The World Heritage Journeys of Europe Website was recently nominated for a Webby Award, recognizing the travel site for its excellence by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a judging body composed of over two thousand industry experts and technology innovators.

Developed through our program with UNESCO and National Geographic, this innovative website is the first UNESCO platform promoting sustainable travel to World Heritage sites. The goal is to guide travelers to the most unique and authentic World Heritage experiences recommended by local experts and curated by National Geographic.

Voting is open until Thursday, April 18th so please click here to vote!

Solimar has been talking a lot about our work with integrated marketing programs recently, so you might be wondering, what exactly is an integrated marketing program? And why is it important?

Simply put, an integrated marketing program in the travel trade is a comprehensive marketing solution specifically designed to ensure that all messaging and communications are unified across all channels and strategically focused to attract the customer- travelers.

It is a concept based on the principles of inbound marketing: providing valuable content to highly targeted consumers, which attracts and engages them, moving them down the funnel towards buying your services , product or in our case- a destination. This way, businesses and destinations spend their valuable resources in the most productive way, and consumers are delighted by content relevant to their interests.

There are seven essential steps to creating a great integrated marketing program, each of which Solimar makes a point to include in the programs we develop, like in Namibia and Rwanda. Through these steps, your business will be able to develop and maintain a simple yet productive integrated marketing campaign. They are:

1. Marketing Strategy – After a thorough analysis of the business or destination’s features and attraction, an integrated marketing strategy must be developed. The strategy will serve as a roadmap for the implementation of an integrated marketing program—and should be tailored to your product’s needs. The strategy should integrate social media, search engine optimization, blogging, content and lead nurturing, public relations and trade relations.

2. Brand Analysis – Prior to implementing any integrated campaigns, a specific brand or logo should be developed in order to improve your look and focus your message.

3. Website and Content Development – Once a consumer finds your website, the goal is to make it so captivating that they want to stay on the site, engage in your content, and share it with others. To do this, both content and a schedule for posting it should be generated.

4. Social Media Strategy and Blogging – Social media gives you a place to talk to your consumers before they travel, while they travel, and after they have returned. This includes social networks, blogs, micro-blogging sites, and third party sites. It is important to determine the best channels to use for your target markets, and what content to post.

5. Creative Campaigns – With all pieces of your marketing foundation in place, now is the time to develop and implement creative campaigns and sweepstakes designed to draw visitors to both your site and social media platforms, while synchronizing your marketing message and brand value for maximum effectiveness.

6. PR/Media Outreach Strategy – In creating a PR/Media strategy, it is important to employ simple but effective monitoring tools to allow you to identify influencers in your market. Then you can “listen” to the conversations taking place online, join ongoing conversations, build trust, and demonstrate expertise. It is critical to develop a database of contacts and design effective outreach campaigns to reach local and national media, relevant bloggers, guidebooks, and sales intermediaries.

7. Trade Distribution Strategy – If you work with business to business (B2B) sales, it is most effective to take your relationships online by developing a dynamic database that tracks all communication with trade partners; from the initial email/call, to in-person meetings at trade shows, and shares on social media sites by each partner. Having a detailed record of your communication history with your partners helps you strengthen your business relationships.

In sum, integrated marketing programs provide an effective and streamlined solution to marketing, which is thus more productive for both the businesses and the consumers. They create a pleasant marketing/consumption experience, ultimately leading to more concrete results for businesses.

In this generation, social media is more important than ever, especially for tourism marketing. People are spending over four times more time on Facebook than Google – today there are about 1.3 billion people on Facebook. Is Facebook really useful for businesses? Let this number convince you – 52% of businesses have acquired customers through Facebook. That’s a lot of potential for the tourism industry.

Needless to say, social media can be your destination’s magic megaphone. But do you know how to use it well? Here are some questions to ask yourself as you endeavor to amplify your roar.

Are You Connecting With People? No, Really Connecting?

A billboard does not listen. People listen. This is where social media differs from traditional marketing- as you can (and should) be interacting with your audience directly. Ask questions. Make it interactive. Reply to comments. 

Another exciting thing about social media marketing is the way in which even one individual’s Likes, Shares, Comments, Tweets, Friends, or Tags are able to increase your visibility, diverting more and more eyes to you.

Are You Developing the Right Content?

