Category: Uncategorized

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

What places fully embody the American essence? A Solimar team discovers top American Independence Day Destinations on a road trip

Nearly one year ago, inspired by Solimar’s ongoing Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail project, I set out with my friend Nick on a “great American road trip” to explore and rediscover our country.  With the same yearning for adventure as those two great explorers, Nick and I rolled out of our hometown in southeastern Pennsylvania in a minivan overflowing with tents, sleeping bags, non-perishable food, bear spray, and clothing for all weather conditions. Six weeks later we returned to Pennsylvania with ragged beards, long, unwashed hair, dark sun tans, and, above all else, an overwhelming sense of patriotism.  From the major cities to the small towns to the sprawling and beautiful national parks, the vastness and diversity of the United States is something to be proud of.  Now on Independence Day, I reflect on some of the top American Independence Day Destinations that carry the spirit of our great nation.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I would be remiss to neglect my home city in this list, and anyone looking to explore the history of Independence Day must begin in Philadelphia – the birthplace of the United States.  Be sure to visit Independence Hall and stand in the same room where our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  Next door you will find the famous Liberty Bell that announced that Declaration to the people of the newly formed United States of America.  Other historic attractions abound, including the house of Betsy Ross, Franklin Square, and the Museum of the American Revolution.  A trip to Philadelphia will leave you with a feeling of ownership of our nation’s first weeks and years as an independent country…and also a full belly!  Be sure to have a cheesesteak or two!

Independence Hall, Philadelphia. A quintessential American destination

 

New York City, New York

One of the most recognizable cities in the world, New York is a bastion of American culture, consumerism, diversity, and history.  Love it or hate it, the Big Apple is distinctly American and a place every citizen must visit at least once (and probably more, as it is impossible to see the whole city in one stay).  From historic black communities in Harlem to the unceasing energy in Times Square, Central Park to Yankee Stadium, the Statue of Liberty to the One World Trade Center, New York offers endless possibilities to its visitors.  Whatever you choose to do in New York, you will leave with an increased understanding of what it means to be an American.  On the Fourth of July, attractions range from the spectacular Macy’s Fireworks to the grotesque but engrossing Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Manhattan, New York City. The history of America lives here

 

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 

Many people (me included) find the greatest sense of national pride in nature, and there are no better places to marvel at America’s natural beauty than at some of its 423 national parks.  Established in 1872, Yellowstone is our country’s (and the world’s) oldest national park.  Covering a whopping 3,471 square miles, the park preserves a diverse and dramatic landscape of rivers, lakes, canyons, plains, forests, hot springs, and geysers.  Exploring the park gives visitors a glimpse into the natural history of the United States, and nowhere is this more evident than observing the last free-ranging bison herd in the country.  Once dotting the western plains in the millions, Yellowstone is still home to nearly 5,000 wild bison.  Symbolizing American strength and resilience, an up-close look at a bison will leave visitors awestruck and humbled.  


The great American Bison in Yellowstone National Park

 

New Orleans, Louisiana

One of the things that makes me proud to be an American is the tremendous diversity of our nation, and there is no better place to celebrate that diversity than New Orleans.  French, Spanish, and Creole traditions are alive and well in the architecture, delicious food, and distinctive music of the city.  This explosion of multilingual and cross-cultural influences can be found anywhere in the city, from the lively parties on Bourbon Street, to the eateries around Jackson Square and the jazz shows in Tremé.  New Orleans is also home to the mouth of the Mississippi River, and it is only fitting that the waters of America’s mightiest river come to a head in one of its most unique and diverse cities – a grand finale in a long tour southwards that bisects the nation. While here, participate in some of the long-lasting structural, economic, and cultural traditions brought about by the African-American community in NoLa. Upon their forcible removal from the Senegambia region of West Africa, the first community of 5000 enslaved Africans arrived in the city in 1719. Nearly a century later with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, New Orleans was home to 2,773 enslaved people of African ancestry and 1,335 free people of color; making up 51% of the city’s population. Of all the African-American contributions to American culture, music tops the list. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. Black resistance to slavery created other culturally significant legacies such as Mardi Gras, the Krewe of Zulu, Second Line Parade, and Voodoo. To fully come to grips with the history of the United States this Independence Day, it is important to acknowledge some of the darkest parts of American history and the culturally significant legacies born from fearless resistance. 

