People who are acquainted with the modern travel landscape are accustomed to businesses and destinations taking novel approaches to marketing and presentation. But one of the great innovators in the tech sphere has just produced a form of image capturing which is truly unique.

Desert View - the new Street View

Google’s ‘Desert View’ aims to pick up where their renowned Street View software left off, but with one difference. The Google Desert View program has utilised Street View cameras with a camel, enabling the software giant to create panoramic shots of the desert around the Liwa Oasis in Abu Dhabi.

This represents the first time that Google has used animals to capture images, but the corporation claimed that it was the most authentic method of taking the vast number of photographs required to create the Desert View software. Creating the images necessitated having a local guide from the area walk the camel around the region during the early hours of the morning, when the sunshine is somewhat more forgiving.

Members of the public who are interested in viewing this unique version of the Street View program can log onto Desert View and travel through the Abu Dhabi landscape via a few mouse clicks.

Authentic Marketing

The decision of Google to provide this innovative Desert View content is very much in accordance with the trend of travel companies providing consumers with genuine and authentic pictures. Destinations are increasingly trying to provide authentic material, and are particularly utilising the skills and knowledge of locals in order to provide recommendations for content. Additionally, tourists who are particularly well-versed in a certain area are also being encouraged to create content for destinations via flexible crowdsourcing campaigns.

Perhaps the key lesson to take from Desert View is that authenticity is a trend in itself. Whereas once upon a time travel companies and destinations would rely on crafting an idyllic manufactured image of a certain place, today marketing needs to be more sophisticated, tapping into the way that a captive community really feels about a place and its unique qualities.

There have been many recent examples of destinations recruiting local people in order to promote their specific qualities. One such example was the ‘Inspired by Iceland’ campaign, which was undertaken by the Icelandic National tourist board. The Iceland NTO was one of the first destinations to actively involve locals in their marketing campaigns, by encouraging them to create inspirational videos about their recommended activities, and places within Iceland.

Via this campaign, residents of Iceland share intimate knowledge and secrets about specific locations within the Scandinavian nation. And visitors to Iceland are not left out of the equation, as they are also requested to share their own particular views and intimate knowledge about the destination. This user-generated content is then deemed by potential visitors to Iceland as possessing more authenticity and credibility than a traditional marketing campaign.

Visit California and Dream Big

At the polar opposite end of the temperature scale, Visit California has also been engaging locals in sharing their love for one of the most glamorous states in the US. Their ‘Dream Big’ campaign tried to take advantage of this perception by featuring videos of famous Californians sharing their love of this sunshine state.

The #dreambig hashtag has certainly had a positive effect. So far the campaign has acquired over 5 million Youtube hits, with thousands of people also permanently subscribing to the Visit California YouTube channel. With the tourist board maintaining uploads on a regular basis, the potential is there for the Dream Big campaign to grow further still.

Furthermore, a US city in California which is tapping into this trend of locals generating content is San Diego. In May, 2014, the city launched a new advertising campaign entitled “Guides to the Good Stuff”. The campaign was based around 15 video interviews with notable people who live locally, in which they share some of their insights into San Diego and provide an insider view of the city.

Some of the participants in the Guide to the Good Stuff campaign include professional surfer Rob Machado, celebrity chef Marcela Valladolid, and photographer Aaron Chang. The campaign has been very much aimed at the Westin United States market, with tourists targeted in cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle and Portland.

And another staple tourist location from the US is also asking for contributions from locals. VisitHawaii requests videos from people who live in the region regarding the activities that they enjoy in Hawaii. These personal video accounts are then posted by the tourist board on its website to entice more travellers to the area.

Another more temperate city which is courting the suggestions of locals is Manchester in England. The Visit Manchester tourist board has been asking locals about their top five favourite places in Manchester, which are then publicised via videos, photos and map locations in order to personalise and identify the venue for tourists.

The Authenticity Trend

The Google Desert View campaign may seem strikingly original, but in fact it is merely representative of a growing trend in destination marketing. Using local knowledge should be considered essential for destinations, as travellers increasingly seek authentic and absorbing material about potential travel locations.

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