Bogotá is the capital city of Colombia. The District Tourism Institute of Colombia, the official DMO of the capital, is putting a lot of effort into driving positive tourism growth to the city, partnering with tourism agencies and key stakeholders. In this case study, we explain how a successful collaboration among the key tourism players in the city gave birth to the StopOver Programme, the possibility for visitors to stop in Bogotá for a visit to the city while travelling to other destinations.
As Colombia's vibrant capital and the largest city in the country, Bogotá is a place of interesting contrasts with historic colonial buildings and stylish restaurants and bars with a cool, urban edge. As with most destinations, over the years Bogotá has faced its share of different challenges affecting the tourism space.
Bogotá Tourism has worked hard to change perceptions and shift these negative narratives to that which expresses the rich culture and true vibrancy of Bogotá.
Bogotá Tourism is the perfect example of a successful collaboration between various tourism players working towards a bigger project of changing the city’s narrative. We caught up with three of these organisations; the official tourism board of Bogotá, called District Tourism Institute of Bogotá (IDT), and the Colombian Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (ANATO), who worked together with the airline Avianca. Together, they worked to create the StopOver programme, which launched in December 2018. StopOver enables those who have connecting flights to explore the city during their layover time.
The DTTT team met with María Natalia Bohórquez, Global Tourism Manager from Avianca, Oscar Andrés Rativa, Executive Director of Anato Central, and Andrés Calderon Guzmán, Director of the District Tourism Institute of Bogotá. They kindly shared some exclusive information and interesting insights about the work behind developing the StopOver programme.
The STOPOVER Programme
The Stop Over programme enables tourists to visit the city of Bogotá through various tours and activity options. It provides information on how to explore the city by yourself and supplies 37 guided experiences that are highly tailored to the customer's interests, such as nature, culture, gastronomy and urban.
The StopOver programme is not a completely new idea, many destinations have explored this and seen great success. The Icelandair Stopover Programme gives people flying with Icelandair the possibility to travel between 24 locations in Europe and 15 locations in North America adding a stop in Iceland to visit the country. The length of stay in Iceland is determined by the traveller, up to 7 days, and not confined by rigid plane times and, like the StopOver, does not foresee any extra costs.
Therefore, inspired by Icelandair and through the collaboration with the District Tourism Institute of Bogotá, ANATO and Avianca, the Bogotá StopOver gave travellers a greater choice with their connecting flights to other destinations. Customers can stop in Bogotá while travelling to other cities and have the opportunity to possibly extend their stay in the Colombian capital, allowing them to explore the city.
The StopOver programme has been perfected to maintain the needs of the customer. For instance, due to the long stay nature of travel to South America, particularly from Europe, the customer is able to store their luggage at the airport. This is really handy when travelling, as visitors are then free to explore the city without being weighed down with cumbersome luggage.
As the Icelandair example demonstrates, StopOver enables potential customers to partake in the programme without paying for the extra time in Colombia. Avianca, indeed, enables the traveller to increase their stay in Bogotá up to twenty-four hours without any extra cost. Another huge benefit for the traveller and a great incentive to enable those who chose to stay.
StopOver is an incredible idea. Once travellers are in South America, they want to see as many different places and cultures as possible, enabling them to make the most of their long and usually expensive journey there.
The Centralisation of the tourism agencies
Before the programme, a central port of call where all tourism offers and experiences were located in one convenient place did not exist. Those that were already online were not well promoted therefore limiting their accessibility and giving the impression that there was only a limited selection of offers available.
The combined effort of the players involved in the programme and of various travel agencies meant that multiple platforms started to distribute information regarding the StopOver and consequently furthering the reach for the package providers.
The collaboration of IDT and ANATO was successful, in some regard, due to the clear delegation of tasks, according to the agencies’ prior experience. For example, IDT created the programme and came up with the structure. They utilised ANATO to present the offer to the travel agencies which then advertised the programme, on various platforms, utilising their contacts with multiple travel agencies. ANATO’s use of various travel agencies ascertained a combined effort for advertisement. However, Avianca was also responsible for broadcasting the programme. This also enabled the creation of strategic alliances, which fostered a collective work and collaboration that will eventually improve the StopOver programme and that also laid a strong foundation for these organisations to produce new programmes in the future.
When asked what the target audience for the StopOver was, Andrés Calderon Guzmán claimed that, for now, there has not been a specific focus on a particular segment; nonetheless, the initiative has got a wide reach overall. However, it is also worth considering that, to be more and more effective, new and more specific target groups need to be identified and selected. Once these target groups have been analysed, it will be possible to satisfy their needs better and allow a more effective targeting process. Currently, the aim is to coordinate all the distribution efforts, following the most effective and time-efficient method.
An advertisement campaign by ANATO - called 'Enjoy, your travel agency is responsible for the rest' - was developed. The campaign required a lot of collaboration with other travel agencies: essentially, the campaign utilised images from San Andrés and Islas del Rosario, supplied by a distinct group of TAs. The campaign focused on highlighting the amazing opportunity to travel with the StopOver programme, and it was addressed to Colombians themselves. Highly-inspiring images were meant to motivate the audience to research the StopOver project, yet these were only displayed on billboards.While this is effective in terms of exposure, there is plenty of room to develop the campaign further on digital media, where not only can the defined target audiences be reached more specifically, but engagement and success can be measured more directly.