Brass Band performance in the birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans

 

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

It isn’t something to be taken for granted that the United States is home to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and the Grand Canyon certainly deserves its place on the list.  Gazing across the canyon (we recommend the South Rim for the views, although the North Rim is less crowded) is a truly sublime experience.  Once you convince yourself you are in fact still in the United States and not on another planet, you may catch a glimpse of a California condor soaring overhead, its record-breaking 10-foot wingspan casting a long shadow on the ground, and you will need to begin the process again of conceptualizing this otherworldly destination.  Leaving the Grand Canyon made Nick and I swell with pride for living in a nation that is committed to preserving natural wonders like this one.   

 

The awe-inspiring South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

On Independence Day, it is important to recognize the hardship and sacrifice that our ancestors suffered through to preserve the Great American Experiment in democracy.  One of the best destinations to do this is at Gettysburg Battlefield in southern Pennsylvania.  The site of the bloodiest battle in the history of the Western hemisphere, Union and Confederate forces clashed from July 1-3, 1863 around the town of Gettysburg, and the eventual Union victory marked a key turning point in the Civil War.  The battlefield is pristinely preserved and complete with countless monuments, memorials, and plaques for visitors to educate themselves about the battle.  Guided tours are also available, and yearly reenactments draw thousands of actors and spectators from around the country.  I’ve visited Gettysburg several times and always leave with feelings of deep sorrow for the lives lost combined with immense pride that a nation whose citizens slaughtered each other for five years still stands as one.  On Independence Day, the anniversary of the end of the battle now 158 years old, it gives me hope for the future of the nation.

Learn about American history at Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg Battlefield

As more and more people are traveling as the threat of COVID-19 decreases, especially this Fourth of July weekend, I encourage you all to stop and reflect on the history, culture, and people that define the place you find yourself in.  I guarantee there will be something about it to make you proud to be an American.  

The Value of DMOs to Destinations

DMOs play a large role in contributing to a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable approach to tourism and destination development

A Destination Management Organization (DMO) is a non-profit organization that promotes a destination for tourism purposes. DMOs can vary in their official names (visitors bureau, tourist boards, organization of tourism, chambers of commerce) and geographic competence (local, regional, national, or multi-country) but they all have a pivotal role to play in sustainable tourism management. Particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a global shift in the focus of these organizations from marketing to management, and Solimar International is dedicated to supporting them in shaping better travel and tourism. This article defines the value of DMOs to destinations all around the world.

DMOs are first a critical and essential factor in the success of any tourism destination. Following the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which defines a DMO as the “leading organizational entity which facilitates partnerships with various authorities, stakeholders, and professionals to achieve a unified mission towards a destination’s vision” (UNWTO, 2021). A DMO is therefore closely linked to a tourism destination which the UNWTO sees as “the fundamental unit of analysis in tourism” (UNWTO, 2002), by providing information to visitors on the destination features including available attractions, amenities, and destination residents.

DMOs are organizations such as the Madison County Tourism (NY), the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau (AZ), Visit Anchorage (AK), Visit California (CA), or Discover Puerto Rico, which are dedicated to developing tourism around one destination, be it at a county, a metropolitan area, a state, a country or a subcontinent. Given the historic surge in worldwide tourism in recent decades, with more than 1.5 billion people traveling around the world in 2019 (UNWTO, 2020), the value and the role of DMOS has evolved and their importance has amplified.

