The most important concept in destination marketing?

What is a concept or a term that every destination marketer should know and understand about destination marketing? I think I found it. It is very catchy. A bit marketing-oriented even. Quickly thought, something far-fetched? But coherent and makes a lot of sense when thought more deeply.

It gathers up something very wide in one tight, distinct term. It makes me go “aha” and to nod. Have I now learned the most important concept during my master studies in tourism?

Destination DNA

Understanding Destination DNA is the key to plan and implement destination marketing. The identity of a place, the code written there by nature, the basic framework of a certain destination. It is something not to invent. It is something that already exists and has existed for a long time. It cannot be faked to be something it is not or changed to something else.

Destination Marketing DNA

Destinations, embrace your identity!

Place DNA is the destination’s competitive identity, and that’s why it is important to dig out. It must be deeply understood and commonly agreed among the entrepreneurs and residents in the area – the destination’s ‘frontline ambassadors’: those with whom visitors come into contact.

It is the atmosphere, the setting, and surrounding, the natural staging of the destination. It makes the genuine holiday experience possible to happen, to exist.

Or can the DNA of a destination change?

Actually, will it – eventually – anyway?

No. It won’t. Destination DNA is something that stays as it is. Presence, personality, and characteristics change. Or rather, develop. It is important to distinguish these two.

As important as it is for a destination to be well aware of its DNA, it is important to understand that once it’s known, it cannot be ignored, left unattended or unutilized.

What matters the most in destination marketing?

People build the destination marketing

Destination DNA is the basis of “what” and the core for “how”. Also, it gives the visitor a purpose, “why”. What makes a certain destination special? How are the available attributes possible to experience during the visit? Why should someone visit in the first place?  Therefore, an essential concept in tourism marketing and management.

As I stated in the beginning, learning this term got me captivated by its importance. Destination DNA – I pondered, maybe even the most important realization considering my tourism studies? Well, it is a term. A written, nicely formulated concept. Putting into practice, another thing. And who does it?

The people.

People behind the product, the service,

the experience.

Heart and soul to destination marketingThe final touch, in connection with the customer, comes from the business owners and the employees. They, the people, are the ones who transform the destination into a tourism product. Into experiences which breathe the place atmosphere.

And they add their own personal DNA into it,

 to make it memorable for the people.

For the customer.

TMM developing tourism business at Etelä-Konnevesi region

Our International Master’s Degree Programme in Tourism Marketing and Management (TMM) has started a collaboration with municipalities of Konnevesi and Rautalampi and tourism stakeholders in the region. The concrete first step in this collaboration was a two-day workshop on developing nature tourism in the Etelä-Konnevesi region, organized in Konnevesi research station 14.-15.3.2018. Together with Anne Hyvärinen, project manager at a regional tourism development project, two days full of tourism business content were designed and tailored for the region.

Tourism insights and knowledge

The idea of the first day was to bring in all the actors to the same level when it comes to tourism marketing and management in a nature tourism destination. The day started with introductions and three short group work presentations by our students. As a preliminary assignment, our students had examined how the region is represented on the Internet from the perspective of potential tourists, both domestic and international. They also gave a quick overview of the recent development of the region in combination with development possibilities.

Making tourism better
Nature tourism workshop at Etelä-Konnevesi region

From the student presentations, it became obvious that the region has a vast tourism potential, but the problem is that very few know about this hidden gem. Most tourists that come to the region just visit the Southern-Konnevesi National Park, even though the region is full of interesting, high-quality and distinctive tourism businesses. Thus we were able to pinpoint the tourism development problem to marketing and sales, as well as networking between the actors in the region.

Besides our students, there was a wide range of presentations from local entrepreneurs and tourism personnel, Jyväskylä UAS and Visit Jyväskylä, and Johku. The tourism in the region and development possibilities were discussed from many different viewpoints, providing a great overview of the topic.

