1. Think about your target demographic

Trying to sell trips to the Med this year? Everyone’s writing Greek island guides that focus on neon-lit bars, fishbowls and vomiting in the street. But if your main audience group is couples aged 50-65, who enjoy long walks on the beach and a bit of R&R, you’re going to need a different hook.

Instead of following the crowd, focus on the things your audience will be most interested in, and ignore the rest.

Did you know that Zante, for instance, is home to a shipwreck on a paradisiacal beach and the endangered loggerhead turtle? Well, now you do.

Focus your content by creating a series of user personas representative of your different consumers – Richard the retired red wine enthusiast or Erica the excitable extreme sports fan, for instance – and then writing content specifically for these consumers. 

2. Tailor descriptions to fit your audience’s interests

Once you’ve identified your audience – or audiences – think about what they might find interesting about different attractions and tailor your copy accordingly to pique their interests.

Take the Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote, for instance. This picturesque area of natural beauty can be sold-in to pretty much anyone…

  • Adrenaline junkies? Go on the hair-raising coach ride around the craters
  • Culture vultures? The artist Cesar Manrique designed the restaurant here
  • Nature fans? The views across the volcanic plains are incredible
  • Foodies? You have to try the chicken cooked over heat rising from underground lava

Be honest in your descriptions, though. If the beach resort you’re selling is as quiet as a mouse after 7pm, or you won’t be able to sleep on account of the midnight pool parties, don’t hide it.

The club 18-30 crowd might be after a good nightclub, but they’d rather know upfront if there isn’t one.

3. Go off-piste with insider information from your partner hotels

Every travel company can tell you the bare bones of a destination: there’s a beach, a couple of restaurants and a nature park somewhere in the region (so they’ve heard).

But that kind of cut-and-paste copywriting doesn’t help separate one destination from hundreds of others.

So, make use of the local intel you have on the ground: the local hotels you’re promoting. They’ll be able to give you specific information and can confirm things only the locals know – like whether or not the restaurant on the beach is really closed for rebranding, or if the kitchen is being fumigated.

Send your hotel contacts a short questionnaire when you’re planning your guide, asking for tips and recommendations. The shorter you make it, the more likely it is they’ll complete it for you. Restricting hotel staff to a few (possibly multiple choice) questions will help you get the information you’re looking for.

4. Tap into TripAdvisor for more (un)trustworthy travel information

Another place to look for unusual and (brutally) honest nuggets of information is on user review sites like TripAdvisor.

Wade through the stranger TripAdvisor reviews and you can unearth some unusual, quirky bits of information that will give your guide a really unique flavour. Who knew that the local trattoria gives you a free tiramisu on your birthday, for instance? Or that the Glitter Pit nightclub on the strip has the best Elvis impersonator this side of Nashville?

If only one or two reviews disagree with common consensus, you might want to question their accuracy, but if something keeps coming up again and again – ‘The Elvis impersonator on Tuesday REALLY IS AMAZING’ – then it’s a good bet that it’s true. Sprinkling your copy with these specific bits of information will really bring your guide to life.

5. Avoid cliches in your descriptions – and speak your own language

You might be aware that the destination you’re plugging is about 3% different to the resort next door, but your audience doesn’t, and they’re really excited about getting a week off work. So don’t deter them with tired, cliched copy like this:

  • ‘Just like the neighbouring resort…’
  • ‘Your typical Canarian resort…’
  • ‘The beach here is standard for the island…’
  • ‘…just like everything in Greece…’

That kind of seen-it-all, done-it-all attitude isn’t very welcoming. And it suggests that the holiday you’re selling is a bit run-of-the-mill.

Instead, make the destination your own by injecting a bit of flair and a dash of your brand’s tone of voice.

If you’re a fun, young brand, for instance, you might describe an aging 60s-style beach bar as ‘a retro sun lover’s paradise, which perfectly captures the golden era of beach holidays. Who’s for a pina colada?’

TUI does this like no other brand, using a very distinctive tone that is theirs and theirs alone. For example, Playa de las Americas is a resort in Tenerife that has 6 beaches. But according to First Choice, one of TUI’s brands, it’s more fun than that: ‘Playa de las Americas doesn’t hold back on its beaches.’

Freshen up your brand’s tone of voice with this 5-step guide

6. Make it seasonal

Wherever possible, supplement your annual guide with seasonal content anchored around local events or activities.

Using topical hooks is a very effective psychological nudge, and one that’s been shown to improve conversion and affinity with a brand. ‘If this brand is producing up-to-date content,’ your reader might be thinking, ‘I can trust it’s reliable and I will enjoy that sardine festival coming up in May.’

Research what events will be taking place in your destination throughout the year and commission your blog posts in advance.

Follow these five simple steps to create an effective editorial calendar and ensure you never miss another blog post

7. Use new formats to present old information

Not only do most guides say the same things, but most are usually in the same old format: a pretty flat overview of the major tourist hotspots, followed by a list of restaurants and hotels.

Make your holiday guide stand out by supplementing essential information with a few unusual formats and content ideas. Try these formats for size:

  • Q&A (eg ‘Jamaica Q&A with the Lovely Place hotel manager’)
  • List (eg ‘Top 5 things to do within a 15 minutes’ drive’)
  • How to: (eg ‘How to explore Majorca on foot’)
  • Factfile: (eg ‘10 things you didn’t know about Greece’)
  • Checklist: (eg ‘10 must-have experiences in Sydney’)
  • Testimonials/first-person accounts: (eg ‘My holiday to Massa Lubrense’)