How to steal travel marketing ideas.

March 22, 2024

Contrary to the legendary commandment “thou shalt not steal,” it’s actually OK to steal travel marketing ideas.  More than that… it’s necessary.  And if you use the proper etiquette (four tips are shared below), no one will mind.

Why is it necessary to steal travel marketing ideas?  Because of this one-two punch:

  1. In tourism, we’re all selling the same sorts of things: summer vacations, oceanfront accommodations, culinary experiences, romantic getaways, learning opportunities, and so on.  A tourism brand needs a constant influx of new ideas to set itself apart from its competitors.
  2. And yet…COMPLETELY new ideas are rare. Sure, someday the first tour to Mars will be new (until it’s not).  But 99.9% of the time, what you think is a “new idea” is just a variation on what already exists elsewhere.  Like…oh you offer swimming with the pigs on your beach?  Well, (here) you can swim with stingrays, and (here) you can swim with manatees, and (there) you can swim with dolphins.  They are all variations on “swimming with the (creature).”

A painted image of the French writer and philosopher Voltaire alongside his famous quote "originality is nothing but judicious imitation."

It is literally impossible for a marketer to continually churn out completely new ideas.  Frankly, a marketer would be lucky to put forth even ONE completely new idea in their lifetime.

Enter… stealing.

If the word “stealing” makes you feel icky, think of it as seeking inspiration.  You’re simply taking an existing idea and adapting it to fit your own brand.

But let’s be clear here. I don’t mean innocent coincidences.  I’m talking about doing this DELIBERATELY.  Regularly.  As part of your idea development strategy.

So even if you’re not ok with the word “stealing,” you might have to get comfy with “aggressively seeking inspiration.”  Because this is a proactive effort that’s 100% necessary if you want to keep your tourism marketing – and offerings – fresh.

However, there’s a proper way to steal travel marketing ideas.  You can’t just mimic EXACTLY what a competitor offers – same name, elements, pricing, timing, etc. – because that truly would be “stealing” and is just not cool.

These four tips will keep your stealing respectful:


Take a competitor’s existing idea and make it exclusively yours.  Examples:

Their hotel is offering a family package that includes extra pillows and linens in the room each night to build pillow forts, with a social media contest for the best fort.

YOU think about the idea of kids creating forts and look at the huge courtyard space that your rooms overlook… and see a space for a bunch of small tents.  And the idea of “Hotel Camping for Families Weekend” is born.  Hire an overnight security guard to keep watch on the tents.  Kids get the tents.  Parents get the room.  You can offer walkie talkies to families whose kids don’t have phones but want to keep in touch (or who just love the novelty of walkies).  Build a campfire.  Make s’mores.  Play games.  <charge a fortune, they’ll pay>

Or… their restaurant has a “Wine Down Wednesdays” special with a half-priced second bottle…so you – with your legendary and creative cocktail menu – offer “Tipple Tuesdays” with a half-priced second cocktail.  First it was “theirs.”  You made it “yours.”

#2 – FIND IT

Research brands just like yours but located in areas well outside of your geographic radius.

This actually *might* be the only scenario where it’s possible for you to completely mimic an idea.  Like, does a small Maine inn really compete for business with a small Tasmanian inn?  Not likely.  Neither of you are trying to make international headlines with your offerings, so the exact same thing can coexist without conflict in two disparate locations.

Get in the habit of studying what brands like yours are offering in other areas.  This works for lodging, attractions, restaurants, tour companies, destinations, associations, and more.  It helps if you find a place that’s similar to yours – forest, desert, mountain, ocean, etc. – but it’s not necessary.  A tour operator in a desert location may have a clever romance tour that could translate equally as well to a mountain location.  Inspiration can come from anywhere.


Use the magic question, “what could we do with this?”

Like a second cousin to “Tailor It,” this entails taking something someone else is doing to the next level.  This evolution could be simple, like their restaurant offers a Pasta Lovers Night… and your restaurant evolves that into “Free Pasta Week,” where diners get a complimentary pasta appetizer with a purchase of (whatever).

Or, the evolution could be elaborate and daring.  Like the time we suggested that Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Waterparks offer a fine dining “Breakfast in the Sky” gourmet experience on their Ferris wheel.  Plenty of amusement parks were offering breakfast.  We took theirs next level (literally).

Or, plenty of restaurants and catering venues offer an oceanfront dining opportunity.  But in Nova Scotia, there’s a caterer that offers dining on the ocean floor.  That level of evolution would be hard to beat… <checks notes, finds Dinner in the Sky>…or maybe not.


A competitor is doing something for THIS.  You do it for THAT.

They have their chef give a weekly presentation to guests with cooking tips… you have your gardener give one on flower arranging.

They have a resident dog at their hotel, you have a resident dog on your cruise ship.

This is super helpful in the tourism industry because trends – especially media trends – tend to catch on like wildfire.  When everyone and their grandma in the tourism industry were first crowning specialty “concierges” in their organization – Romance Concierges were a dime a dozen – we created the Sleep Concierge at the Benjamin Hotel in NYC.  Concierges weren’t new, but this was a new type of concierge… and one that touched a pain point lamented by humans everywhere: how to get a good night’s sleep when you’re on the road.

Westin had previously debuted their Heavenly Bed, but the Sleep Concierge – and corresponding Sleep Program – at the Benjamin eclipsed that by a mile in editorial coverage (here’s one of the many New York Times stories about it over the years).  That’s because it was an idea that was Tailored, Evolved, AND Shifted.  A trifecta of idea stealing, if you will.

The point is, if you’re going to steal travel marketing ideas, don’t be a jerk about it with a blatant rip off.  Be creative, use these four tips, and make the ideas your own.

Need more inspiration?

How to Develop Creative Tourism Marketing & PR Ideas

How to Create PR-Worthy Tourism Packages

One Small Question Can Lead to Big Ideas