Networking and collaboration

At the end of the first day, we had the chance to visit a local rural tourism business Suopirtti Highland and meet their “hairy cows” (ie. highland cattle). It was indeed an experience for all of us. Afterward, we had a chance to taste delicious locally produced dishes at restaurant Mierontie. The restaurant also had a unique, wooden interior design made by local Jukola Industries. At the end of the second day, we had the chance to visit the National Park and experience KalajaRetkeily hospitality from Markku Utriainen. These visits only reinforced our view that there are many great and original tourism products and services in the region, but very few have ever heard of them.

Tourism services at Etelä-Konnevesi
Local tourism services

Professor Raija Komppula emphasized at the workshop how important collaboration and networking are for tourism businesses. Not that much can be achieved by doing things alone. Tourists seldom choose a destination based on one tourism business. Tourists are looking for an amalgam of experience that they can enjoy during their trip and only by working together a region can provide tourists what they want.

Tourism business development

Our students are now working with individual tourism businesses as their second assignment. Each student was assigned with a tourism business with their own development possibilities. The businesses gave our students practice-oriented tasks connected to topics such as marketing mix development, service packaging, experience design, technology adoption and new-service development. Our students will provide each involved business a short report that guides the businesses to take the next steps.

Students in a nature trail
TMM students and staff at the Etelä-Konnevesi National Park

Collaboration with TMM

We have built our programme so that this kind of destination and business collaborations are possible. Our students performed really well during the workshop and have clearly learned a lot during this past year they have been studying with us. We will continue our collaboration with Etelä-Konnevesi region and are also open to new possibilities to make tourism better. If you are interested in collaboration, please contact me at juho.pesonen[at]uef.fi.

The Most Common Problem in Destination Marketing in the World

World’s Most Common Problem in Destination Marketing

What is the difference between successful and non-successful destinations from the destination marketing perspective? In this post, I want to understand the details behind successful destination marketing. What is the one key thing to gain competitive advantage in destination marketing?

When we start to think about the exact reasons for the success, I suppose that most of the people will answer that: “It is all about the strategy”, or “The budget walks hand-in-hand with the success”. Third largely heard opinion is: “There are right people behind it”.

These are all right answers while looking at them from the micro perspective. Anyway, by turning the whole point of view into a larger scale, we can find one rallying point for all of them. That is the collaboration. Collaboration ties all of them together and separates the destinations into a successful and non-successful.

d’Angella & Go (2007) and Fyall, Garrod & Wang (2012) have created an excellent researches about the connection between collaboration and marketing. Main results were that, in tourism destinations collectivism is needed for individual success. In such a win–win situation cooperation brings higher competitiveness for the actors involved. The collaboration allows destinations to expand their reach and tap into wider market opportunities. Collaboration is also natural response to the marketing and management challenges of destinations.

We can pointedly say that to succeed with marketing objectives, it is necessity to re-orientate with organisational level toward the achievement of ‘‘collaborative advantage’’ rather than ‘‘competitive advantage’’. The future norm for successful destination marketing and management will be more collaboration and less isolationism. Good example about the destination marketing with “collaborative advantage” is Iceland.

How DMO can strengthen up the level of collaboration?

There are usually many different aspects affecting for the willingness to do collaboration. In many cases, behind the non-collaborative destination you will find following similarities: trust, fear of change and preposterous expectations toward DMO. These all fits in under the following statement: lack of knowledge. There are tons of small micro companies (SME’s) in tourism industry, which does not have the knowledge about nowadays needs. Many of them do not even know the basics about the current issues in marketing scene.

We have almost reached the 2020’s and the marketing is focusing more and more on different digital channels. To be successful, one must be able to develop itself to answer for nowadays needs. Unfortunately, the fact is that SME’s knowledge toward digital marketing is still limited. These small entrepreneurs are still playing by the rules settled in the 90’s. Posters, brochures, newspapers and letters via postal mail. There are too many whose only digital channel is Facebook without any idea how to use it effectively.

To be successful in destination marketing your every component needs to be at a certain level. In situation where the SME’s do not even know how to be visible in online you don’t meet with this goal. As a DMO, encourage the entrepreneurs to improve their skills in digital marketing. That is the modernity, and it is the necessity. SME’s don’t need to be professionals but if they even know how to be visible in online, how to create content, how to use SEO and how to use social media effectively, you are already one step ahead.

