Tag Archives: destination marketing

Can Ecotourism be Mainstream?

By Stacey Hunter, BC Hughes Tourism Consulting

When searching for vacation ideas, type in the word ‘Eco’ and see what Google yields. I, like most travellers had never really looked deep into what exactly “ecotourism” meant and always had my own perceptions. When staying at hotels I always reuse my towels and “recycle” the shampoo and soap containers by bringing them home with me. I had always just assumed that this is what ecotourism was and that I could call myself an eco-tourist.  When I read about resorts being eco-resorts, I always just assumed it meant you slept in the mud, used candlelight and ate organic. Little did I know mainstream ecotourism meant something much more.

After doing some research I found out that ecotourism is a type of travel that:

  • takes place in natural areas where people don’t usually visit,
  • has minimal impact to the area, and
  • builds awareness of the species and locals to that area.

In return your travel to an eco-destination financially assists in the protection of that destination.  By being an eco-tourist you must be ecologically and environmentally aware of the places you visit.

It all sounds prudish, and likely has you thinking “but I’d much rather my 4 star accommodation in Vegas”. Travelling ecotourism style doesn’t mean giving up luxury and pina colada’s by the pool.  There is a relatively new ecotourism philosophy taking hold in the mainstream tourism industry.  Take Misool Eco Resort in Indonesia for example.  Missool is a luxury dive resort that offers enriching experiences that benefit and sustain the landscape and community surrounding them.  Some examples of what Miscol Eco Resort does in order to be an Eco Resort:

  •  Hiring locals as staff
  • Assisting the community with sponsorships or donations
  • Using recycled material to construct the building(s)
  • Educating visitors about the land and species around the destination
  • Minimizing the consumption of fossil fuels the destination uses (for example using wind turbines and solar power)
  • Minimizing waste by composting, recycling, avoiding pesticides and asking guests to pack environmentally responsibly (for example avoiding packing plastic bags, bottles etc.)

Researching eco-tourism made me wonder why we still travel any other way?

Why not take an exciting vacation all while becoming enlightened about your destination and positively impacting the area you are visiting. If I can go on a trip that is not only enjoyable but is socially and environmentally responsible then why wouldn’t I?

You don’t have to take an eco-safari in Africa to become an eco-tourist. Many would be surprised to know even here in Ontario we have eco-resort opportunities.  Elk Lake Eco centre in Elk Lake enlightens guests within the magnificent Boreal Forest, while placing tremendous effort on serving local foods. Cedar Meadow Resort & Spa in Timmins offers a luxurious experience and wildlife tours right from the doorstep of their resort.   Northern Edge Algonquin offers retreats and adventures at their “oasis from this hyperconnected world”, a sustainable and environmentally sound resort.

If resort owners make the effort to make a difference, we at least owe it to them to given them the consideration when planning our next vacation.

Stacey Hunter is a tourism researcher with BC Hughes Tourism Consulting and has traveled to 16 countries around the world, with the goal to become enriched through experiencing local cultures.

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Filed under ontario tourism, tourism, tourism product, Travel

The Toronto Invasion – Ontario Tourism Regions Set Sights on Canada’s Biggest City

Here in Ontario, the provincial government recently divided the province into 13 new regions in order to create manageable, marketable tourism products.  Well into the second year of this new approach, several of the regions are actively selling to consumers.  Most of these cash infused regions have hired spiffy urban ad agencies to develop creative platforms, execute them; ironically into the exact same source markets.

Toronto is the land of coveted bounty when it comes to selling destinations.  Florida, the Caribbean, Canada’s east and west coasts and Quebec all fight to become top of Torontonian’s travel mindset.  These are savvy, sophisticated travelers with instant access to the world as they live on the doorstep of an international airport.  With competition this fierce you must stand out, not only with your message and how you deliver it but also with products that shine.

This past week in our office, on the Toronto radio station we were listening to (www.edge102.com ), we heard winter commercials from two of the new Ontario Regions, plus the Province’s own winter themed campaign.  These commercials were in the same rotation, with the same frequency and believe it or not had the exact same message: dogsledding, fireside snuggles, crisp air, bountiful snowfall, and getting out of the city.  Each had used a slightly different creative approach but the overall message was exactly the same.  I scratched my head and it got me thinking that there must be a better way.

