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What is destination marketing?

Digital Marketing
July 12, 2018
11 min

Firstly, let's answer the question "What is destination marketing?". Destination marketing is a type of marketing that promotes a destination (town, city, region, country) with a purpose to increase the number of visitors. In other words, destination marketing is tourism advertising for a specific location. Unlike product marketing, where the products are delivered to customers through distribution channels, accoriding to destination marketing meaning, consumers travel to the destinations. Which bring some peculiarities to the ways of promotion.

Why destination marketing?

Over the last few years, travellers have discovered the places they were going to visit, book hotels and transportation, plan trips and share their emotions and memories with friends online. The main answer to the question ‘what destination marketing is for?’ – is to stay competitive.

The primary challenge is to make your consumers interested in your location before they arrive using social media marketing and search engine optimisation. For this:

  • Show the privileges of your country (region, city, town etc)
  • Create and share the story about the destination you promote
  • Care about customer experience (CX) – be sure your website is attractive, convenient, and fast-loading.
  • Create Google Posts via Google My Business profile about the best sightseeing, magnificent places, or traditional holidays. These will appear in the top search results with images enhancing your overall SEO for free.

However, depending on the purpose and destination, you should use different online tools.
For instance, to promote a country it is better to concentrate on contextual ads, search engine ads and social media (within your targeted region, i.e. the region you would like to target).

To promote a town or a city, pay attention to testimonials services (as most likely, your potential customers would like to check references concerning accommodation facilities, activities, and your location accessibility).

And the most useful tool to promote a region will be search engine ads and social media (pay attention to cultural and natural attractions, region peculiarities and features). Find out more about the aforementioned tools here or contact our representative.

How to succeed?

According to the Travel trends Report 2018, 9 of 10 travellers consider it essential to read online reviews. Moreover, 95% of travellers always trust tour & activity reviews on third-party sites such as TripAdvisor.
However, if the destination is not that popular yet – travel consumers are looking for video and photo material to find out what to expect from the location they would like to visit. However, the first step in country promotion is to highlight a particular destination or to draw attention to it.
To succeed in tourism advertising, you should analyse the ‘product’ and focus your marketing activities on:

  • Identifying the right audience (in other words answer the questions “Who are those people who want to see your destination?”, “How old are they?”, “How do they travel?”, “Do they travel with their families?”, “What are their needs?”)
  • Finding their motivation (“Why would they like to see the destination?”, “What are they going to do there?”, “How much are they going to spend?”, “What do they want to get?”)
  • Matching your audience ‘needs’ with ‘wants’.

A piece of advice here would be to cooperate with government officials of the country you are going to promote to get the most objective data for your research and to get a better understanding of the specificity of the promoted region.

To delve deeper into destination marketing, we asked our digital marketing expert, who was involved in promoting tourism in Georgia, to answer the most common questions about destination marketing.

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How to start promoting a destination if the brand has not been promoted before?

To create online destination marketing campaigns, we need to segment users who plan a trip or are looking for tours at the moment. For this, we use segments of interests, related to airline tickets, tours, summer and family vacations.

To improve the quality of this audience, we need to narrow down such targeting to interests in a specific destination. It can be historical, cultural spots or even cuisine.

You should decide whether to narrow interests or use broad targeting under specific socio-demographic data, based on your primary goals. Please remember that the narrower the audience, the more expensive such a campaign can cost.

Besides, you should determine the age category of users who will be interested in a potential trip to the promoted destination. Also, consider the conditions that other destinations offer consumers, as well as options for spending time there, for example, active/passive leisure.

Since one group can be interested in a calm vacation with their children, and another one can’t imagine their life without extreme. Based on this, it may be worthwhile to exclude the audience of minor users from showing ads.

Also, depending on the goals and KPIs, you can segment the audience by gender and age. For example, select groups of men aged 18-24 years, women aged 25-36 years old, and so on.

Do not forget about ad creatives and their impact on different gender and age groups of consumers.

What are the strategies for destination marketing? And how to develop a promotion strategy?

Determine competitive aspects and advantages. You should consider that not a physical place in and of itself attracts a tourist, but what natural, cultural, historical sights they can find there. Tourists also pay special attention to infrastructure.