How to learn digital marketing together as a destination?

Content creating is now easier than ever. You do not need to be an engineer to create content anymore. Everyone has a possibility for that in the internet. Social media (SM) and content management system’s (CMS) such as WordPress have unlimited options to share content effectively and more importantly, easily.

Educating people inside the destination is not even time-consuming process for DMO anymore. Most of the programs are available in digital format.  Even better, there are great variety of free courses where to participate in. Encourage the SME’s to attend for these free courses and learn how to use these different online tools. Check out these top free online courses to upgrade your destinations digital marketing skills in to next level:

1. Google Digital Garage: https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalgarage/

One of the most versatile courses is offered by Google. These completely free online courses will guide the participator through everything from search engines, to social media and beyond. There is totally 26 different topics and 106 lessons. You will learn to use SEO, create content, to be visible in online, launch different kind of marketing campaigns and use analytic tools more effectively. This is probably the best place to start learning the basics of digital marketing and E-Business.

2. Alison Diploma in E-Business: https://alison.com/course/Diploma-in-E-Business

Alison is a massive online learning community of more than six million registered users. They offer both, free and paid courses. Now you can take the free digital marketing course, Diploma in E-Business. Taking part for the course you develop your skills in search optimization, Google Analytics and AdWords, campaign tracking and integration, revenue metrics analysis, digital measurement, and much more. Extremely useful and recommend course to upgrade your current knowledge.

3. HubSpot Academy: https://www.udemy.com/inbound-marketing-course/

HubSpot Academy offers an incredibly comprehensive digital marketing courses. They are also offering free and paid courses. Recommend free course is: Inbound Marketing Course. This course has currently more than 35K participators. This inbound marketing course offers over 4.5 hours of instruction with totally 38 lectures, and all of them are completely free. You will learn how SEO, blogging, landing pages, lead nurturing, conversion analysis and reporting come together to form a modern inbound marketing strategy.

Benefits of collaboration

At the beginning, it is enough if you can encourage even couple of companies to take a part for these courses. As a DMO, think about the benefits of educating the people inside your destination.

1. You will get available working hours and other resources for your destination marketing. That does not involve even money transfers. The more people we have creating content about the destination, the easier all of this provides advantage through synergy. Little by little the visibility and awareness of whole destination will start to increase.

2. Togetherness creates strength. It is always better to have more people doing right things at the same time. Professionals are important, but one or two gurus cannot do everything by themselves.

3. You can start to build a common marketing strategy in more detailed level. Exploit the different digital channels as together and create a controlled content network between the individuals inside the destinations.

Once you have reached that, you are ready to take a step for the next level: collaboration between destinations and organisations.

How to promote a tourism destination online in international markets

 “Summary: Plan, use different online tools to analyze, make things easy for others and Care!”

Like every other business, there are some strategies to follow while promoting a tourism destination online in a foreign country to attract tourists. In this post, I present some ideas how a tourism destination should be marketed for international audiences. If you are a destination marketer, take a look!

Traditionally, expanding destination marketing to new markets is conducted through various partneships with for example travel agencies. However, tourism destination should also have visible online presense to support these partnerships.

Nowadays, internet is flooded with tons of similar things. Among them, some are interesting, useful while many of them are annoying, time consuming and just scam. So, no one wants to spend time in online for something that he/she doesn’t like, when there are many better options available a click away. So, to stand out as a right option to the customers, there are many things that one can do to succeed in his work.

   1.  Proper Website

Websites are often the first part of business identity for a foreign customer. So, a good website can work as a good representative of the destination. But, it needs to be customized for that targeted group. Only translating contents to a foreign language is not enough. There are many other things which need to be checked to make a good and well-functioning website.

