Balancing Popular Attractions and Local Experiences

By Alex Gaggioli, September 19, 2016


Balance is important in almost any business practice. Hot trends and popular topics come and go, distracting us from the tried and true methods of marketing. In recent years, authentic travel experiences and the focus on local culture have driven the marketing messages of all types of properties. Being a tourist is out, and living like a local is in. While the marketing messages might push that mantra, it’s often too cut and dry. A good marketing message is a mixture the old and new, aligning with what travelers really want to experience. We recommend hoteliers market both to traditional tourists visiting typical attractions and to trendy tourists visiting “authentic” attractions.

What is the authentic traveler trend?


Authentic travel is one of the industry’s latest favorite buzzwords. It’s pretty simple to understand in that travelers want to experience a destination as the locals live, rather than how tourists experience it. Airbnb is largely to thank for this as they’ve launched multi-million dollar campaigns to push their local stories marketing messages.

Traveling like a tourist has fallen out of style. While the popular attractions will always remain popular, people have been trending towards less crowded spaces and trendier places to eat that fly under the radar. In a previous post, we outlined a few ways small to medium-sized properties can give their guests authentic experiences. They include creating tours and guided local experiences. Or, you can partner with local tour companies to show a different side of your destination.

Airbnb often harps on creating an authentic experience by staying in a local’s home that is located outside typical tourist locations. It’s not possible to relocate your entire business, so focus on what you can do to provide a local’s insight. Smaller properties are better at this to begin with because you have the opportunity to interact with guests on a 1-1 level.

Mixing tourist attractions and authentic travel stories

Popular tourist destinations - Paris

In order to create marketing messages and social media strategies that will resonate with your guests, you need the right balance. Social media and content creation are the two places where you should focus on striking the right balance of authentic local experiences and the tried and true tourist activities.

It’s not about being everything for everyone. You simply don’t have the time and budget to create new assets to draw in new guests. In a recent Skift article, they do a great job of laying out how bigger travel brands are “playing it safe” on social because they’re focusing on popular attractions. If you’re a huge hotel brand or a large tourism office, it makes sense that they would try to stay close to the tried and true tourist sites.

Many travelers want to see the highlights in popular cities like New York City, London. Rome, Washington DC, Los Angeles, etc, want to see what they’re famous for, according to Skift’s article.

So, that begs the question–is highlighting local experiences rather than traditional tourist attractions  worth it? On a high level, I think that focusing on one or the other won’t work on their own. It’s about creating quality content that attracts attention. Content, whether on social or your website, that lacks quality and depth, will not provide your guests with much value.

What You Can Do Right Now

authentic travel - what you can do right now

The best piece of advice we can offer is to include both popular attractions and local experiences in your social and online content. In the end, it’s all about bringing your guests the most value. Having content for both the super well-known tourist hot spots and the more hidden neighborhood spots will allow you to cater to different audiences.

Even at the same property, no two guests are exactly alike and their interests will vary. Therefore, we’ve built a case to focus on both. Focus on creating creative, in-house content and stay away from stock photos. People have become very adverse to stock photos as of late, so creating authentic original images is important.

Properties use all kinds of different material to bring value to our guests. Cities guides are among one of our top suggestions for properties. When you create your guide, map, etc., include information on a wide variety of local hotspots, both touristy and local. We created an ebook on how to create a city guide for your property, check it out here.


The authentic travel and “living like a local” trends are unlikely to go away anytime soon. However, travelers are unlikely to bypass the world’s most popular tourist destinations altogether either. To attract consumers who are interested in both trends, it’s good to maintain a healthy balance. Use your gut and watch the way others approach your destination. It’s likely that they too are training to create some sort of balance between the typical touristy side, and the authentic experience side.

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