Tag: digital destination marketing

digital marketing displayed in times square

The digital era is synonymous with a time of constant change. Innovations are transforming industries at incredible speed. The travel and tourism industry is no exception. Technology is driving the way in which travellers are searching, accessing and consuming travel content. But how much has the industry changed? Find out below! 

digital destination marketing remote beach vacation

According to Wex’s US Travel Trends Report 2019, technology influences the imagination and preparedness of travellers today – this cannot be overstated. More recently, Google Trends insights highlighted that the pandemic has resulted in consumers having even higher digital expectations.  They have adopted new digital habits, and changed their online behavior as a result.  Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) therefore need to understand the value of digital destination marketing as an essential part of the marketing strategy. Digital is now the norm and a tool to reach consumers around the globe.

Digital marketing refers to all marketing that uses an electronic device or the internet.

But, what is digital destination marketing?

According to HubSpot, digital marketing refers to all marketing that uses an electronic device or the internet. Today, 65% of global travel and tourism sales are made online (Statista 2021), leading digital marketing to be even more important than traditional marketing. DMOs can creatively engage with potential visitors to raise awareness for its products and services, increase visitation, and maximize benefits for all its stakeholders. 

Now more than ever, digital destination marketing matters. Destination Management Organisations are facing high competition for tourism dollars.  They must not only find the right customers, but they also must standout, inspire, and engage them in the most effective and efficient way. Digital marketing facilitates these goals.  

What is the value of digital destination marketing?

1. From local to global 

As DMOs look to grow visitation, targeting new geographical markets are a logical step. Digital marketing brings a destination’s products and services to an audience anywhere in the world.  Whether prospecting for new visitors using social media campaigns, or launching a paid search campaign, a destination can expand its presence beyond its immediate geographical vicinity.

2. Focused targeting

Using detailed customer data, perhaps from its website, DMOs can position its offering directly in front of its ideal consumer, that is, the audience which is highly likely to be interested. Messages can be personalized to increase the level of engagement with different segments. This reduces the wastage experienced in traditional marketing where one broad message is used to target everyone. Solimar’s work with destinations like Namibia integrates digital platforms in the marketing strategy to enhance the country’s awareness to its targeted audience.

3. Improved measurability

Tracking the results of traditional marketing activity is near impossible. With digital marketing, DMOs can see detailed performance throughout the life of the campaign. They can see precisely which activity is achieving their goals, and use this data to drive revenues and increase profitability.

4. Campaign agility

Due to its very nature, digital campaigns allow companies to make improvements at any point. Close monitoring provides data in real time and adjustments can be made rapidly. As a result, funds are spent smarter with less wastage. 

Virtual reality transports travellers to the destination through a multi-sensory experience

What are the top digital marketing trends to inspire a DMO’s strategy in 2022?  

1. Everything must be mobile, mobile, mobile

According to 2018 Google research, 45% of US and 48% of UK smartphone users are comfortable using a mobile device to research and book their entire trip to a new travel destination. Therefore, a ‘mobile first’ strategy is essential. DMOs will want to ensure that any action which they inspire consumers to take online, is easy to achieve on a mobile device. 

2. Content is King 

Content is at the heart of digital marketing. It refers to everything from text and images to video and audio, and more. It has the potential to increase search rankings, drive visibility to the right audience, enhance brand image and build brand authority. As travellers do more streaming and posting of content online, DMOs can reap big rewards with storytelling which showcases the authenticity of its products and services.

3. Go virtual

Accelerated during the pandemic, virtual tours are used to transport travellers through a multi-sensory experience. Viewers get an immersive pre-travel experience without leaving their home. DMOs can really create standout brand experiences with intriguing storytelling and short engaging videos. Even individuals who are unable to travel, can get a flavour of the destination. Virtual reality experiences can support a destination’s sustainable tourism goals, as they reduce the impact of physical footprints in vulnerable locations.

virtual reality destination marketing

4. The power of video in destination marketing

Videos are powerful. They fully immerse the viewer in a different world more impactfully than images can. Google research cites that 65% of travellers search for travel videos online by destination.  DMOs have an opportunity to create content in the format most appealing and likely to be found by potential consumers. Solimar International’s expertise in creating impactful videos was a key part of Jamaica’s successful community tourism programme. Four promotional videos, each showcasing a core theme of the community tourism experience, were launched on social media and other digital channels to raise awareness for the incredible sustainable initiative.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and, more recently, TikTok, are ideal for this.  TikTok is now mainstream – with over 1 billion active users, the average user spends 52 minutes per day on the platform. It gets the highest engagement of any social platform and is seeing the 25 – 39 age group as its fastest growing segment. The quality of the content and the collaboration with influencers are the keys to success on this platform. By offering fairly low-cost opportunities for influencers to experience the destination, museum or festival entrance, for example, the content can reach large audiences.

So, why should I care about digital destination marketing?

The value of digital destination marketing is significant. It enables DMOs to promote its products and services to a more targeted audience, it affords the use of cost-effective channels to reach wider geographic markets, and it helps to enrich content. All of these combined drives success for the destination.

Solimar International creates strategic online marketing strategies and social media marketing plans for destinations worldwide, including Rwanda and TanzaniaInterested in how we can help you with destination digital marketing? Contact us to learn more.

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/

“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