The Synergy of Digital and Destination Marketing

the synergy of digital and destination marketing

Taking into account the current situation with the pandemic, a real opportunist will see a chance to prepare for the post-pandemic surge of the businesses most affected by the virus. Obviously, I am talking about the traveling and tourism industry.

Just take a brief peek at the recent worldwide leisure tourism spending chart. It has increased by 248% in the last 19 years rising the demand for spendings from 1,900 to 4,715 billion dollars per year. 

leisure tourism spending worldwide from 2000 to 2019

Imagine the increase in demand after the fall of pandemic related restrictions. This is something worth preparing for by promoting a location to travelers, investors, and even students! Which basically is destination marketing in a nutshell. So let’s dig in!

What is destination marketing and how does it work?

Destination marketing has many interpretations but, long story short, it can be defined as a sequence of actions that is aimed to promote a particular location. Not souvenirs, not air travel tickets, not hotel rooms, but locations, that attract travelers and investors to benefit the resident. Destination marketing is what communicates a destination brand to the target audience.

But if you are curious about what third-party experts are defining destination marketing, here’s an insight from Thulisile Galelekile, the General Manager (Marketing) in charge of destination marketing strategies for the coastal South African province of KwaZulu-Natal:

about destination marketing

Going back to our own interpretation and referencing the featured definition, destination marketing can promote a particular location and simultaneously aid its socio-economic state. One of its known functions can actually fight overtourism.

By focusing on marketing efforts in particular cities, towns, or regions, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) shift traveler’s attention to the locations that lack the flow of tourists. More people are getting aware of the previously unpopular treasures while easing the load from the most crowd heavy locations. Some also see destination marketing as a way of redistributing wealth by promoting less economically developed locations to pocket-heavy travelers.

Talking about overtourism, take a look at how Visit Holland proves to the world that the Netherlands is not all about druggy Amsterdam and mesmerizing tulip fields. As a DMO, it has created an extremely efficient promotion channel to bring awareness to the less popular but attractive places in the entire country. 

An official Visit Holland website features a curated user-generated content gallery that acts as a window to the wonders previously exclusive only to the locals. The organization has suggested a #thisisholland hashtag on Instagram that encourages citizens and travelers to create and publish pictures of places in the Netherlands that stand out, by giving them credit on the homepage of the website. 

pictures of holland

Smart enough! But this strategy is now really widely used. So to achieve success in destination marketing you have to look for more unique ways of raising awareness! 

The destination marketing strategies of today

Being a Ukrainian digital marketing agency, we take pride in our origin. But frankly, the destination marketing situation is going kind of slow here. Just recently, the official website of our “DMO” – administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Ukrainian Institute –  has been announced as fully finished. So as an experienced digital marketing agency, we would like to analyze the current situation regarding the destination marketing strategy of our country. This way we will be able to go through a checklist of goals that simply can’t be ignored in order to achieve success in the traveling and tourism industries.

1. Audit your current situation and define the clear and attainable KPIs

In order to create some sort of a plan, it is mandatory to first set some goals. To do that you need to take into account your country’s infrastructure and current tourist flows. Analyze the historic, economic, cultural, and environmental aspects of the place you are trying to promote and the methods used to achieve that.

Digital marketing usually features KPIs such as subscriptions, traffic, clicks, etc. Looking at the mentioned above website, it is clear that Ukraine is aiming to attract various groups of tourists and investors. The locations that are highlighted on the investor’s map are relatively easily accessible. The same goes for most places from the pictures in the gallery. 

example ukraine official page

The part of the website that is targeted at investors does not repeat the home page and tries to showcase as many spheres and industries as possible. Considering the confusing variety that is offered to the website user, it may sound like an inconsistent mix of options. Nevertheless, it actually works quite cohesively thanks to the elaborate Ukrainian culture and strategic geographical location that tie all the elements together with exclusive branding.

2. Research the market and find your target audience

Find the most convenient marketing research tools to learn more about your target audience’s digital habits, but most importantly, make sure to first conduct surveys learning about what are the real preferences of those who actually love traveling to or within your country: locals and tourists, investors and students. Find out what’s really hot in your country and interview the foreigners to find out what are the possible problems that may arise.

