Ideal Customer Profiling and Journey Mapping for Tourism Businesses

By Paige Rowett
Published on July 20, 2021

The mobile internet has enabled a more astute and confident customer, which has ultimately changed the way people plan and book their travel experiences.

In comparison to 10-15 years ago, we now have access to countless mediums to research, plan and book our holidays, and we are also looking for more unique, personalised, transformative experiences, and will search high and low across multiple platforms to find an exact match to fit our travel motivations.

So, with so many ways to communicate to potential customers in their travel purchase journey, tourism businesses have to be clear on what marketing activities will engage their best customers to build a sustainable tourism business.

There’s a temptation to think as broadly as possible about your target audience – because why wouldn’t you want to sell to as many people as possible?

But as global marketing and business guru Seth Godin says “Everyone is not your customer.”


Why developing Personas is best-practice tourism marketing

Whether you are new to business or an established tourism business, having a deep understanding of your customers is essential to operating a sustainable and profitable tourism experience.

Deeply understanding your customers is the process of working smarter, not harder. Three reasons why we recommend this process include:

  1. Refine your Product or Experience. If you know what your best customers wants from their travel experience, that allows you to create the best possible experience for them. This means they are more likely to have a brilliant experience, and are more likely to turn them into word of mouth advocates and/or valued repeat customers for your experience, the most trusted and also lowest form of marketing.
  2. Focused marketing efforts. When you profile your customers, it allows you to put a laser focus on your marketing time and dollar investment. This laser focus helps you make decisions on what content to write, what social media channels you should be on and how to optimise your website for conversions. Importantly it also helps guide what marketing activities to say no to.
  3. Generate increased yield. When profiling your customer, it provides the opportunity to focus on attracting customers who see the value in your experience offering and are less price sensitive.


How to develop Personas for your tourism brand

The first step in developing a Persona for your Ideal Customer is thinking about what customers you are wanting to attract more of in the future.  

Remembering, your tourism experience is not for everyone. It’s only for those who love your experience offering.

Your Ideal Customers aren’t necessarily going to be the customers that you mostly see in your business. They are the customers you may see a few of already, and would like to see more of in the future.

The process of developing personas starts with brainstorming and consolidating what you already know about your best customer, and also making assumptions about their travel related behaviours, needs and motivations.

Specifically, your Ideal Customers will share the following traits:

  • Love your experience and rave about it to their friends
  • Are a pleasure to deal with, and are genuinely happy people
  • Less price sensitive. Experience trumps prices
  • Conscious consumers. They care about their travel impacts and where their dollars go
  • United by motivations and challenges/needs, not necessarily by where they live, their age or their income

Answering the questions below will help you to develop your understanding of your Ideal Customer:

  • What are their travel aspirations? Why are they travelling, what do they need from their experience?
  • What are their challenges/needs as it relates to your experience?
  • What experience themes are they interested in?
  • Who are they travelling with?
  • How do they plan and book travel?
  • What are their digital/offline touchpoints?
  • How do they get to and around your destination?
  • What keeps them up at night, what gets them excited, what they value in life, why they value it

NOTE. This process may is meant to be challenging, but note there are no right or wrong answers.

The next step in developing your Personas is to develop their Journey Map.

Journey Mapping is literally taking your Persona and elevating the detail, to brainstorm more prescriptive information about your Personas. This process will help you to pinpoint what marketing media you need to invest in, and what exact content and messaging you need to create and publish to engage your Personas throughout their purchase journey.

Take a read of our Customer Journey Mapping article for steps on how to create Journey Maps for your Ideal Customers.


Common Questions

Can you have more than 1 Ideal Customer?

The answer is yes. Most businesses who only have 1 offering will find it easier to stick with 1 Ideal Customer, whereas if you manage a hotel apartments, which also has conferencing facilities and a restaurant, then you may have 3 different Ideal Customers. So when you are planning your marketing investment, and communication messages, you will consult your relevant Ideal Customer as it relates to which experience you are promoting at any given time.

What about your other customers?

They will still come, as they will still be attracted to your business based on your experience – and if they don’t, then not to worry, as you will be attracting more of the people who you know will bring you the best business.

What if a large percentage of my customers were from international markets?

We acknowledge that it’s certainly challenging times for tourism businesses who have traditionally attracted higher percentages of international visitors. Given that the COVID landscape remains relatively unpredictable (August 2021 – when this was published), especially as it relates to international travel resumption, the developing domestic Personas and pivoting marketing messaging and distribution strategies to attract and convert more of the available markets will be an important process to go through. Remembering though, that the needs and motivations of your inbound guests may be fairly similar to those who live in Australia – it will be just the geographic considerations that you may need to alter for the time being.

What about alignment with your State / Regional Tourism Organisation’s Personas?

As you know, the role of STOs and RTOs is to drive demand to the state, and region respectively. Therefore, they will have identified personas that are most likely going to be attracted to the State or Region based on the whole region’s offering. It’s likely that one of the Personas that your State or Region have developed will be consistent with the Persona you’re wanting to attract. In the event that it doesn’t quite align, don’t be dismayed, as it’s important that you are true to your offering, and try and target those that are going to be the best customer for your business.


This blog was first written in 2014 and most recently updated in July 2021.


Paige Rowett

Paige is a tourism marketing specialist and co-director of Tourism eSchool. After growing up on a farm on Eyre Peninsula, and now managing a mixed farming enterprise with her family in the Clare Valley in South Australia, Paige has a genuine love and drive for developing thriving local communities. She is passionate about educating stakeholders in the value of the Visitor Economy and supporting tourism businesses to build sustainable businesses they love.