Category: Tourism Marketing

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.

Videos are increasingly becoming important to travel marketing. Effective and catchy videos, especially those that go viral, can increase brand recognition.

An example is Turkish Airlines’ classic viral video, ‘The Selfie Shootout’ between Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi. Released in the first week of December last year, it is said to be the most viral travel campaign of 2013 after gaining over 127 million views after just two weeks.

Its astonishing success also claimed 28 per cent of all the views for branded videos in the month of December. Yup, a big deal. Check it out below:

So, How About Destination Videos?

Imagine if your own destination video received 100 million views in two weeks: That means millions of potential traveler eyeballs on your destination!

As a growing marketing channel, online videos are key to marketing destinations. This is because on the traveler’s side, online videos are essential in travel planning:

Videos not only inspire people to plan their next trip, but also prompt them to decide which destination to visit in the future.

2013 study by Google reveals that viewing an online video influences the choice of next travel destination of 63% of leisure travelers and 66% of business travelers. See the graphic below on how the travel funnel works, and the significant role videos play in the initial steps of the process.

As videos are the fastest growing marketing channel, “online videos are expected to account for up to 30% of marketers’ total digital budgets by the end of 2014,” according to another report by eMarketer.

Certainly humor, surprise, and celebrities get attention. However, there are many ways to approach a tourism destination video. They can be serene, energetic, broadly focused on a whole country or specific to one distinct cultural characteristic.

Thus, it’s important to produce and promote destination videos that will convey the atmosphere and sense of one’s place and transport the viewers to your destination. Moreover, destination marketers need to make sure that their video will stand out from the stream of videos that are released every day.

Need video inspiration? Here are some of the Solimar staff’s favorite tourism videos and why they work for us.

Greenland: Rough. Real. Remote.

Greenland – Rough. Real. Remote. from media.gl on Vimeo.

Natasha was part of a team that took an epic adventure trip around the Destination Arctic Circle in Greenland in August 2012, and firmly believes that Greenland feels like home to one with an adventurous spirit. There is no sentimentality in this video; it is Rough. Real. Remote.

Watchtower of Turkey

Watchtower of Turkey from Leonardo Dalessandri on Vimeo.

Leonardo Dalessandri tells the rich culture and history of Turkey through a film he made from his journey of over 3500 km in 20 days, “capturing landscapes from the bluish tones of Pamukkale to the warm ones of Cappadocia… and [met] the soul of Turkey, its people.”

Incredible India

It’s difficult to forget the phrase “Incredible India”, highlighting India’s diverse landscapes, cultures, and people, this video immerses you with India’s colorful and festive delights.

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans

Focusing on the unique and adorable practice of warming their ponies with sweaters, this video offers a quick and unforgettable glimpse of a special Scotland attraction.

There’s Nothing Like Australia

This video for Tourism Australia evokes “romantic” feelings by showing picturesque sceneries and relaxing activities while playing Dewayne Everettsmith’s “It’s Like Love” in the background.

Koh Yao Noi

Koh Yao Noi from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Check out this video by filmmaker Philip Bloom, taken on vacation in Thailand. The images speak for themselves, showing the “haven” that is Koh Yao Noi island through nature and people interacting with the camera.

Pride of Namibia

Thanks to the integration of conservation into its constitution and to firm practices of responsible travel, Namibia’s wildlife has flourished. This video, which tells of Namibia’s commitment to protect its wildlife, recently won the Adventure in Motion 2014 competition of the Adventure Travel Trade Association.

Las Islas, Colombia

Made as part of Solimar’s Geotourism Project with National Geographic in the San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina archipelago, what makes this video special is that the locals tell the story of their islands. Local voices talk and sing what they love most about the region. Directed by Gregg Bleakney, the video combines stunning visuals, enchanting music, and overall a great authentic destination story. (To learn more about the Las Islas Geotourism Program, read this blog post.)

There are many approaches to a successful tourism destination video. Which ones (from our list or others) are your favorites?

It is no secret: Solimar International loves Namibia! And we have been fortunate enough to work with clients in the country of ‘Endless Horizons’ for the past 4 years- including several collaborations with the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB). In 2015 Solimar will launch a new, specialized trade marketing program for the NTB, with the goal of introducing North American travel trade and media to Namibia via the coordination of familiarization trips (FAMs).

Previously, we worked with the NTB on the Namibia Online Campaign (2011-2013) and North America Destination Marketing Campaign (NADM) (2010-2014). NADM’s objective was to promote Namibia to North American travelers and ultimately, increase community based tourism and household income.  Solimar’s activities specifically targeted travel trade, marketing Namibia to tour operators, travel agents and wholesalers, incentivizing them to add Namibia to their destination portfolios by providing various sales tools, campaigns, FAM trips and special events.