60% of the sales process is over before a prospective buyer ever talks to a salesman or begins the process. What does that mean? It means that almost every single visitor will make a majority of their decision through online research before anything else. You want to create content that supports them in that online research phase. 

So be sure to evaluate your content. Have you thought about keywords? How is the quality of your images? Are you providing a diverse enough array of multimedia content? What are you offering and are you communicating it in an appealing way? These are important thoughts to take into consideration.

Are You On the Right Platform?

It is also important to know where to roar.  Find out who your target audience is, and where they spend their time in the online world. They could be on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, or maybe even all of the above. There is more to social media than Facebook and one of the best ways to amplify your roar is to increase your reach through these different, targeted social media platforms.

Are You Showcasing Personality?

Social media also offers you a unique opportunity to be human. Nobody wants to talk to a salesman who is constantly pitching; they want to build relationships with real people. The same principle applies when it comes to creating brand loyalty, trust and eventually sales. Don’t be afraid to show a little bit of humor and personality in your social media marketing strategy. Be relevant, not robotic. If visitors to your social media site are having fun, they will want to have fun at your actual physical site too.

What Does Your Unique Roar Sound Like?

Every destination, including yours, has something unique to offer. So there’s no need to spend all your time trying to imitate somebody else’s roar.

A destination assessment can go a long way in identifying your hidden gems and how to best conserve them. Many destinations have a diverse array of brilliant tourism products which have been overlooked. You want to be able to spot these with destination assessments and to also tailor social media marketing strategies to showcasing your best colors. Our projects in Rwanda, Namibia and the U.S. Gulf Coast, for example, have been integral in doing that: maximizing an active audience of followers, generating stunning branding content and increasing revenue by presenting destinations at the very peak of their potential. 

With unlimited online space, the opportunities to multiply your untapped audience are limitless. Take the right steps with social media and you could have the loudest roar of all. 

It’s getting easier to communicate with travelers around the world, but destinations looking to target specific markets often turn to destination marketing representation firms.

A destination marketing representative (or “rep”) is your destination’s tourism ambassador within a certain region who can effectively reach local consumers, outbound operators, and local media – all in an effort to drive destinations sales and increase visitation. Marketing representatives come in all shapes and sizes, each with a different set of tactics and know-how.

Here are some key items to consider when trying to find the right representative for your destination:

1. Make an Informed Decision About Which Market You’ll Target

This seems obvious, but many tourism boards skip this step. Select a target country or region that has a large growth potential, is receptive to the your destination’s tourism offer, and is accessible enough for your destination to compete. Carefully weigh the market’s travel volume, your current market share, existing competitors in the market, the demographics and interests of your potential customers, and potential barriers for entry. For example, many destinations that we work with are overly eager to jump into China. They’re excited by the potential of a market of that size, but don’t fully weigh how the time and expense required to make a dent in that crowded marketplace could be used in other areas where there is already a demonstrable interest.

2. Understand What Success Looks Like and How They Measure It

Be clear about what kind of results you expect from this market. Are you looking just for an increase in visitor arrival number or to increase visitor arrivals among a valuable market segment like high-end group travel? Also, consider how your rep can provide intangible results like increased goodwill and increased market awareness. Think carefully about outcome-driven results such as number of new sales partners and number of articles published, rather than easy output activities like press releases or events attended. This will help ensure that your rep is not just busy but effective.

3. Examine Their Experience and Expertise

You want a destination marketing representative that can hit the ground running. This means experience working with the consumer base, travel trade and media outlets that will best service your target market. While years of experience is great, ask if the firm has worked with destinations that offer similar experience and attractions as your destination. This focus makes a representative more suited to understanding the obstacles you face, your destination’s advantages and the mindset of the market you’re trying to attract. Examine how connected the firm is to important industry networks and niche media platforms that will speak directly to your target market. Reading testimonials from their previous clients may give you a different perspective on their work and abilities.

4. Get Good Value for Your Money

Also, importantly, consider what kind of budgets the firm is used to working with. If you’re working with a limited budget – can they make big things happen for small amounts? Scrutinize what they exactly cover, and choose a package that has the best balance between the cost and the services that you need to reach your goals.

