By Don Douloff, contributing editor
TORONTO—Taking the theme “domestic and international travel up close and under the microscope,” the Canadian Tourism Marketing Summit, held Feb. 13 at the Eaton Chelsea Toronto Hotel, explored effective marketing on a budget, the huge opportunities offered by technology and the wisdom in DMOs targeting the business-to-business versus leisure segments.
In the morning’s plenary session, Terry O’Reilly, award-winning advertising/marketing veteran and co-founder of Pirate Radio & Television audio production company, demonstrated that creative marketing is possible on a shoestring budget. In a highly entertaining and media-rich session, O’Reilly presented vivid examples of companies whose inspired (and remarkably inexpensive) advertising and marketing efforts reaped huge returns, making a big impression on social media and the wider media universe.
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Inspired and inexpensive
A clever example from the tourism arena included cartons of eggs, sent onto a luggage carousel, demonstrating Virgin airline’s safe luggage handling practices, while a quick-thinking example from the hospitality world included someone from Morton’s Steakhouse meeting a traveller at a U.S. airport and handing him a gift bag containing a porterhouse steak very soon after he’d tweeted, on the incoming flight, his desire for just such a Morton’s meal.
In order to create attention-grabbing marketing, companies must present their core message in an interesting way; need ideas that are creative and impossible to ignore; and must develop ads that create an emotional impact, said O’Reilly.
Furthermore, he emphasized that Canada’s tourism marketers shouldn’t be confined in their thinking and need to “jump the fence” and borrow ideas from other industries, citing Apple and Nike as leading-edge examples.
O’Reilly also professed his admiration for social media’s marketing power. Twitter, in particular, he said, is valuable because it provides a touch point with customers, giving insight into their thoughts and opinions.
Creativity, not dollars, is the currency of smart marketing, he concluded.
Continuing the technology theme was Tony D’Astolfo, managing director of market research firm PhoCusWright, based in New York City. Digital media’s impact continues to grow, he said, as travellers use them to search for deals and book trips and use social media to document their trips (by posting photos, for instance). In tandem with that, the use of mobile phones to book trips is expected to triple by 2015, he said.
Tablets and smartphones, which have affected every stage of the travel life cycle, present a huge marketing opportunity for in-destination services, he noted.
Between 30 per cent and 60 per cent of mobile bookings are made within 24 hours of the stay, said D’Astolfo, so “whoever can present information on their destination and hotels in a mobile environment can reap rewards.” Once travellers reach a destination, local marketers can use tools such as gaming to engage them and encourage them to explore the area, he added.
Through creative use of technology, DMOs can brand a destination as a tech-savvy locale worth visiting; facilitate exploration and a richer traveller experience; connect visitors with destination experts in the local community; increase traveller spend with local businesses and activities; and create visitor experiences that exceed travellers’ expectations, said D’Astolfo.
B2B versus leisure
At a lively morning breakout session entitled Point: Counterpoint, John Houghton, executive vice president of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and Ken Lambert, director of HLT Advisory Inc., took opposing views on whether DMOs should target the meetings and incentive travel (M&IT) or leisure FIT (flexible independent travel) segment.
Houghton staunchly supported investing in the business events market because, he said, business-to-business (B2B) events “are about spending.” To bolster his claim, he noted that B2B travellers spend up to three times more than leisure travellers. On top of that, additional spending comes by way of the participating exhibitors and the meeting planners organizing the event.
Moreover, Houghton noted that travellers involved in B2B events arrive earlier and stay longer, driving leisure activities in the destination, and said that B2B events attract travellers in lower-demand ‘shoulder’ seasons.
For his part, Lambert said DMOs should direct their marketing resources at the leisure market, citing “flat” convention-market spending Canada-wide and declining attendance at conventions and conferences, especially among the younger millennials demographic. Plus, he said there has been an “arms race” of Canadian cities building new convention centres. “Does the city brand support the cement?” he asked rhetorically, answering the question with a “no.”