Shardee Rebas's Photo
Shardee Rebas


#DTTT Blog

This article is a recap of #DTIC2014 with a twist, as we are letting one of our loyal attendees, Shardee Rebas tell you everything you missed in Barcelona from the perspective of a destination marketer. After DTIC, the following insights were shared by Shardee Fox on her Tumblr blog which is worth checking out.

Shardee Fox has worked in the travel industry for circa 5 years, in May 2013 she started working for Estonian Tourist Board as an Online Marketing Coordinator. She is responsible for the social media, e-mail marketing, image bank, Google Adwords and involved in the online part of different campaigns in their target markets. Visit Estonia is currently working on the new web which will hopefully be launched in the middle of 2015.

How local can you go?

Tourists don’t want to be tourists, they want secret routes, insider tips, local tastes. We know that. And the travel industry is getting there. Maximising local in every way possible. I personally used to travel with couch surfing, already 10 years ago. Getting an idea of how great it is to avoid tourist traps and feel the culture on the next level - from the architecture of the house you stayed at to the interior design, breakfast traditions, night-out recommendations etc etc.

Couchsurfing was not for everyone. For many, including me, it was a way to save money; and I grew to love it for the local experience, continuing surfing when money was not an issue anymore. For many others, it was a way of travel because it was the best way to get to know the culture inside out. It definitely was. And is. But then again if people have a holiday, some want their privacy; they want personal space, freedom, a place they can come and go whenever they feel like it. Couchsurfing was not an option for these people.

What would be an alternative to the people who want a taste of the local without knowing anyone in the destination? Rent a place from a local - is it a room or an apartment? Get all the neighbourhood tips; have a key to a place that could actually feel like home not a hotel room, make a cup of coffee in your very own kitchen looking at the young couple in the balcony across the street. Airbnb nailed it. Win-win. Travellers love it. Locals get an extra income plus probably extra knowledge of their own destination - thinking of how to stand out and make the travellers experience one of a kind. Also, travellers who stay with Airbnb tend to spend more money on local small businesses. While many hotel chains are international, you can also be quite sure that the money that the hosts earn, will find its way in the local economy as well, at least partially.

*did you know that Airbnb was originally Airbed and breakfast?

So here you go: rent a place from the local (Airbnb), make an excursion with a local (Viable), eat with a local, date locals etc. In fact, another confession, Tinder can be used pretty well for destination marketing. This summer I used it to match with tourists without even meeting them; just giving what-to-do-where-to-go advice on the chat. Getting answers like “you’re like a professional tour guide” or “wow, thank your for that tip. We would have never ever found this place on our own” just made me smile. Of course, I never mentioned that I actually am kind of…professional. Hehe. Mini-research was fun though, finding out why they came, where they stayed, what they liked the most, what could be better etc etc.

Lesson? We used to say that locals are the best brand ambassadors. That they do the marketing for you. Well here you go. Their role is changing as well. Locals are turning into professionals - they are providers of accommodation, excursions, insider tips etc etc. Sooner or later many individuals “work” in the tourism industry more directly. You want their feedback, their advice, their thoughts.

Mobile & Africa & Apps

Mobile is big and it’s huge in Africa. This fact itself is not really a surprise, but just thinking how much ahead of us (in a way) they’ve been, is interesting. They have used mobile payments for the last 10 years; while in the West, it’s just about to get really big. See video World's largest payment network is in Kenya.

For the travel industry it’s definitely good. More spontaneous bookings, single purpose apps, more personal offers based on your personal data and online behaviour, special offers on your most intimate device and money ready to be spent one click away. Soon, the time spent on mobile phones will exceed the time spent in bed. Mobile is not even just on-destination device, people use it for everything, for every phase. The future is now.

Average traveller has 3 apps, uses two, frequent traveller +1

If there is an app for everything, with a single purpose, then is this a wagon DMO’s should jump on? In which part? Inspiration?

Finland made an app that shows you the Northern Lights wherever you are. Norway made an app for a Northern Lights forecast. Both did well. So, if DMOs go for a single purpose app, then it should be built around their destination’s best selling point.

Like this video by Finland.

