for post engagement, Facebook will show the post to people who react, comment and share posts a lot.

While there are a lot of optimization choices, for our DMO and attraction clients we focus on a top few. Keeping the goal of the promotion in mind makes selecting the right mix of optimizations easier.

  • Link clicks. Drive traffic to your website page for what you’re promoting.
  • Reach. This will reach the most people for your budget.
  • Brand Awareness. These campaigns are set up to serve more impressions, which really means a higher frequency per person. As they say, people need to see your brand about 10 times to remember it.
  • Post engagement. Increase interactions on your post with this kind of ad.
  • Event responses. I love this kind of ad for events. Putting budget here means reaching people interested in events. And those people are your target audience. This also gives you the ability to post in the event and they’ll receive the notifications – so they’re getting more information even if they don’t like the page (yet).
  • Page likes. This recently became more important to run, since the “like page” button was taken off of other kinds of ads earlier this year.

Target Audience

Most destinations we work with have a solid idea of who they want to target for their promotions. It’s typically a drive-to market, so a geographic area reaching people within a 2-6 hour drive, depending on the promotion. Demographics vary based on the promotion. In tourism, women are typically the decision-makers but that isn’t always the case. We run Facebook ads for tourism around Genesee County’s golf packages program every year, and men are most likely to engage with those ads.

If you have a customer list, or leads list, you can use those to target specific individuals or to build a lookalike audience. A lookalike audience is when Facebook looks at your list, finds commonalities, then extrapolates those traits to find other users who relate to your original list. It works really well, but if you don’t have a list, interest based targeting also works for tourism promotions.


Facebook will automatically track many, many data points for the ads running on the platform. Think about measurement, and success of the campaign, when choosing the optimizations. If you really want link clicks, then I wouldn’t recommend only running post engagement ads. Your click results will be lower than if the ads were run with the link click optimization.

Another measurement component to keep in mind is the Facebook pixel. This requires a few more steps, but can go beyond what happens on Facebook, and measure activity on your website as a result of the ads. This could be a form that people fill out, a button they click, or even a purchase they make.


The creative on Facebook ads is different from other digital ads. It’s all about the platform, so ads look like Facebook posts. There are no banner ads here and actually, highly designed images don’t do well. That’s because Facebook still penalizes advertisers for using text in images. You can get away with a little bit of text, but it’s usually not worth it.

So what is in the creative? An image or visual, text in the “post,” a headline and a link. Those are the basic, main elements that you’ll see. Call to action (CTA) buttons are also a great element to add depending on optimization, and there are a selection of pre-written buttons to choose from. When making Facebook ads for tourism promotions, I recommend keeping the call to action clear in the text, supporting that with the CTA button, and using an eye-catching image or set of images.

If you’re not sure which way to go with the creative, a split test can help determine between a variation on one element. If you want to test multiple variables at once, use dynamic ads, which can be used for some, not all, optimizations. I like using dynamic ads to see which combination of creative elements works best, while also testing different versions of those elements.

Want to dig in deeper? Download our ebook about getting started with Facebook advertising.