  • Use a native speaker here to translate. At the same time, it needs to be localized in terms of message.
  • The core message of the product and services need to be delivered to the customers in a way they expect, accept and understand easily.
  • Language in a website should be easy, simple and understandable by everyone. Remember to talk with the customers in their tone.
  • Is the website responsive to all the devices that customers use?
  • How easy it to navigate?
  • Are there core messages in a way that customers can get it within few seconds when they come across this page?
  • Are there easy payment options and prices in local currencies, so no one face any difficulty?
  • How fast webpage loads in devices in different countries?
  • Is there something that can make it difficult or annoying to use?
  • Is there right contact information, so customers can reach easily when needed?
  • Is it attractive and well decorated?
2. Online Marketing for tourism destinations

Online marking is a critical part of a modern marketing mix. Now a marketer has only a few seconds to present his product to grab attention from customers and deliver core messages. The failure of doing this can bring a total failure of a business. By following few steps correctly, one can reap the best fruits with minimum effort.

  • Proper planning.
  • Setting a measurable short time and longtime goals.
  • Checking financial capabilities such as budget and base the plan on that is also important.
  • Categorizing customers based on region, age, interest etc.

Thinking is the most powerful tool any marketer has at their disposal. Think and study who your customers are and what they need and want. Find out who are already interested in the destination and looking for it online. It is easy to talk to someone who is already interested in and knows about the destination than to a stranger. “Google Market Finder” tools can help in this regard. As countries all over the world are different from each other in terms of language, culture, lifestyle and purchasing power, marketing to them need to be different as well.

    3. Promotion

For promotion, the best idea is to use multi-channel online marketing to reach the customers faster. These channels are social media marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), paid advertising in different search engines, social media and other websites that have similar users. But, before starting all these tasks, first

  • Find out which marketing platform would be most effective for that targeted country.
  • What kind of search engines do they prefer?
  • Make ads in the local language. Ads with precise and interesting contents directed to a landing page might work better.
  • Use email marketing.

Of course, timing is also importing to engage more people in the advertisement. There are tools like Google keywords planner which can help to find the best keywords for SEO and ads. Email marketing is always good option to consider. It is targeted for the people who have already visited the website and has shown some interest. It is the fasted way to reach potential customers and let them know about updates, offers and a reminder of destination. It is very effective for re-targeting customers who already checked destination and signed for news update through mail. Sometimes, it influences them to make a purchase later. Finally, in email, keep easy unsubscribe option if someone wants to do so.

Make it easy for the customer to reach customer support whenever needed. Everything should be frank and honest. Make sure that, customers get enough care before and after purchasing. Collect honest feedback from them, so things can be improved. Checking things time to time from customers’ point of view is also important!

Using Pixel Hotel idea for entrepreneurship

Can we own a hotel or start hotel business with our limited money? You may think that the answer is no. But, I would say Yes, and you will probably agree with me if you take a closer look at pixel hotel business idea in Austria.

Pixel hotel is a new form of hotel business which I recently learned while studying tourism destination marketing course. I got so interest to this idea that, I wanted to learn more about this and share my thoughts.

Whenever we think about a hotel, what usually comes to our mind? A nice tall building with lot of rooms in different floors with many other facilities. But, Pixel hotel is just the opposite. “The city is the hotel” which is the slogan of pixel hotel and it works like that. This new idea of hospitality industry came into existence in 2006. The idea originated from a concept made by a group of young architects and designers in Linz, Austria.

Pixel hotel is a cultural enterprise in Linz, with the aim of giving guests a direct experience of unusual accommodation with certain particularities. Another aim of this association is to utilize unused properties in urban and rural areas in profitable way. This also gives an opportunity to their guests to stay close to their travel destination. Hence, tourists get more time to travel. Targeted tourists are those people, who love watching things a bit slower and bit closer. As an accommodation project, it has become an international recognized brand which was cited as an example of innovative tourism in 2009. Rooms of pixel hotel are scattered in whole city which can be an old building, workshop or basically anything which can be used as accommodation.

Picture of the first prototype Pixel Hotel which was in an empty garage.

Similarly, for pixel guests, there is not any certain restaurant to offer lunch and dinner. Rather guests are invited to discover the local food and culture and to know the story of that place.

