/ Routes and Destinations

3 Big Changes for Destination Marketers

The travel and tourism industry is hugely important to the global economy, contributing $8,272.3bn (US) in 2017, forecast to rise by 4.0% in 2018, and 9.9% of total employment.

Destination marketing is an integral part of this industry: In the most basic terms, travel and tourism would not exist without destinations.

Whilst Travel’s market share continues to grow, so does the competition between brands. Destinations are developing strong marketing strategies in order to attract and connect with visitors.

At the same time, visitor expectations have changed. Today’s digitally savvy customers are increasingly demanding with regards to the level of experience and communication they expect.

Even in 2014, the importance of Destination Marketing Organisations was clear. A study by Oxford Economics for the Destination & Travel Foundation, which looked at 200 cities over the course of more than 20 years, concluded that destinations which prioritise marketing of brand and amenities realise significantly greater employment and economic growth than those that don’t, with a positive impact far beyond the tourist economy.

President and CEO of Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), Michael Gehrisch, said, "Tourism has always been a top driver of jobs and taxes, and, as an industry, we are setting our sights on understanding how and why destinations with devoted visitor economies - who treat tourism as a locally-produced export - realise even greater economic and social benefits, job growth, investments, workforce development, and quality of life."

The visitor economy was found to drive wider economic benefits through four primary channels:

  • Destination promotion supports the development of transport infrastructure which means greater accessibility and supply logistics vital to attracting investment to other sectors
  • Destination marketing raises the destination profile among commercial networks and potential new residents
  • By organising meetings, conventions and trade shows, destination marketing organisations (DMOs) create valuable exposure and connections among business decision makers
  • Destination promotion supports amenities and a high quality of life. These are integral to attracting investment in other areas in the form of corporate relocations, expansion and human capital

It’s clear that the marketing and management is a powerful force in the success of a destination. Social media has opened up opportunities to carve out strong destination brands, bringing together local story telling with unique experiences crucial to the destination’s distinctive image.

Social platforms can also create friction. The immediacy of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provides the perfect channel for sharing – or even bragging about – experiences. Meanwhile, local residents want to take pride in introducing visitors to their city without those visitors impacting negatively on their day-to-day life.

When destination marketers get this balance right, the city or destination brand becomes central to driving the local economy, attracting major events, building international and interstate goodwill and reinforcing social cohesion and even civic pride. Get the focus wrong, and there’s the potential to destroy local business and create animosity between visitors and locals.

Three trends driving destination marketing

1. Moving from Products to Experiences

A study conducted by ticketing company Eventbrite in 2014 found that millenials preferred experience over material possessions. In fact, 65% of the 18-34 year olds surveyed were driving the ‘experience economy’ by choosing to spend more than £419,556,233 each month attending live events.

66% of respondents said they felt more fulfilled by live experiences than by buying an item of the same value.

Increasingly, travellers are developing the same patterns observed in the millenial generation, demanding a change from the rigid, product-centric, repetitive destination marketing. People are looking for rich, colourful, distinct experiences.

User generated content such as travel pictures posted by friends on social media drives high expectation too. Almost half of US travellers are influenced by images posted by their friends. They trust their friends more than they trust travel experts, and they expect to have the same top-level experience as they see through an Instagram filter. User generated content offers a great opportunity for destination marketers.

Destination videos are incredibly popular, with interest in travel videos up by around 60% in recent years. Video brings viewers to your destination from the point of view of someone already there. It’s immersive, and with a creative approach, such as including user generated content, can be produced on a low budget.

Augmented reality technology overlays graphics or text on images seen through a mobile device, most commonly a smart phone. A website visitor can interact with the environment, finding general information and other layers of interest which provide a host of benefits for the marketer and the traveller.

Virtual reality is another tool marketers use to give potential visitors a view of their destination. 360-degree videos and computer-generated environments create the effect of actually being somewhere else. The use of VR for destinations is essentially unlimited, and marketers are only recently exploring its potential, from demonstrating experiences to showcasing venues.