Collaboration with Avianca
Avianca is a key Latin-American airline. In 2017, thirty million people travelled with them to 100 destinations in around twenty-seven countries.
Avianca was a crucial partner as the airline is the best transport provider for travellers to access Bogotá. Not only did Avianca provide the route, but also inspired travellers with a selection of amazing experiences to do during their layover. Avianca enabled the programme within the very early stages of conception, as they allowed travellers to make changes to their itineraries and stays.
The StopOver was made possible through the collaboration between the various Bogotá tourism agencies and the Avianca airline. Avianca increased the number of connections to the Bogotá airport, El Dorado. For instance, in 2018 there were more than 135,000 passengers that passed through El Dorado for connections. Avianca is also part of the Star Alliance, facilitating easier connections with twenty-seven other airlines, broadening the reach of the StopOver programme. Avianca flies to many convenient and favourable locations, among which Madrid and Munich in Europe, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto in North America and many more in Central and South America, with Bogotá El Dorado as the layover for Chile and Argentina. This made the StopOver programme even more appealing and accessible.
The StopOver website employs the usage of 360° videos to enable the potential visitor to immerse themselves in the destination. In our opinion, these videos will work extremely well on other platforms - such as TAs’ social media pages - in order to really exploit their potential and drive traffic to the actual website. In fact, people are able to discover the content only if already on the site so there is a huge opportunity to promote is across different channels to reach a wider audience. These 360° videos would be highly engaging for potential visitors and would perform greatly on platforms where people seek for inspirational content, in order to build further awareness and increase the reach.
Avianca also used digital in order to train their staff at El Dorado Airport. Through the use of webinars, they were able to train 650 employees on the programme in a short period of time.
Another digital transformation that Avianca has undergone during the StopOver process, is the analysis of ‘Big Data’. Avianca utilities big data to understand the passengers’ flow. Thanks to the collection of information on the various channels, Avianca is able to distinguish the various points of the visitor cycle in which visitor needs arise and predict the best time to advertise the StopOver programme and the most relevant information that needs to be displayed. One of the channels used is the mobile app for check-in, which is used by Avianca to improve the user experience.
One of the issues highlighted by María was what to showcase in Bogotá. There is a desire to showcase much more of Colombia, not just the city of Bogotá, yet the intrinsic nature of the programme means that there is only a short amount of time available to travellers.
Another issue to overcome is the perception of Bogotá as an unsafe area. The view of Bogotá as unsafe can eclipse the vast cultural experience that can be lived - for example, certain news stories can discourage travellers.
In 2019, the city is perfectly safe to visit and, of course, has the same issues that many other cities experience. This issue is resolved by letting the customer strongly rely on an expert for added reassurance, so it is important for the DMO and other partners to ensure the promoted narrative is authentic and positive.
Within the first four months of the launch of the StopOver programme, the StopOver webpage received an average of 5000 impressions a month by a high number of people, whose interest had been piqued by the option to use their layover time more enjoyably.
As a result of the increase in training regarding the StopOver programme - particularly with the airport staff - there has been a significant improvement in the Avianca’s customer service. Indeed, there has been an overwhelmingly positive response from the consumers to the more fulfilling experience they receive.
One of the key areas of growth for the programme is to make it more accessible to more people. As a result, there is a plan to incorporate more airlines and more agencies into the StopOver programme. Thus, enabling easier and fewer connections and easing the access for potential travellers, world-wide. Furthermore, with more airlines there will be a greater choice in time and locations of the flights, catering better to the needs of the customer.
Andrés Calderon Guzmán explains the desire for Bogotá to become a ‘Smart Destination’, which pertains that there is a renewed effort to incorporate new technologies into the user’s experience. Indeed, he discerns the plan for Bogotá to become
“not just a destination that is open to many technologies, but also that is very sustainable over time.”
Moreover, a smart destination is also one which tries to maintain a more sustainable approach to tourism.
5 Takeaways from the STOPOVER programme
Partnering with airlines will improve the accessibility of your destination, particularly if the target market is long-haul travellers. The nature of long haul travellers intrinsically ensures that they are motivated to undertake as much as possible, considering the cost and time that is involved. Even smaller DMOs should consider collaboration with transport providers, in order to improve their accessibility.
Convenience is key. As in this case, despite long haul travellers being highly motivated, their visitor experience should be optimised, enabling them to plan their trip and secure their booking with ease. For example, the information regarding the logistics of the StopOver, the activities, general knowledge about Bogotá and other relevant content can be found in one place.
Collaboration is key to coordinating activity programmes for a destination. All the experiences can be found in the same place, enabling people to choose from a wide variety. Again, optimising the visitor experience as much as possible.
The use of new digital technologies should be embraced to create more creative and eye-catching content surrounding the destination. The placement of this content must be carefully considered. If the post is more inspirational, then it should be displayed on social media, like Instagram. If the content is more hygiene-based then this information should be displayed on the website.
The clear delegation of roles of various organisations is key when undertaking large projects. The StopOver programme works well because each organisation has a specific role and clear responsibilities.