Visiting friends and family is an often overlooked travel motivation for incoming visitors when it comes to tourism marketing. It was one of the top choices (62%) for travel motivations in the 2021 US Family Travel Survey. In a survey on why people travel published by Pacaso in January 2023, 38% of respondents named visiting family and friends as their primary reason for travel. Combine these stats with the popularity of supporting local businesses among both travelers and locals, and you have several reasons to leverage local in your tourism marketing.
So how can you tap into the “visiting friends and family” traveler market?
As with any marketing plan, we always turn to the PESO model to ensure cross-channel messaging.
Paid Media Tactics
Include the local geography as a portion of the target audience.
Earned Media Tactics
- Send press outreach materials to the local media.
- Also keep in mind that your locals are the ones leaving the majority of reviews at restaurants and attractions.
- Identify and work with local influencers – the best brand ambassadors you may not know yet!
Owned Media Tactics
Some destinations have locals who contribute to their owned channels, especially via blogs, to give the insider’s look at a destination that so many visitors crave.
Shared Media Tactics
While we often think of this segment of marketing as the main social platforms, it also includes community building. That’s where we can really dig in to building a community within your local audience that support tourism efforts and who “get” and spread your tourism messages.
- Create community partnerships with key stakeholders like Cayuga County, NY, did with their Harriet Tubman campaign. (Listen: episode 295 of Destination on the Left with Karen Kuhl)
- Start a brand ambassador program to promote tourism marketing and messages. With the local community behind you, the people in your area can be a strong force for those messages.
- Turning back to social media, use User Generated Content (UGC) in your social strategy.
Local Brand Ambassadors
Your locals play an essential role in sharing the experiences and stories of visiting friends and relatives, reminding others of the importance of creating happy memories with loved ones. To create a successful brand ambassador program, first, identify the type of ambassadors that would be most beneficial to your destination. Is it a group of local influencers? Or is it passionate members of the community?
Give them the tools, resources, and experiences they need to become an advocate for your destination, such as:
- Social media toolkits with branded content and hashtags
- Invites to pre-opening events, special promotions, and experiences
- Training on unique local events, customs, and attractions
- Branded merchandise like t-shirts, hats, bags, and other swag items to show off their involvement with your community
Example Brand Ambassador Programs
Take a look at what these destinations are doing, to inspire your future Brand Ambassador program!
Visit Loudon in Virginia has a robust program centered around its front-line workers, with education modules, in-person events, employer information, discounts and a point of contact.
Colorado Springs recently created a program for residents with a social media account. Ambassadors receive emails with information that can easily be shared on their own social platforms.
North Alabama has a brand ambassador program for local influencers. There are several requirements for the program, including residency in the North Alabama counties and requirements for posting. In return, ambassadors receive swag and features on the website and social channels.
Quad Cities went as far to move their former QC Pro ambassador program to a Certified Tour Ambassador™program. Citizens who join the program must register, complete required reading and take a 4-hour in-person class and pass an exam to gain accreditation.