The dream stage of travel is heavily influenced by top of mind awareness mixed with a dash of ‘ I want to go where they went’ and the best way to evoke their dream state is through strategically selected, emotive imagery and storytelling.

Melanie Boender

Owner - Smart Octopus Digital

Specialises in digital strategies and implementation for the hospitality industry.

+27 21 705 9660



Using your online presence as a Digital Dreamcatcher.

At some point, every journey began with a simple thought, a wish to go somewhere different, experience something unique, or even at times, something comforting. That idea was planted by seeing or hearing or reading or even smelling something which awakens your senses.

So how do we get travellers to start dreaming about your product?

Digital Presence – We spoke with Melanie Boender of Smart Octopus – an online agency with a strong focus on the hospitality industry.


  1. Before we start, tell us exactly what Smart Octopus is all about and what sets your online agency apart.

We have worked with the travel and lifestyle industry for over fifteen years and found our niche in the Boutique travel market where we are able to become part of the team. We have worked with small boutique wineries, Local Tourism Boards, remote Island Lodges as well as many peripheral service providers. Smart Octopus offers clients a comprehensive list of services that allow them to stand out in the online space.


2. Having an online presence is a no-brainer in this day and age – but what can products do in order to reach the traveller who is still in the dream stage of planning?

There really are an endless amount of opportunities to reach the ‘dreamer’ and each of the other stages of the travel cycle. A well thought out strategy can ensure that you give yourself the best opportunity to reach a potential traveller at each critical touch point.

The dream stage of travel is heavily influenced by top of mind awareness mixed with a dash of ‘ I want to go where they went’ and the best way to evoke their dream state is through strategically selected, emotive imagery and storytelling.

The images that you place online need to TELL your story, SELL your offering and evoke an emotional response from a potential traveller. Do your food pics make your audience feel the need to book for dinner? Are you capturing the excitement of your activities on offer through your video feeds? Are your wildlife sighting being shared to excite potential guests? Consider each image and the response it solicits and think to yourself – is this going to convert my Dreamer into a Visitor?

But your images and videos are not the only content being shared online about your product. Your guest holds a wealth of content from each of their visits, and well-planned reminders for them to share their content online will go a long way in reaching new potential travellers.

Peer reviews are a powerful source of leads and a gentle email reminder to your guest to share their favourite holiday moments online (during or after their stay), could just be emotive nudge one of their friends needs to click Book Now.

The bigger your net, the more fish you have the chance to catch. Well, that is the same theory online. You cannot rely solely on your own website and social channels to grab the attention of your dreamer. The more places you can be found, the more familiar your brand becomes and the likely hood of being included when the dreamer reaches the planning stages of travel.

Consider signing up on OTA websites, joining your Local Tourism Bureau, contributing content to other community and destination sites, as well as ensuring your content on your own website is fresh and dynamic- putting your best foot forward.

Build your database wherever you go! Quality up-to-date email addresses of potential travellers ( and we all know ANYONE is a potential traveller) are the gold of lead generation. Use every opportunity to gather quality email addresses of prospects that have already engaged with your product. Half your battle is won – no need for awkward introductions… they know you!

Now all that’s left is to gently remind them of why they would want to visit your establishment. Remember >> solicit an emotion. Appeal to their needs, whether it be for relaxation, sight-seeing, or business travel.


  1. What role does the product’s website play in converting bookings and what are the ‘must have’ features to help increase this conversion rate?

The product’s website is the point of conversion ( whether it be a booking conversion or a sign up for your newsletter) where all paths meet, so to speak. We have briefly covered the various ways we can grab the attention of the dreamer and get them to take notice- but we also have to have somewhere to send them once they require more information or when they’re ready to book.

And don’t get me wrong- your ‘courting days’ are not over just yet- your website is still a great selling tool and needs to not only be the point of conversion but also reiterate the messages dreamers have already seen online and guide them in turning the fantasy of a getaway, into a reality.

It doesn’t help to have a lot of traffic on your website without any of them reaching the end goal of converting into a guest or potential guest.

Your website needs to be more than an ‘online brochure’.

Points to consider:

  • First Impressions Count. Does your website match your other online branding and communications?
  • Is your website responsive in design for viewing across multiple devices?
  • Images are everything- are you making use of large imagery and your best photos. Sometimes it is worth investing in a professional collection of photographs to best showcase your offering. Remember to include a mix of staged images with real-life guest experiences. Make your site relatable to future travellers.
  • Is your site easy to navigate- can your visitor find what they are looking for within 3 clicks?
  • Are your ‘Call to Actions’ clear and repeated across the site for maximum effect.
  • Do you have an online booking facility for visitors who are so excited to book, they cannot wait until your reservations office is open. ( By which time you stand a chance of losing that booking)
  • Does your website speak to the correct target audiences? Are you promoting yourself online as child-friendly, yet your website makes no mention of your unique family offerings?
  • Don’t forget to sell your experiences and not just the accommodation and facilities- get your visitors excited about what their potential stay could include.
  • Do you offer great deals and promotions on your site to encourage your visitors to explore further and perhaps enquire? Start the conversation.


  1. How has the access to information and peer recommendations changed the way in which travellers make choices?

Access to information means that not only do your potential guest have more choices available to them, but they are also able to compare deals and promotions and ensure they get the best deal. This can be tricky water to navigate, but it does help to ensure that you are aware what offerings are out there and what your competitors are promoting.

Social Media has also expanded the term ‘Word Of Mouth’ and now, where once before we looked at someones holiday photos over a cup of tea, we are seeing experience virtually as they happen. In this case – for marketers – FOMO can work to your advantage.

Remember – Encourage (and make it easy) for your guests to share each moment of their stay with their friends, family and followers.


  1. Truth be told… if you had to sit back and dream of your next escape, where would it be?


My son is turning 13 this year and as his gift, we have offered him the opportunity to pick a destination to visit. So my next escape is as much a mystery to me… but it will be fascinating to see the ‘dream’ perspective from a 12-year-old’s view….



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