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There are online destination guides available for pretty much anywhere in the world today. I’ve personally written comprehensive guides to some very out-of-the-way places across the Americas, Australia, Africa and Europe, including several for one major travel company seeking to boost its SEO performance on car hire.

 

Destination guides can be extremely valuable for many businesses in the travel sector, from agencies to airlines and hotels, not just for SEO but also to showcase the breadth of your experience and knowledge to potential clients. Guides can describe countries, regions, cities or individual resorts, and contain as much or as little detail as you feel necessary. But as most well-known destinations have now been comprehensively covered, how do you make yours stand out?

 

Don’t write for search engines

 

Stuffing in as many keywords as you can will make the whole guide seem bland and generic. Create copy that you want people to read, enjoy and remember. That means accuracy, a mix of evergreen and topical content, and a tone of voice that suits your audience.

 

So who is your audience? It’s essential when crafting a destination guide to know exactly who you are writing for. After all, there’s little point in describing the wild nightlife of a Greek island if your clients tend to be looking for more sophisticated cultural activities. You can write separate guides for different types of traveller based on your customer profiles, or take one guide and divide it into sections appropriate to the types of client your business attracts.

 

 

How to write a Destination Guide

Paradise beach; image source

 

How to structure a destination guide

 

There are many ways that you can structure your destination guide, and once you’ve settled on a format, that structure should then be replicated across every guide you produce so that your website visitors know exactly where to find the information they want on each destination.

 

You might choose to break the guide down according to traveller-type, such as families, adrenaline-seekers or beach bums, or by type of holiday such as cultural, foodie and adventure.

 

Text can be broken up to make it more readable with subheadings, boxes, lists and images.

 

Be subjective

 

It’s may be a cliche but it’s true – if you try to please everyone, you risk pleasing no-one. Your readers, and search engines too, will prefer it if you present an honest, opinionated guide that highlights the good points about a destination but doesn’t shy away from mentioning the things that can drag it down.

 

When you refuse to paper over the cracks of a destination, you can give your guide a level of authenticity and personality that elevate it above more generic efforts.

 

Destination Guide Writer

Barcelona by night; image source

 

Make it useful

 

Too many destination guides, and I include some of those that I have been commissioned to write over the years, are light on detail, often limiting themselves to under a thousand words. Compare that with those created by Selective Asia or Responsible Travel for instance and you’ll know which are more likely to be trusted by readers and search engines.

 

Make your destination guides really useful to readers. Work with the idea in mind that you want them to bookmark the page and refer to it constantly when planning their trip and while they’re there. Here’s a list of sections you might write about:

 

  • Visa requirements
  • Seasonal weather
  • Local customs and useful common phrases (with correct pronunciations)
  • Transfer information
  • Packing checklists
  • Public transport details
  • Local specialities – is an area known for its beaches, a particular dish, or type of handicraft?
  • How visitors can make a positive impact and avoid making a negative one
  • Topical information on events such as festivals, updated regularly
  • Must-dos and avoids
  • Major attractions and little-known points of interest

 

Travel agencies in particular have a wealth of options here, and could also include lists of hotels, shops and restaurants.

 

Include itineraries

 

Detailed and inspirational itineraries are a great way to bring a destination to life, helping prospective clients to imagine themselves already there and convince them to book. Itineraries can be arranged by theme, duration or budget, and are another good technique to place keywords naturally.

 

Alongside itineraries you can suggest activities, excursions and points of interest to readers that can be ‘bolted-on’, increasing your upsell potential. When my family was planning our self-drive road-trip around the United States a few years ago, we loved getting ideas for routes and things to see and do from the itineraries on the American Road Trip Company website.

 

 

 

Itinerary Writer

The iconic Route 66; image source

 

Crowdsource your information

 

You need a writer, or several writers, to actually create your content, but you can help with the research by putting your network of contacts to good use. For instance, ideas for destination guide information can be found from:

 

  • Previous travellers leaving feedback and reviews on what they enjoyed or didn’t
  • Staff members who live in or have visited a destination
  • Local blogger or journalist contributions

 

Seek out information on things that are often known only to local insiders, but remember when writing that you’re addressing people who may never have visited before.

