QR Codes for Travel: Benefits, Use Cases, and How to Get Started

Due to their contactless and convenient nature, QR Codes have become widespread. From business cards to restaurant menus, they are now a standard way of sharing information and making connections with others without physical contact. 

They have become an especially important tool in the tourism industry

But what’s the best way to use QR Codes in tourism? The short answer is that there’s no wrong way to use them. QR Codes offer a major convenience boost for vendors and travelers alike—and when you’re traveling, you want all the convenience you can get.

This article is the crash course you need to understand the benefits of QR Codes in the travel industry and how to use QR Codes for business.

*Note: All examples discussed below were found during our online research for this article.

How QR Codes improve travel

QR Codes (short for Quick Response Codes) are an evolution of the traditional 1D Barcode that’s easier to scan and can contain more information. That means their functionality is versatile: You can use them to share all sorts of information, from boarding passes to marketing materials. Plus, almost anyone can scan them using the built-in scanner on their smartphone camera.

In an industry where less is more, as travelers do their best to minimize hassle (and what they carry), QR Code technology streamlines the travel experience and provides in-the-moment opportunities to engage.

Minimize friction throughout the trip

QR Codes significantly reduce the amount of paper tourists must carry when traveling. When travelers can securely store plane boarding passes, event tickets, and hotel reservations as QR Codes on their phones, the check-in process is as simple as pulling out your device and displaying it. QR Codes for flights have completely changed the boarding experience.

Being able to seamlessly store everything on their personal device makes it less likely passengers will need to frantically search in their bags while clerks wait to scan their boarding pass—or even worse, lose the ticket, requiring the clerk to look them up in their database.

Make it easy to discover attractions in nearby areas

The travel industry has a long tradition of showing hospitality by offering tourists guides and information about the local area. Whether at a hotel or in the lobby of a welcome center, you’re likely to find brochures or binders full of knowledge. 

QR Codes make it even easier to share this information with tourists. You can create a webpage with the relevant information and display a QR Code to the site for tourists to scan. You save on printing costs, and you can easily update the site so that tourists never receive outdated guidance. Plus, the site makes the information easy to bookmark and take with you—without having to keep up with another piece of paper.

Protect travelers’ privacy

When using QR Codes for important information in a vulnerable situation like travel, it’s natural to wonder: Are QR Codes safe

As long as you know they’re from a reputable source, QR Codes are a safe, secure way of sharing information. Unlike papers, they reduce the possibility of theft, losing copies, or bystanders looking over your shoulder.

You can even use QR Codes to securely and quickly share health information, such as vaccine status. China, for example, used QR Codes in healthcare during the Coronavirus pandemic. Users filled out a questionnaire and then received a QR Code that could share their health risk with officials.

The most common types of QR Codes (+ how to create and use them)

The use of QR Codes is limitless: You can use them to store all types of information. We will review some of the different types of hospitality industry QR Codes.

PDF QR Codes highlight unique experiences

A PDF QR Code allows you to share a PDF file with a customer via QR Code scan. This is great for sharing catalogs of tours and experiences. Printing catalogs can be costly, and you need to update them constantly. But if you share a PDF via QR Code instead, you can update the file in real time and always share the most up-to-date information with customers.

PDF QR Codes can also help you share policies and waivers, merchandise catalogs, or menus.

W hotel in Philadelphia is using QR Codes in every aspect of the consumer experience, most notably in the hotel rooms. QR Codes greet customers as they enter their room, allowing the customer to scan and access room service menus.

To best implement QR Codes like this, be sure to design a PDF that is easily readable on mobile devices. The PDFs designed to print may have smaller fonts that are too tiny to read on a smartphone.

Rating QR Codes make it easy to gather feedback

It’s challenging to get feedback from customers when they’re already on their next adventure. Emails (and even follow-up emails) are easy to ignore.

Instead, you can get feedback from customers in the moment. Rating QR Codes can lead directly to feedback forms, allowing customers to answer questions with zero effort. Set up QR Codes at the tourist attraction or even ask tourists directly to scan QR Codes and answer questions. You can also use this type of QR Code to gather other information about tourists—for example, demographic information or how much time the tourists stayed at the site.

Tourism departments in India have launched QR Code systems across tourist and historical sites to get feedback from tourists passing through. Not only is this a way to assess satisfaction with an experience, but they can evaluate safety and address concerns that may arise.

To ensure that customers use the QR Codes, place them in hard-to-miss locations and label them clearly so that customers understand what they’re scanning. Using calls to action like “We Want Your Thoughts” can compel action while clarifying the QR Code’s purpose. While exits are a great place to put rating QR Codes, you can also prompt tourists to offer their thoughts throughout the experience—such as next to a popular painting at a galley.

Video QR Codes simplify decision-making

Video is becoming a powerful tool for giving customers a taste of a location, or what it would be like to book an experience with you. Unfortunately, travel brochures and catalogs traditionally can’t offer video—but Video QR Codes can add a multimedia element to a 2D experience.

