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Why QR Codes Are Still Useful in Travel Marketing (and how you could use them effectively)

QR Codes in tourism marketing – yay or nay?

Quick-response codes (or QR codes) have proven to be an innovative tool for linking offline and online content, and when used right, can result in sensible and measurable marketing initiatives. There have, however, also been quite a bit of controversy around the real value of QR codes and how mundane they become when not used strategically.

In this post, we outline some practical guidelines on how to effectively use QR codes to market your business, mention a few things to avoid and share some creative examples from the travel industry.

What are QR codes – a quick introduction

If you are still in the dark about what QR codes are:‘quick response’ codes are two- dimensional barcodes, which, when scanned with a QR reader, can translate the code into a URL, giving the user immediate access to a mobile site without the user having to enter the site manually. Originally developed in Japan during the early 1990’s, QR codes were first used to track lost vehicles. Gradually, their function changed, and nowadays, are part of some major marketing campaigns.

Five Creative QR code ideas for travel businesses

1. Inform your guests or clients

Your website is the perfect platform to share the volume and types of content that would not be accessible from signage boards or printed material. A large resort could add QR codes around the property, linking to a resort map on their website, helping guests find their way around attractions and food points. In the same way, a museum could educate visitors by placing QR codes at artifacts or installations, directing them to additional audio or video content, or encouraging them to share an interesting snippet of information via their social media accounts.

2. Encourage reviews

If you have a guest review form on your website, or encourage reviews through platforms like Tripadvisor, consider linking those pages to a QR code in your guests’ rooms or on their bill upon check-out. This will encourage feedback while their memories are still fresh.

3. Rethink the printed brochure

Does your business distribute printed material in the brochure racks at your local tourism office? Placing a QR code on your brochures or pamphlets will not only enable you to send interested travellers to your online booking form, it will also make it possible to measure the effectiveness of your printed campaigns. Using a digital traffic tracking tool like Google Analytics or TrackQr will give you an idea of whether people are enticed to find out more about your products or services.

4. Build communities

To create awareness about your social media accounts initiatives, create QR codes that lead users straight to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest account. The key here is to create an inviting message, and offer incentives to people who scan the codes- a bland invitation to ‘join your on Facebook’ will probably not make the cut. Adding an icon of the relevant social network to the code could draw attention and create context.

5. Promote events

Create awareness around events at your establishment by encouraging people to scan a QR code to RSVP, or even to receive VIP access. During the event, you could enable them to share media from their mobile phones straight to your social profiles, potentially boosting your online presence and reputation. This is likely to work best for larger hotels or conference venues.

6. Receive payment

By scanning a QR code linked to a mobile payment application, your guests can conveniently make payments to your restaurant or gift shop, using only their smartphone.

Things to avoid when using QR codes

Using QR codes without a strategy

Most of QR Codes’ bad reputation comes from businesses that use them without proper planning. Keep in mind that guests will not scan your code, unless you make it clear what the incentive is for doing so.

Not delivering on both ends

When a guest makes the effort to scan your QR code, be sure to reward them with an experience that is optimised for mobile devices. Linking your QR code to a page that does not work well on mobile devices holds little value, if any.

Not offering complimentary Wi-Fi

Keep in mind that many travellers disable their mobile data when travelling to avoid roaming data charges. Offering complimentary Wi-Fi at your establishment will ensure that you do not exclude these guests from your QR code initiative.

Where to place QR codes

  • On landmarks along tourist routes, linking to additional content and media
  • In guest rooms, linking to review or guest feedback forms
  • On dinner plates, linking restaurant review sites
  • On coasters, linking to social networking accounts
  • On printed media, linking to special offers or coupons

Creative examples from the travel industry

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Video: Brazilian city embeds QR codes

To boost tourism ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazilian city Rio de Janeiro embedded QR codes on street pavements earlier in 2013. The QR codes carry information about the history and culture of the city.

Central Park, New York, United States of America

Video: World Park- Central Park, New York

On World Abhor Day in 2010, Central Park, New York embarked on a large scale QR code campaign named World Park. The World Park campaign included embedding QR codes carrying links to the park’s website and social media accounts. To keep things interesting, the park added popular culture facts from films about the park in the QR codes.

We believe that good marketing tools only work the way they should when businesses understand how to use them, and more importantly, why they should be. We love creating intuitive and understandable guides, tutorials, and how-to‘s for our clients, whether they are only starting out with their Facebook Page, or plotting a content strategy or campaign.

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