Author: Lena Eckert

Social media plays a massive role in traveler decision. Learn what makes a successful social media marketing campaign.

Emerging around 15 years ago, social media platforms have dramatically changed communication and marketing, including the way we both plan and share our travel experiences. Instead of sending a postcard, travelers now share pictures and photos on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, and Facebook. Instead of visiting a travel agency or browsing print travel catalogs, travelers now use social media to gather inspiration of stunning destinations. Influencers have grown in popularity as users that have a widespread digital following and capitalize on the opportunity that the platforms offer. They are now able to share their content and opinions to their audience, while often being compensated for their reach. The world of marketing has shifted, leaving a great opportunity for Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) to inspire travelers with inspiring content. 

The potential of social media in tourism is enormous. A survey of American tourists revealed that 36.5% use social media for travel inspiration. The most popular platform is Facebook (80%), followed by Instagram (60%), Pinterest (43%), and Twitter (26%). Even more surprising numbers from Great Britain show that 55% of travelers aged 18-65 book trips only based on photographs they have seen on Instagram. Consequently, using social media marketing for promoting the destination is essential for DMOs to inspire potential visitors and to build up a long-lasting and engaged online community. 

Social media platforms allow us to create and share our own content that attracts attention. They give us the possibility to connect with people and to get inspired by others. Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms are used in tourism for researching a destination, for connecting with staff to ask questions, and for sharing memories and pictures during and after the visit. DMOs need to build their channels and show presence on the different platforms by creating inspiring and engaging content and by providing customer service. However, no professional social media activity should be done without a strategy as the platforms can become quite overwhelming and confusing. A strategy is the foundation of successful social media marketing and next to regular content about the destination that should be posted constantly, specific campaigns can be used to boost social media activity. 

Person holding smart phone taking a photo of a bridge

Building a Social Media Marketing Campaign

A Social Media Marketing Campaign must be coordinated to increase attention and influence the audience for a specific period of time. The following components should be the base of a successful campaign on social media:

  • Strategic plan
  • Goals 
  • Channels 
  • Partners

Without having a plan, your campaign will likely not be successful, as it is important to determine how the campaign should be set up, when you want to post and what you need for doing so. Moreover, it is essential to set up goals that should be reached with the campaign – do you want to increase the bookings, create more brand awareness or build a more loyal visitor community? Decide what you want to achieve and align the campaign accordingly. Using different social media platforms for the campaign is an efficient way to boost visibility and why not ask partners for help to increase the traffic to your page or to offer a price that can be won? 

Great examples for successful social media campaigns in tourism can be found worldwide from New York with the engaging #NYlovesFall campaign that focused on fall foliage and encouraged users to post their own pictures of the changing leaves, to Switzerland Tourism, whose “Holidays without internet” campaign gained international attention as they offered a one-week holiday in a remote area, especially targeted at the high-internet-users and the winners chosen based on their spend time on Facebook. Those campaigns lead the destinations to create a lot of buzz on the platforms, a huge increase in followers and interest in the destinations- being talked about is what counts on social media and the destinations achieved that with their engaging campaigns. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced destinations to rethink their marketing activities with many DMOs choosing to focus on inspiring tourists to visit once the situation is more stable and safe. An example of a social media campaign focused on keeping dreaming about the destination was created by Visit Maldives with stunning pictures and a very important message that was supported by the hashtag #visitmaldiveslater

Examples from a social media campaign in the Maldives

At Solimar, we are aware of the importance of social media marketing in tourism, which is why we dedicated a whole session of our DMO development course to the topic. We also work strategically to develop social media marketing plans and campaigns for destinations worldwide and are happy to have worked with, among others, the country of Namibia to foster its online presence by launching successful and inspiring marketing campaigns that led to a more engaged community and increased interest in the destination from the North American market. 

Social media has become an indispensable part of modern life and DMOs need to use the potential that the platforms offer to build up a loyal community by providing engaging and high-quality content. Specific campaigns are beneficial to boost the community and engagement and reach certain goals over a certain period of time. However, they need to be created strategically and thoughtfully, to not get lost in the vastness of the platforms. Creating engagement and interaction with followers can be challenging in the overload of information existing nowadays. However, it can lead to an increase in loyalty to the destination, thus making a potential visit or revisit more likely. Reaching that is the ultimate goal that DMOs strive for through their presence and content on the buzzing social media platforms. 

A 2015 Dry Tortugas National Park social media campaign

If you need help with planning a travel related social media marketing campaign, contact us to find out more about how Solimar’s marketing team can help!