When someone scans a Video QR Code, it opens a link directly to a video. For example, a Travel Florida brochure could link to a video with aerial shots of Florida beaches and families playing in the sand. Or, a brochure for a guided boat tour can have a video testimonial of what the experience was like for a tourist.

You can also use Video QR Codes to share videos with useful travel tips or information on how to book a trip. Some people find visual, video how-to information more useful than text-based instructions, and including video options will help you reach more customers.

To make the most of Video QR Codes, ensure the video is hosted on a responsive webpage with a player that works well on multiple device types—such as YouTube. You should also consider video length. Studies show that 66% of people are more likely to watch videos in full if they’re under a minute long.

Coupon QR Codes promote early bird offers

You can link QR Codes to special landing pages tied to a specific promotion—making it a Coupon QR Code! This type of QR Code is great for promoting early bird offers because the QR Code prompts the customer to take action immediately.

For example, a cruise line could mail postcards to past customers, letting them know they’ll receive a special discount on their trip if they book before a given date. Adding a Coupon QR Code to the postcard would allow customers to act quickly on the promotion and purchase tickets.

You could also use a coupon QR Code in an in-flight magazine ad. If a car rental company offers a discount when customers scan the QR Code, they could capture a customer before they ever land.

Because Coupon QR Codes ask for in-the-moment action, the key to using them successfully is to target a customer’s pain point at the moment and use the discount to tempt them into choosing your product or service.

Social Media QR Codes boost followers and drive engagement

When you’d rather make a soft ask than a hard sell, asking customers to follow your company online can be a great way to connect and continue to market to them. A Social Media QR Code can help you do so by making it easy to find all of your company’s social profiles online. Instead of searching for you on their favorite social media sites, they just have to scan the QR Code and hit follow.

5 travel destinations using QR Codes successfully

The best tourism professionals are already using QR Codes to engage customers. Get inspiration from these five travel destinations and the unique ways they use QR Codes in different countries to engage customers, allow tourists to access information, and more.

1. QR Codes bring adventure to Cheltenham, UK

The city of Cheltenham brought a new layer of family-friendly fun to tourist sites using QR Codes. Installed along the Hidden Cheltenham Trail, a unique app will activate AR experiences at 12 permanent points along the historic trail and link families to fun facts and interactive experiences. 

QR Codes posted in the windows of local businesses will promote the trail. It’s basically a QR Code scavenger hunt. The app will also feature these local businesses. This combination of history and technology—including engaging children with history—is a hit.

2. Ruse, Bulgaria uses QR Codes to celebrate its history

Ruse realized that it was challenging for tourists to find information about the city’s architectural heritage and decided to use QR Codes to bridge the gap. 

Over the course of a year, it displayed QR Codes on 30 selected buildings in the city. Each QR Code leads to information about the building, including when it was constructed and who its first owners were.

3. Seychelles saves two trees a week using QR Codes

Seychelles in East Africa decided to move to paperless billing. The initiative saves two trees per week. While many customers will use SMS and email to receive their bill, some customers don’t have an online presence. Seychelles found a solution in QR Codes.

Instead of receiving a paper bill in the mail, customers can sign up to receive a card with a unique QR Code. By scanning the code at cable kiosks, customers can view their bill details and pay at a kiosk.

4. Prague keeps the city safe with lamppost QR Codes

The lampposts in Prague have a pretty unique feature most people don’t know about—each one is numbered. People can use the numbers to tell city services the

exact location of any incident that takes place. Now, the city has added QR Codes to the lampposts to update the concept and help tourists and locals contact services in case of emergencies.

5. Rio De Janeiro updates its iconic mosaic pavements with QR Codes

Rio De Janeiro has iconic black-and-white mosaic sidewalks located around the city. It took advantage of the similar pattern of QR Codes to embed them directly into the mosaics in 30 locations around the city. This genius idea combines modern tech with the old character of the city to better educate tourists.

The QR Codes link to historical information about those 30 sites. Tourists simply have to scan to learn more about the place they’re visiting.

Make QR Code Generator PRO a travel marketing essential

In travel, QR Codes offer businesses a unique opportunity to think outside the box to provide customers with novel experiences and greater convenience. QR Codes make information more accessible to customers, whether mid-travel or sightseeing, leading to streamlined, hassle-free trips.

To implement QR Codes into your travel marketing, a great QR Code generator is essential. QR Code Generator PRO can create dozens of types of QR Codes to promote travel, from Coupon QR Codes to Rating QR Codes and beyond. Customize your codes with colors, branding, and calls to action to an even more unique look that grabs travelers’ attention and encourages them to interact.  

Get started with QR Code Generator PRO now to see how our codes can elevate your travel marketing.

Trupti Desai

Trupti Desai is Bitly’s Senior Director of Growth Marketing. She has over 10 years of experience working in B2B and B2C marketing roles spanning the UK and the US. A key part of the marketing strategy at Bitly, Trupti elevates global teams with her expertise and insights and was notably a speaker at the Digital Marketing World Forum. You can connect with Trupti on LinkedIn.

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