Photo of Puerto Rico's DMO
Discover Puerto Rico (Source: www.discoverpuertorico.com)

While the primary objective of a DMO lies in destination promotion, defining what a DMO is and its value largely depends on where you are in the world. First and foremost, each destination offers its own unique set of attractions, amenities, and residents. As such, each DMO is therefore unique as it provides specific information on unique experiences. The first-ever DMO, the Detroit Conventions and Businessmen’s League (now known as the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau) which was formed in 1896 was unique and different from the Seattle Bureau of Information which was established in 1897 in that they both aimed at designing a tailored plan to maximize opportunities for travel and visit in their respective cities but promoted different activities and adopted different marketing strategies and tactics to advertise their attractiveness. Building economic prosperity and spreading a dynamic image of a destination rests on the unique offerings of that specific destination.

Detr
A moonlight tower in Detroit in the 1890s (Source: www.vintag.es)

Today, the main value of a DMO to a destination consists in its ability to convey specific messages and information at each of the various stages of the travel cycle. By branding its destination, a DMO invests in the DREAMING stage. By providing authority, credibility, and reliability as a source of information, a DMO supports the traveler in its PLANNING stage. A DMO further interacts with a visitor by offering a link or an interface to facilitate the BOOKING stage before directly intervening in the EXPERIENCING phase by engaging with destination stakeholders to ensure consistent delivery. Finally, a DMO is also involved in the SHARING stage of the travel cycle by providing a platform for contacts, reviews, storytelling, posts, and hashtags through social media following a visit.

In other words, a DMO acts not only as an information and services provider but rather as a solution finder for all stakeholders of a specific destination, including its visitors, businesses, public authorities, and local communities. From this angle, a DMO has truly emerged as a key element of success in the development and management of a tourism destination for its added value in branding, strategic planning, tourism policy and product development, cultural heritage dissemination, as well as workforce development, quality control, and crisis management.  From purely marketing initiatives, DMOs have therefore transformed into genuine destination management organizations which effectively and harmoniously address interactions between visitors, industry, community, and resources.

As such, DMOs have the potential to be a vector of positive transformation and genuine change toward more responsible and sustainable tourism. Beyond helping establish a competitive edge for the destination, they are essential to tell a vibrant story and build a strong identity around a destination. They are critical to the development of sustainable tourism management for their capacity to help design an inclusive strategy and to engage with all stakeholders.?

From Key West voting to ban large cruise ships from docking to the Italian government ruling by decree to keep large cruise ships out of Venice lagoon and to Thailand closing its national parks possibly during several months each year to help nature regenerate, there is a global awakening awareness among tourism public and private stakeholders and visitors themselves that tourism must play its part in reducing its carbon footprint and climate impact as well as in solving the various environmental issues it triggers. In 2021, especially after a year that sent people singing songs about their favorite destinations and preventing millions from being able to travel, established destinations and emerging tourism markets have a strong incentive to follow industry best practices. DMOs would be well inspired to follow the initiatives and innovations implemented by various islands which are already quite advanced on the protection of natural resources and the threat of climate change. The New Zealand Tourism Futures Taskforce notably recommends to re-orient the country’s tourism policy to improve ecosystems, provide meaningful jobs, enrich local communities, and respect Maori culture. Likewise, the Jamaican Minister of Tourism has recently voiced out his ambition to act on the imperative to imagine a more inclusive approach to tourism. As such, the value of DMOs to destinations is enormous.

100% Pure New Zealand (Source: www.newzealand.com)

As destinations slowly reopen, the immediate challenge for all DMOs will be to create value for their respective destinations by combining what might seem contradictory imperatives: help manage tourism sustainably while bringing in as many visitors as possible. Only a new vision on the benefit of tourism will have the means to pave a new way forward, especially for stakeholders whose immediate interest, after the pandemic, will be for travelers to travel again and for operators to reconnect with revenues so profitable until then. To learn more about the value of DMOs to destinations and what DMOs can do to pioneer in this new era of tourism, make sure to check out Solimar International’s Virtual DMO Development Program as well as all other courses available at our Institute for Sustainable Destinations

Universities with tourism programs in Bosnia & Herzegovina Webinar

The USAID/Developing Sustainable Tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Turizam), in partnership with Solimar International and UNWTO Academy, organized a joint webinar entitled ‘Introduction to UNWTO TedQual for universities with tourism programs in Bosnia & Herzegovina Webinar’.

