One of the most prominent destination marketers in Europe is VisitBritain, the organisation responsible for attracting tourists to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The unique nature of the United Kingdom means that VisitBritain also partners with the tourist board of all the individual nations in Britain, as well as with those of cities throughout the nations.
Attracting the Chinese
Currently, VisitBritian is working on a brand new campaign which particularly focuses on lesser known attractions within the nation. Since the UK eased visa processes for Chinese travelers in 2014, VisitBritain has been heavily focused on attracting Chinese travellers. The UK has particularly focused on this with the hope of attracting wealthy, high-spending tourists from this huge and growing economy.
With this in mind, VisitBritain has also been ramping up its social media content in recent weeks. A blog on Tumblr has been used to promote the Chinese campaign, as the DMO redoubles its digital marketing initiatives.
The new approach of VisitBritain reflects the appointment of Sally Balcombe as CEO in July 2014. Balcombe replaced Sandie Dawe, who had held the role for five years previously. Balcombe had been engaged with the consumer travel industry throughout her career, having been managing director of British Airways Holidays and headed the specialist sun division at TUI, and had also previously been involved in and executive capacity at Opodo and Travelport.
Balcombe was particularly headhunted due to her intimate relationship with digital marketing, seen as a critical factor for VisitBritain going forward. Balcombe has indicated that she sees the role of VisitBritain as moving away from begin the focal point of all tourism marketing in the UK, to instead providing more of a catalysing function.
Focus on the User
It is particularly interesting and important for digital marketers to note that Balcombe is already placing an emphasis on user-generated content. This is a massive trend across the industry, and one of which destinations must take advantage. Encouraging users to generate content and participate in campaigns helps create a genuine community feel around websites, campaigns, DMOs and destinations. Such an approach should be social media and mobile-driven, and can be particularly successful in attracting the key millennial demographic.
In addition, Balcombe was also keen to emphasise that VisitBritain would be pursuing several digital channels in the future in a more concerted fashion. The reason for this is to make it easier for people interested in the UK as a holiday destination to connect with the DMO. Pinterest and Facebook are particularly essential in this strategy, and Balcombe has indicated that this approach would be extended significantly in the coming weeks and months.
The British tourist industry is currently experiencing a significant demographic shift according to Balcombe. This relates to both geographical factors, and also the types of customers that are travelling to UK. Balcombe has pointed out that if we were to go back a decade or two, the idea that Chinese travellers would be prominent in the UK tourist market would be ridiculous.
It is important to note in relation to this that what Chinese travellers want from a trip may be completely different to traditional markets such as the United States. Younger demographics are also becoming increasingly important, as the price of travel becomes less prohibitive for young people.
Balcombe has also been at pains to point out that travellers today are increasingly interested in the whole travel experience rather than merely the destination. Partnering with other organisations should be seen as particularly important for destinations, with the opportunity to prevent travel consumers with more nuanced, detailed and varied information. Proactively engaging with customers rather than offering them a merely passive experience is also of extreme importance.
Tourism is unquestionably a very important industry in the contemporary world, and VisitBritain has worked hard with government agencies and economic institutions to emphasise this message. Balcombe has stated that jobs and export earnings are major benefits of a successful tourism strategy, and pointed out that this can operate on the level of exports as well as imports. For example, VisitBritain is currently the seventh-largest export business in the United States.
VisitBritain is also playing a central role in economic growth in Britain. According to Balcombe, the value of the DMO to the UK economy is $24 billion, and this makes it easy for VisitBritain to make the argument that travel and tourism is an economic driver for the nation.
Above all else, Balcombe has planned an immersive digital future for VisitBritain. She has spoken of shifting into a position where the DMO facilitates the marketplace without constantly needing to engage with it directly. The intention is to partner with other organisations in order to create a viral effect. With this in mind, VisitBritain is currently building a new digital platform which will contribute to this lofty goal.
It is clear from the comments of Balcombe that VisitBritain as an organisation have recognised some of the most important things for the digital future. Engaging people with interactive content, targeting travel consumers through multiple immersive digital platforms, and embracing multiple marketplaces and demographics must be considered of vital importance.
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