Attracting Tourists to Your Local Business with Facebook and Instagram

It’s after Labor Day, which means one thing for Palm Springs: tourism is about to pick up. If your local business operates in a town similar to this one, where tourists account for a large percentage of commerce, then this blog post is for you. I’m going to outline key strategies for attracting tourists to your establishment via Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook).

Facebook’s superpower is the ability to apply precise audience targeting filters so you can tailor your message to each type of customer.

There are two overlapping tourist segments that we care about for marketing purposes: current visitors and frequent visitors. Each segment is valuable for different purposes. Current visitors may attend your upcoming event, visit your store, or dine at your restaurant that evening. Frequent visitors may book a stay at your hotel, or plan travel around your next big event. (Generally, it’s not profitable to market smaller events to people outside of your immediate location. Very small businesses, with the exception of hotels and travel services, should focus only on current visitors.)

Current Visitors

Reaching current visitors is easy: when creating a Facebook ad, select Location: people traveling in this location.

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This data is based on device location, so it is highly accurate. With this targeting, you will reach a mix of one-off visitors and frequent visitors. Therefore, what matters most is getting them in the door on this current trip. Use the Reach objective to get your message in front of as many people as possible, or the Engagement objective if you are promoting a Facebook Event.

With such a small window of opportunity, timing is very important. You will get better results by reaching people at the beginning of their stay rather than at the end. Therefore, I advise running ads targeting current visitors from Wednesday-Saturday.

You’ll achieve the highest engagement rate if you tailor the message to be personalized and relevant. For example, starting your message with something like “Welcome to <Location>!” or “A must-see in <Location>” is likely to get someone to pay attention if they are seeking recommendations.

Frequent Visitors

Reaching frequent visitors is a bit more imprecise, and there are a couple of ways to do it:

  • Option A

    • Location: people who live in <nearby-but-not-immediate metropolitan area(s)>

    • Interested in: <your city name> (not available for all locations) or <something related to your city>

    • Behaviors: frequent traveler

    • (Additional business-specific filters)

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You will reach people who have shown interest in your city and are frequent travelers, but may not frequently travel to your particular city.

  • Option B

    • Location: people recently in <your city name>

    • Behaviors: frequent traveler

    • (Additional business-specific filters)

You will reach people who were recently in your city, but they may not all be local enough to return soon.

I recommend using both targeting options. By creating two competing Ad Sets under the same campaign with Campaign Budget Optimization, the auction will decide which Ad Set achieves the best results and allocate the bulk of the budget to the better-performing Ad Set.

You should only target Frequent Visitors if your brand, product, or service is something that people might plan a trip for (e.g. if you’re a hotel, or putting on a big event or festival). Hotels and event organizers should also use Custom Audiences/remarketing based on search traffic, but that’s a topic for a future post.



Michael Wright is a social media marketing/advertising consultant and former Facebook and Instagram employee. If you would like help with creating and executing a social media marketing plan specific to your business, Mike can be reached at this link.

Michael Wright