Let’s look at this a little deeper.  Ontario is blessed with diverse geography, experiences and one of the richest source markets in the country.  Almost all of the 13 regions have identified Toronto, or more broadly the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) as the breadbasket of consumers.  This is not new.  Since the dawn of Young Street, outlying communities have been trying to get the attention of urbanites and entice them to spend their leisure time and money outside of the city.  These outlying regions traditionally have used all types of media to get their message noticed:  trade shows, radio, television, newspapers, outdoor media, postal drops, transit station domination, online tactics and the list goes on.  So what’s different now?

The difference now is timing and cold hard advertising cash.  Picture five new car dealerships opening at exactly the same time, in the same city, selling almost identical product lines.  The poor residents of that community will be bombarded with the same traditional car advertising messaging X 5.  This is the scenario that is playing out in Toronto right now, only with the regional tourism experiences.  All 13 regions are targeting geographically and their marketing sights are set on the Big Buck of tourism…..Toronto.  They have done their research, topped up their marketing tactic budgets and gone in, all at the same time and unfortunately with the same winter messages.

What can you do to not fall into this trap?

  1. Leverage messaging and tactics with like-minded partners if the message is exactly the same.  Why duplicate it and compete with it?  If it’s the traditional winter product you are selling, leverage Ontario Tourism’s campaign and tag your destination onto it.
  2. Be different – Stop selling generic.  Sell really specific experiences. For example –   Stratford sells world class theatre and Blue Mountain sells the best snowmaking in Ontario.  Cool crisp air and blissful snowfalls just don’t cut it anymore. How are you different? What is your really really unique selling proposition?
  3. Support those specific partners that already have a strong in-market presence and relationship with the consumer.  Make their programs bigger and better after all, your goal is to make them money right?
  4. Look at what your neighbours are doing and create and execute your message differently.  Since everyone is going into the same source market with similar products you Must Be different.
  5. Get creative.  Big city agencies hire some of the best in business.  Push them to do better, say “no” and “try again” and hold them to it.  These accounts may not be their biggest but you still deserve the best.   After all, the creative boundaries in selling tourism are endless…its household cleaner.
  6. Pick the medium that work best for you not the agencies’.  Some ad firms are structured to make a percentage off the actual buy.  Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on the mediums that are best for them and not necessarily the best for you.
  7. Put yourself into the home of the consumer.  What are they going to think about your message as compared to your competition?  Is it going to motivate them to walk over to their computer and start planning a trip?  Alberta’s Just Breathe campaign and Newfoundland’s creative are great examples of that.

To Sum Up….

As I see it the only real winners this far in Ontario Tourism Region marketing are the ad agencies, and media outlets. Tourism marketing in Ontario has never before experienced this kind of cash infusion.  Don’t feel obligated to spend the farm on airtime or ads, especially if you are unsure of what you are selling or how it’s different than your neighbouring RTO.  Dig deep and really make the customer sit up and pay attention.   20 year-old tourism marketing just doesn’t cut it anymore.

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Filed under Destination Marketing, Product Marketing, Rant, Tourism Management

Hard Times and Tourism Marketing

We have been hearing a lot in the news lately about how governments are struggling to balance their budgets. During these hard times, public officials are sifting through their budgets with a fine tooth comb, trying to trim any unnecessary expenses (called “gravy” in Toronto) in order to keep their city or country in good fiscal health.

This is an extremely difficult task, and anyone who finds themselves in this position will undoubtedly face scrutiny as they cut public services that will certainly impact someone negatively along the way. Public officials must make very difficult decisions as to which parts of the budget stay, and which parts must go.

One area that is often looked upon as a place to get rid of some gravy is tourism marketing. To the outsider, spending money on tourism marketing is unnecessary, speculative, and difficult to measure its impact on a community, region, or country.

But hold on a second… maybe spending money on tourism marketing pays for itself….

Recently, the U.S. Travel Association published a report that examined the public costs and benefits associated with destination marketing campaigns. They found that these campaigns actually generate more tax revenue than they cost by increasing visitation numbers and spending.

An example of this was seen in the Pure Michigan marketing campaign that came to Canada two years ago. This campaign stimulated a dramatic increase in tourism spending and also generated $138 million in new tax revenue for the State of Michigan. Not bad, considering they spent less than one third of that on the marketing campaign.

Evidence like this not only points out the effectiveness of destination marketing campaigns, but also suggests slashing tourism marketing budgets during hard times can actually make the economic situation worse. If we cut tourism budgets, it is likely that less people will visit, people will spend less money, and tourism operators and local businesses are left struggling.

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Filed under Destination Marketing, Tourism Marketing

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