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Travel writers share how to write a good product description

Experienced copywriters share ways to improve the content of your product descriptions to attract and convert travelers on OTAs, as well as drive direct bookings on your own channels. 

Kate Cornell, 31st Jul 2020

Many tour operators understand that compelling, unique content is an effective way to attract and convert direct bookings. Still it can be overwhelming, if not intimidating, to know what (or how) to write about your tours and experiences when your background is not in copywriting. 

That’s why we tapped professional travel copywriters and editors who have worked with many in the travel industry and beyond—from OTAs and tourism boards to major travel and news publications—for some helpful tips to get you started on how to write about your business in a way that is universal, engaging, and differentiated. 

Keep it simple: Product titles should include the where, what, and why

“A title is not the best place to stretch your literary chops: keep your language simple and easily readable. Short is sweet but always make sure to include the most important points: "private experience," for example, or "walking tour." – Karen Gardiner is a Scottish writer who is fluent in Spanish, and published by National Geographic, BBC Travel, and Conde Nast Traveler, among others. 

“You need the where, what, and why (in that order). Your title needs to convey these essential pieces of information, but can’t sound like every other travel product. So rather than, “Guided Tour Through Central Park”, it should be, “Central Park Sightseeing Walk to Top Landmarks.” – Peter Neely specializes in travel, education, and nonprofit writing. He’s written for Viator and Tripadvisor, in addition to Curious, Word Chill, and other educational websites. 

 “Skip flowery adjectives or superlatives. To attract a potential customer scanning through options, keep it simple: What, where, duration, and inclusions.” – Jen Rose Smith is the author of six travel guidebooks, and featured in Rolling Stone, Outside, and Backpacker, to name a few. 

Be different: Showcase what makes your experience special from the rest

“When writing tour descriptions, it's all about the value prop—in other words, what does your experience provide that sets it apart from the rest? What specific aspects of the tour can help travelers make the most of their trip? Some example value props: a guide plugged into the Paris food scene, so you can avoid tourist spots and dine alongside real locals; round-trip transportation in an area with unreliable public transit or taxi access; skip-the-line Vatican Museums access, so you don't have to spend hours waiting in line.” – Caeleigh MacNeil is a former editor at Viator. She is currently a content strategist at Facebook, and contributor for Hipcamp and others. 

“Relevant details help differentiate the product. Does the itinerary involve a destination other tours skip over? Is the guide consistently rated a superstar? Can travelers expect a pleasing albeit simple lunch, or is it really a feast of local seafood and your guide’s favorite drinks?” – Gianmaria Franchini has created unique content for tour operators around the world as the senior copywriter at Viator and Tripadvisor Experiences, where he led conversion-positive projects for both sites. 

“Go for a copy format or approach that differentiates you from your competitors, even if just a little bit. With tours for instance, perhaps add a fresh angle to the copy that gives prospective customers another perspective that perhaps they haven’t thought of or they don’t get from competitors. If you’re selling, say, a group climb of Sydney Harbour Bridge, an example might be to add a ‘tour takeaways’ to get travelers excited to take that Instagram-worthy photo or go home with bragging rights to share with friends and family.” – Sarah Iredale is a UK-based copywriter with 30-plus years' experience working for agencies and major corporations such as Lloyds Bank, Viator, TripAdvisor, HSBC, Novartis, and The Body Shop. 

“Travelers are increasingly seeking out more personal, experiential, and transformative tours. So if yours is exceptional—it goes to under-visited spots in a top destination, for example, or is led by someone with deep knowledge and local connections—highlight that. Also, be sure to note a smaller than typical group size, which is typically appealing.” – KG

“If you’ve carefully planned out every detail of the tour, don’t forget to explain the reasons behind your choices. Leaving early to avoid midday heat? That’s a great piece of info to include.” – JRS 

“A good product description needs to include details that help travelers imagine what the experience is like, not just what they’ll do (you can save that for your itinerary!). To figure out what details really pop, remember to lean on your local know-how, and try to see through a traveler’s eyes. For instance, does the afternoon tour allow travelers to hear the chiming of the local church bells? Does the evening tour include a colorful sunset vista? Are the streets or sites less crowded during the morning tour?” – PN

Be practical: Logistics and mobility are important to travelers

“Make a potential customer’s journey as smooth and easy for them as possible: use copy to hand-hold them right up to booking (and beyond). Spoon-feed essentials so they can quickly determine whether the product’s right for them and instantly absorb how easy it is for them to dive in. With a tour, for instance, perhaps use icons/infographics to communicate basics such as tour duration, start time, days of week and seasons of operation; and other useful info such as language and group numbers. Other useful tools might include stylised maps or Google Map links that show start locations or locales covered.” – SI

“Tour descriptions often neglect to mention how the guest will be moving around (is it by vehicle or by foot?) and where they'll end up (back at the starting point or do they need to find a way home from an unfamiliar location?) Neglecting to include such essential information may have your potential guests scrolling past your product to find clearer information elsewhere.” – KG

“Be precise when it comes to active tours. For many travelers, especially those with limited mobility, it’s key to know how far they’ll be walking, what kind of surfaces they’ll encounter, whether there are stairs, and if it’s possible to sit out portions of the experience.” – JRS

Be universal: Think about how your content translates into other languages and cultures

“Write short and purposeful sentences. Avoid complicated grammar. And use free internet tools to fill in the gaps. Two essential tools are Google Translate and Ludwig.” – PN

“Avoid making assumptions about what travelers know. Instead of calling a site “famous,” focus on details of the sights, sounds, and aromas visitors will encounter there.”  – JRS

“Don't be afraid to show a little local color, as long as it's so recognizable as to be widely understood. Throw in a few colloquialisms, a little slang, or some dialect typical of your destination to give your guest a taste of the culture. Travelers get excited when they feel they already have a little insider knowledge.” – KG

Showcase your insider knowledge: Travelers love a local’s insight

“Travelers can spot generic recommendations from a mile away, so I avoid advising them to bring sunscreen or dress in layers unless it’s not obvious that they should. Instead, I speak to travelers as travelers. When writing descriptions for walking tours in Rome, for example, I sometimes suggest bringing a reusable water bottle to fill up at the city’s beautiful neighborhood water fountains. It’s a personal, in-the-know touch that can make a product stand out, and inspire travelers to book.” – GM

Tips for writing or revising your own product descriptions in 30 minutes or less 

“Plan a template that provides a viable framework and maximum word or line count for each product description that you or your staff can use to be consistent. If the template is well thought, it will speed up your description turnaround.” – SI

“Start with what’s valuable about your product, and work backwards. You can apply this to your description by remembering a time-tested journalistic idiom: “Don’t bury the lede.” – PN

These are just a few ways to ensure your product descriptions provide essential information, and help you stand out amongst your competition in your market and on the OTA sites. If you want to learn more, or talk about ways TourismSolved can help you strengthen your tours and attractions content, please reach out to us: GrowDirect@tourismsolved.com.