National State Tourism Directors Mercury Awards > Travel Website
National State Tourism Directors Mercury Awards > Travel Website
About This Entry:
The Utah Office of Tourism is taking strides to welcome all types of visitors, and to prepare them for thoughtful and rewarding travels. Guiding visitors toward safe and responsible travel was never more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Utah experienced its greatest influx of travelers who were “new to nature” — meaning they were inexperienced with a desert environment, Leave No Trace outdoor principles and the realities of crowded national parks. With increased demand for Utah’s travel offerings, it became critical that we redesign VisitUtah.com to better equip potential visitors with the information they need to maximize their experience, while minimizing their impact on delicate landscapes and locals’ cherished places.
Our central idea for this redesign was to act like a local guide, inspiring visitors with high quality storytelling, while simultaneously equipping them with the helpful tools they need to travel responsibly. After all, visitor education (and as a result, thoughtful and positive interactions with locals and landscapes), is key to sustaining a perpetual, right-sized tourism economy and preserving Utah’s stunning natural beauty and communities.
Reaching 4.6 million people in 2020, VisitUtah.com is the state’s most potent touchpoint for influencing visitor preparedness. With more than 1,250 pages, and 40% of traffic coming from organic search, we see every site visit as an opportunity to instill a respectful mindset when it comes to experiencing Utah’s lands, culture and communities — whether a visitor is planning their travels or already in Utah.
So, at the end of October 2020, we launched a completely reimagined VisitUtah.com, designed with the same mindfulness and care that we invite visitors to bring with them on their Utah travels.
Partnering with Hanson Dodge (web strategy, design and development) and Love Communications (digital marketing and SEO), the Utah Office of Tourism launched a new website based on a foundation of traveler journey research and a human-centered design mindset.
A visitor’s experience on the site is inherently representative of the state of Utah – both what the state has to offer as a travel destination and what locals champion about their home state. It showcases the state’s stunning landscapes and distinct personality through a rich and immersive storytelling experience, both written and visual. Because the state is known for both its red rock deserts and world-class skiing, we designed site elements in both orange and blue-toned colorways that echo the environment and act as visual cues for the different travel seasons. The site reflects Utah's blend of contrast and harmony.
But a beautiful site is only as effective as its content is helpful, intuitive and current. To ensure that visitors are able to engage deeply, we optimized clear and fast paths to sought-after content, while increasing the visibility of educational content throughout the site. Based on user needs and business objectives, we made it easy to find regional itinerary content to aid dispersion away from national parks, and integrated Google maps, real-time weather and snow conditions, a locally-staffed live chat and user-generated Instagram content. Knowing that the majority of our site visitors rely on their phones, we ensured the experience was optimized for mobile support and multi-device users.
Beyond crafting the organization and display of the content, we carefully selected a more capable content management system and customized it to allow for quick and nimble daily edits, smart tagging, built-in analytics for meaningful KPIs and catalogs for recurring components. And to better respond to visitor feedback, needs and expectations, we implemented on-site feedback prompts throughout the site, allowing us to continually stay in dialogue with our visitor's needs.
All of this ensures the site can live up to its goals of being a one-stop for up-to-date visitor information, guiding visitors toward a rewarding and well-prepared experience.
Our KPIs were firmly rooted in our desire to further Utah’s tourism brand while encouraging responsible visitation across the state. Since launch in October 2020, we’re seeing that a focused emphasis on storytelling and responsible travel content can also lead to increased engagement and greater revenue coming into the state.
The redesigned site has seen 80% growth in travel guide downloads, 36% growth in site sessions, 35% growth in engaged sessions (those lasting 4+ minutes) and 34% year over year increase in domains linking to VisitUtah.com. We’ve earned 4.6 million unique visitors and more than 10 million pageviews, up 23% and 8% from 2019 respectively. Additionally, website visitors have gone on to generate an estimated revenue of $79.3 million in hotel bookings. To further quantify that success, we compared pre-pandemic website trends to post website relaunch website trends, finding an increase in 38% total revenue since the site launched, a significant achievement considering the headwinds of the COVID-19 pandemic and limited domestic flight and international travel.
All of this is accompanied by observed growth and engagement with responsible travel content, including the emergence of new user pathways that reflect more consumption of educational content throughout the site. With 3,600 live chat conversations since launch, the site kept travelers safe and informed during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also supporting Utah’s local businesses and tourism-dependent economy. Based on our median time spent chatting with visitors, we can average that 540 hours have been devoted to real-time conversations on VisitUtah.com.
Site visitors, press, Utah businesses and partners have praised the new site; evidence that the holistic and strategic approach to the design, user experience, branding and technical output are achieving and exceeding our objectives. Kentico, our content management system provider, named VisitUtah.com a 2020 Site of the Year Finalist in the Entertainment and Hospitality Industry, and a Top Website of the Month for June 2021.
The cost of the website development between January 2020-October 2020 was $640,000.
Why This Is A Finalist:
The campaign is very solid both in terms of strategy and execution. The vision was very clear: to promote thoughtful and responsible travel through human-centered web design. From the ideation stage which included communication and content strategy, through execution (based on immersive and educational storytelling) the campaign was thoroughly conceived and the results over delivered on KPI's even compared to pre-pandemic metrics.
Modern and clean execution from a design perspective. The local guide approach makes the content feel friendly not only visually but usability-wise.
Partnering with Hanson Dodge and Love Communications was an assertive combination for a great results. The way the website is based on traveler's mindset instead of general information of destinations invites users to explore more.
- Category Winner