Looking at the content on the website, it is quite clear that the target audience is millennials. It is not surprising due to the current tourist attractions in our country being more focused on Gen Z and X, while these two demographics prove to be statistically the most careless with their spendings on traveling (about $3,500 per trip and $60 a day).

But defining the target audience is far from enough to create an efficient marketing strategy. Defining buyer personas is the next step to achieve wanted results. Judging from the Explore page alone, we can distinguish 4 buyer personas: urban traveler, traditional culture enthusiast, contemporary art and music lover, wildlife activist, and the underground crowd.

If you haven’t developed your buyer personas yet, take into consideration the most common interests, demographics, and occupations to form specific groups of people that make your communication more direct.

3. Create distinctive and coherent branding

Here comes the time to put the conducted research together into one creative unit. A graphic designer would be of much help in this task. First, you would have to create a relevant brand metaphor to stay close to the aesthetic of your brand. It has to be a couple of words or an entire sentence that conveys the essence of your destination completely. Sometimes even slogans can serve as metaphors. After completing this step you will be surprised how much earlier it will be to create logos and names. To learn more about brand metaphors check out our branding case studies.

In the case of our Ukrainian destination marketing website, we can see the three elements that define a brand: traditional and minimalist Ukrainian embroidery, diverse color pattern and style of photographic imagery, and the domination of the two colors in an overall design that represent the Ukrainian flag. This very much strikes all the pinpoints of the Ukrainian brand that unites the most diverse elements.

4. Develop an Outstanding Website

Most organizations are bound for struggle without a website these days, considering the fact that 97% of users immediately go online to research information about a local business. We won’t be the first to say that, but it is as relevant as ever before. With no presence on the internet, your authority in modern society is questioning. It is hard to imagine the modern informational landscape without mentioning the word “digital” even once. So the internet is the prime source of information these days, and the website of your destination is its window to the highest possible exposure.

It is really important to make sure that the website user experience stays top-notch starting from the page loading speed and ending with the actual content and functionality. I have checked the loading speed of Ukraine’s destination website and it doesn’t look too well. Especially for the newly developed website. It may not always scare off the user, but it will definitely influence your Google rank (the more time it takes for the google bot to load your page, the lower your rank in Google). So try to fully optimize the website from the official launch date.

page loading speed of the official website of ukraine

5. Search Engine Optimization

Another fundamental digital marketing promotional method – SEO – is exactly what keeps your website alive. The optimized development is a part of SEO. 

This strategy also includes regular content posting, using strategic keywords for promotion, PPC, and link building. SEO is a deep and complicated process that actually gives first results months after the optimization has been done. We can’t judge for its low Ahrefs rankings due to its official launch happening quite recently- 1/14/2021. To discover more about it, we suggest reading our blog

6. Social Media Strategies

Social media activity is as essential to succeed among the general public as the fully optimized website. Considering the fact that 49% of consumers look for recommendations from celebrities online, we recommend contacting the influencers and buying promotion content from them. 

We also suggest using branded hashtags as in the Visit Holland case from earlier in the article to encourage social media users to create free promotional UGC for their destination.

Unfortunately, Ukraine doesn’t use such a hashtag strategy. Its gallery is packed with professional photos taken from the stock imagery websites. It takes authenticity from the visual representation.

7. Video marketing

Talking about the visual representation, nothing conveys a message or inspires to visit a place like a video. And here’s where the Ukrainian website really shines (it is gorgeous)! Considering the gargantuan audience that inhabits YouTube, creating a video will boost your awareness significantly if optimized for the platform and the search engines. Put some real effort into your promotional video to really spread the needed message and show that you care!

So can you get by with just a marketing organization?

Why? Yes! As a digital marketing agency, we can assure you that contemporary promotion can’t go past the Internet. That is the exact situation that needs expert involvement, consultation, or cooperation. So in case you need some deep insights into the digital marketing strategy regarding the promotion of your chosen destination, you know whom to call. Let’s strategize! 

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