The threat of overtourism has always been bad news for travellers and residents alike, but for many destinations, the issue is approaching crisis status. From causing major structural damage at historic sites of interest and putting a strain on a city’s infrastructure to the often unseen effects like driving locals away and threatening a destination’s heritage and culture, overtourism is taking its toll on popular hotspots around the globe. However, travel marketers can help lighten the load by tapping into the trend for second city travel and encouraging visitors to explore lesser-known areas with savvy destination marketing.
The best bit about tailoring your destination marketing to promote second city travel is that you have a ready and willing audience. It’s an issue that’s front of mind for many consumers with 51% of travellers stating they would swap their original destination for a lesser-known but similar alternative if they knew their actions would leave less of an impact. Whether you’re promoting a stay in Durban rather than Cape Town or the highlights of Osaka versus Tokyo, you can use your marketing to feed this global sense of growing responsibility and show visitors how they can enjoy a deeper connection with the people and places on their travel hit list. Here are my 3 essential tips for marketing your second city effectively, setting travellers on the road less travelled, and giving visitors the best chance of a gold star experience.
1 Highlight the ease of travel
One of the main reasons why people choose to visit a major city is that it’s usually the place with the easiest access from their home countries. But with a significant number of low-cost airlines continually adding new routes to smaller destinations, the opportunity to get off the beaten path is more accessible than ever. The first step to promoting second city travel is keeping visitors in-the-know regarding transport links so they don’t miss out.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the modern traveller is keen to embrace the journey as much as the destination — 61% of travellers are actively looking to take longer routes to get to their destinations for more of a journey experience while 56% wouldn’t mind taking longer to reach their destination if they were taking a unique mode of transport. By demonstrating how to reach your second city destinations and highlighting routes that offer something special like spectacular scenery, you will make life a little bit easier for visitors and encourage them to explore further afield.
A fantastic example of this in the UK is the newly-formed Great West Way, a 125-mile journey from London to Bristol following ancient routes through stunning countryside. By partnering with Great Western Railway, this innovative touring route has opened up the west of England to tourists, providing an easy, affordable, and enticing experience for those arriving in London.
2 Shine a spotlight on authentic experiences
It came as no surprise to me that millennials are a big driver of second city travel. After all, this is a cohort that is notorious for favouring authentic travel experiences. So, appeal to the millennial mindset by showcasing the fascinating events, foods, and traditions native to your region, while promoting your second cities as cheaper places to enjoy these experiences with fewer crowds spoiling the view.
You can use rich media and slower-paced imagery to highlight how visitors will have more space to explore, less of a need to photoshop an abundance of fellow tourists of those all-important social media snaps and an altogether more personal experience in a second city. Create awesome destination videos to convey the myriad experiences on offer, letting your audience know the very best things to do in your area, locals-only secrets, and fun facts to ignite inspiration. Why not put together a series of bite-sized videos to build your audience’s appetite for adventure, and cover all the authentic experiences your second city can offer in one fell swoop?
3 Showcase the famous features that put your destination on the map
I would wager that every location in the world has something amazing to offer that you can’t find anywhere else. From independent shops and artisan crafts to natural features and culinary highlights, every city boasts exclusive features worthy of international recognition.
However, it’s important to be specific about the unique selling points of your second city — for example, every town in the UK is steeped in history, so quirky, stand-out facts will give your destination unique appeal. By painting visitors a clear picture of the rewards they could reap by branching out from the typical tourist hotspots, you will dangle the carrot of discovery in their direction, something which is often lost in the world’s most popular regions.
Pepper your destination marketing with user-generated content to portray real-life examples of others discovering the treasures of your destination or spread the word by collaborating with influential bloggers and vloggers to tap into a highly-engaged audience and expand your reach.
We’ve worked extensively with the Japan National Tourism Organisation to promote second city travel, highlighting the exciting and unique experiences within a two-hour trip from Tokyo to encourage visitors to venture beyond the city limits. In our experience, a particularly effective strategy to create a sense of urgency and grab the attention of the audience is by raising awareness of important events, unmissable festivals, and one-of-a-kind cultural experiences in the calendar. Keeping travellers informed on the hottest things to do in your second city destinations provides a reason to book that visit.
Every destination has its charm, and if you look below the surface you can find something to serve to today’s responsible traveller. Sell that story correctly, and people will come. If you want expert help crafting your second city marketing strategy, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthony Rawlins is the Founder and CEO of Digital Visitor and has over 15 years experience in crafting digital and media strategies. He has worked with businesses across the tourism industry, including UK and international DMO’s, global travel companies and attractions. At Digital Visitor, Anthony is responsible for service innovation and works alongside the agencies biggest clients to shape their strategies and to target hard-to-reach audiences.
Anthony speaks at major industry events across the world, sharing his insights and providing thought leadership content. His personal passion is communicating the UK ’s travel offering to the ‘EasyJet generation’, many of whom have travelled the world but have never explored the UK.