Geneva - Global Inbound Marketing for City Tourism

Geneva Tourism strategy has a strong data-driven foundation utilising visitor insights & content engagement to optimise key objectives & performance.

After transforming internal processes and establishing a clear organisational structure over the last several years, Geneva Tourism is continuing to develop its digital activities, consistently refining the digital strategy with a highly sophisticated and targeted approach.

After transforming internal processes and establishing a clear organisational structure over the last several years, Geneva Tourism is continuing to develop its digital activities, consistently refining the digital strategy with a highly sophisticated and targeted approach.

After transforming internal processes and establishing a clear organisational structure over the last several years, Geneva Tourism is continuing to develop its digital activities, consistently refining the digital strategy with a highly sophisticated and targeted approach. The strategy is largely based on a strong data-driven foundation, utilising visitor insights and content engagement to better target and optimise key objectives and performance.

We spoke to Vincent Dubi, Marketing Director at Geneva Tourism, who is responsible for overseeing the marketing activities, internal structures and processes and to Karen McBride, who heads up the entire digital strategy. They shared with us some unique insights about organisational structuring, the adaptation of the digital strategy to respond to market changes and, most importantly, how to reach the right audiences with an 'Always-on' approach.

The Team

Geneva Tourism recognises the importance of creating a strong team as the foundation for a solid strategy. As such, three teams contribute to promoting the destination: Marketing, Digital and Agency.

Considering Geneva as a tourism destination, it is interesting to notice that only 25% of the city’s market share is considered leisure, while 75% of travel is related to business. Focusing on leisure travel, data show that 70% of the leisure market share is composed of overseas audiences. With such high exposure to key overseas markets, such as Brazil, China and GCC, the marketing team has to be structured to successfully support this: in facts, the team includes a few ‘Market Managers’, who focus on specific demand.

The Market Managers operate within each market, developing local partnerships to benefit from first-hand knowledge and insights and respond to each audience appropriately. This team is, then, responsible for briefing the digital team with the market knowledge acquired, as well as managing the external agencies.

“There’s no-one that understands the market better than the people that are in the market” - Karen McBride, Head of Digital

The digital team is responsible for utilising the market knowledge and expertise acquired in the market, creating effective content and campaigns and working hard to reach the right audiences at the right time. The digital team also works alongside external agencies in the market, bringing true expertise, as well as other media requirements and practical knowledge.  

In conclusion, valuable market knowledge and digital expertise combined with an impeccable collaboration and fluent communication truly help promote a strong and effective digital strategy.

The Overall Marketing Strategy

Considering a recent shift in the tourism industry, from a B2B perspective to B2C, a CTO like Geneva Tourism, who is neither a big region nor funded National board, face the challenge of how best to tackle this audience.

As such, Geneva Tourism utilises inbound marketing as the most effective tool within its digital strategy. As a whole, inbound marketing focuses on creating an impact and attracting relevant audiences through content marketing, social media marketing, brand and SEO. Vincent explains the three key reasons why Geneva Tourism have chosen to apply an inbound marketing strategy;

1. Budget restraints

As the State or City do not fund Geneva Tourism, they do not have the resources to invest in traditional marketing methods - such as deploying billboards in all overseas markets.

2.  Destination image

Social media is a critical tool in today’s digital landscape and has a significant influence on how customers view and engage with your brand. As such, curating strong content and messaging is a great way to shape the image of a destination and control how you want to be perceived.

3. Targeting

The quality of data provided by social media platforms allows for efficient targeting in order to reach and attract the right audience. Geneva is a somewhat expensive city: by looking at data, the DMO manages to attract the visitors, who can afford the city - not students on a budget.

The Audience

Another essential element of the strategy is identifying key audiences and better understanding the whole customer journey. Karen talks about how Geneva Tourism has segmented the customer journey into four stages: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase and Advocacy

This allows them to adequately address each stage, applying the right marketing strategy to target the right customers through perfectly crafted and relevant content. For example, during the Awareness and Consideration stage, Geneva Tourism utilises an ‘always on’ approach.

Together with continuous market research and working closely with the travel data company, Adara, they have narrowed this further, segmenting each market into three primary audiences and identifying a priority persona within each of these markets. This focuses on gaining a richer, more in-depth level of understanding of the visitor, taking into consideration their values, pain points, what type of experience they are seeking etc. From this they can then formulate an effective inbound marketing strategy, creating personalised content and answering specific markets’ needs and wants.

The ‘Always On’ Content Strategy

Once the key audiences are identified, it’s all about the content! Karen shares some valuable insights into Geneva Tourism’s overarching content strategy, based on the Hero, Hub, Hygiene model and Always-on concept. This is based on the relevant personas in the Awareness and Consideration phases of the customer journey.


