Digital Tourism Think Tank 2019 – Day 1

#DTTT 2019 What did I learn?

 

I had a great possibility to participate in Digital Tourism Think Tank Global 2019 on 4rd and 5th of December, which this year took place in Espoo. DTTT Global is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting conferences as it gathers a bunch of tourism DMO’s and other professionals to hear the latest innovations and good practices made around the globe. As it was my first time in participating anything this big of an event, it was a great chance for me to test what I have learned during my year in UEF Master’s Degree studies and put that knowledge in practice.

The overall impression from the two days was, well, impressive! Both days were all about technology and digitalization, but the theme was viewed from different angles; the first day was all about how technology can be used in sustainable destination design and the second-day topic was all about AI and digitalization. We saw great examples from around the globe on how to do things a bit different view. The repetition, which still rings in my ears, was: DMO’s role is shifting, DMO’s role is changing. I will try to cover a few examples of how this topic emerged during those two days. You can see the whole program and key take-aways here

DMO’s shifting role – What’s this about?

Traditionally DMO, a Destination marketing organization, focuses on MARKETING. Building a brand, getting the stakeholders together, promoting the place and focusing on tourism flows. However, in most presentations, you could hear how DMO role was merged as DMMO (destination marketing management organization) or DxO where x stands for anything that the future holds for us and tourism organizations must be ready to modify their actions on how the digitalization and travel behavior change. As written in the article at Atta.travel

“A DxO is better-equipped to manage disruptive business methodologies, to pivot when it comes to times of change and to be agile in the face of challenges. For example, A DMO in a time of water shortages cannot simply sit back and continue to market a destination as if oblivious to the challenge faced by locals and, ultimately, visitors. A DXO tackles the challenge head-on, collaborating with relevant bodies in the private and public sector to drive tangible change, having a positive impact on the very environment in which tourism takes place.”

As the growth of tourism flows has not only had a positive effect, UNWTO, (United Nation’s World Tourism Organization) has instructed DMO’s not only to focus on marketing and sales but also to the elements of government and coordination towards collaboration. Therefore, DMO – or should I say – DxO’s role is constantly shifting towards more holistic governance of the area and tourism flows.

So, how this is seen in practice?

Case: East Iceland

I was impressed by the work done in East Iceland (Austurland) and in the Faroe Islands on how they have managed to do collaborative work together with the locals, aiming at the commitment and destination loyalty and most importantly – that the locals are proud of their destination. East Iceland current destination strategy and branding building process started in 2012 when they got familiar with Swedish Destination Designer Daniel Byström. Two years later East Iceland DMO together with Byström started to blueprint the touchpoints and putting the stakeholders in the center of the whole design process.

They did a lot of workshops and interviews with local residents and formed a brand tagline “Think outside of the circle” referring e.g. to the circle (1-road) going around Iceland and from which you have to deviate from to get in most of these cities in East Iceland. (I accidentally visited Seydisfjördur and Egilsstadir in 2017, as we were circling the ring road and thought on do a day-trip to this city, and especially first mentioned it is worth stopping by!). They build a strong brand around local people, around emotions and storytelling. The brand was build and communicated openly with stakeholders and local people. The brand mission is as follows:

Our mission

“We are communicating experiences and emotions with a personal the approach that inspires and surprises the audience, while working with every visitor, resident, and company as a part of the Austurland story”

I think they have done a splendid job in brand building and designing collaboratively with visitors and locals. They’ve managed to build up the communal spirit and “proudness” towards their homeplace. One great example from creating value together was one walking road to church, which became a “landmark” of Saydisfjördur after a bit of a fine-tuning. The story behind it was that there wasn’t enough money to repair the old brick road. Therefore, instead of repairing the road, they painted the road with rainbow colors together with residents and local artists.

(Source: María Hjálmarsdóttir & Daniel Byström’s presentation in DTTT 4.12.)

I think this is a great example of DMO’s shifting role: instead of just marketing, DMO’s role is also bringing local people together, coordinate and encouraging and committing them to build up a destination in where they are proud to live alongside tourists.

Case: Faroe Island

Another marvelous example from that what DMO could do with literally 0-budget – do it as they do in Faroe Island – Do it viral. It was ridiculous to see how many viral hits the Faroe Islands got just being creative. Google Sheep View and Faroe Islands Translate have got. However, it is not all. Collaboratively with locals, they built up a strategy and a brand “Preservolution” – aiming not to have over-tourism, but sustainable tourism.