How can I adapt to increase flight ticket booking at my airport?
An integrated booking software like Rezcomm Travel comes with an inspirational search tool that allows passengers to explore destination ideas by searching a simple icon-based dashboard of interests and month of travel.

The Gatwick Airport destination page features the tagline, “Find your next adventure,” creating an interactive journey for the website visitor. Options including culture, cuisine, golf, beaches and ‘discovery’ lead to concise destination guides, maps, special offers, weather guides, images and destination videos. Other UK airport sites, such as Southampton and Exeter offer strong impact images to promote individual destinations.

2. Free Access to Information About Destinations

The integration of the Internet into everyday tasks from shopping to researching a holiday has resulted in a real democratisation of information.

Passive communication has been replaced by word-of-mouth. The opinions and experiences of friends, family and followers on social media have become more valuable than any information from a travel firm or airport. Personal experiences provide destination insights. Holiday photos shared on social media also feed desire. Experiences are visible because they are shared, and the best way for marketers to benefit from this trend is to engage with it, seeing the traveller as an extension of the marketing departments.

In a study of net-promoter figures and growth rate, Harvard Business Review concluded:

“The only path to profitable growth may lie in a company’s ability to get its loyal customers to become, in effect, its marketing department.”

Again, user generated content plays a huge role, but websites have also seen a dramatic change. Where destination sites might have previously focused on travel and hospitality partners and their products, these now exist more as organic, seductive, interactive portals that turn the “I want to get away” moment into an “I want to go there.” Remember, in an increasingly congested and competitive marketplace, visual marketing is the most powerful tool you can use.

Using an interface like Rezcomm Travel, destinations can be conceptualised into micro-experiences - exploring local crafts, learning to cook the local recipes or enjoying the scenery through video, virtual reality, Instagram or visitor blogs. These are all just ways of delivering relevant content in a relevant manner – the axiom of marketing.

3. Strategic Destination Branding

The airport has an important role to play in destination branding. Airports, as the principal point of arrival, often give the first impression of a city brand, and can really showcase it to visitors. By using Rezcomm Travel to facilitate online flight booking, your airport can take advantage of destination identity right from the passenger’s research stage. Instead of being a passive factor in the booking journey, the airport website can become the channel through which the passenger plans and books a trip.

Just as with any product, destination brand is key. By understanding each destination well enough to communicate exactly what it has to offer, you can more closely target travellers, and because your targeted visitors are specifically interested in what your destination offers, they will have a good time. This will build a happy customer base.

A strong destination brand:

  • Provides peace of mind by increasing trust and confidence.
  • Simplifies choices.
  • Taps into travellers’ needs and desires
  • Fosters perceived added value and benefits
  • Provides a greater strategic focus for marketers
  • Provides a unified and cooperative approach to city marketing.
  • Establishes a clear, valued, and sustainable point of distinction in the minds of customers
  • Gives higher return on investment (ROI) from marketing investments
  • Enables premium pricing rather than relying on discounts and incentives
  • Creates an umbrella to capture the character and personality of the city, allowing passengers to feel confident that they are booking a trip they will enjoy
  • Builds loyalty through more repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals

Today’s airports have an important strategic role that moves beyond marketing promotion. Destination brands have to work hard to attract visitors, investment and events, in a competitive environment. By promoting these destinations, you facilitate. By identifying and diffusing unique stories and experiences, building social engagement and providing a platform for the growth of local businesses and neighbourhoods, you work alongside the destination brand to deliver a vibrant visitor economy for years to come.

If you would like to speak to Rezcomm about our integrated travel booking and CRM management solutions, contact the team today.

Marc Ive

Marc Ive

CEO at Rezcomm, Marc is a Transformational Executive specialising in the Travel, Parking, Technology and Leisure Industries.

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