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Nicholas Hall

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Every day this week Nick Hall, founder and CEO of the Digital Tourism Think Tank, is going to release one emerging digital trend to watch out this year. Today’s trend is about the opportunities that smart advertising is offering to the tourism industry. Sign-up to get more trends in your inbox.

2016 Biggest Trends to Watch in Tourism

What are the biggest trends to look out for in 2016? This is surely not the first trend prediction you’ie read this year but with my top tips coming in February, it may be the last. Take careful note, I’ve tried here to sidestep the obvious and focus on the five that I believe every DMO should write with a permanent marker on that office whiteboard.rt

Smart Ad Investments Paying Off

For many years the DMO’s take on advertising has been somewhat at two polar extremes. We are all familiar with the classical approach of working, where destinations establish relationships with large media companies who bundle content supplements with editorial in return for ad spend. This was pre-digital and although many DMOs are still drawn by hybrid print-online offerings which seem to promise the best of both worlds, this isn’t the focus of my 2016 trend lowdown.

Today, we see that online media spend has really evolved in a big way, for good and for bad. You have the bold the beautiful and the ugly, but amongst the dizzying array of solutions out there, you’ll find as a marketer presented with some pretty interesting choices.

Now for ad-sceptics, the 'not-yet-converted' (perhaps never), you may be asking yourself, "but surely if you focus on a great product and amazing content you can do without the media spend?” Unfortunately, this is where many destinations fail to gain traction in key target markets. I myself come from the school of non-believers when it comes ad-scepticism. I resisted for years and when I finally did make that investment I resented it. As marketers we are passionate believers in our destination’s story so it is natural that we want to hone our creative efforts in crafting that message, finding that hidden gem and engaging with social tribes who already love what we bring to the table. Unfortunately, this can make the task of getting your message to those who don’t yet love you, but might, just that little bit harder.

The confidence that many DMOs have in advertising has also been knocked off late, especially with Facebook moving the goalposts for their most loyal customers. Most destinations are guilty of having dabbled in fan-building campaigns at some point, only to discover, firstly that you then need to pay again to reach those fans and secondly that Facebook fan pages went out of fashion as quickly as they came in.

Did you Know Launchpad Banner

Then there are the ‘traffic builders’, which sadly most DMOs have also dabbled in too, albeit unwittingly and perhaps with good intentions. The term ’traffic builder' is one I absolutely love and it’s not one you hear of in the tourism industry at all. From the 10th floor of our tech hub in the sunny Garden of England, this is a term we hear a lot of, referring to online media spend. This is the rather un-varnished way of describing online media spend in the tech sector.

But online advertising has truly evolved and I would encourage any DMO reading this to take time to familiarise themselves with what’s out there and how different types of advertising can really help them achieve their strategic goals. There’s no use investing heavily in brilliant content, if you don’t then boost that content to get it in front of the right people to engage with it. It’s time we wake up to the reality that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Event the most successful viral stories took a lot of investment in building them to go viral and for the occasional fluke out there, when the bubble bursts they’ll find they're somewhat disjointed from any wider strategy.

Today you have the possibility to craft the most incredible multi-layered campaign from your head office, led by your deeply passionate creative team and partners who can then amplify this around the world. With a smart ad strategy you can precisely target the right consumers in key markets with the right message, at the right stage in the travel cycle.

My advice to any DMO is to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket, take time to learn about the different types of advertising available, read-up on new trends such as programatic advertising and off-the-shelf retargeting and get help if you’re still lost before you blow that budget.

One of the most useful case studies you can read is how Wonderful Copenhagen worked with Norwegian Air Shuttle with brilliant content and a community of content creators following a clear brand strategy. Using their ad investment in a smart way, they were able to build awareness and interest, serving the right content to very targeted demographic segments and then retarget visitors once they registered an interest to push them through the funnel towards booking a trip.

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So with this said, I believe this is the year that DMOs will start to get smart with their ad investments. We’ve moved away from inefficiently throwing money at a single trusted publisher, we can also leave ‘building fanbases’ as an experiment of the past. Today, we can engage in such a targeted way and really make sure that the huge investment we make in content is actually able to perform in converting to visitors.

If you want help with your digital strategy, get in touch and see how we can help.

Have you included any budget for advertising in you marketing strategy? Tell us about your opinion and approach. We look forward to hearing your comments below.

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