But before we get into the insights, let’s start by putting ourselves in the shoes of our potential visitors. Your potential visitor has narrowed down their selection from thousands of other destinations. Now they’re considering yours, and they will be trying to find experiences that fit with their desired needs.

For visitors unfamiliar with your region, the barriers are far and wide;

  • Where are these places? And how close are they to other key locations?
  • Where is this in relation to the capital city?
  • What’s the best route to get there that optimises what I can see & do?
  • I don’t know the distances, or what is possible within a time frame?
  • I’m looking for experiences that match my interests

At this point, the visitor hasn’t even arrived, and already they’ve had to work hard. So how do we support this research and planning phase better? The answer may lie in the insights that we uncovered.


The power of itineraries

We’ve always known the importance of curated journeys – they give visitors the confidence to go somewhere new or unfamiliar – but statistics show that they might be more important than you think.

When an ‘Itineraries/Trails/Routes’ category was present within our clients’ guide, on average it attracted the more clicks than any other category. This was despite the fact that this category was (usually) at the bottom of the list visually.

Digging a little deeper, we wanted to see which type of itineraries attracted the most attention. For regions that offered both inland and coastal itineraries, visitors were most drawn to itineraries that were along the coast. Yes, we all know that the big blue guy is captivating, but I wondered if there were other reasons?

Could it be that when you’re going somewhere unfamiliar there is a ‘safety’ element of being near the coast – you are less likely to get lost – just stay where you can see the water? Or maybe it is because there is a guarantee that there is always something to see (that big blue guy again!), removing some of the risk out of an adventure where you’re unsure of what there is to see & do.

For inland regions, don’t despair, this doesn’t necessarily mean that visitors don’t want to explore inland. I think it does however signal that itineraries are even more important for you – the barriers are higher, and visitors need more confidence.


Nature trumps all

Using the word ‘nature’ and ‘trump’ in a sentence goes against my better judgement, but from our data, the strongest interest driver for interactions was nature/wildlife/outdoors (52% of interactions). This was followed by food/drink (28%), heritage/culture/art (12%), and family (7%).

Let’s amplify the love of nature. We all know a waterfall, beach or lookout can make an epic journey, but you could also consider what’s above and below – from stargazing to stalactites. Or make that journey through the forest a little more special with an audio guide from Sir David Attenborough – if you should be so lucky!


In search of more

When we review the keywords searched by users, it was common to see the larger cities rising to the top of the results. What could this suggest?


The importance of context

The context of cities and familiar places is important when helping people explore. An article from Psychology Today suggested that for the navigational network in our brains to create useful spatial maps, it’s helpful if they are anchored to our real work knowledge about a place – landmarks or boundaries. By providing contextual places, you are essentially helping ‘calibrate’ the brain of your audience.

To facilitate this, we have recently rolled out a feature that helps you display dynamic directional arrows to key locations – always giving the user a point of reference.


Getting here

Cities are also often the starting/ending point to many journeys – another possible reason for the higher searches. It is important therefore to curate itineraries that start/finish there. Even if your region is far from the city, curating ‘Getting Here’ itineraries makes the journey worth their effort, and helps them overcome the irrational barriers they face when planning.


Seeking niche experiences

If we look at the long tail, we can see that visitors are in search of niche experiences – whisky, waterfalls, camping, caves, seafood, music, beaches, lookouts, cheese, fishing, golf and more. Curating itineraries to serve these more niche interests will help elevate your region above the norm. The niche interests may attract less traffic, but you are likely to get a higher engagement and conversion from them.


Interactive map-based content holds eyeballs

When focusing on users who interacted with the map content, we can see that they had an average of 32 interactions, and spent an average of 140% longer on the page when compared to those who didn’t interact.

In a separate A/B conducted by an Alpaca client, an image of an Alpaca map received 93% of the clicks when tested against a traditional tourism photo post in social media.

Another client, in the event space, saw a post of one of their maps receive 520% more Likes, 1300% higher shares, and 200% more comments when compared to their average engagement.


What can we learn from all these stats?
  • Itineraries are highly sought after
  • Suggested itineraries/trails are even more important for visitors going inland
  • The great outdoors is what gets people most interested
  • The context of well known places (eg. capital cities) is important
  • There is value in curating itineraries that start/end at your nearest capital city
  • Map-based content attracts eyeballs and holds attention.


Alpaca is helping tourism organisations to unlock the potential from their content – to attract more visitors and get them exploring more.


Written by Zoe Manderson