In my opinion, this is a very nice business idea to learn from. This idea can be utilized to start hotel business with very little money and with minimum preparation. Another competitor in the market is Airbnb, but people who rent apartment there usually own only one apartment and that is not their main source of income. On the other hand, an establish hotel is always more reliable to the guests and more profitable.

How Pixel hotel idea can be utilized in Finland

Finland is a big country with very little population. Most of the tourists’ services like hotels and transportation facilities are available mainly in big cities and in the center areas. So, when tourists visit Finland, they tend to stay in those places which are close to their hotel and where public transport are available. Because of this, attractions in small towns and places remain unknown and undiscovered by most of the tourists. But, we can utilize pixel hotel idea here to arrange accommodation and other facilities for the tourists in all over the country, then it may appear as an attractive tourists’ service for those who will plan to visit Finland in future.

Idea: A simple house can be used as a hotel

Moreover, there are many empty houses and apartments in every cities and towns which are ready to use or with little arrangements can be made ready to rent to make money. People can use this idea to start their own business with a limited money and minimum risk.

Source: http://www.pixelhotel.at/index.php?id=1&L=0

From Marketing Strategy to Values Strategy

Having been processing the concept of marketing strategy during the ongoing autumn due to our course on destination marketing, the concept of strategy has been wandering in my mind. What does it actually mean and how important is it for a (tourism) company?

Applying the concept of strategy

In his book Valonöörin käsikirja (A lightneer’s guide) Frank Martela poses the questions What are our goals, what things are worth doing? and What can we do to reach our goals? as the central questions about the human life. He also points out that too often we do things that we didn’t actively choose to do. Too often we spend time on social media or Netflix though our goal is to do sports and be physically in a good condition. Or maybe we feel pressure to do certain things or maybe we just accept them because that’s how people always have done them. I think these questions and thoughts can be applied to business strategies as well.

During our course on marketing it was highlighted how important the mission, vision and values of the company are when creating a strategy. Another author and teacher Jim Collins reveals in his book Good to Great ways to develop a good company into a great one, based on a broad research. One of the core findings is to first find the right people around you, to keep them around you and then to “figure out the best path to greatness”. Also because with the right people you can more easily face changes in the changing world: “if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus, then  it’s much easier to change direction”. This can also be seen as a value-based approach: when there’s a group of people who share the same values and hopefully the same mission, it’s easier to set the direction.

Getting the right people on the bus (although the bus might need to be repaired along the way).

 

 

 

Don’t get stuck to the word: it’s about the content

Wikipedia, tells that the word ‘strategy’ derives from the Greek word stratēgia and the original meaning would be something like “art of troop leader, office of general, command, generalship” and that a strategy is a “high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty”. The other week I also had the chance to hear some thoughts about marketing from Timo Kiuru, who works as a creative director for different companies. In his opinion the term ‘strategy’ shouldn’t be used at all. He still stressed the importance of values and to on a weekly basis check if you have been acting according to your values.

It was a very inspiring speech and I also agree that we shouldn’t get too stuck to the word itself or think that if there’s some kind of a strategy, everything will fall into places. The importance of the content of the strategy, the goals and actions have to also be highlighted: a strategy is no use if it’s not concrete, applicable and if it’s not applied. For a company it’s quite essential to define some sort of a strategy. If there is a high level plan with at least some values or core thoughts that are important and/or motivating  it can’t go very wrong. Also, possible changes in the plan don’t necessarily mean it was wrong in the first place.

Setting a direction.

Peer-to-peer accommodation and sharing economy from tourists’ perspective

Airbnb has become one of the largest accommodation companies in the world if counted by the rooms available. Its rapid growth has been enabled by a phenomenon known as sharing economy. People are less inclined to own things and are getting used to share what they own with other people. Peer-to-peer accommodation happens when a person rents an apartment or a room they own to other person and this is typically enabled by digital platforms such as Airbnb. We wanted to study how this peer-to-peer accommodation phenomenon is shaping tourist behavior results from three different studies are now available online, elaborating what is important in peer-to-peer accommodation from traveler perspective.

