Today's touristic landscape sees an ever growing competition, with 70 % of international visitors visiting only ten countries (source). Awareness, differentiation, and recognition as a touristic Destination are hence essential for Destinations looking to attract visitors. Destination Marketing, therefore, cannot be ignored.
What is Destination Marketing?
Destination Marketing is an essential tool for Destinations looking to become real players on the traveler's map. Mostly, it puts a tourism product on the marketplace and seeks to improve its competitiveness. It does do by developing, growing and retaining its popularity for touristic purposes. It is, in fact, the promotion of a Destination to increase its touristic attractiveness. Destination marketing reveals a Destination’s potential customers and leads them to choose this specific place by promoting a chosen identity (source).
Why should Destinations use Destination Marketing?
Travelers now have almost unlimited access to the information they seek but are also receiving unrequested information about Destinations. This information combined influences travelers in their choice of Destination, especially if they come up before the decision is made. Amongst the main activities of travel planning online, three out of seven take place before the decision-making. They are the phases in which travelers seek inspiration and information. By appearing at the moment of these three activities, Destinations have a chance at being noticed and create awareness.
Figure 1 The top seven online travel planning activities (source)
As a Destination, it is crucial to stand out and be noticed. To be a traveler’s next landing-place, it must become – and stay – competitive.
This is the purpose of Destination Marketing.
Destination Marketing is a tool to attract potential visitors, inspire them and, eventually, affect their choice. It gives Destinations the opportunity to create relevant promotion, a strong brand, tell their story to become a top Destination.
Touristic competitiveness is ruled by six main factors: attractions, accessibility, recreation, accommodation, activities, and commercial accessibility.
These factors will determine the attractiveness of a Destination for travelers. Through Destination Marketing, Destinations can identify their strengths among these six factors and adapt their promotion to target customers.
Figure 2 Factors of competitiveness in Tourism (source)
However, it does not suffice for a Destination to possess a good number or quality of these competitiveness factors for it to be competitive. Even with a good product (for example, a great historical heritage or numerous activities), some Destinations might go unnoticed and fail to be privileged by travelers. Destinations must not only evaluate and develop their product but also display it in a way that renders it attractive. The competitive advantage must integrate the identity of the Destination.
Several destinations have failed to attract travelers by relying on the quality of their product and failing to promote and market them. A major example is the one of the State of Colorado, in the US, where in 1993 the local government ended a, however, successful touristic marketing campaign, relying on previous successes and the confidence that the products of the State would be attractive enough (source). As a result, the State’s share of US travel fell 30% down in two years.
This is a reminder of the importance of creating, maintaining and keeping efficient and quality Destination Marketing campaigns.
How is Destination Marketing evolving?
Destination Marketing needs to follow current trends to remain relevant. One central trend is the switch from mass marketing – one unique message broadcasted to all potential customers – to a focused marketing adapted to a more segmented target. New technologies and social media allow for a better research on potential and actual customers, and therefore more adaptability and relevance. It has also become less costly, which also means it is easier to implement. This is good news in a world where travelers are more and more aware and independent, making niche marketing essential.
Looking at the customer first
A key factor in this evolution is consumer engagement. It is a modern communication stream between the provider (here, the Destination), and its consumer (here, the travelers). As a result: back-and-forth exchanges rather than the traditional one-way messaging.
Destination Marketing seeks to identify actual and potential customers to target them better. As a result, stronger customer engagement is possible, for example through Social Media and mobile devices. Fostering consumer engagement, Destinations improve their ability to deliver value at each point of interaction between the consumer and you (source). Therefore, the customer relationship can lead to long-lasting relationships, feedback (resulting in a regular improvement of the visitor experience), and access to the customer’s personal network. This is valuable in two ways: empowered fans will act as advocates and word-of-mouth will exist.
What it successful Destination Marketing?
Destination Marketing succeeds when your customer becomes your best marketing asset and an integrated part of your marketing campaigns. Today, this is the most efficient way to reach more consumers. With online information and word-of-mouth being the main sources of information – and the most trusted – for travelers, creating an important presence online and being praised by previous visitors is a necessity.
The following figure places word-of-mouth from friends and family and from online consumers reviews (such as one can find on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook) on top of the most trusted sources of advertising, with a respective 83% and 66% of respondent trusting these sources. Branded websites come second place, coming before consumer opinions posted online. Interestingly enough, it was not the case at the time of the same study in 2011.
Figure 3 Word-of-Mouth as the most trusted source of advertising (source)