Last week I participated in the Digital Tourism Think Tank Global event in Helsinki. #DTTT Global focuses on destination marketing in digital channels and on the role the technology plays in tourism destinations. I have already posted detailed notes from day 1 and day 2 of the seminar, but here I will go deeper into what I think is interesting and important in Destination Marketing at this moment. You can read the key takeaways from the organizers here and compare those to the ones below.
Do not ask what your destination can do for tourists but what tourism can do for the destination
I think this notion from Visit Copenhagen is just wonderful. We saw many examples where locals have been utilized in tourism marketing, but what if we change the viewpoint? Can we use tourists to promote tourism for the locals? Tourism exists to increase the wellbeing and quality of life both for locals as well as for tourists. Tourism is a powerful force to do good for a community. This does not happen automatically but destinations need to manage tourism to reach this goal.
Digital marketing is a matured field, now it is time for digital management
We saw fantastic examples from San Diego, Dubai, and Banff and Lake Louise Tourism on what is modern day digital marketing in tourism destinations. It is targeted, digital, designed for each customer segment regarding the story, copywriting and images/videos, and it is constantly measured and optimized. It seems that most destinations are already quite familiar with digital marketing and know how to do it really well.
What was new in the seminar was the focus on digital management. Technology creates new possibilities for managing a destination. This is what came up in presentations by Visit Finland, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Australian Tourism Data Warehouse. Destinations are getting smarter and smarter, able to create more value both for tourists as well as for locals through the use of digital technologies.
Shifting focus from digital marketing innovations to branding innovation
Whereas digital marketing has reached its maturity, the possibilities to derive competitive advantage from great use of digital marketing is diminishing. All destinations are competing with each other in the same digital channels with quite similar messages. This means that the competition of tourist attention is fierce. Destinations with large budgets are able to gain more attention than those with limited budgets. These large destinations are also able to do digital marketing more efficiently, as the more they spend the more they learn on optimizing and what works and what does not work.
This leaves only a little bit attention to those without big budgets. These smaller destinations need to be really good at branding innovations. When budgets are limited (as they always are), more consumer traction is needed. There are plenty of opportunities to do “free” marketing if you get tourists to talk about your destination, or if you can do something media worthy. Destinations should try to collect tourists who are interested in traveling to the destination to online communities where it is cheaper or even free to communicate with them. Being completely different from everyone else and focusing on smaller, clearly defined market segments without that much competition from other destinations should provide good results. How Eindhoven has developed their brand is truly innovative. Big destinations are unable to be as agile as smaller destinations with less brand burden and smaller stakeholder networks.
Balancing between growth and sustainability
It seems that especially European destinations are now focusing on the quality and value of the tourist, not just on the numbers. Even de-growth is a possible goal. Issues with overtourism and negative sentiment of local people towards tourism are important destination marketing and management issues. However, on global scale tourism is growing fast. This means that new destinations have great possibilities to get increased attention from tourists as old destinations are “full”. For these new destinations, the major issue is finding the balance between tourism development and sustainable development. Tourism grows, no matter what destinations do. The real issue is to get those tourists to visit sustainable destinations and spend their holidays as sustainable as possible.
I study how changes in technology and consumer behaviour affect tourism marketing. Professor of Tourism Business at University of Eastern Finland and IFITT President.