Remember that travel apps may sit on the mobile, unused, for months, and it’s ok. Don’t try to build something that would engage people for hours, daily. That’s not your goal. You’re not a game producer. Just make sure that the business owners in your destination are ready for the generation of silent travellers. The ones who want to get everything done with a click and no extra communication. 100% online.

Connecting digital storytelling with non digital experiences

You don’t want to make people feel like they’re using technology. Responsive design is yesterday. What you want now is intuitive design - that they come to your web and everything makes sense without thinking about it. They either get inspired > get more inspired > want to share or get inspired > can buy it straight away, easily.

Digital is just a tool, something that should make them go from “oh that’s nice” to “I must go there”through photos, videos, stories. They don’t want to read a story, but to feel that they’re part of it.

Closed networks & private sharing

The last 10 years have been interesting. While being able to share and show off was übercool a while ago, these days privacy is the next best thing. People choose more who they share stuff with, they use more private networks and their reach is smaller. However, maybe it’s not a bad thing at all. The circle is smaller, but then again far more influential. When posting everything on Facebook would be far too much, getting a few cool snaps a day from your good friend on travels is fun. And as it is shared with you, on a rather personal level, the likelihood you at least think about doing this trip yourself, is bigger as well.


Everyone seem to be working on a new web design. Or a new app. Or have just launched something.


Our great neighbours just launched their new web Some of these images really seem alive. So completely works in their purpose to make me wanna be there. Well done. They always say you must know your target group and more importantly know who you are. Define yourself. Finns do: Not as stylish as Swedes, but weirder than Norwegians. And, they got that right!

Finns have chosen to be very authentic and sell what they have. Not to use celebrities, but find the most special people in their destination and using them as the faces in their commercials (well, it’s not even a problem, if for example Santa Claus happens to be just another local…)

They’ve had several great campaigns that go straight to your heart, capturing the best part of the North with irresistible authenticity: 'There’s Nothing Ordinary in Lapland' - the north of Finland was targeting experienced travellers looking for new experiences. Meet the Locals - three lucky groups/families got the chance to swap their lives with the locals in Lapland.

Mad about Arctic Winters: video

"Visit Finland is focussing on the dreaming phase. After that use google." "We got the positive response from our target group. We don’t care about the others."


Sweden has to do everything in style. Like really. They have to. This video is just a perfect example.

Also two quite new websites:

Gothenburg also had a campaign called The Perfect Day. Facing some weather challenges - like many other destinations in Europe - it was certainly a remarkable goal to get from #endlessrain and #iwannagohome tags to #perfect day #Ilovegothenburg. Weather-tagging attractions is certainly a clever way to inspire people to have their perfect day, whatever is the weather outside.


Oslo is more important than VisitOslo. A simple, but priceless truth for any destination. It’s not about you, but about your destination.

VisitOslo opened the API to their product database to increase their digital footprint and prepare for The Next Web. Step ahead.

There will be a hackathon for their data next spring. That’s pretty cool too. Stay connected with the IT industry & local digital generation and you may come up with some crazy simple brilliant ideas that will be win-win for everyone, especially the tourism sector. Measure engagement, not reach.

Norway Lights - forecast the experience. The future of marketing is to be useful. Coming back to the app story - if you choose to make an app, fill the gap that maximizes the uniqueness of the experience in your destination. Super simple and super useful.

And more…

Don’t stop the conversation once you have the tourist. Or do stop the conversation? How often do you notice communication by the local tourist board while you’re in the destination (unless you go to the tourist information centre)? In some cities there is free wifi provided by the city, that’s certainly something that won’t stay unnoticed. But what else? Instagram is one of the networks where a brand can connect to the tourist and give very relevant local advice based on their posts on the destination. Is it creepy or impressive? Both? Maybe the future gaming will be very much involved with reality. Remote controlling tourists…can be loads of fun, and can go very wrong. Or is this the place where DMOs will back off and the local pros take over? DMOs just in the background, supporting events, making sure the quality of products and services is great etc etc.

For example, if local event organisers do something that cool, it spreads anyway…. like in this example

People who were born in 1996 turned 18 this year. Remember who you’re talking to. They were born into online; natural digital intelligence. Then again, sometimes, it’s just so damn refreshing to see something so genuine and sincere:

Go, Italy! I’m sold.

…to be continued 

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