 

Many travellers crave an authentic experience on their holidays, so showing them where the locals go to eat, shop, socialise and have a good time is very appealing. This also has a direct positive effect on the local economy.

 

A final note here – geomapping these points of interest is another excellent way to serve your clients and boost your SEO performance.

 

I hope this guide to guides is useful for you – as a professional travel copywriter with years of experience in writing destination guides around the world, I’d be pleased to discuss any project you may have in mind.

 

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It’s been predicted that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the oceans will outweigh the fish. Plastic pollution is without question one of the predominant environmental issues of our time, and we all have a role to play in combating it.

 

Plastic in the oceans and on beaches is a dangerous hazard for marine life such as fish, birds and turtles, but it also has an impact on humans (beyond ruining the scenery). Microscopic bits of plastic that have broken down over years are already finding their way into our food chain.

 

How hotels can reduce plastic waste

Plastic waste in Singapore; image source

 

Given that so many businesses in the travel industry rely on the selling of destinations as pristine and attractive, and how plastic waste can seriously affect that, it’s clear that these companies have an interest in dealing with the issue. In this article I’d like to look specifically at hotels as this is an obvious area where a substantial difference could be made with relatively few changes.

 

But first, a personal anecdote from my vast memory…

 

A few years ago my family and I were travelling through the USA, and we would regularly stay in budget chain hotels. We were shocked to find that at almost all of them, breakfast was served every morning with plastic plates, cups and cutlery, most of which was shovelled into the waste bin afterwards. There may be other reasons beyond ignorance of waste and recycling issues at play, such as cost and space limitations, but it was still shocking to encounter this kind of thing at big-name American hotels. It made me think of Don Draper’s family picnic in Mad Men, and what it will take to shift this mindset.

 

Beyond that experience, most hotels do seem to be pretty switched-on environmentally nowadays, or at least claim to be. Some will do the bare minimum, such as requesting guests reuse towels, while others have put sustainability right at the heart of their ethos.

 

If you’re operating a hotel and want to reduce your use of plastic, the following advice may be of help.

 

Leading from the top

 

For a sustainability initiative to succeed, it needs to be top-down. Management must be involved, and drive the process throughout by creating strategy, setting targets, evaluating results and rewarding success. If this is not the case, and that crucial support is not there, then hotel staff may not truly appreciate the need for their efforts.

 

Raising awareness with guests

 

Management and staff can only do so much. The other half of the equation in any hotel sustainability scheme is the guests. You can raise awareness among your clients at every stage of their stay, from time of booking throughout their holiday. A good approach is to have clear signage in communal areas and bedrooms about why you need to reduce disposable plastics and how they can contribute to your own efforts, such as by using any recycling points you have on your premises.

 

Identifying and reducing disposable plastic use

 

There are any number of ways in which hotels can use disposable plastics, often unnecessarily. In many cases, these can easily be substantially reduced. Just a few examples include:

 

  • Using multi-use plastic cups at poolside or beach bars instead of single-use
  • Instructing staff to provide straws for drinks only when requested
  • Placing milk on tables in jugs rather than disposable sachets
  • Only replacing plastic bin-liners in rooms when really necessary
  • Replacing single-use toiletries in rooms with refillable containers (Microbeads are a major cause for concern at the moment. You can identify which products containing them that your hotel uses, and replace them with others)
  • Using linen or canvas bags for dry-cleaning instead of plastic bags
  • Providing reusable containers for use in kitchens
  • Supplying guests with paper bags for lunches or picnics

 

A careful review of your operations, noting where and when plastics are used, is the best way to cut your usage effectively.

 

Community Involvement

 

It’s possible that you can either support a local initiative to improve the environment, or develop your own. Examples might include requesting volunteers from your staff to spend a day clearing plastic waste from nearby beaches, woods and other beauty spots, helping out at recycling centres, or raising awareness among visitors.

