We’re at the mercy of the almighty algorithms. So, how can you replace website traffic lost to Google and Facebook algorithm changes?
EAT = Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness
MC = Quality Main Content
ORM = Online Reputation Management
Laszlo Horvath, founder and president of website experts, ActiveMedia, has some insights on gaining and delivering EAT, MC, and ORM and a few additional tips to share from his eTourism LABS presentation, seen here.
“Explore the city of Philadelphia before stepping foot on a single cobblestone by viewing Visit Philadelphia’s interactive virtual experience,” suggests Visit Philadelphia’s website.
Powered by You Visit (as presented at eTourism LABS by Richard Schmitz), Visit Philly has more than two dozen sites and attractions featured in their three-minute, 360º virtual tour.
The Travel Vertical talked to Will Seccombe, former CEO of Visit Florida, about how a lack of trust in traditional institutions impacts the destination marketing model in the USA and what can be done going forward.
Under Seccombe’s leadership in four years as CMO and a further four-plus years as CEO, Florida tourism saw “astronomical growth,” exploding from 80 million to 113 million out-of-state visitors over the period 2010 to 2016. A huge increase in spending per visitor most recently resulted in $30 billion, which translates into one industry job generated by every 85 visitors to Florida.
Nonetheless, Seccombe feels that replicating these past few years’ Visit Florida marketing formula wouldn’t necessarily lead to more growth from 2017 onward, due to a totally different environment.
TTV: What make up the key elements of the current destination marketing organization?
WS: I’m a firm believer in destination marketing at local, national, international levels, which is critical to maintaining and growing market share. There are a couple of key elements:
- Visionary public sector leadership that recognizes the economic impact of tourism and is willing to invest;
- An active private sector that is highly satisfied with the marketing direction, programming and execution (Florida’s score came in at 94 percent satisfaction).
Yet, even with one of the best products in the world — like Florida — it’s absolutely necessary to re-invest again and again to guarantee a robust culture of hospitality.
TTV: Considering the current pace of innovation, is this model sustainable?
WS: Today’s cultural shifts layered with that rapid pace of innovation and an environment of distrust puts all marketers, including DMOs, in a different spot.
Who do people trust? They trust friends, relatives, some celebrities, even strangers and crowd-sourced reviews and ratings more than they trust brands, corporate, advertising, and government.
TTV: How does this affect DMOs and should they align with trusted brands?
WS: It’s important to identify the businesses that people can align with. How do you achieve this and how do you partner with them? How much access to data should we place in the hands of these partners, whether they be Facebook, Google, an influencer, ambassador, or another?
Thinking about the future of destinations, tourism promotion, and marketing generally raises some broad strategic questions:
- What are the biggest challenges right now?
- What are the next disrupters?
- How are Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and other AI tools replacing human interactions affecting decision-making?
- Can AI tools have the ability to tap into visitors and residents to identify what’s unique about the local flavor of a place?
More like a maze than a funnel
TTV: Where would you suggest DMOs focus next?
WS: The big data play is going to be huge. We know that tourism marketing works, and now the technology is available to prove it. Attribution is a massive piece of justifying the here and now in answering ROI questions like “How do we know what you’re doing works?”
DMOs have to be relevant in a digital age…and continue to innovate. Google Travel and Facebook City Guides are doing what DMOs have traditionally done and they’re doing it at scale.
I am reminded of a comment I saw today from the CEO of Accenture that underscores this point.
While convention sales and services have always had the more easily articulated ROI, the more general destination marketing services find it much more difficult to demonstrate real value added and ROI.
Engaging the community in promoting the destination where they live is essential. Residents are authentic, trusted, and deliver the added benefit of increasing local awareness of the importance of tourism to the community both economically in also in respect to quality of life. .
In fact, the travel planning process now looks more like a maze than a funnel, with consumers researching and shopping multiple destinations before they press “buy.”