Typical representative activities include:

• Establishing a local office (phone line, answer inquiries, day-to-day duties)
• Developing marketing collateral (branding and positioning strategy, brochures, banners, fact sheets)
• Strengthening online presence (website, social media content kit, online ads)
• Establishing trade partnerships (list of tour operators and agents, sales calls, educational webinars, familiarization trips, follow-up surveys and interviews)
• Generating earned media coverage (list of publications and media contacts, media outreach, news updates, press kit, media clips)
• Participating in events (summits, trade shows, networking events)

5. Seek Out a Passion and Dedication

You are putting a lot of trust and resources into a firm. It’s important to feel that they will be the best possible ambassadors for your destination. What’s your first impression of the marketing representative? Do they appear to be easy to work with? Are they responsive? Are they passionate about tourism and your destination beyond any of your competitors? Do you share the same value as you do? After all, there is nothing better than working with a team that is as enthusiastic about your place as you.

A destination marketing representative is a powerful part of your destination marketing arsenal. Choose wisely and you could find yourself reaching new tourism heights.

For more information on what Solimar offers for marketing representation, check out our services and previous representation for Rwanda, Namibia, and Myanmar.

Fam-Trips (short for Familiarization Trips) are integral and familiar strategies to anyone involved in the tourism industry. The concept is simple: Members of the travel trade are invited on a free trip to become familiar with a destination and to meet potential inbound partners with the goal being that they’ll add it to their portfolios. However simple the concept, the execution can be a little more difficult. Imagine the stress of booking a full week travel itinerary for a blind date you want to impress, with only a few days notice. Now multiply that by about 10, 20, even 50 people. Before you start sweating, here are eight tips we thought would come in handy.

1. Research the Trade

Scanning the wide world of potential trade to invite will take forever if you haven’t established a clear guideline of what you’re looking for. Be sure to know what your aim is, what your budget is and who your audience is. This will guide you to finding the right people. In other words – gluing a group of adventure tour operators to the chairs of coffee shops and museum halls- that’s the sort of square peg, round hole scenario that you want to avoid. 

Consider the sum of parts. A well-rounded Fam trip with many features- nature, adventure, culture, etc means it’s possible to invite a variety of trade with  varied clientele. Catering to different audiences is optimal, as you don’t want butting heads, or egos for that matter. 

2. Court and Create – Relationships

From the very start, you will be initiating the relationship. You want to be wooing the trade with your expertise and professionalism, establishing yourself as an expert resource on the destination. This trust and rapport is important for not only now, but for future projects you may want to enlist their collaboration on.

3. Set and Manage Expectations; Communication is Key

You can never really give too much information. If it’s possible, make it easier by pulling collateral together with the places they will visit, time spent in each location, distances they will travel by car and boat, food, weather, background information, fact sheets and maps. Communication also goes two ways – Expectations from both sides need to be communicated and established. Be sure to ask the invited trade all the questions to capture the answer your client’s inbound tour partners need. For example, you want to ensure you know everything about the trade’s dietary restrictions and allergies.

4. Go above and beyond

On our recent Fam-Trip to Namibia, a client asked if she could deviate from the indicated travel protocol and return to a different city than her origin- she was delighted when we organized this for her. Another tour operator handed us a list of inbound operator companies he wanted to meet with in Windhoek at the end of the trip to inquire about partnerships – so we gathered the relevant contacts of all these tour operators for him. These kind of requests only take time, and they go a long way. But even if their requests land outside of the contours of your budget, you can make expert recommendations. These little things will make all the difference in creating a memorable experience.

5. Check the Host Country’s Entrance Requirements

Stay organized. Remember to check the passport information of each travel trade member. Clients with different passports may have different restrictions on travel, and therefore may require different visas.

6. Share Your Social Media Handles

This is so the trade can tag you in their experiences as they post them on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. In addition to sharing these handles, social media is also an invaluable tool in the aforementioned research phase. Measuring and comparing their followings on social media platforms is a good way to determine their eligibility as an influencer in their sphere. The higher the influence, the higher the ROI.

7. Be Available for the Client – Go Above and Beyond

Be prepared to answer questions at all times of day while they’re on the trip – when weather issues or flight cancelations happen, make it your job to update clients and in-country operators at all times. 

8. Continue to Nurture the Relationship

After the trip is over, the trade will being planning – and you don’t want them feeling like a chewed up toy as they work on developing their itineraries. By this point, you should be friends anyway! Be available to them, make suggestions and answer their questions. The trade will thank you for it, as will your client destination.

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“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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    Washington, DC 20001
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