While still awaiting the final campaign numbers on North American tourist arrivals, the projects were successful, resulting in a significant increase in the number of committed partnerships with North American travel trade, an increase in travel trade trained on Namibia, and an important surge in the number of Namibia tours and packages added to North American tourism business’ portfolios. 

Solimar is excited to continue North American marketing for Namibia in 2015. We will collaborate with the NTB by organizing a series of FAM trips, intended to introduce members of the North American travel trade and media to Namibia.

Solimar will be involved with the FAMs from beginning to end – creating thematic itineraries that best exemplify Namibia’s cultural and natural experiences, reaching out to members of the trade and media, vetting and selecting the most qualified for participation, organizing air travel, and after the trip, working with the participants’ to help them market their new Namibia itineraries to their clients.

We are thrilled to continue working with the NTB and helping spread the word about one of favorite, and most unique destinations in the world.  

Being flexible and current are two important characteristics to a successful online marketing campaign. The social media landscape is constantly evolving—whether it is the changing of an algorithm, a new feature, new trend, or even the inception of an entirely new social media platform. To run a successful online marketing campaign you must be knowledgeable of these alterations and have the ability to adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

Adapting to Changing Rules

To understand what a change in “social rules” looks like and how it could be a game-changer in your online marketing campaign, take a look at this recent example. Just a week ago Facebook instituted a change which disallowed requiring someone to “like” your page before entering your contest, promotion or giveaway. This feature, coined “like-gate”, has been a significant factor in online marketing campaigns. In many cases, the main purpose of offering a contest or giveaway is to enhance a company’s social media presence.

In fact, many online marketing campaigns use “likes” as a metric for success. Does your contest now serve a purpose if it isn’t generating “likes”? If not, how can you modify your strategy to accommodate for this?

These are crucial questions in ensuring your online marketing campaign meets its objectives.

Finding Solutions

In 2013, the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi partnered with National Geographic and Solimar to promote Geotourism development and contribute to the region’s competitiveness as a tourism destination. Solimar pushed forward an online marketing campaign focusing on the Geotourism MapGuide, which promoted the US Gulf Coast States (USGCS) through an online interactive map, mobile application, and print map. USGCS’s first marketing campaign was called “Hidden Treasures” and was designed to demonstrate the MapGuide’s utility as a resource for lesser-known attractions in the region. The mechanism behind this campaign was a giveaway in which participants could win a trip to one of three weekend getaways in Vicksburg, MS; Lake Charles, LA; or Miramar Beach, FL.

In early 2014, radical shifts in the brand page design and user feed algorithm on Facebook forced a shift in how the platform could be used for marketing and engagement. Facebook applications, on which the “Hidden Treasures” campaign was largely built, were sidelined. This meant that apps were no longer a central component in a page’s interaction with a user. As a result, driving traffic to the application was more difficult, entries into the contest were low, and the campaign did not achieve its intended result. This algorithmic change was largely focused to drive advertisers to pay for sponsored or boosted content. To adjust for this, Solimar rolled out a second campaign, “Summer in the South” which was adapted to better thrive in this environment by utilizing Facebook’s pay-for-play services. The adjustment proved successful, driving over 12,000 visits to the USGCS Geotourism website—nearly a third of the website’s 5 month total traffic in two weeks’ time.

Integrating New Platforms

In other instances, an entirely new social media platform may start trending. In 2012, while working on the North American Destination Marketing Campaign (NADM) for Namibia, Pinterest emerged onto the social media scene. Solimar’s online marketing team recognized the captive audience that Pinterest was garnering, joined the network, and adapted their content calendar accordingly. Solimar had to quickly learn the ways people used the platform and then generate content aligned with what was trending. Specific content focusing on recipes and weddings, for example a board for “Weddings in Namibia”, were created.  By staying current and on top of trends, a completely new audience was reached.

These are just a few examples of how Solimar keeps a close eye on changes in “social rules” and trends when running online destination and tourism marketing campaigns.  Being able to quickly shift to enhance clients’ performance is key to success. To achieve this, a campaign needs to be flexible. Flexibility may be reached through diversification, as seen in the USGCS example. If the USGCS online marketing campaign solely relied on the “Hidden Treasures” campaign, the entire project would have failed. Being current is also extremely important. The NADM’s campaign would not have been as successful had it not been adapted to the social environment and utilize Pinterest. In an environment that is constantly changing, effectively running an online marketing campaign that is both flexible and current will help ensure that your campaign reaches its objectives.

“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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