 

Sea Turtle

Plastic waste is a major hazard to wildlife; image source

 

Reducing bottled water

 

Bottled water is one of the main sources of plastic waste. In destinations where it is safe to drink water directly from the tap, you can offer your guests free refills to reduce bottle use. Of course in some parts of the world it is not yet safe to drink tapwater, in which case you might consider for a small deposit lending your guests reusable metallic bottles that can be filled from larger bottles.

 

In the UK, several regions and cities such as Cornwall, Bristol and Bath are working with the Refill scheme to help locals and visitors find places where they can refill their bottles on the move. UK hotels can advise their guests on how to use the app.

 

Working with suppliers

 

A busy hotel will have a wide supply chain, and there are going to be various companies that will also have scope to reduce their own plastic use. By communicating with your suppliers, perhaps alongside other hotels that they work with, you can try and influence their operations in line with your own.

 

Tahiti

Pictures can only tell half the story (Image source)

 

 

Many luxury hotels will naturally devote plenty of attention to the design and imagery of their websites, yet will often neglect the quality of the copy around those images.

 

It doesn’t matter how good the photographer is, a picture can only ever tell someone what a hotel looks like. Photos can show the plunge pools outside every villa in your resort, but they can’t tell prospective guests how they will feel as they take their morning soak. A photo can showcase the dishes created by world-class chefs in your resort’s restaurants, but it can’t stir their imagination in the same way that evocative descriptions of aromas and flavours can. Not can a photo completely invoke the tranquility of dozing in a hammock strung between palm trees on a private beach.

 

Effective copywriting for luxury hotels is just as essential as beautiful images. Here’s eight valuable tips on how to write better hotel copy, and what to avoid.

 

Sell the benefits, not the features

 

Any luxury hotel worth its salt will have an impressive range of features such as designer toiletries, rainforest showers or multimedia entertainment systems. Rather than simply listing them, your copy needs to show why they matter.

 

Using the five senses, sell the experience of staying in your hotel. So not just the thread count in the sheets, but how it will feel to sink into them after a full day of activities on the beach.

 

Example:

 

Suites with spacious, shaded balconies

OR

Your suite’s ample private balcony is the ideal place from where to enjoy the island’s famously vibrant sunsets.

 

Which sounds more convincing to you?

 

Luxury hotel copywriting

It’s not enough to list features in your hotel copywriting. You need to show the benefit. (Image source)

 

Find what makes your hotel unique

 

Very few luxury hotels are fortunate enough to have no direct competition nearby. In fact the world’s most glamorous or idyllic destinations are often crowded with high-end properties and resorts.

 

If you want your hotel to stand apart from your competitors, then you need to find what makes it truly unique.

 

Chances are, that’s not going to be the size of your swimming pool or your proximity to the ocean.

 

But it might be the way that you’ve incorporated local materials and craftsmanship into your hotel’s decor, or that the property is rooted in history and tradition. It could be that only you can offer candlelit meals for two on the beach with a personal butler, or that your thatched villas are better than any other at providing romantic castaway seclusion.

 

Sometimes it may take a while to find it, but you can be sure there is definitely something unique about your hotel.

 

Listen to what your guests are saying

 

The scope for user-generated content in the tourism and leisure industry is vast. Where once your hotel might have solicited feedback in its guestbook, today you can retrieve valuable information from your social media pages, your blog or TripAdvisor among many other sources.

 

Paying attention to what your clients are saying before, during and after their stay, and how they are saying it, is a golden rule for the hospitality industry. It ensures your standards of customer service always go above and beyond.

 

But if certain comments, questions, criticisms or compliments are appearing frequently, these should necessarily inform the copy on your website. Addressing issues, or answering questions right there on the page establishes authority and increases the likelihood of quick conversions.

 

Getting the tone of voice right

 

Many of the travel brands I’ve worked with on hotel copywriting have a long-established tone of voice they use in all client communications. That consistency helps shape a brand’s identity, but for a freelance writer coming in from the outside, mastering the tone of voice and then replicating it fluently is often the trickiest part of the job.

