How Tourism Decisions Are Made



Every day, when a client calls, tourism products and info offices give prospective clients a verbal listing of what they have to offer and somehow feel that they have not made a connection. The opportunity is lost and they can’t figure out why.

The answer is surprising simple. We are speaking to the wrong part of the brain. Stick with me here, this is not rocket science. The parts of our brain that are responsible for decision-making and memory do not understand language! Wow, really? So all of those wordy sections on brochures and bulleted PowerPoint presentations are produced in vain? Sorry, but they have had a minimal influence on decision-making with our clients. All the newer part of our brain does is think and justify our choice after it has been made.

The Limbic brain comprises of the middle two sections and is responsible for all our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. This area of the brain is responsible for all human behaviour and all our decision-making. It is where our emotional connection takes place, and it has no capacity for language. Our Limbic system gathers information largely through visuals. Our other senses also come in to play, but visuals dominate. Our subconscious gathers information and an emotion and a visual imaging is fixed to each of these. When we are confronted with a decision, emotions from previous, related experiences affix values to the options we are considering. These emotions create preferences that lead to our decision.

Have you ever spoken of taking a gut decision? That description is the closest we can come to expressing this process in words. So our decisions are driven by our emotions and biases and we cannot help responding to that. Our emotions are automatic response to an external stimulus. The reality is that in response to an emotion, humans are compelled to do something.

Before looking at some ways we can action these learnings, it is important that we acknowledge that our tourism customers are bombarded by countless similar offers, each promoting what they have to meet their leisure needs. Competition is fierce and the options are unlimited. Clients are overwhelmed with choice and overloaded with information. So the brain is continuously filtering what is relevant and what is not.

Practically, what does this mean for your marketing efforts?

  1. Firstly, the more senses you trigger and associate with your offering, the more you will appeal to your customers’ emotions and influence their buying behaviour. Access their buy button through their feelings. This obviously implies that you need to get to know your customers better and identify their triggers. This makes a bit of a mockery of our current segmentation systems, but more about that in a future blog.
  2. Your brand is established in our sub conscience by all of the experiences that a customer has had with a brand. These will include social media messages from their circle. Focus on the experience you are giving your customers and create wow sharable moments during the experience. Monitor the social media messaging about your product and improve aspects that will enhance this electronic word-of-mouth.
  3. As visuals play such an important role, remodel your material and websites to make the most of these. Target spontaneous pictures that will elicit emotions from your target clients. Remember to also check the effectiveness of your visuals and material if your customer only scans your material for a few seconds. Have a section on the front page of your website that shows photos that guests have taken.
  4. Let your visuals and supporting text tell a story that will stand out and resonate with your customers’ desires and reassure any fears they may have. Your customers are looking for pleasure, as well as certainty. Your story should say who you are, but more importantly why you customer should care.
  5. As competition is fierce, you must ensure that you stand out from the crowd. No more playing it safe and employing a one size fits all approach.
  6. Constantly challenge yourself to find ways to add value to your experience.
  7. In your story, avoid messages that your Limbic brain does not understand, like ‘you will have your best time ever’. Rather say how they will feel during your experience.

So now you know how the brain works, will you continue to use marketing tools that have little effect in a crowded market of offerings, or will you accept the challenge to work ‘on’ your business for a few hours a week and connect with the first step of an exciting customer relationship?

Remember emotions, emotions, emotions …

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