Tag: destination branding

Zitna beach, Croatia. Destinations are storyscapes, Jonathan Atari photography

Travel storytelling must be at the heart of any digital destination marketing strategy.  Every destination has an infinite amount of stories that can be utilized for celebrating its uniqueness, and fostering emotional relationships with potential and past visitors. This translates to a rise in visibility, consumer-brand trust, visitation, and eventually – profit.

This blog post will elaborate on why storytelling matters, and provide information as to what a DMO should consider when incorporating travel storytelling into their overall digital marketing strategy. DMOs should not only curate engaging stories through collaboration with local stakeholders, but also take advantage of the stories tourists share online. Digital storytelling in destination branding can therefore be seen as a co-creation process, where a DMO, as its official representative, can guide the flow.

father and son experiencing nature at Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Local stories are the base for Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, a Solimar project

Why Storytelling Matters?

Let’s start with a short story, a quasi-anthropological experiment.

A few years ago, two authors initiated the project Significant Objects to check if narratives can affect an object’s value objectively. They went out to thrift stores and garage sales and bought 100 objects for the average price of $1.28. Next, they listed every object for sale on eBay, and the winning bidder was mailed with his selected object. The objects were sold for no less than $3,612, a rise of 2700% in value in trade! So, how did they do that?

All they did was partner with dozens of authors who wrote a fictional story around every object (not without stating its falseness). Through this, they proved storytelling is not just another buzzword, but rather an approach that brings tangible results.

So why is storytelling important for branding? Apart from stories being interwoven in every aspect of human experience, life, and history, they are simply more memorable. Research shows that information conveyed as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than facts. Moreover, they help create emotional connections between brands and consumers. These are deeper, longer-lasting and create a community around common values which are reiterated through the stories. Their personal nature leaves space for the consumer to dream, relate and engage with the brand, thus increasing interest, brand loyalty and ultimately, a transaction.

Travel Storytelling and Destination Marketing

Traveling is all about stories, and every destination has unique stories to tell. A DMO should have a clear vision about what the destination’s major value proposition for a determined target customer segment(s) is. What differentiates a destination? What can it offer that others cannot? Focus on the feelings your destination evokes, and capture it through storytelling.

tourists enjoying holiday, experiences that will become stories about the destination

Zitna beach, Croatia. Destinations are storyscapes, Jonathan Atari photography

Through local, authentic, and creative stories, a destination can portray itself as human and trustworthy. Instead of loud marketing campaigns, people want to have a sense of discovery, especially when it comes to traveling. In the pre-travel stage, destination storytelling gives potential tourists that exact feeling. They long for a journey or holiday, and discover quality content that nourishes this desire.

A good travel story will ignite a target audience reader’s imagination, and make them lose himself in the story. In a way, his attitudes would change to reflect the story, immerse in it. A DMO should hence create digital content, travel writing, that will move a buyer down the decision making process by inspiring rather than informing. After all, decisions are mostly emotional, not logical, so storytelling is your destination’s best card.

Starting a travel blog can be a fantastic way to share the richness of life at your destination. It is perfect for building a sense of a place through real experience, beyond must-see lists, itineraries, practical information or events. People can comment, share and engage with passionate local people at the destination. This in turn, provides the potential tourist with a more holistic experience of the destination.

As opposed to social media, blog posts are “evergreen”, as they never disappear in constantly changing feeds. It is also beneficial for SEO purposes, targeting certain terms, and this increases visitation to your website and builds authority on the web. For an effective travel blog, keep a well-organized editorial board, to ensure you are reaching your goals. Consider integrating calls to action in your posts, to facilitate and encourage conversion. In other words, through travel articles and storytelling you have more tools to address some of the most fundamental aspects of digital marketing.

How to use storytelling in digital destination marketing?

Here are some pillars you can use for your strategy. It is by no means a complete guide, but introduces the most important tips for what makes dependable destination branding storytelling:

Know your audience – Yes, also in digital storytelling. The more you understand your (potential) visitors and what they care about, the more you can convey a storyline that resonates with what they’re looking for.

The customer is your hero – instead of considering the destination as the main subject, think about the visitor. They should allegorically be the protagonist of your destination stories, and the destination, in its widest sense, the enabler for them to fulfill their desires, overcome challenges or go through transformative experiences.

Be thoughtful, be creative, be deep, be human. Think outside the box, share meaningful stories, be funny, unexpected, nuanced, tell stories for good. Experiment. Ask why? Promote values you believe in and that are at the heart of your destination’s brand. Be authentic. Storytelling is essentially about human experience, and the content about your destination should emphasize its uniqueness and foster deeper connections with readers.