Unique and authentic experiences are in the focus, instead of mass-events. As for one another example, they did a one-day event where the stage was in private homes. Over 20 concerts in local’s home sound like an experience you can’t get from anywhere else!

However, after successful viral hits and events, it became clear that not everyone wanted Faroe Island as a playground for tourists. Tourists were not always welcome and landowners mind their land to getting ruined by a tourist. Added to that, complicated legislation was ambiguous in topics liability and who takes care of the land if tourists “ruin” it. It created opposition within landowners creating their way of doing things and creating e.g. cash per visit -systems

(Source: Levi Hanssen’s & Jóhan Pauli Helgason’s presentation on DTTT 4.12.)

For that, they built up an idea: Closed for Maintenance – open for voluntourism. The whole country is closed from “ordinary” tourists but open for volunteers who construct and help locals to preserve nature. Collaboratively with locals landowners, local people and tourists they build more sustainable destination and have less annoyance from residents towards tourism. All these actions created by a DMMO of Faroe Island created proudness towards the home country, and willingness to move back and do things for it. More importantly, it connected people to do things together with tourists and destination stakeholders. Another great example of DMO’s shifting role.

Wrap up #DTTT Day 1

This was just a scratch from Day 1 of DTTT. After the first day, my head was filled with ideas and I got the same inspirational feel what I got after their presentations and immediately I started to compose ideas: Could we do something similar in Finland and around Saimaa Region? Maybe we can start a project around these issues to develop a strong place brand around Lake Saimaa and ECoC –process, to build a stronger feel towards the place – for example. Do open workshops and interviews and build a strong destination brand and strategy around Lakeland and Saimaa region. Well, even these cases could not be modeled in these contexts; the key thing for me was realizing how wide scope DMO has to control. I do not envy you guys, who are doing this as your daily job!

For me, these two above-mentioned presentations were the ones, which stood up from the ground from the first day, as there were many touchpoints where I could relate. Not to say that other presentations were bad – the opposite! For example, Lyon have done a great job as a sister “smart city” to Helsinki on the year 2019 in connecting technology to culture by creating a “visitor database” which is shared by the entire destination stakeholders to maintain loyalty and understanding visitors better and communicating with them, referring visitors nearby activities during city visit. That’s how you use technology to create collaboration with destination stakeholders!

(Source: Camille Lenoble & Blandine Thenet presentation in DTTT 4.12.)

Finally: Finland as a sustainable and smart destination – how are we doing?

I cannot end the post without mention our dear beloved Finland. I was proud to see how good work we’ve done in Finland. Comparing to strategies, sustainable travel goals and such things that were seen during the few days. The place, Dipoli in Espoo was a great spot for this kind of event. Espoo in many ways surprised me with all the tech innovations that the “happiest city in the happiest country” had come up to. Automatic transportation pilot Gacha, Uber-style boat on-demand –service Bout, Airbnb-style rent your boat – SkipperiAutomated helicopters which deliver food just to mention a few examples to which I immediately could see business models in Saimaa region as well.

We are ahead in building a sustainable tourism destination, where e.g. MyHelsinki has focused on by encouraging stakeholders to act more sustainable. However, to be frank, in Finland collaborative work still needs some work to do – but we are slowly getting there and seeing the benefits of what we could achieve by creating and innovating our tourism flows sustainably and responsibly. This is also a recognized problem by Visit Finland and noticed in for example in a report where they dive deep to examine the operating models of Finnish tourism agencies (in Finnish).

When we identify and speak out from our problems, it is much easier to solve and develop them together.

Read more about the event on my Day two recap.

DTTT Global 2019, Day 2

The second day (Read about the first day here) of DTTT was all about technology and digitalization. What we can learn from data and how we can benefit data in place branding, leading and marketing.

Lead with data. Do marketing with it, learn from it, optimize – optimize – optimize – then do it again.

Head of Telia data technology Tapio Levä gave an inspirational speech on things you can do with data in Finland. Tourism sector statistics have been depended on interviews, surveys and such, where they calculate and estimate overall income to the area. Well, I have some good news: No more guessing! Data that you can get from mobile phones is mind-blowing: You can see e.g. from where the tourist is coming, how long he/she stays in the area, where they go during their stay etc. And most importantly: no more guessing about day visitors which does not stay at hotels: they are included in the statistics as well!  Tapio Levä told us an example from Ed Sheeran’s gig in Helsinki – where the estimation was 9 m. € in revenue – from 2 days!