TTV: If you were to create a state DMO or a city CVB from scratch, what would it look like?
WS: I’m certain that if I were to start a DMO or an ad agency today, I wouldn’t build it on the model we see today considering that we’re facing massive disruption in the form of AI and VR, via devices we now have in our kitchen, our car, our pocket. The design of a new DMO or agency would be more like a startup — lean, nimble and scrappy.
Due to the current atmosphere of mistrust, DMOs and their agencies must align with brands that are trusted by target audience(s). In the case of Pitbull for Visit Florida, when you can get a celebrity with 100 million unique social media followers to authentically promote your product to an audience that is important to your destination, it will be more effective than traditional marketing.
Look at the enormous value of Drake to the Tourism Toronto brand. In today’s world, everybody has an audience that is trusted by their followers…some audiences are a lot larger than others and thus create more impact. But brand ambassadors do not need to be celebrities; they just have to be authentic in their enthusiasm for the destination.
Taking the question of trusted recommendations into account, one thing we know for sure is that storytelling in whatever form will continue to become more and more important.
Every market is different, but I would focus efforts on where you can create and add value to the community that you serve and to the traveler. Simply put: Sales, Sales, Sales — the DMO is the destination sales team. From a marketing perspective, focus has got to be on digital transformation.
You still have to distinguish the differentiators between one destination and another. You still have to engage the locals. You still have to inspire travel.
By Geoffrey McLaughlin, Senior Director of Partnerships, Jebbit
Consumers want to be wowed. We all know that. They’re also harder than ever to keep up with. Should you be on Snapchat? Do you need an app for Apple Watches? How do you even think about reaching them with videos? Consumers might seem fickle and eager to jump onto the next trend, but all they really want is to be treated as the unique individual they are.
Travel marketers have made strides to hit these consumers expectations by better segmenting nurturing campaigns, but now consumers expect even more. Your goal is to educate your audience on what your destination has to offer, why it’s the perfect fit for them, and why they need to book their trip. Every email you send gives you the chance to highlight your destination differentiators. But how often do you see your email open rates and click rates remain stagnant, despite your best efforts? Sending everyone the same email, or a few different groups a slightly different email, will not work any more. It’s time to think about true personalization.
Why true personalization? I’ll let the numbers do the talking:
- Personalized emails drive 29% higher open rates and 41% higher click rates
- 98% of consumers who get personalized emails are more likely to engage and convert
Personalization sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. All you need to do is capture leads and find out what different members of your audience truly like and care about, and use that knowledge to inform your content and offers.
For example, one DMO put out a dream vacation quiz with the aim of segmenting their romantic travelers from their other travelers. The question: “Who do you usually travel with?” could be met by “my significant other,” which opens up the doors for various romantic questions to present to them, about date spots, romantic vistas, and couples’ activities. Once they uncovered their romantic travelers segment, they say their email open rates and click rates increase by over 40%.
When you start by finding out what kind of traveler they are, you save yourself time spent convincing them to visit various destinations with generic, blanketed travel information. After you’ve achieved that first step, the rest is pretty straightforward. The secret is to continue asking questions about their personal preferences, so that you can market them in an even more effective way.
Whatever the personalization strategy may be, this is all part of the plan in gaining useful, and relevant information about your consumers. This isn’t just a one hit wonder, either. Each data point you can capture about a traveler will grow their individual profile, so the personalization is not only achieved short term, but also long term through a smooth, continuous transition.
The time has come to kill the generic monthly newsletter, and start saving yourself time trying to convince people to visit by showing them exactly what they want to see – content made for them! Think of it as a fishing net – the less you know about your travelers, the bigger the holes in the net, which means you’ll be default catch fewer fish. But each meaningful interaction between yourself and the traveler creates stronger relationships that bring you both closer together. The closer you are, the less space in between the net, and voila! You drive more visits, understand more travelers, and gain more customer loyalty… priceless.