Monthly Archives: April 2011

Airports – The Launch Pad for your Destination’s Brand

If you are a frequent traveler, you have the pleasure or displeasure of spending way too much time in airports. With increased security and a heightened sense of awareness, it seems as though the airport authorities are forgetting about the image that their facility portrays about the destination.  Do they have to be so sterile, grey, and institutional? Do staff learn how to maintain a scowl during training seminars to purposely make people feel uncomfortable?
The airport is often the first impression a visitor has to a destination. In marketing we all understand that that 2.3 seconds is some of the most impressionable face time you can have with a potential customer. In the case of an airport it becomes more like 1 hour of impressionable time upon arrival. Why not use it to our advantage, to welcome our guests, and create a positive environment that is the starting point of their journey to this new and exciting destination.
Lets look at a Canadian facility that does it right.
Calgary – It must be the western hospitality that shines through that even the Calgary based Westjet has based its entire brand around. You arrive into this facility with broad smiles from the white cowboy hat touting ambassadors. They are friendly and are there to assist visitors with any needs or questions. While waiting for your luggage the centre of the luggage carousels are decorated with themed western messaging that creates a sense that you have arrived in cowboy country. Two simple approaches that work. It is no longer a sterile institution but is a themed welcome centre that is a direct extension of what Calgary stands for.
For an example of actually doing a disservice to a destination brand lets look at the Toronto Airport. Recognizing that the larger the facility the more utilitarian they become, but I see it as even more ‘wall space’ to create a very unique portrayal of the destinations identity. The Toronto facility is all business with any space available for displays or imagery is sold for advertising value, that turns it into a very generic place.
Start at the arrival level, it could be anywhere in the world, there is absolutely no connection of where its located. Standing, waiting for your baggage is often stressful, and this facility’s prison like feel doesn’t make you excited to be in Toronto.
Airports are gateway points of entry to spectacular destinations. Lets make the facilities themselves more exciting and celebrate the beginning of a great vacation, productive business meeting, or reconnection with friends and family. Destination managers need to get engaged with their local airport authority.

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Filed under Destination Marketing, Tourism Marketing

Building Budgets – Getting Destinations Resourced

After spending the last 10 years embedded in the middle tier government system, it taught me some valuable lessons on how to build the case for tourism within a regional system. Here are some tips:
Trust – There is trust on two levels. The first is trust within the senior management and the elected council. Trust sounds like a dangerous word; it is if you don’t have it. Trust in government is earned by performance and public relations. Since there is a ton of PR value in good performance the more successful results you have on smaller projects the more accolades your leaders will receive from their constituents. This immediately trickles down to you as you tackle bigger initiatives. The second level of trust is with the business community whom who serve directly. Your job is to make them money and if they see direct value in what you do, you will have earned their trust. The business community speaks directly to the politicians….you see how this is working.
ROI – Measurement in the tourism destination management business is often tricky. Web visits, brochures handed out, event attendees are soft measurement tools that are important but don’t create a splash. What builds trust is when the business community is making money and they are communicating that to you and the elected officials. Establish good trusting relationships with your operators and they will tell you pretty quick if they are seeing return and will lobby on your behalf to make sure programs are resourced properly.
Community Benefits – Governments love to spend money on projects that increase the quality of life for their ratepayers. Positioning tourism projects that not only stimulate economic development but are also a legacy for residents. Trails are a big part of this approach. Destination trails attract visitors but for the remainder of the 8 months, they are real community assets that improve health, enhance alternative transportation needs, and make people want to live there. Be sure in all tourism projects to make this connection, it is one of the real benefits of a tourism-based economy.
All levels of government play substantial roles in the delivery of tourism experiences. They are often the land manager, infrastructure/service provider, transportation corridor manager, and so on. In order to be competitive and deliver experiences that exceed expectations they need to be well resourced. The tourism economy after all can be very lucrative for tax revenues. It is your job to build the case, earn the trust and deliver successful projects that create better destinations.

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Filed under Best Practices, Tourism Development, Tourism Management, Tourism Marketing

Volunteer Tourism

Think about all of the core tourism experiences in your region. Who manages them? Who runs them? Who makes sure the visitor is having the best experience possible?
In a lot of cases its volunteers, who ironically are not directly in the tourism business. Lets look at organized snowmobiling in the Province of Ontario. This is the largest snowmobile trail system in the world with over 40,000km or trails criss-crossing the province. This network is built almost entirely by volunteers. They plan routes, stake, sign, fundraise, purchase and maintain equipment, groom this massive system both for their own enjoyment but also for the visitor. Snowmobiling is big business and these volunteers are in full control of the delivery of the tourism experience.
Is this right? Is it fair? Ask most volunteers why they do what they do and almost none of them will say, “to contribute to the tourism economy”. They do it out of a labour of love for their sport or activity and in turn what it creates is an authentic tourism product.  But, the issues arise when the destination marketing organizations really start to push these experiences as viable tourism products that generate huge economic activity….on the backs of the volunteers. It suddenly turns from a labour of love into work.
Lets face it, volunteerism is suffering. Lack of engaged youth, aging demographics, and simply too many tasks with too few people is creating massive volunteer burn out.  The destination managers and marketers need to understand their products and what stage of the lifecycle they are at. If they are heavily dependant on volunteers, they need to be sensitive to those organizations and find ways to assist them in ensuring the product stays on stop at the same time appreciating and understanding the volunteers.
Here are 5 ways to engage with your volunteers:
1. Get down on their level – Attend their meetings, and work bees and get engaged.
2. Understand their needs – Do they require more bodies, cash for upgrades, or expertise?
3. Don’t let them get bogged down with rule compliance and regulation – These people all have day jobs and volunteer as an outlet. Help them.
4. Lobby – Use your connections to push their needs through government channels.
5. Offer to help – Allocate budget, staff time or other resources to help them with the tasks that your organization is good at.
Resources: Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs   World Volunteers 

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Filed under Best Practices, Tourism Management