(Source: Tapio Levä’s presentation 5.12.2019)

Data gives us access to information what we have not to be able to see before. In discussions throughout the day, it was clear that using data improves collaboration with the stakeholders and it gives tools to understand tourism flows better. By using data, the traveller’s customer journey is possible to form from the first idea to get abroad to marketing after the visit. It is essential to learn constantly from your data and optimize your marketing by how your data is changing. E.g. in Benidorm, they understood from data that tourists from the USA are interested in their destination and are talking about it and changes their marketing strategies based on that.

In Ireland, they’ve put data into some serious work. By utilizing data they’ve built up a detailed customer journey and touchpoints. In practice, they collect data on how one tourist acts during their stay. Based on that data AI builds customer profiles and recommendations with future tourists with a similar profile. A massive project with 48 m. cookies and 1,5 m. digital touchpoints. WOW!

Content is king – Tell a story worth hearing!

As I love great stories and marketing, I want to showcase a few examples heard during DTTT on great stories utilized around destination brands.

In Vienna, they celebrate Ludvig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday and Capital of Music –title year in 2020. One way on how they combined LVB’s to a digital era, was to combine Alexa with Beethoven.

They did a project, where the integrate a vivid story of Beethoven with Alexa’s voice commands. With a command “I want to hear something about Beethoven” Alexa tells a 2 min long story about how he has lived his life in Wien. After one story it gives 3 more alternatives to where to continue with the story. So, it’s kind of a book I’ve read in my childhood where after one chapter you can choose what alternative you take.  Except that you communicate with Alexa and hear the story from it.

(Source: Andrea Kostner DTTT 5.12 (A model from the storyline plots)

I think that this was a great example of how to build up great stories that combine place history and place attachment with place branding. And I instantly started to think about how could we in Finland e.g. take advantage of this in Jean Sibelius’s 160th birthday in the year 2025.. 🙂

The USA also used storytelling by creating unique stories around its destination brand based on the musical history of the country. They collaborated with “minor” actors such as MTV, BBC, and Spotify and let them create content independently around the topic. One result with Daily Telegraph was this microsite where the stories were combined with the evolution of music 

Collaboration with open API

It’s obvious that technological solutions revolutionize tourism research and gives huge opportunities to destinations in optimizing and personalizing tourism flows. More importantly, it emphasizes collaboration IN the destination. Today, your business does not exist if you are not on Facebook and you don’t have a webpage – but tomorrow you don’t exist if you don’t collaborate. You don’t survive if you do things just by yourself.

tomorrow you don’t exist if you don’t collaborate.

Collaboration is in the focal point also now in Saimaa – where they try to achieve a title for the European Capital of Culture for the year 2026. To do that they must collaborate with 4 provinces all together – tourism, culture and most importantly, the local people. Digital tools and technological solutions give great tools on achieving this by first collecting data from all the stakeholders in one place and secondly, sharing that knowledge with anyone whose interested. The first thing to create collaboration is that stakeholders are aware of each other. Not just inside one city or just inside one province – but in Saimaa and Finland and the Nordics etc. To gain a competitive advantage you must collaborate and think big.

Conclusions:

  1. Digitalization enables collaboration, it can make collaboration more visible and open via different kinds of platforms. Data provides information on what has been “hidden knowledge” before. This knowledge can be used on planning customer journeys etc. Besides just planning – you can see in real facts how you have succeeded in your plans.  Sharing is caring – no matter if you are a DxO or RMO, tourism stakeholder or just an average Joe. Sharing knowledge with each other creates stories, gives data, creates collaboration, gives a competitive advantage. By utilizing data and technology, that work is more easily done.

2) The second conclusion is that AI is here. We are in the middle of a big change in society where digitalization, automation, AI and robots are already here. There’s no use on denying and fearing that robots are taking on the world. Let’s face it: we are living in the middle of sci-fi society. When you think about what kind of things we already have, it is something I couldn’t dream of in my wildest dreams in my childhood. ( but I’m still waiting for the flying cars!) Instead of living in fear, you have to look forward and figure out ways on how to utilize this efficiently. I think in this sense I saw quite a few good examples on how to utilize data efficiently what it comes to the tourism sector.

That’s my view from #DTTT Global 2019, hope you enjoyed it!

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.

Get a master’s degree in tourism business

Are you looking for an international tourism-focused master’s degree programme in business? Tourism Marketing and Management programme by University of Eastern Finland provides a unique learning experience for students who have finished their bachelor’s degree and are looking for new skills and knowledge in developing tourism industry in a sustainable way. Read more about the programme at www.uef.fi/tmm.