Helene Lloyd is the Director of TMI and she is an independent Tourism Marketing Consultant. Through her experience of marketing a variety of destinations and other hospitality products (cruises, Luxury hotels and designer shopping outlets), she has gained expertise in both the luxury sector and the MICE segment. Her most recent area of focus is the digitalization of the travel sector and the disruption this has caused the whole distribution system, as well as the growing influence of opinion leaders via social media.
SB:Which will be the key destination marketing trends for destinations in 2018?
HL: The rapid digitalization of the travel sector, means that we are working in an ever-changing environment which is hard to catch up with, but is challenging and exciting. If once Destinations had mainly B2B conversation with a limited number of Tour operators, who in turn sold packages to their travel agency network, today’s DMO’s have to be prepared to speak to consumers directly via the online as well as traditional media including the social media. Both digital technology, but also highly professional communication are the key issues that any destination has to focus on. However, although digital technology will enhance the marketing capabilities of any destination, it will not answer all of their needs, as the travel industry is based on personal relationships and recommendations.
But the overall trend for 2018 is a continuation of the previous years, and DMO are becoming highly professionalized organisations. They are much less likely to have their own office in a foreign country and more likely to out-source communication and increasingly their marketing and branding to professional agencies who work to agreed KPIs. This allows them to complete in an increasingly crowded area and at the same time allows them to achieve their targets within the limits of their budget.
Apart from the professionalization of the sector and the increase in out-sourcing, destinations are also increasingly focusing less on mass tourism and developing niches that will allow them to compete in the future, as travelers themselves are becoming increasingly selective. In Mature markets, like much of Europe, visitors develop not only niche interests, but also ‘causes’ so the environment sustainability of a destination and other social and political issues are increasing important and need to be considered in the marking strategy.
SB:How to combine marketing and sustainable tourism?
HL: Increasingly up- market travel destination and product not only understand the visitors concern for the environment and the sustainability of a destination, but the clever ones make this an integral part of their being. A great example of this is the newly created destination in Greece called Costa Navarino, which was created in the Greek mainland (Peloponnese) which has been largely untouched and un-spoilt by tourism. The aim of this project is not just to create a resort but to create a new destination in Greece and incorporates the very best practices of sustainability, not only did they move and replant over 4000 olive trees whilst building the resort, but their aim is to provide employment of the local people, living in this region and train them up to be professionals. The numerous food and beverage outlets at the resort, are mainly provided with organic and locally grown food and they have been so successful at it that they have now developed their own Costa Navarino brand of organic food.We are likely to see more of these synergies in the future, rather than cheap and unplanned tourism destinations.
Which are the key skills and competences for a career in tourism marketing and digital innovation?
HL: Due to the rapidly changing marketing and sales environment, it is no longer enough to have traditional skills relevant for the travel industry sector but also the ability to learn new skills which are relevant for the digital environment. In the past, the profile of the typical sales person working in the travel sector, would be to have good inter-personal relations with travel industry, as the tourism sector is all about people. This needed to be combined good organisation skills to manage a CRM system to manage all the contacts, as well as the physical stamina to meet them on a regular basis at international exhibitions and as well as organise individual sales calls.
All of those skills are still required, but today’s employ, also needs to have be able to learn on the job and master different digital skills to be able to liaise with Online travel agents and manage on a daily basis hotel rates. For those planning to work in marketing, the ability to manage an online marketing or PR campaign, dealing usually with multiple stack holders and graphic designers is now a requirement. As in other sectors, marketing in the digital age requires promotion across a variety of platforms, combining digital with traditional. As new technology comes on board, more skills need to be acquired. The positive news is in general employers believe that younger people are more flexible and quicker to learn and are therefore more likely to choose younger people to train up to work in this sector.
SB:Which would be your recommendations for destinations to be successful?
HL: For a destination to be successful in the medium to long term, it is vital to preserve the authenticity of the place, as this is the main reason why people keep coming back to the same place. Most mature destinations understand this very well and are trying to avoid the development of mass tourism products, as they only lower the value of the destination, as well as the level of satisfaction of the visitor.
Visitors no longer want to be passive spectators, they want to learn to cook a local dish not just try one or eat in a family home not just visit a restaurant, they want to speak with a local. This is increasingly possible with the digitalization of experiences and social media.
Apart from remaining authentic, it is important that a destination tries to extend their seasonality, this is especially important for resort destinations, which are not sustainable in the long run if they are only open for 4-5 months of the year. Destinations have to be a lot more creative to attract visitors during the low season, by creating events and other attractions as well as special price policy, to ensure a destination can provide high quality services, by having staff continuity as well as being sustainable in the long-run, as destinations with a short seasonality will eventually become too expensive to maintain.
SB: Your wish ?
HL:Is for greater unification of the travel sector, to ensure the sector is kept at the top of the governments agenda. As the travel sector contains many diverse players, (airlines, hoteliers, experience providers and destinations) but they often fail to speak as one voice. A great example of this, was the missing unified voice of the travel sector during the Brexit vote ?. Britain’s departure from the EU will have a major impact on airlines, especially those using the UK as a hub, and no doubt the hospitality sector will find it hard to find staff with the language skills currently supplied by other European countries free of charge. None of this unfortunately reached the headlines, even though tourism is the UK’s fourth largest