Hero content is a game-changer for your destination marketing, aimed to be a hook for a large audience. To produce the right hero content, destinations are strategically delivering a piece of content that people want to see, share on their social media and that can generate to buzz online, reaching a larger audience through just one piece of content.

The hero content is the truly engaging and eye-catching content, focusing largely on the brand and anything that makes you think of Geneva: beautiful lakes, mountains, Swiss chocolate, fondue etc. Geneva Tourism is strong in terms of hero content, generating great interest and engagement rates.

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Hub content is regular, scheduled content that engages people across various channels and platforms; it is often distributed as a series of content rather than a standalone piece.

Destinations are using hub content to create an editorial voice with a strong, distinct style that shows specific destination themes and targets the interest of distinct target groups. With regards to Geneva Tourism, the hub content is more lifestyle-related and specific to the needs of the market.

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Hygiene content is regular or daily content that destinations are posting and sharing to get appear in organic search. Some of the most popular hygiene content examples are articles, how-to guides, editorial picks and lists on anything relating to specific events, activities or the destination itself.

Geneva Tourism's hygiene content focuses on the information people need to know to decide to visit Geneva. These are big selling points when visitors are in the buying stage of the customer journey.

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Based on this content model and having identified specific audiences, Geneva Tourism is then able to retarget clear messages based on where visitors are in the user journey.

In terms of the global strategy, every month a general editorial calendar is created, planning the two months ahead. This is then shared with every market team, who will adapt the content to their specific market: what might work in the French market, might not work in the GCC market”.

The Social Media Strategy

Social media is also divided into three areas; content creation, social media agencies and advertising campaigns. The content creators generate dedicated content, which is adapted to each market based on data and in-market knowledge. The goal here is to display the right message to the right audience at the right time.

Image content is highly personalised to each market: for example, the GCC market is very nature orientated, the Brazil market is more cultural focused and the Russian market is looking for premium experiences. In addition to targeted imagery, posts are written in each local language; Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, English and French.

This is where the expertise and competitive advantage really comes into play and why Geneva Tourism is stronger than other City Destinations. They see that the followers of competitors' social pages are mainly local. This is where they really perform well as they see that 80% of their social media followers are from the key markets they target regularly.

As a result, Geneva Tourism has the highest engagement rates against other Swiss and European destinations, as a result of the organic audience and those reaching the website through this dedicated social content. This is the start of the customer journey, driving visitors, targeted on via social platforms, to the website.

The Campaign Strategy

The market managers' work is based on key markets' insights and the targeted persona. For example, in terms of needs, most people in the Chinese market uses WeChat, a Chinese multi-purpose social platform. As a result, Geneva Tourism has effectively recreated a whole Chinese microsite within WeChat, making this their primary communication tool to reach the Chinese Market, alongside the platform Ctrip to drive Awareness and Consideration.

Measuring & Monitoring

Monthly reporting helps identify exactly what posts have worked and what haven’t, plus the level of engagement in terms of clicks, likes, shares and comments. This is benchmarked against the previous year to provide a clear indication of how the marketing team is performing and to develop the strategy going forward. In addition to this, they are consistently looking at competitors posts and websites within the market, both locally and globally, tweaking their social media plan and content strategy each month.

Other KPI’s such as the number of rooms booked, website sales and data from Switzerland Tourism are also consistently monitored, in addition to utilising the travel data platform, Adara.

For the first time, Geneva Tourism is running an Awareness and Consideration campaign; one overall message to every market, but of course adapted to each target audience. The addition of Adara’s data and insights will achieve maximum visibility concerning campaign results, as Geneva Tourism will be able to see behaviours across each phase of the customer journey; for example, exactly when a customer was inspired to visit the website. This kind of intelligence is invaluable when it comes to targeting specific messages throughout the customer journey.


Geneva Tourism is still in the process of refining their digital strategy, however together with a strong team, direction and objectives, they are most definitely achieving considerable progress within the CTO space.

The heart of their strategy is their audience and a fluid, ‘always-on’ approach. As a result of key data insights and a deeper understanding of specific personas and target audiences, Geneva Tourism is able to better target specific messages to multiple audiences throughout the customer journey.

“If you have a good product, good content and good experience, there is no reason to go anywhere else!” - Vincent Dubi - Marketing Director

Initially, the strategy focused on sending out plenty of great hero images: however attractive, they were generally lacking in depth of information and specific messaging. While Geneva Tourism is very much in the creation stage, there are many opportunities yet to explore such as creating more personas and developing the functionality of the website to include articles and conceptual itineraries.

This is an exciting time for Geneva Tourism and we are looking forward to seeing the improvements.

Key Takeaways

Published on:
November 2020
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