Engaging

The Five Best Tourism Websites to Inspire Your Visual Storytelling

The Best Tourism Websites to Inspire Your Visual Storytelling

Motivating Travelers with Imagery

Sometime around the early 2000’s, I saw a photo of Hallstatt, a village in the lake district outside of Salzburg in Austria, printed in a copy of National Geographic Traveler. I had a visceral reaction – I wanted to know what it felt like to stand on the streets of that little town where mountains plunged into the lake. Years later, I booked a backpacking trip, and Hallstatt was at the top of my list. I took my own photos of the picturesque town and posted them on social media, and since then, I’ve recommended Hallstatt to my friends traveling abroad. One photo inspired me, and my photos inspired my friends.

This story is not unique. In a time when we are surrounded by visual content, people scroll through Instagram feeds to get inspiration for their upcoming vacations. Photos and videos have a unique ability to pull at your heartstrings and make you want to book a trip. Travel brands that tap into our craving for visual content will reap the benefits.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the best tourism websites in the world so you can use them to inspire your brand’s visual storytelling and engage your audience.

The Five Best Tourism Websites to Inspire Your Visual Storytelling

1. NYC & Company
A look at NYCgo.com, New York City's redesigned website that combines relevant content and vibrant visuals.

A look at NYCgo.com, New York City’s redesigned website that combines relevant content and vibrant visuals.

New York City’s NYCgo website was rebranded in tandem with the launch of the Mayor’s Office’s new Digital Playbook, which emphasizes communicating simply and includes a citywide visual media library on Libris.

The new website for visitors aims to convey the energy of the city through visuals and clean design:

We’re excited to share with you the new NYCgo.com, reimagined to reflect the energy of New York City. The site marries beautiful design and timely content with bright imagery and video to capture NYC like never before, showcasing the endless possibilities the five boroughs hold for all visitors.

The homepage is broken up the way you might traditionally browse a DMO’s website, with sections like “Hotels,” “Museums & Galleries” and “Restaurants.” But rather than reading long lists, you’re scrolling through gorgeous photos that are the stuff of our Instagram dreams.

Recognizing the popularity of visual content and rebuilding your website to fit audience preferences will help your destination stand out online.

2. Visit Seattle
A look at Visit Seattle's homepage.

A look at Visit Seattle’s homepage.

While Visit Seattle’s homepage is simple and visually engaging, the real win here is VisitSeattle.tv. With its own video studio, the organization is clearly prioritizing video content. But the content itself shows that the team has a clear understanding that video is the next best thing to actually experience the destination. When you hover over a thumbnail, a word tells you what sense the video taps into.

VisitSeattle.tv taps into visitors' senses.

VisitSeattle.tv taps into visitors’ senses.

Then, when you watch a video, a real traveler visiting Seattle for the first time walks you through their own senses while incredible footage brings the story to life. Check out this story about the feeling of Seattle from the perspective of a New York web developer:


79% of senior marketers say video’s importance will increase in the future. This forward-thinking video content puts Visit Seattle ahead of the curve.

3. Visit Finland
A look at Visit Finland's website.

A look at Visit Finland’s website.

Visit Finland uses full page photos and a responsive design to make you feel immersed in its website’s stunning imagery. The homepage seamlessly integrates high quality photography, video thumbnails and social posts.

But where the brand is really tapping into the power of visual storytelling is with its Tour De Relax, a spoof on shows like Amazing Race where the challenge is not to race but to relax. The Tour De Relax is comprised of 9 teams made up of photographers, bloggers, content creators and more. You can see their content by following them individually on social media or by scrolling through a mix of all the team’s photos on Visit Finland’s website.

A glimpse at Visit Finland's Tour De Relax.

A glimpse at Visit Finland’s Tour De Relax.

Travel brands are buzzing about working with influencers with thousands of followers on Instagram, and this experiment is one to watch.

4. Zurich Tourism
A look at Visit Zurich's interactive homepage.

A look at Visit Zurich’s interactive homepage.

If you’re visiting a tourism board’s website, chances are your end goal is to explore the city. When you land on Visit Zurich’s homepage, your call to action is just that – to explore. An aerial image of the city fills the page above the fold. Bright colored pins on the photo invite you to explore specific spots, from Old Town to Lake Zurich. When you click, a photo pops up to highlight what that spot has to offer.

Using a visually engaging call to action allows you to direct where visitors go next, and encourages them to go further than the home page.

5. Visit Norway
Visit Norway's homepage highlights its quirky campaign, #SheepWithAView.

Visit Norway’s homepage highlights its quirky campaign, #SheepWithAView.

Is that a sheep on the beach? A sheep on a sail boat? Yes, it is. Not a bad way to catch people’s attention and make them want to know more. Right now, Visit Norway is putting the #SheepWithAView campaign in the spotlight. The playful trailer fills the space above the fold on the homepage and draws you in with humor and incredible visuals. When you click to learn more, you are introduced to four sheep who live in different regions of Norway. You learn that millions of sheep like them are released to roam the country every year – and you’re invited to come along:

But, it’s not just sheep that enjoy this freedom to roam. In Norway the right of access has been traditional since ancient times, but in 1957 legislation governing the right to roam (“allemannsretten”) was set out to ensure that everybody in Norway can experience nature on equal terms.

The site integrates campaign content, including an interactive map, stories about the sheep and a behind the scenes video, with evergreen content, like features on the places you’ve seen the sheep enjoying on their travels. It also points you to the campaign on social media, focusing heavily on Instagram and Pinterest. The feeds are full of gorgeous high quality photos of landscapes, and, you guessed it, sheep. What do people love to see on Instagram even more than unbelievable landscapes? Cute animals in front of unbelievable landscapes! According to Campaign, the Instagram account @SheepWithAView picked up 9,000 followers in ten days. That’s 9,000 people who will start seeing content from Norway on a regular basis, giving Visit Norway the opportunity to entice followers to book a trip.

When I say "I'm so hungry I could eat a house", I mean it 😂 -Lars, #SheepWithAView 🐏🇳🇴

A photo posted by 🇳🇴Frida|Erik|Kari|Lars🇳🇴 (@sheepwithaview) on

Your website is crucial to how potential travelers see your brand, so it may seem scary to take a creative risk. This campaign shows a risk can be well worth taking, especially when it is on brand, visually engaging and clever.

Report: Visual Communication Trends and Challenges in Adventure Travel 2016

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