Sharing economy and peer-to-peer accommodation
Source: https://intelligence.slice.com/airbnb-bookings-59-percent-muted-major-markets/

How is peer-to-peer accommodation shaping travel behavior?

In the first study we found out that sharing economy and peer-to-peer accommodation especially are good for tourism destinations. Availability of peer-to-peer accommodation enables wider selection of destinations for tourists, increase length of stay, travel frequency and number of activities tourists participate in the destination. Especially travelers’ desires for more meaningful social interactions with locals and unique experiences in authentic settings drive them to travel more often, stay longer, and participate in more activities.

Tussyadiah, I. P., & Pesonen, J. (2016). Impacts of peer-to-peer accommodation use on travel patterns. Journal of Travel Research, 55(8), 1022-1040.

What drives and hinders peer-to-peer accommodation use?

In the second study we explored the market characteristics and the factors that drive and hinder the use of P2P accommodation to better explain the phenomenon of collaborative consumption in the tourism and hospitality marketplace. Using responses from travellers residing in the United States and Finland, exploratory factor analyses revealed two factors that drive the use of P2P accommodation: social appeal (desire for community and sustainability) and economic appeal (cost savings). The barriers include issues of trust, efficacy and familiarity with the system, and cost.

Tussyadiah, I. P., & Pesonen, J. (2016). Drivers and barriers of peer-to-peer accommodation stay–an exploratory study with American and Finnish travellers. Current Issues in Tourism, 1-18.

Airbnb and sharing economy is shaping tourism
Peer-to-peer accommodation

What kind of peer-to-peer accommodation users there are?

In the third study we examined the drivers of peer-to-peer accommodation in more detail and focused on different P2P accommodation user groups. We found out that the major drivers affecting the use of P2P accommodation services are the age of consumers, active use of the Internet and online technologies, and the frequency of international travel. Cluster analysis identified two user profiles corresponding to consumer motivations for using P2P accommodation services. The first consumer group uses P2P accommodation services to make their trips more convenient, while the second uses them mostly for social reasons.

Pesonen, J. & Tussyadiah, I. (2017). Peer-to-peer accommodation: drivers and user profiles. In Dredge, D., & Gyimóthy, S. (Eds.) Collaborative Economy and Tourism. Perspectives, Politics, Policies and Prospects. Springer. pp. 285-303. http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319517971

Nature tourism is trending as we start to understand how healthy being in nature is

Nature tourism in Finland is all about “the space to breathe, a time to dream, hiking in summer, cross-country skiing in winter, gathering berries and mushrooms or simply a gentle walk in the woods.” (http://www.visitfinland.com/finrelax/). Nature is also one of the central themes in Master’s Degree Programme in Tourism Marketing and Management (MDPTMM, www.uef.fi/tmm). Why is nature so important for tourism that we have raised it so high in the programme?

Nature tourism brings us closer to nature
Nature has great health benefits for people

There is an increasing amount of evidence that being in the nature has huge benefits for our health. The latest is a 300-page review report from European Commission (link). The report examines more than 200 academic studies exploring the topic from various perspectives.

As more and more of us are living in the cities the interest to travel back to the nature increases. We are bored with congestion, air pollution, noise and eternal hurry. We want to have a place for relaxation, a place to get away from it all. Nature provides balance and health for our busy life and creates fantastic possibilities for example for digital detox.

FinRelax

Nature does as good and people are starting to realize that. Destinations that have good infrastructure for nature tourism will come up strong. But nature tourism needs to be developed in a sustainable way. In Finland for example Visit Finland is focusing on FinRelax program to increase the level of nature tourism products across the country and developing them to a direction that focuses on creating wellbeing for tourists (http://www.visitfinland.com/finrelax/). Finland aims to be the best place to relax in the nature, a noteworthy goal. All the elements are in place and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. We have a front seat for this as the MDPTMM will work closely with Visit Finland and especially with FinRelax program to understand destination marketing and management.