 

How does a hotel judge if it’s addressing its clients in the right tone of voice? How does it decide whether to adopt a personal, chatty tone or go with a more formal approach?

 

I suggest subscribing to the same types of magazines, newspapers and blogs as your clients do. People will often gravitate to styles of writing that they like and with which they can identify. So if you’re reading the same things, you can learn what kind of language is going to work for your hotel.

 

It should go without saying that the tone of voice you use on your website should carry through into every piece of literature you produce, from paid ads to brochures, inhouse magazines to menus.

 

Avoid clichéd language

 

I’ve seen plenty of copywriting briefs for luxury hotels and travel companies, and what almost all of them tend to have in common is a firm instruction to avoid clichéd expressions and turns of phrase wherever possible. Some even go as far as to list a few of the worst-offenders including: hidden gem; crystal-clear waters; bespoke and exclusive. These terms are so overused that they’re practically meaningless.

 

If you want to market your property as a luxury hotel, then you need to explain exactly why it fits that description. Detail, rather than banal meaningless language, is what readers are looking for.

 

Descriptions should be vivid but packed with solid, useful information. Specify the qualities of the bedding you use, exactly what can be seen from the infinity pool, the ingredients used in your spa treatments, and the technique your chef uses to make his steaks so irresistible.

 

Professional hotel copywriter

Sometimes cliches can be hard to avoid. (Image source)

 

Focus on conversions

 

The best luxury hotel copy can inform, entertain and inspire the reader. But it should always have one very clear focus – increasing conversions. Whether it be driving bookings, growing the subscribers for your newsletter or generating useful client feedback, marketing materials need to do their job or they need to be replaced.

 

With that in mind, there should be a specific purpose for every page on your website. The copywriter needs to understand that purpose, and ensure that every word on the page is contributing towards it.

 

Straightforward, easy-to-understand copy featuring persuasive and clear calls to action encourages the reader to take the next step in the process, and brings you one step closer to your conversion goal. Anything needlessly extraneous can be lopped away, and the space given to copy that is more effective.

 

Maintain a blog

 

Sometimes the facilities you offer and even your rates will be secondary to where your hotel is actually located. Many travellers will choose their hotel at least in part because of what’s in the surrounding area.

 

If your hotel is close to the airport, a major business district, a stadium or a popular attraction such as a theme park, then you can rely on regular custom. But if there are no obvious big-ticket attractions near your hotel, then it’s up to you to bring them to your guests’ attention. A dedicated page on your website can showcase the activities available nearby, points of interest such as natural landmarks, or annual events.

 

However, a well-written blog, updated frequently, is a fantastic way to go into more detail and really sell a destination. A blog is another way to connect with your clients, both existing and prospective, to establish authority and also boost your SEO performance.

 

It always amazes me how few luxury hotels keep their own blog, given that it can take only a couple of hours a month to maintain, and the potential benefits that can be accrued.

 

Another point. Good copy is worth the investment. If you can’t find a suitable travel copywriter that knows your local area well, then you need to hire one that can research deep enough to write about it as though they do (drops massive hint).

 

Telling your story

 

It’s true that ‘storytelling’ is a very overused phrase in content marketing. But still there is always a place for an authentic and interesting story that can build an emotional connection between you and your clients.

 

Once you’ve nailed your story, you can use it at the foundation for all of your marketing across every platform. Because your hotel brand’s story is not just a couple of short paragraphs to be buried on your website. It informs who you are, the relationships you have with your staff, your clientele and the people, culture and environment of the surrounding area.

 

The trick, of course, is in finding your individual story, but there are always clues that can help you get started. Think about the reason that you decided to start this hotel, or to build it in this specific location. What kind of an experience do you want your guests to have, and what motivates your team every day.

 

This is another area where closely studying customer feedback can help. If you can establish what people are getting from your hotel (beyond occasionally purloining the towels) then you are very close to the roots of your story.