Marketing Strategy Blog

5 Differences Between Marketing to Locals vs. Tourists

marketing-to-tourists.jpgWhen you operate a small business in a resort town you want to ensure you’re catering to as many potential customers as you can. While both local customers and tourists are vital to generating revenue and making your business successful, it’s important to understand the difference between marketing to locals and tourists, and the ways your marketing strategy may need to change to target the unique needs of these two groups. The experiences desired by locals and tourists are often different and might be seasonal. The channels you use to reach them, and the amount of your marketing budget you should allocate to each, can vary significantly. Consider these five different factors as you craft your marketing message to these two groups.


Analyze the differences between what locals expect to experience when doing business with your company as compared to what tourists are looking for. Your marketing strategy should take these differences into consideration when planning your messaging. For example, tourists are often looking for great dining and shopping experiences. For tourists, image is important and demands a creative approach. Locals, on the other hand, are interested in the “best-kept secret,” the places that only locals know about and can help them avoid the tourist crowds. Also, locals are the driving force behind revenue in the shoulder season, so creating something special for them during the off season, maybe live music or local discounts year-round, could help create foot traffic to your business.


Creating a story for your target audience is important to your overall marketing strategy. The story you create for a local customer and the story created for those visiting your area should reflect the differences in the experience you want to present to each, as well as the differences in timing and marketing channels. Use targeted content, images, and videos to tell different stories to each audience to help attract them to your business.

Tourists are looking for help with planning their trip — where to stay, where to eat, and where to shop. They’re also looking for good deals and discounts. But it’s also important to keep them excited and create a sense of anticipation. Use content to tell a story, not to advertise. One company who is successfully using customer stories to advertise is Airbnb, an online marketplace where homeowners can offer their property, or part of their property, for rent. Travelers then use the site to book a stay in their home in the destination they desire to visit. Instead of telling its own story, it gets the customer to tell their stories and experiences, and they share them in a section called, “Stories from the Airbnb community.’ This customer-driven storytelling shares the product with the potential customer in a personal, relatable way.

Smaller tourism-based companies can use this example that Airbnb has set to share the stories of tourists and locals through outlets reaching their target audience - whether it be tourists or locals. Ask customers to submit their own videos or to provide a video testimonial, or host a contest and have people share their videos, experiences and stories with your company for a chance to win.


If the nature of your business varies based on the season, certain events, or times of day, it’s important to adjust your message based on the audiences you’re trying to reach at different times throughout the year, or even within the course of a day. Increase both your marketing efforts and your marketing budget to reach specific audiences at specific times.

During peak season, take advantage of the opportunity to grow your database with CTAs on your website and social media. People love to talk about their vacation, so ask them for reviews by sending an email within a few days of their visit. You can use their stories on social media or in blog posts during of the off-season.

During the off-season, you can focus more on the locals. Offer specials or a unique product selection. For example, a farmer’s market that sells fresh produce to vacationers during the summer months might offer canned goods and gift items to locals in the winter. They can stock their shelves with trendy summer hats and unique beach totes that appeal to those anxious to get their toes in the sand again. One souvenir chain in a resort area marks down all of their inventory by 50% starting on Labor Day weekend. The locals know the big sale is coming and plan their shopping accordingly. It helps keep the stores afloat well into the fall and clears shelves for the new inventory they receive in the spring. A local retailer in a mountain town that caters to hikers and skiers can offer discounts on parkas and ski gear in July, when people are dreaming of cooler days.

Take a look at what your competition is doing. If most of your competitors close during the off-season, it could be a great opportunity to market to locals with advertising in print and on social media.

Stay connected with both tourists and locals during the off-season through email and social media by offering relevant content — recipes, a gift guide, or discounts for next year’s vacation. Publish information about your town. The people following you on social media are interested in what’s going on in your area. By publishing videos, stories of local interest, and relevant news items, you can reach both tourists and locals.


Assess the channels and outlets by which you reach your local customers compared with tourists. You can reach both audiences through newspapers and websites, but it’s important to make sure your website is engaging and interactive. Targeted display advertising is effective for both tourists and locals, and allows your business to reach them in different ways. Consider creating a social media campaign that helps visitors plan their trip and also gets them excited about doing business with your company. Become a source of information for visitors by posting content about your industry, not just your product or service. Post consistently so that visitors are familiar with your brand before they arrive in town.


Because you’ll need to advertise to locals and visitors different you may need to adjust the budgets to account for the different marketing costs. Begin by assessing the difference in revenue from each of these target audiences, and then adjust your marketing budget to allocate resources that will reach customers where they are. While you value both your local customers and tourists, you may not consider them equal to your overall business success. It may make sense to allocate more resources to reaching tourists, but you need to balance the cost of reaching customers with the financial benefit of doing so.

Marketing to tourists and locals requires adjustments in your marketing strategy to reach the two audiences in different ways and through different channels. Considering the experiences and seasonality associated with locals as compared to tourists will help you plan marketing to ensure you reach your customers when and where it’s most effective.

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