Tourism industry dabbled with digital media in 2017 for promotion

Published on : Thursday, January 4, 2018

globeThe year that just went by i.e. 2017, was a year of experimentation and growth for tourism boards learning new platforms and technology From Facebook advertising to 360-degrees photos and video to outfitting visitor centres with more interactive exhibits and devices, everything was tried.

Here’s a look at what tourism boards were saying about various kinds of technology in 2017, and what to pay attention to in 2018.

Atlanta’s Convention & Visitor’s Bureau launched its Discover Atlanta mobile app in November, but not because anyone was asking for one, said Andrew Wilson, its executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

The app shows travellers special promotions, insider guides to Atlanta’s neighbourhoods and nearby dining options, for example. Helping a group plan a girlfriend getaway weekend is one niche, said Wilson. “It remains to be seen if consumers will be flocking to these kinds of products, but in the interim, this is how we’ll be serving the convention attendee,” he said. “We can alert people to an ice storm or power outage and use the app to get messages to people in a timely fashion.”

Wilson said the app had about 7,500 installs mainly from locals and leisure travellers during its pilot phase and the tourism board plans to roll it out to meeting planners early this year.

Turismo de Portugal, Portugal’s national destination marketing organization, said maximizing Big Data’s potential will be key to managing overtourism.

But Sérgio Guerreiro, director of knowledge management and corporate affairs at Turismo de Portugal, also said Big Data isn’t the only answer to creating smart tourism growth strategies.

Last year was filled with examples of tourism boards that had to respond to natural disasters, and many were faced with extreme weather or disasters. But they had new tools – namely social media – that weren’t around during previous extreme weather events.


They used social media to respond to travelers’ questions and convey updates on which attractions and hotels were affected.

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau kept active on its social channels during Hurricane Irma in September and had time to tell travellers about the storm and how local hotels and attractions were preparing.

“Technology was the bane and beauty of all this,” said Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. “As good as we’ve become with technology and predictions, hurricane tracks still change.”

At Skift Global Forum in September, Tourism Australia CMO Lisa Ronson acknowledged many tourism boards don’t have big budgets to work with when integrating new technology into their strategies.

Tourism boards also need to justify money they spend on platforms and how that will benefit their local economies. “We have to be really mindful that everything we do influences the economic impact back on Australia,” said Ronson. “For us, it’s about doing fewer, bigger, better partnerships, whether it’s with media owners or technology companies because, for us, the partnership component is a really, really big part of it.”

Besides marketing to travellers, many tourism boards are also working to persuade tech companies and skilled workers that their destination is the ideal location for a company’s headquarters and a great place to live and work.

Orlando, Florida is one destination trying to get that message out but it must contend with its theme park reputation. “It’s a little bit of a detriment for us on the business side of things because when you’re thought of just as a vacation capital, people don’t realize that your tech industry is actually 20 or 30 years older than your tourism industry,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “It makes it a more difficult challenge to attract business and to attract millennials that you want to have in the community.”

Helsinki, Finland has also embraced its tech community and has used it to its advantage as it builds its presence on platforms like WeChat.

Recently, Visit Scotland announced it’s closing two-thirds of its visitor centres in the coming years due to decline in foot traffic. Instead, it’s trying other strategies. The organization hosted a pop-up visitor center in London in October to show travellers Instagram photos of Scotland to inspire them to visit and to test how people responded to a mobile visitor centre concept.

However, Skift spoke to Discover Los Angeles about its strategy and found nearly the opposite – the organization is expanding its number of visitor centres because of their popularity and the tech and resources available at different locations.

Destinations know their websites aren’t the only digital trip-planning option anymore, so they are increasingly using their sites to test which marketing strategies and campaigns stick and which fizzle out.

In August, Skift looked at the world’s 25 best tourism websites and found a variety of ways destinations used their websites in 2017 but one of the overarching themes was experimentation.

Travellers saw more 360-degree photos and videos on their social media news feeds in 2017 and much of that content required a significant amount of resources and manpower. Many destinations aren’t convinced these videos actually get travelers to book trips, but some are still trying them.

Destination British Columbia said its 360-degree videos tend to be longer than traditional videos which average 30 seconds to one minute. “Part of that is the user experience needs to be longer so that you have a moment to glance around you to see what’s happening because there’s still a learning curve with the technology,” Janice Fraser, managing editor of Destination British Columbia.

Atlanta’s visitors’ bureau created a 360-degree tour of the city on its website and launched a companion mobile app in 2016. Wilson said the 360-degree experience has helped energize the tourism board’s sales department at trade shows.

As one of the largest platforms in the world that allows businesses to target specific demographics and populations, Facebook is one of the safest bets tourism boards can make.


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