Go local – Immerse in your community to get a deeper understanding of local life, that is, your destination storytelling raw material. There are so many inspiring stories to capture – past and contemporary traditions, local entrepreneurs, artisans, seniors, initiatives, engaged activists, and many more… Don’t shy away from stories about struggles, conflict or success – sometimes they turn to be the most inspiring and personal stories of all.

Go visual – Integrate images and videos into your destination storytelling strategy. When done thoughtfully, creatively, and aesthetically, they can attract your audience’s attention, give them a different perspective of the destination, and intrigue strong feelings that foster a connection to what the destination has to offer.

storytelling in digital destination marketing

Explore Minnesota visual storytelling campaign

Social Media Storytelling in Destination Marketing

Some say sharing travel experiences back home is not less important to tourists than the holiday itself. Whether it’s true or not, the digital world, and social media particularly, are saturated with stories about destinations. A DMO cannot ignore it, and must take user generated content (UGC) into account, and online social networks in its marketing strategy to ensure a coherent and impactful destination brand. Storytelling in destination marketing is thus twofold – both creating content and mediating relationships and messages amid this storytelling complex.

Destination branding is a complicated process which involves factors which can’t be fully controlled. A DMO cannot directly influence the quality of food served in a local restaurant or whether the sun would shine on a given day. Added to that is everything every visitor has ever shared about your destination on Facebook, Instagram or any other digital platform. Instead of seeing it as a threat, DMOs can harness these social media posts to enhance the brand, and treat it as an in-depth database to learn about their audience.

Consumers see user generated content as more reliable, accurate and authentic, because it is written by fellow visitors (seemingly without an ulterior motive). In fact, it’s a constant stream of stories describing and shaping a destination’s image. DMOs can sensitively guide these story lines, reacting, engaging, and involving users (including influencers) and stories that benefit their preferred narrative and target market. Lastly, they should consider promoting designated spots within the destination that can be used by visitors for taking photos and sharing them online.

visual and social media destination storytelling about local life in denmark
Visit Denmark shares hand-picked Instagram stories on their homepage.

At Solimar International, we acknowledge the benefits of digital storytelling in destination marketing. We keep that in mind for every tourism industry marketing strategy we plan or implement. It proves right over and over again – we see it in engagement figures, online visibility, and ultimately in visitor numbers and visitor satisfaction. Lately, a project Solimar has been working on in Atauro Island’s (Timor Leste) has been selected as part of the 2021 top 100 destination sustainability stories. It’s a win-win situation where users receive original and relevant stories, and local stakeholders, as well as DMOs, have another channel for sharing their passions and promoting their destination effectively.

Storytelling must be at the heart of any marketing plan. Take one of our courses to learn more about destination marketing and management. Visit our Institute for Sustainable Destinations website today: https://institute.solimarinternational.com/

My Switzerland website

Understanding what makes a travel destination website successful is crucial for anyone interested in reaching more potential travelers online. Sparking travel inspiration is a tough task, so we have compiled a list of the top 10 destination websites that inspire us and motivate us to imagine creative ways to entice travel plans. Check out these high quality, user friendly travel websites:

Machu Picchu 360 Destination Website

Machu Picchu 360
Machu Picchu 360

Machu Picchu 360 has adopted a creative and unique way to promote this awe-inspiring Peruvian landmark. By creating a highly interactive virtual reality tour, the website allows the visitor to emerge themselves into the ancient city of Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world. From the sound of the birds to detailed interpretive information, the prospective visitor is taken on a truly immersive experience. The website gives such a detailed visual experience that it attracts tourists to understand more about Machu Picchu and inspire a visit to see it first-hand.

My Switzerland Destination Website

My Switzerland website
My Switzerland website

Other than having a complete set of information about Switzerland’s main attractions, My Switzerland promotes experiences aimed at all target markets. Relevant for specific travelers, the site also displays clear information about Covid-19 safety protocols with indications on where and how to get tested. Although it catches the attention for being a very beautifully designed website, one of its most unique features is the separation of experiences by season, promoting a varied experience and showing that Switzerland is a travel destination to see all year round.

Travel Belize Website

Travel Belize website
Travel Belize

One of the first things you will see when entering the Travel Belize landing page is a health and safety warning letting visitors know that the country has reopened and is ready to receive tourists in a safe and internationally certified way. To display such certifications is becoming increasingly important in order to rebuild tourists’ confidence to travel again. The website includes the publication of blogs that together form an excellent guide. The interesting element of this guide is that visitors can make their travel plans around archaeology, backpacking, beaches and coast, birding, ecotourism and hiking so that guests can find their niche and  the experiences that interest them the most. Travel Belize did an excellent job in displaying the colorfulness of Belize’s nature without ignoring the cultural aspects, all while paying tribute to its diverse ethnic background.

