How we created the Sunshine Coast’s fastest growing tourism website

Tourism marketing has been part of the Smartfish DNA for over a decade.

We have worked on numerous tourism-based websites, including countless holiday accommodation and tour websites for the Sunshine Coast, Whitsundays and throughout other parts of Australia, as well as developing a number of our own ‘hobby’ tourism directories for both the local and global marketplace.

One of these projects has been the Visit Mooloolaba tourism website.

The website was created as a weekend hobby project, which literally was created in a weekend by the Smartfish team leader, Chris Bourke, after his application to join the leading Sunshine Coast tourism website and local Mooloolaba websites was rejected due to ‘conflict of interest’ by both parties.

Rather than feeling the valuable tourism industry online marketing experience Smartfish could offer should be wasted, we decided to take onboard the old expression ‘if you can’t join them, beat them’, and create our own tourism marketing website (or two), and use our experience to showcase the Sunshine Coast and help drive visitors to this fantastic area.

Since the inception of the Visit Mooloolaba website, we have seen on average a 300{6ec87bd1e1f3c1887cac0a5fe02e293b57e756ae4f7ab2a5ad1b477841e278b1} increase in visitors to the site each month, and a 550{6ec87bd1e1f3c1887cac0a5fe02e293b57e756ae4f7ab2a5ad1b477841e278b1} increase in members to our mailing list, all wanting to know more about Mooloolaba and what the Sunshine Coast can offer, making the website one of the fastest growing tourism websites for the Sunshine Coast, if not in Queensland.

The Visit Mooloolaba website now attracts thousands of visitors each week to the site and has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in accommodation reservations, airline flight bookings and has a steady following on social media.

The website is 100{6ec87bd1e1f3c1887cac0a5fe02e293b57e756ae4f7ab2a5ad1b477841e278b1} self-sufficient, with no government or local funding, with all income generated directly via the sales and commission of products from within the website itself, making it hugely profitable.

Smartfish are now working on a number of other similar tourism related websites for launch in the near future, with plans to develop a much needed professional directory for the Sunshine Coast tourism industry, based on the similar strategies we used in creating the Visit Mooloolaba website.

As you can see from the graphic below on our actual visitor numbers for the past 12 months (blue) vs last year (orange), the site has been highly successful, and we believe this growth will continue as we evolve.

Mooloolaba tourism demographics

So how did we create one of the fastest growing tourism websites on the Sunshine Coast?


Create an online marketing strategy

This was the easy part…..

  • Find a good niche that you have an interest in.
  • Measure if their is a market for it
  • Measure the competition’s strengths and weaknesses

We chose Mooloolaba for a couple of reasons:

I like the place and wanted to promote it.
Mooloolaba literally is the centre of the Sunshine Coast tourism region, making it easily accessible for visitors to any other part of the Sunshine Coast.
No other tourism groups were sufficiently marketing Mooloolaba to the world.

The online marketing plan involved a simple 5 step process:

Find a good domain name. 
We hit it lucky with this one. None of the local Sunshine Coast or Queensland tourism organisations had thought about marketing the key domains for the regions, so was available for the picking, as were numerous other popular tourism spots, so we purchased them for around $12 per year.

Create a strong brand
If you are looking at creating anything serious, you need branding that looks the part.
We started with a logo, then the brand Visual Style Manual, created the matching stationery, Social Media graphics, and then press ad templates. Now we have just finished creating the merchandise design, ready to roll out shortly to give even more brand awareness for Mooloolaba. Tourism branding is currently lost when it comes to the Sunshine Coast region, so our aim was to start changing this and create a bigger brand image for the region, starting with Mooloolaba.

Find out what people actually want when they go on vacation
Sure people, want beaches, nice accommodation and tourism attractions, but people also need to eat, shop, be entertained and be informed of events, and most importantly people need to be educated on the location.
The competition were offering very little on the topics, and lacked ‘local’ information. As someone that has been visiting Mooloolaba almost every week for my entire like, I gathered as much local knowledge as I could to share with potential visitors.
Not only does this offer value, but it ensures the Visit Mooloolaba website is the authority website on all things Mooloolaba tourism-related.

Build it and they will come. Not quite.
That old quote doesn’t apply to the online world, so a full search engine optimisation strategy was developed prior to any commencement of the site took place, ensuring the entire structure of the website was developed to be found quickly and effectively on Google.
We can now post an article on the website and within 15 minutes it can appear on the first page in the organic rankings, purely down to how the site was developed. This keeps the marketing budget lean, and the information reaching the audience fast, as well as ensuring we remain the authority.

Budget for your development and marketing costs

In total the website took one person a full weekend to develop. Population of the content is an ongoing process, for a number of strategic SEO reasons.
Budget? The hard costs (not including the labour), less than $200 in total.
If it were to have a professional developer create something similar to Visit Mooloolaba, not including population of the content, it would be around $12,000 for the full functionality included in the website.
This includes the directory functionality, Banner advertising system, search engine optimisation and website hosting.
Not a lot of money really, when you can generate that back in revenue within the first few months with the right development, SEO and marketing strategies.

Utilise Social Media and engage your audience

Social Media also played a massive part in the success and SEO strategy of the site. We ensured we set up and branded the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts so they effectively synched with the Mooloolaba brand.
We regularly keep visitors informed and promote the region via our social media channels. It may be for great hotel deals or flights, the current weather or photos from the beach. It might even be where to find a parking spot in Mooloolaba! We ensure we are the Mooloolaba tourism authority and people recognise us as that.

Keep the content current

This is one of the biggest parts of any website. Ensure your content is fresh and current, and is added regularly.
Building a website is one thing, but building it and letting it sit idle is like creating a swimming pool and not maintaining it. It will grow stagnant and no one will want to use it!

Market, market, and market more

The Visit Mooloolaba website is only a small part of our bigger strategy. We also regularly market to a targeted audience, based on seasons, events, promotions. We track much of what is going on via an intricate setup on Google Analytics and our social media reports, and other industry related software, to ensure each of our marketing campaigns works to it’s maximum potential. As the website is totally self-funded, the advertising budget is purely based on the site’s revenue, so the more visitors we attract, the larger the budget spend available without having to dig into the bank account! we have created an income that generates passive income to ensure we don’t require any government or local council ‘handouts’, like other regional tourism websites.

A strong marketing strategy created from analysing your target audience ensures you only need a minimal budget to have maximum success.


So if you’re looking for a web design agency that can help you with your online tourism marketing strategy, contact Smartfish Creative.

We assist in online tourism marketing strategies, web development and branding throughout Australia.

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