  1. Define the goals of your advertising campaigns. Understanding the benefits of your product and destination, you can set realistic goals and clear KPIs.
  2. Identify and analyse your audience before the campaign launch. Think over the creatives for each segment of users.
  3. Choose marketing tools that can solve your tasks and help you achieve initial KPIs.
  4. Develop a media plan according to your KPIs. If you promote the destination for the first time, this can be a difficult task. For this, you need to research the market, connect your expertise in similar projects.
  5. Develop creatives and textual content in all necessary formats. If we talk about media placement, then creatives can play both a decisive role in achieving your goal and be one of the reasons for advertising campaign failure. You also need to pay attention to the ad textual content. If you target your ad for several countries at once, then translation and adaptation of texts to specific regions may be required.
  6. Create an ad campaign. Collect semantics and configure the audience.
  7. Launch an ad campaign. We would highlight, that you need to check all the ad campaign settings before the launch. Especially if there are several countries in your geo settings.
  8. Monitor and adjust. Advertising campaigns need to be optimised during the performance. We would recommend paying attention to these stages:
  • Identification of ineffective audiences, targeting.
  • Work with search queries to save budget and attract more targeted traffic.
  • A / B testing of creatives. You need to remember that your banners may “burnout”: at a high frequency, do not use the same creatives for more than two weeks. A marketing strategy aimed at strong memorising of one particular video or banner can be an exception.

What are the most effective channels for destination marketing?

Media channels are the most effective for destination marketing strategies. This is advertising on social networks, YouTube, native advertising. It is often better to “sell” a destination to a user and bring them to a final information resource with an image or video.

We are talking about relaxing, so a beautiful creative can take a person to a state of serenity and could potentially cause interest.

Paid search advertising can be launched, but only for narrowly targeted queries, for example, “vacation in Georgia”. The queries like “Georgia” can bring a lot of irrelevant traffic, even if you indicated negative keywords.

Be free to run remarketing campaigns in all channels, because advertising campaigns can last several months, and remarketing allows you to re-interact with an already “warm” audience.

Which ad format is best for social networks?

Instagram stories is a more engaging format. The image occupies 100% of the screen, but this does not mean that you need to refuse ads in the feed. According to Facebook insights, campaigns that use auto-placement give the best results – the ability of the system itself to determine where and at what time to show your ad. In each of these formats, we recommend testing both video and graphic creatives. Most studies suggest that users perceive video better, but it may turn out differently in your case, so you need to set aside some test period at the start to evaluate performance.

Should you promote your destination using only digital marketing tools, or enhance the strategy with offline advertising?

Offline promotion, TV or out-of-home advertising, will improve brand awareness and increase audience reach, attracting the users who might have missed online ads. It is essential to determine the places for advertising offline, which will be relevant to the portrait of the desired target audience.

How to set proper KPIs for evaluating the performance of destination marketing campaigns?

Here are the most common KPIs for destination marketing campaigns:

  • Customer inquiries;
  • Newsletter subscription;
  • Traffic;
  • Video views;
  • Other conversions actions on site

How does it work in practice?

Promodo completed a project providing destination marketing services for the Georgian National Tourism Administration to promote tourism in Georgia. Our aim was marketing the country and increase the number of tourists choosing this destination.
We took the data provided by the Georgian National Tourism Administration and made a deep analysis of the target audience and their needs.

The results we obtained were as follows:

We answered the question “Who is our target audience?” – and found out that tourists aged 25-54 make 75.4% of all the tourists (which meant our target audience most likely use the Internet and social networks).

With whom do they travel? According to our research, 49.1% are independent travellers and 70% of travellers organised their trips by themselves (which meant they used testimonials services and Google or Yandex search).

What are they going to do? 39.5% were supposed to come to Georgia for tourism and recreation (which meant they are either for the first time in Georgia or would like to discover more attractions, i.e. they would like to see the video or pictures of those attractions).

What do they want to receive? How much are they going to spend? (this information was helpful in order to use proper keywords for the ads).
Based on the analysis we created the online marketing strategy to promote Georgia.
To obtain the best results and meet the needs of our target audience, we used the Vkontakte social network, YouTube channel, and two of the most popular search engines in the targeted region(Google and Yandex).

For Google and Yandex, we used the following kinds of ads:

destination ads

As for the Vkontakte social network, we targeted our ads to travellers, interested in leisure, health and culture, and those, who were the members of specific thematic communities (travels, air tickets, travel deals etc.).
As a result, the campaign has shown a growth of interest in Georgia as a travel destination (see the Google Trends results).

We were also increased in the number of tourists by 14% during the campaign period (summer 2015) and received high involvement of users through the tools used.

Georgia Travel Case 8
Read the detailed case study on How we Promoted Georgia as a Tourist Country – here.

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Written by
Sergiy Lomanenko

PPC Team Lead at Promodo

Serhiy has been engaged in PPC for more than 8 years.

Worked with many top Ukrainian clients.

Now manages his own team.

July 12, 2018
August 17, 2023
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