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MTR: Semantic search has transformed tourism marketing

Online marketing guru says tourism bodies need to wake up to the new reality.

Bronwyn White, the Sydney-based co-founder of, will tell the 3rd PATAcademy on the 4th December, in Bangkok, that semantic search has profoundly changed the nature of Internet search for tourism businesses and destinations. She will tell the audience of rising travel professionals that semantic search means that what appears on page 1 of a search result is now different for every search query, every mobile device, and every desktop.

White will tell the PATAcademy attendees that there are now three ways that tourism businesses and destinations can connect to customers in the age of semantic search.

The first is the importance of clear and distinct brand positioning. White will emphasise that it is no longer desirable to be all things to all people. “A clear brand position does more than help you in a cluttered market on the semantic web where everyone is telling their customers that their product or destination is unique. A consistent and differentiating brand position tells the search engines what you are about,” she says.

Brand consistency and strength, including language, tone of voice and imagery all help the search engines place context around your tourism product, service or destination. “It helps ascertain whether your destination or business is family-friendly, romantic, pet friendly, or for the adventurous,” says White.

The second priority in the age of semantic search is to publish a variety of quality content, as often as you can.

“Content marketing is not a marketing craze,” says the tourism marketing research specialist who advises NTOs, international hotel groups and local and regional destinations across the globe. “It should be at the centre of your online tactical strategy. At its most simplistic words, images and videos help the search engines understand what your business or destination is about.”

Those who regularly share a variety of content with consistent messaging that appeals to their target market are more likely to be recognised as influencers and therefore, more likely to be matched to a relevant search query, says White.

Smart tourism companies now post a variety of content as often as they can. They ensure that the content is compelling and relevant to their target markets. They do not post content for content’s sake.

Thirdly, content, search and social media are now inextricably related. Social media activity helps generate a clearer understanding of the meaning behind the content by the better indexing of content, providing authority and trust, and indicating the contextual value.

When content is shared, commented on, liked, tweeted, re-shared and interacted with, the search engines use this as an indicator of the quality of the content, particularly as it relates to target audiences.

If your content has a track record of interaction, it is now much more likely to be presented to a user when he or she conducts a search.

At the PATAcademy, White will share the quote by David Amerland, author of the book, Semantic Search, who writes: “While social signals do not directly act as a ranking signal in search, a strong social signal helps Google establish confidence in its indexing of websites which then does lead to higher visibility in search.”

He adds: “A robust, carefully crafted Twitter presence can significantly aid your visibility in search by helping define your website’s relevance.”

Between 2 and 5 December the attendees at the PATAcademy will represent national tourism offices, educational institutions, hotels, tour operators, airports, associations and media. Participants will come from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Nepal, Norway, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and the Maldives.