The virtual event was held on June 30th, 2021, providing expert insight on collaboration for enhancement of BIH’s competitive advantage by upgrading the quality of the tourism industry workforce through professional tourism training/ education. There were 11 higher education institutions (HEI) from Bosnia & Herzegovina invited to attend this virtual event.

Solimar is currently expanding and updating its benchmark data for 10 Bachelors programs and 23 Masters Programs in North America and Europe. Turizam Staff has been benchmarking HEI tourism related programs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The benchmark data currently being updated include curriculum structure, study plans & courses offered, concentration/specialization options, tuition/fees, use of digital media, UNWTO Certification status, admission requirements, use of on line/remote learning, student and faculty characteristics, student retention rate, average salary of graduates, mandatory internships, use of advisory councils, and other relevant information, all of which will be analyzed and shared with all the institutions who are interested at pursuing the TedQual Certification.

The webinar featured a panel of speakers from different institutions and organizations. Solimar International is proud to have an active partnership with the UNWTO Academy to assist HEIs who wish to pursue TedQual certification.

Universities with tourism programs in Bosnia & Herzegovina Webinar

Introduction to UNWTO TedQual for universities with tourism programs in Bosnia & Herzegovina Webinar
Introduction to UNWTO TedQual for universities with tourism programs in Bosnia & Herzegovina Webinar

 

Webinar: Universities with tourism programs in Bosnia & Herzegovina
Webinar: Universities with tourism programs in Bosnia & Herzegovina
Destination development planning

The concept of tourism traces back more than 4,000 years when early civilizations across the world began travelling for commerce and religious purposes. While some say modern day tourism finds its roots in the 17th century, when traveling around Europe became a popular pastime among aristocrats, the industry saw its most monumental growth during the second half of the 20th century. From just 25 million tourist arrivals in 1950, today more than 1.3 billion people worldwide engage in tourism with expected increase to 1.8 by 2030, and a staggering 4 billion predicted by 2040. Tourism is now one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors accounting for more than 10% of global GDP and supporting more than 300 million jobs worldwide. 

While tourism offers great potential for overall economic development, proper planning is necessary to reap the benefits of this powerful ever-expanding sector. Destinations must first carry out purposeful, strategic, comprehensive and, most importantly, inclusive planning considering not only how the outside world will see the destinations but also the ethical coalitions between the civil society, businesses and the government to support sustainable growth and long-term success of tourism. Whether a small island state or modern metropolis, successful destination development is by no means an easy task. Effective planning must account for financial as well as environmental and social implications, supporting local livelihoods, protecting destination heritage, bridging the gap between the host and guest, avoiding uncontrolled development all while staying agile and able to quickly adapt to shifting global economic trends and consumer behaviors. 

While the trajectory that the tourism industry will take in the coming months and perhaps years is still unclear due to COVID-19, now is the time to plan and adapt destination planning and development strategies. 

Destination development planning
Destination development planning

HOW to start planning for your destination development?

At Solimar International, we recognize the importance of developing tourism in a way that provides the greatest benefits for all stakeholders while conserving the natural assets for future generations. Strategic planning is critical to determine the scale and type of tourism best suited to the destination yet the process needed to reach this goal is not always straightforward.

Our world is home to thousands of destinations that each attract travelers for their unique features and assets. Diversity is a strength that we must undeniably safeguard – but there is no secret recipe. The first step is therefore to carry out comprehensive destination assessments to understand the issues, identify the key stakeholders, determine the touristic potential and related threats to set the right goals and objectives in line with economic, social and environmentally sustainable practices. The GSTC Destination criteria offers a great starting point for building responsible, fair, equitable and sustainable destinations.  

