Lessons from local travel, tourism clients turned global marketers

By Bob Provost

Rutgers Business School

Newark, New Jersey, USA


A challenge: With this blog post, I am inviting any INMA media organisation that can point to a successful global/ international programme managed by their account team to reach out and contact me. I’d love to profile your success story in a future blog post. Contact me at RobertProvost57@gmail.com and let me share your case history with your fellow INMA members.

I’ve been involved with providing interim leadership for a “local” convention and visitors’ bureau for the past 18 months, and I have enjoyed the opportunity immensely. The experiences I’ve had there have been the inspiration for several INMA blog entries, and this will be another such case.

This post builds in part on the content of my June 2015 entry, Advertising client as publisher, account executive as service(s) provider, wherein I pointed out that, today the typical client is a multi-media publisher seeking to build its Web site, e-mail, and social media audiences.

Many media account executives fail to realise that their roles have evolved strategically from providing access to their print and digital audiences to helping the client build its own audiences.

The case histories I want to point to today have a similar theme. But in this case, I will illustrate the evolution of a client to global marketer.

Tourism providers in China have started partnering with overseas counterparts.
Tourism providers in China have started partnering with overseas counterparts.

The former CEO of this destination marketing organisation once expressed frustration with the increasing sophistication required in tourism marketing. “Tourism marketing used to mean you bought an ad in The New York Times travel section. Not anymore.”

Having spent four decades on the newspaper/multi-media side of the equation, I am familiar with the dilemma account executives and their clients are facing. It’s a — literally — bold new world, and the marketing battleground is being dominated by the best strategists and most visionary marketers.

Let’s start with understanding the client and its objectives. Here is what the convention and visitors’ bureau states as its core objectives:

The Convention & Visitors Bureau is a private 501(c) (6) non-profit corporation, funded by stakeholder hotels through a Tourism Improvement District, committed to creating economic growth and local jobs for residents by:

  • Increasing the number of overnight visitors staying at our hotels.
  • Increasing the length of the average overnight stay.
  • Increasing per capita spending by hotel guests at our restaurants and attractions.

The organisation’s Web site is fairly robust. It has experienced 46% growth in user sessions and uniques in the past 12 months with a 28% increase in pageviews. Equally significant, it has embraced the sixth “P” in the marketing mix: partners.

One partner it works closely with has embedded a hotel booking engine on the bureau’s home page; it drives commissionable revenues and provides a fulfillment opportunity without visitors having to leave the Web site.

But the topic of today’s blog post is global marketing.

  • Case 1: From China, with love: Recently, a Chinese airline began direct flights to and from the local airport. Through another partner (a major travel booking agency in China), this destination marketing organisation was able to create a Web presence (Web site and social media) on the Chinese Internet and begin marketing directly to Chinese nationals.

    Four months after going live, it has tracked nearly 1,300 foreign independent traveler (FIT) bookings generating nearly US$200,000 in business for member hotels. An additional 2,700 rooms have been booked as group business, and the momentum is continuing to build. The ROI is already at 400%, just measuring the FIT revenue. 

  • Case 2: Our cousins across the pond: As the foray into the Chinese Internet was developing, this destination marketing organisation launched a less challenging (common language, no Internet barrier) outreach to another market with direct flights to the local airport — the United Kingdom.

    Working through several partners, a 30-day campaign was launched with a combination of print and digital advertising. Tracking the pixel planted in browsers from the digital campaign over in the first 30 days verified more than 500 hotel room bookings. Again, the revenue generated far exceeded the cost of the campaign. 

My point? Many of your clients are able to build their business transformationally utilising the utilities that are available to them in digital marketing. Most of you offer the same utilities and/or could do so with the right partners.

The real question: Do you have the vision to make it happen? Are you making the staff investments (not just numbers but expertise, culture, and professional development) necessary to meet your client needs?

About Bob Provost

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