Love Cape Town Website

Destination Marketing: Love Cape Town
Love Cape Town

As with many other destination websites, Love Cape Town has been updated with useful Covid-19 information, safety instructions and the latest news affecting tourism. The website is well divided in different types of attractions such as nightlife, eat and drink, wellness and arts & culture. One unique factor of this website is the presence of a ‘Travelwise’ section that highlights responsible tourism practices that gives information about local tours to more off-the-beaten-path destinations. Other than that, Love Cape town also displays the businesses that support the destination so that visitors have the opportunity to chat with the their tourism teams.

Visit Phoenix Destination Website

Visit Phoenix Website: Tourism digital marketing
Visit Phoenix Website

One of the features of Visit Phoenix’s destination website that catches visitors’ attention right away is the high quality use of Instagram pictures from locals and travelers. This strategy shows what Phoenix is truly about and how it is seen from the visitor perspective. Additionally, it makes the visitors interact with the destination management organization (DMO) through hashtags for the opportunity to be featured on their website. Engaging tourists through social media is a great technique to raise awareness towards your destination, especially in attracting younger travelers. As with many of the websites highlighted before, this site is separated in different travel categories showing the visitor what to see and where to stay. But one unique aspect of Visit Phoenix is the LGBTQ+ travel section that shows more about LGBTQ+ historical sites and promotes local artists and events aimed at this market.

NYCGO.com Website

NYCGO.com website
NYCGO.com website

This official guide to New York City provides a unique platform to deep-dive into trip planning for the most visited city in the United States. What stands out with NYCGO.com is the sheer amount of content the website covers. From the different boroughs to spotlights on specific communities, the site details so many trip options and features a plethora of locally owned businesses. The site also has their finger on the pulse of why some may be inspired to travel to the city. For example, at the time of writing, In the Heights, a film that was shot and takes place in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan, has an entire section of the website dedicated to visiting the area and exploring spots from the film. The amount of options the high quality travel destination website offers perfectly encapsulates the diversity of things to do found in NYC.

Travel Oregon Website

Travel Oregon: Welcome Again

The Travel Oregon website gives travelers a wide variety of travel options, similar to NYCGo. The difference here is the overall look of the website. It perfectly captures the essence of Oregon with a variety of photographs of the outdoors, an embedded Instagram feed, and a cinematic video that previews your potential adventures when you visit the state. A big part of traveling to a state like Oregon is driven by its natural beauty and the emotional effect it has on those who travel there. Travel Oregon captured this perfectly when they developed their site and even created an entire section devoted to travel inspirations within Oregon. Utilizing emotion and feelings to help curate a trip is one of the most unique ways of travel recommendations that we’ve seen, and think it holds a great key to curating the perfect trip. Be sure to check out their interactive map.

Visit Reykjavik Destination Website

Visit Reykjavik website
Visit Reykjavik website

Set as the jumping off point for the rest of Iceland, Visit Reykjavik paints the city as being more than just a city. What stands out with Visit Reykjavik is that the site knows the demographic of those who visit. Over half of the visitors to Iceland in 2018 were under the age of 35, signaling that the destination has a lot of appeal with younger travelers. The front page highlights their understanding of the core traveler by including subjects like local bars and clubs, coffee shops, and vegan food. It’s important to understand your target market, and Visit Reykjavik demonstrates that well.

Visit Norway Website

Tourism Marketing: Visit Norway website
Visit Norway website

Sometimes a destination doesn’t need a fancy angle for their websites. Visit Norway demonstrates this with their sleek and simple website design that gives curious visitors a jumping off point but without an overwhelming amount of information for those who are looking to plan a trip. It encourages narrowing down exactly what the tourist would like to do, then it gives them the data, which is refreshingly simple.

South Africa Tourism Destination Website

South African Tourism website
South African Tourism website

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Norway’s simplified site, South Africa’s site provides an almost “Choose Your Own Adventure” type of experience. This experience begins with a landing page asking what type of trip the visitor to the site is looking to plan. Then the site eloquently customizes a visitor’s visit to the site by telling them how long it would take to get to South Africa from their location and allows visitors to explore offered activities. Consider this a digital, accessible travel guide.

 

Solimar has worked on numerous projects around the world to build effective destination websites for our clients, such as the recent development of the Atauro Island site for this emerging Destination Management Organization in Timor Leste.

If you are interested in learning how to make an effective, engaging destination website, contact us today to learn how Solimar can help you with your digital tourism marketing needs. 

 

By Kevin Lewicki and Marina de Moraes Lopes

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

Emerging approximately 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 and a successful social media marketing campaign.

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.
“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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