Tourism planning, however, is never a one-off effort. While it should reflect a strategic long-term direction, it must always remain flexible and leave enough room for adaptation to unforeseen circumstances, changing trends and competition. Think about current consumer behavior changes such as the rising ecological consciousness or the ever-increasing presence of technologies in all aspects of our lives. Inspired by the concept of ‘smart cities’, in recent years much attention has been paid to ‘smart tourism destinations’, emphasizing the importance of incorporating modern technology for sustainable, accessible, improved tourism experiences and, ultimately, increased competitiveness through process automation, demand forecasting, crisis management and productivity increase. Check out European Capital of Smart Tourism initiative to see destinations across Europe adopting smart tourism principles and placing them at the forefront of tourism development. 

One of the two 2020 European Capitals of Smart Tourism - Malaga
One of the two 2020 European Capitals of Smart Tourism – Malaga

Above all, the essence of successful and sustainable destination planning is inclusivity and all stakeholder representation in planning and decision-making processes to ensure the well-being and empowerment of local residents. Learn more about the visioning and planning workshops Solimar has held for destinations such as Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail or Timor-Leste, to develop a shared vision for destination planning. 

WHEN is the right time? 

The rapid sector expansion over the past decades has sent destinations around the globe on a development race competing for tourist dollars in hopes of economic prosperity. Before jumping on board this rapidly moving train, however, there are a number of factors that need to be considered to ensure the feasibility of long-term sustainable tourism development. 

In a comprehensive study, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) analysed the readiness for tourism growth in 50 cities around the world. Destinations 2030 outlines 75+ factors from tourist attractions and accommodations, to infrastructure, space, connectivity, as well as tourism and overall economic development policies. The consideration of these and other factors is essential to determine how prepared a destination is for tourism growth and resulting challenges. It is important to remember that the destination success potential doesn’t always depend on growing numbers of arrivals but instead hides in efficient resource management to ensure the industry supports local livelihoods. 

Meanwhile, as important as knowing when to start planning for your destination development, it is equally important to know when to hit the brakes. Uncontrolled tourism development may result in waste mismanagement and environmental degradation, rising property prices, traffic and overcrowding, disturbance and social unrest among local residents and overall exceeding of a destination’s carrying capacity. Destinations around the world such as Venice in Italy, Hội An in Vietnam, Machu Picchu in Peru amongst many others are struggling with over-tourism that greatly threatens the long-term sustainability of the industry.

Crowding at Machu Picchu, courtesy of 7 Summits Project

WHO should lead the effort?

Through implementation of policies, regulations and appropriate investment decisions, governments have an important role to play in mitigating these negative impacts of tourism development. Good governance will establish appropriate administrative structures and frameworks for private and public sector cooperation, regulate the protection of heritage, assist in education and training, and will identify clear developmental objectives.

Still, tourism development potential can be hindered by inadequate support from the state, particularly in Global South countries. Moreover, development priorities and agendas will change with every political election cycle, which often shifts the tourism development direction increasing the importance of Destination Management Organizations (DMO) for tourism planning.

A DMO is a strategic leader in a destination – it leads and coordinates activities of different actors and organizations to work towards a common goal. By acting as a mediator and advisor, the DMO brings together resources and expertise to give key stakeholders the tools they need to succeed by developing strategic partnerships between the government, residents, local businesses and NGOs. A DMO will bridge the gap between the residents and visitors to unlock the economic benefits of tourism through collaborative efforts. 

Are you interested in learning more about Solimar’s strategic planning process? Over the past years, we have been supporting many destination planning projects and have recently launched The Institute for Sustainable Destinations, an online training platform designed to support a global network of leaders in developing, managing, and marketing sustainable destinations.

“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

Contact us

  • Address

    641 S Street NW, Third Floor
    Washington, DC 20001
  • Phone

    (202) 518-6192