How to Improve Online Presence of Small Tourism Businesses?

Online information search is a crucial and often overlooked part of today’s consumers’ decision-making, and most of it is done through search engines or social media. The searches on search engines and social media platforms correlate with the visits in destinations[1]. Here I have a look at different research papers considering these subjects, in order to get a basic idea on how small and medium-sized tourism companies could be more active about their online presence in order to perform better also in real life.

Information gained from these channels is generally relevant and critical, giving voice to the customers and their options [2]. The holistic experience of the customer shows as a positive review online, making it easier for future potential customers to select the service provider.

Customer’s Search Process

Better business performance can be gained through investing in online marketing to get a little better spot on the search website. Consumers feel stronger value for their money and are less afraid of a fraud when they make the booking through reliable customer review site, like TripAdvisor [3]. Customers are more critical towards the actual advertisements of travel businesses and likes to rely more on consumers turned to producers, who publish their own reviews of destinations and tourism businesses [4]. Companies should always remind customers to send the reviews of their experience to keep the company visible and encouraging future customers’ interest in their products and services.

National DMOs need to make sure their presence in social media is active and relevant, and potential tourists feel easy making contact with them online [5]. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, the destinations improved their presence in YouTube, for example, to keep future travelers intrigued and invested in travelling to their destinations after lockdowns end and borders re-open [6]. Even after the lockdowns travelling hasn’t been back to normal yet, because of all the economic and safety reasons, but the destinations kept their hopes up and reminding visitors that once it’s safe again, they are welcome to visit.

It is crucial that companies understand the customers’ search engine usage, and behavioral patterns when looking for the information and making plans [7]. When it comes to online visibility through search engines, companies and destinations need to consider the keywords they want to be found with [8]. Consumers like the search process to be smooth and easy, and they will not spend too much time looking for all the possible results, just focusing on the ones showing up first, and if the company hasn’t succeeded with being associated with the correct keywords, it will be missed among the more relevant results.

Most of the searches are made with up to 3-word questions, and 80 % of customers stop looking after the first page of results [9]. A good spot on the top of the list of search results isn’t enough, though. The snippet of the text needs to be attractive and informative enough to make the customer click it [10]. Companies should really put some thought on how they wish to be seen online, before customer enters their website or their own social media page.

Small and Medium-sized Companies

Small and medium sized hotels tend to rely on some distribution partners in order to improve the visibility, even if it leads on some adjusting on partners’ terms and ways of conduction [11]. According to Murphy & Kielgast, small and medium-sized hotels may not have the most recent and relevant IT skills, so their understanding of search engine marketing and optimization is not among the top of their skillset. Making sure that whoever is in charge of marketing of the company has basic skills in SEO, would do a major improvement on the general visibility and give the company some control over their web presence.

As small tourism companies usually run on quite low resources and few people, I understand that diving into analytics probably isn’t the top priority, no matter how useful data they could embrace there. Even if it’s not someone’s everyday job to keep an eye out of their performance on Google and other search engines, just checking and reacting to the numbers every now and then between other work tasks, could make a difference, if the data is used correctly.

Conclusions and Thoughts

Based on the research papers I read for this post, I have started to think about some small tourism business companies which I think could really improve their online presence. The number of visits at the website or social media profile can also be used as an indicator when thinking about the upcoming seasons and booking levels there. I do believe that most companies understand the significance of this, but just may be short-handed about the concrete actions they could do to make it smoother.

I think that DMOs and such could make this easier by providing some education and materials to local companies and organizations. Tourism business is competitive and co-operative at the same time and support between different operators will benefit everyone. DMOs could play big part in this by involving the local operators and possibly having someone with the skillset provide the consultation services among all the companies in the area.

I am looking forward to get more familiar with this subject, do some more research and maybe someday use my knowledge to help some small businesses’ performance improve.


[1]Mi Kyung Lee, Ho Young Yoon & Han Woo Park: From Online via Offline to Online: How Online Visibility of Tourism Information Shapes and Is Shaped by Offline Visits. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, Vol. 34, Issue 9, p. 1143 – 1154.

[2]Antonio J. D. V. T. Melo, Rosa M. Hernandez-Maestro & Pablo A. Muñoz-Gallego: Service Quality Perceptions, Online Visibility, and Business Performance in Rural Lodging Establishments. Journal of Travel Research, Vol. 56, Issue 2.

[3]Markus Schuckert, Xianwei Liu & Rob Law: Hospitality and Tourism Online Reviews: Recent Trends and Future Directions. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, Vol. 32, Issue 5, p. 608 – 621.

[4]Eric Horster & Carsten Gottschalk: Computer-assisted Webnography: A New Approach to Online Reputation Management in Tourism. Journal of Vacation Marketing, Vol. 18, Issue 3.

[5]Vitor Roque & Rui Raposo: Social Media as a Communication and Marketing Tool in Tourism: An Analysis of Online Activities from International Key Player DMO. Anatolia, An International Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 27, Issue 1, p. 58 – 70.

[6] Eran Ketter & Eli Avraham: #StayHome Today So We Can #TravelTomorrow: Tourism Destinations’ Digital Marketing Strategies During the Covid-19 Pandemic. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, Vol.38, Issue 8, p. 819 – 832.

[7]Zhen Xiang & Bing Pan: Travel Queries on Cities in the United States: Implications for Search Engine Marketing for Tourist Destinations. Tourism Management, Vol. 32, Issue 1, 2011, p. 88 – 97.

[8]Chaitanya Vyas: Evaluating State Tourism Websites Using Search Engine Optimization Tools. Tourism Management, Vol. 73, 2019, p. 64 – 70.

[9]Alexandros Paraskevas & Ioannis Katsogridakis: Search Engine Marketing: Transforming Search Engines into Hotel Distribution Channels. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, Vol. 52, Issue 2.

[10]Bing Pan: The Power of Search Engine Ranking for Tourist Destinations. Tourism Management, Vol. 47, 2015, p. 79 – 87.

[11]Hilary Catherine Murphy & Christian D. Kielgast: Do Small and Medium-Sized Hotels Exploit Search Engine Marketing? International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 20, Issue 1.