As online platforms play a stronger role in the traveler’s buying process (dreaming, deciding, planning, booking), successful destination marketers are coming to realize the importance of mobile apps in driving sales and enhancing the destination experience.

The always-insightful folks at AboutTourism recently summed up a survey from the TRAVELSAT Competitive Index. The digital element is great, but only if it “provides the right content at the right time.” Too often, we see destinations developing mobile apps as part of a checklist of “must-haves”, but not thinking too carefully about who’s going to use the app and how the app fits into a more comprehensive marketing strategy.

When developing an app, some questions to consider:

  1. Who is this for? Is your target market even using apps? This seems basic, but it’s easy to forget. It’s like giving a zebra to a nun. She probably thinks its pretty and appreciates the gesture, but she was never really asking for it and won’t know what to do with it if she has it. Take the time to get a clear idea of how your ideal travelers are consuming the information you want to give them.
  2. What do you want someone to do with it? Apps can serve all sorts of purposes for a destination:
  • Inspiring: Images, Videos, Narratives that paint a pretty picture of your destination
  • Planning: Interactive itinerary creators, Logistical information, booking portals
  • Experiencing: GPS-enabled maps, photo journals, meeting locals, social media integration

How does your app extend the user’s interest in your destination? Through your app, how are you going to capture more of the average 62 minutes a day they spend on their device?

  1. 3Which platform do you want to use?So that nun… say she’s actually into your zebra after all. Do you get her one with black-and-white stripes or white-and-black stripes? There’s a difference. A travel-related app may look the same and do the same things, but it needs to be optimized for different operating: iPhone, Android, Nokia’s Symbian, Windows. Each operating system and has has pros and cons. Take note of which devices are most popular in your target market and identify the platform that makes the most sense.
  2. How does this stay relevant? Destinations are always changing. So are market trends related to what consumers what to read, see, and share. Those photos and destination descriptions from last year aren’t gonna cut it. What’s the plan for keeping your app’s content fresh and new? Sometimes the best solution is to complement an app with a mobile website that can channel newly developed content.

An average lifespan of an app can be as little as 30 days and the cost can be between $3000 – $10000 in its first iteration. With that kind of investment, its important to think about how the app can be a dynamic tool that fits in with your larger marketing goals.

TCI Research CEO Olivier Henry-Biabaud sees great value in destination mobile apps that have been thoughtfully created and strategically implemented… leading to “increase[d] spending, repeat visits and recommendation levels.”

This article has been re-posted with permission from

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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