Source: https://coralglass.media/news/visit-maldives-later-campaign-by-mmprc

How to Improve Your Destination Brand

A brand is more than just a logo

To start things off, first, it is important to understand what is a brand, what is the purpose of destination branding and how is it different from destination marketing. A brand is more than just a logo, a color and a slogan. Your destination brand is a reflection of your culture and its people, history and heritage, traditional and modern ways of living, built and natural environments wrapped by the totality of perceptions, feelings and thoughts that your guests have about your destination. It is the foundation of your marketing strategy and the most important marketing tool. Learn what is takes to improve your destination brand.

Destination Branding, commonly referred to as place branding, is thus the process of identifying, crafting and nurturing the unique identity of a destination, building a story around the key elements, values and the destination proposition, orchestrating consistent messaging that highlights just that and, ultimately, forming a reputation in the eyes of its visitors. In other words, destination branding is all about who you are. It is the focal part of destination marketing that, in turn, defines how you communicate and deliver your messaging to the right audiences. 

Tourism Northern Ireland – Winner of The 2020 Travel Marketing Awards, Category Destination Brand of the Decade, image courtesy of Monotype.

 

‘Northern Ireland – Embrace a Giant Spirit’ brand focusing on experiences, heritage and belonging, courtesy of Monotype and Genesis

Brand Purpose for Visit Estonia, courtesy of Lantern.  Estonia’s Repositioning and rebranding strategy focuses on telling a story about a lost paradise and an experience-first destinations that allow travellers to make the most of their time. 

Before the global pandemic pulled the carpet under our feet, tourism was one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors, according to UNWTO. While the global economy and the tourism sector recovers, eager travellers are anxiously waiting for their turn to travel again. Though it may still be unclear what exactly will the tourism arena look like after recovery and when that may take place, industry experts say the tourism sector will be the last to recover

Not only are thousands of destinations worldwide planning and preparing for reopening, new destinations are created every year joining the competition for the valuable tourist dollars. In such a saturated marketplace, carefully crafting a brand story that will resonate with the key audiences is what will allow your destination to stand out. Differentiation is the ultimate objective of branding. Regardless of geographical location or size, effective destination branding that stands the test of time while remaining competitive, dynamic, innovative and agile to ever evolving industry trends and consumer behaviours, is what holds the key to successful destination marketing and tourism growth.  

How to brand your destination successfully

Instead of replicating the success of one’s competitors or trying to create something entirely new, building your destination brand should focus on the uniqueness of the place and its surroundings. Consequently, the first step to building a destination brand, according to the World Tourism Organization and European Travel Commission, should be an audit of the destination, the emotions and the perceptions associated with it. Followed by that, it is important to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the destination as well as identify your target market. Understanding your target audience will allow for you to effectively wrap and deliver your destination’s unique selling point. A thorough competitor analysis should be carried out to identify a possible market gap and successfully position and improve your destination brand.

It is important to mention that stakeholder involvement is an integral part of destination brand development and branding process. A brand’s success is directly linked to the acceptance and support from local residents, local businesses and the government. You should consider all these entities as brand ambassadors that will directly impact the perception of your destination in the visitor’s eyes. After completing an inclusive and comprehensive destination audit, you’re off to a great start to build your destination brand. 

Practical tools for destination branding

Practical tools, such as the brand pyramid, can help in defining the destination and brand personality by considering all core components of your destination. The foundation of your brand lies in the rational attributes, the characteristics of a destination and its tourism offer, i.e. the activities, the landscape or the weather. Next, consider the emotional benefits and think about how the visitors feel about the destination and what feelings they take away from their visit. The third layer of the pyramid is the brand personality, the main characteristics and attributes of the brand, including the question of how the brand should be perceived and described by the audience. Is your destination calm, and charmingly intimate or is it wild, vast and rough? Perhaps it is a combination of the two? Furthermore, the brand positioning describes the uniqueness of your brand, led by the question of what makes the destination stand out from their competitors. Finally, the very top of the brand pyramid is the brand essence, the very heart of your brand and what wraps all other components and makes them into one.

After identifying all the components of your unique destination brand, it is time to build an engaging, empowering and passionate brand story that will resonate with locals and visitors alike. Your story will be the backbone of your marketing strategy and integrated marketing communications. Choosing the right visual tools and communication mediums will be essential to improve your destination brand. This means effectively and consistently communicating your brand promise, reaching the right audiences, building relationships based on trust and growing your destination popularity. 

Solimar acknowledges the importance of destination branding and provides more insights about this topic within the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) development course, which provides a deeper dive into the intrinsic components of destination planning, development, branding and marketing.

Interested in learning more about improving your destination brand? Get in touch with us today — we can help take your brand to the next level.

This blog was written by Lena Eckert and Emilija Zagere in July 2021.
Illustrate Visitor Service Sign

Providing visitor services is an essential function of every Destination Management Organization (DMO)

Destination Management Organizations (DMO) are responsible for the management and marketing of a tourism destination to attract visitors and to offer them a good experience during their stay. One of the key functions of DMOs is the provision of visitor services, before and during the visit to the destination. But why are visitor services so important and what visitor services should a DMO provide? 

