Should our DMO keep printing a visitor guide?

Will digital visitor guides and mobile apps replace the printed travel guide?

Will digital visitor guides and mobile apps replace the printed travel guide?

It is a question that occurs yearly, just as the DMO or CVB begins to print the new guide.

Commonly-held wisdom and anecdotal evidence suggests that visitors like the feel of a paper guide.  But do they?

Or are the merely in love with anything free?

Sure, they carry it with them, but if a DMO was to replace it, with say, a destination-focused iPad/iPhone app, what effect would it have on the visitor experience?

Rather than taking the word of your publisher or digital agency, who yes, have an agenda, let’s solve the problem with a simple A/B test of your printed visitor guide.

Step 1: Forcing the Digital Visitor Guide Download

First, we need to replicate the experience as if there was not a printed travel guide available.  By forcing a digital visitor guide version we can a) gauge the impact on website traffic / flow and b) create a segment of visitors who traveled without the aide of the printed travel guide.

  1. Remove the printed guide order form from your website.
  2. Update any on-site promotional materials to remove the printed travel guide reference.
  3. Update the order form page with either a) the digital visitor guide, b) your CVB mobile app or c) your mobile website.
  4. Capture an email address for all requests.
  5. Run test for one (1) week or until a sufficient test group has been established (400 people should do it).

Step 2: Removing the Paper

Okay, step two…removing the printed visitor guide from the Visitor Center.  Blasphemy!  Don’t worry, we will put them back…maybe.  While step one will show us the impact on the virtual visitor, we also need to see the effect on the physical visitor.  Plus, your Visitor Center is the prime location for consumer feedback.

And we know these people actually visited the destination.

  1. Remove the printed travel guide from the shelves / rack.*
  2. Upon request, direct requests to either a) your CVB mobile app or b) your mobile website.**
  3. Capture an email address for all requests.
  4. Run test for one (1) week or until a sufficient test group has been established (400 people should do it).

* Yes, you might have to tell people you ‘ran out.’  If they get really pissed, tell them you will meet them behind the building in 5 minutes with a copy.

** Either a CVB mobile app or mobile website will be required for this test.

Step 3: Research

Time to send out a survey or two.  We are going to want three (3) groups for this test: the Digital Visitor Guide group, the Visitor Center group and a control / Printed Travel Guide group.

To truly determine value, we need to have specific goals in mind to help us evaluate the printed travel guide.  Asking the consumer if they liked the guide is neither insightful, nor helpful.

  • Did the lack of a printed visitor guide adversely affect the decision to travel to your destination?
  • Did the guide content encourage unexpected visitation to local tourism business(es)?  Measure for print v. digital visitor guide.
  • Was the guide brought on the trip?  Again, print v. digital.
  • Determine the cost savings v. advertising revenue potential.

Additionally, we will need to develop some reporting around demographics, preferences and perhaps frequency.

There you have it, a logical approach to determining the value of your DMO’s / CVB’s official visitor guide to the actual visitor.

Does this mean you should actively work to eliminate your printed visitor guide?  Of course not.

But it should provide you with a better answer than…they like holding a paper guide.

Bonus Tip

So, you have a fancy new iPhone / iPad app, right?  Are you actively demoing the app for your guests?  No.  Why not?

iPad Demo Station at the Napa Valley Visitor CenterIn a brilliant mashup of physical space with digital info, Visit Napa Valley has set up an application demo station inside their Visitor Center.  The CVB purchased a nice wood table, 6 iPads and placed a focus on their portable visitor concierge.

A simple, yet effective way to introduce your visitors to that new iPhone application.

Extra Bonus Tip

What happens after a web visitor requests your printed visitor guide?  For most destinations it is a simple, yet standard ‘thank you’ page.  But why just say thank you?

Use that thank you page to push and promote your mobile application.  These are people who have just requested information about your destination…they are hungry for knowledge!

A perfect opportunity to present your mobile offerings.

Assuming it is more than just a repeat of the website they are already on.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.