Within the booking process, all services and information need to be accessible for visitors. Potential customers may choose another destination if they do not get the information that they need. Therefore, DMOs must provide that role while informing potential visitors of information regarding their trip. DMOs also play an important role in facilitating the booking process, either directly on their website, or with the help of their partners. Apart from the booking period, visitor services can enrich the traveler experience, as more information and help can lead to an improved experience. This can result in a higher interest in returning to the destination and in sharing the experience, either with family and friends or on social media.  Within the destination, visitor services can also increase revenue and the time that tourists spend in the area, as a study from Philadelphia’s visitor center showed. Consequently, visitor services should not be neglected by DMOs as they have a significant impact on tourist satisfaction and revenue. 

There are different types of visitor services and DMOs should strive to provide a combination of them all. First, DMOs should provide materials like print collateral and maps to help customers find their way and to garner interest and demand for specific attractions. Although a tourist searches for information online every second each day, it is still important to provide printed information as many people like being able to hold and engage with the material. Nevertheless, the DMO should ensure the provision of information and services online, and it should become clear on their website what can be done in the destination and where tourists can stay.

 

Illustrate Visitor Service Sign
Visitor Service Sign

 

Providing accommodation with commission from hotel partners, packages, and discount passes on the website can also be beneficial for the DMO itself to gain income but also help the visitor prepare for the trip. The destinations’ website should also offer information about all activities and more specific topics like meetings and conventions so that all target groups can find the information they need. Importantly, customer service should also be provided as well so that concerns and questions can be answered and resolved. For that purpose, DMOs should offer contact possibilities via phone, mail but also social media and answer those inquiries as fast as possible. Customer service on social media platforms is gaining importance, especially for younger customers. DMOs should strive to respond timely, strengthening their brand loyalty through quality digital customer service. Alternative solutions like chatbots, that answer questions or guide customers through everything that they need to know, can also be a beneficial and innovative way to communicate with potential visitors. Regardless of what method is employed, rapid customer service needs to be provided, so that visitors can get the help that they need directly and timely. 

In the destination, tourism information centers are often the first and most important contact point between DMO and visitors. There, tourists can get brochures, help and first-hand tips from staff on what to do and where to go. Furthermore, visitor centers are an important point of sale, where experiences and packages, but also souvenirs, can be purchased. Within the destination, the DMO should ensure that visitors can find their way through the area that they are visiting, which is why signs about important sights and infrastructure should be supplied. Furthermore, public services like parking, toilets, and Wi-Fi should be provided as this allows for a painless, convenient stay. Finally, the DMO should also deal with complaints and conduct meditation if, for example, experiences or tours are not as expected. Providing this to visitors is beneficial and important to decrease potential frustration. 

DMOs should also identify gaps in their services and experiences, led by the question of if marketing is actually reflective of the destination’s marketing. All advertised promises should be fulfilled, otherwise, frustration and disappointment can occur on the visitors’ side. As such, a DMO must critically review their offerings. For example, if they promote themselves as an outdoor destination, they must make sure that trails for hiking or biking paths are accessible. If gaps in deliverance are identified, the DMO must work on developing the infrastructure to sync the expectation with the reality. Also, creating new experiences and packages attracts more visitors with broader interests. The DMO can then work together with partners to deliver and promote the new packages and experiences. The DMO should then help and support their partners with booking, marketing, monitoring, and adjust the experience as needed. An interesting example of a newly developed DMO visitor experience can be found in the city of Fort Worth in Texas, a historical place and connected to cowboys. However this reputation of a cowboy town did not actually reflect any Fort Worth experiences at the time. To live up to their international reputation, the DMO was thus inspired to create a new, engaging experience and hire a herd of Texas longhorn cattle to walk through the main street each day, attracting visitors from all over the world. This is an example of a DMO action that was highly responsive to visitor expectations and their global positioning.

 

Forthworth longhorn herd
Forthworth longhorn herd through town

Picture source: https://www.fortworth.com/blog/post/19-facts-you-didnt-know-about-the-fort-worth-herd/

Visitor services are essential to provide a good tourist experience and DMOs need to ensure that all types of services are available in their destination. Interested in learning more about visitor services in detail? Solimar’s online program in DMO Development emphasizes this topic through a learning course and offers valuable tips on how visitor services should be coordinated to fulfill tourist expectations. Through providing the required information and booking opportunities, answering questions before and during the stay and offering the needed infrastructure and services to developing new experiences, all visitor services need to be considered and can highly influence visitor satisfaction, experience, and expenses, which all benefit the destination. 

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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