Category Archives: Digital Tourism Marketing Trends 2015

eTourism Summit 2014 Takeaways

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The “fire hose of information” delivered at #eTS14 is not meant to put fires out, but rather to start more fires burning. Stoke your at-home fires with these top takeaways curated from 22.7K Twitter impressions across the cyberspace that was #eTS14.

Thunderous themes:

  • Be human, not corporate
  • Interact with people
  • Be a story instigator; content is still king
  • Mobile, mobile, mobile
  • China, China, China
  • Music videos: the next frontier for DMOs
  • Free FB lunch is over; use pay-to-play wisely
  • Empower the under-35s 
  • Re-visit and prioritize your SMART KPIs
  • Steal good ideas and scale them to suit

More Key Learning Points

Social Media Platforms

Facebook: Reachpocalypse is real and can only be fought with a compelling content strategy directed at sharing by a committed fan base. Be conversational, use other people’s good content, feature outstanding visuals of food and scenery. Watch for organic to drop to zero and a buy button to appear.

Twitter: is growing up fast. It’s fundamentally changed how we watch TV to make it interactive in real time, explains Brian Carr. One billion conversations are happening every 48 hours; 280M users will likely peak at 300M and 78% use on mobile will rise to 81%. Promoted tweets by keyword and tailored audiences mean it’s time to strategize on a clever campaign. Use Twitter analytics and experiment with Twitter Cards to drive traffic to your website, Lead Generation Cards to capture user interest and emails, App Cards to prompt a download. 

Pinterest: resonates as a visual bookmark which has key impact during dreaming stage. Different to other channels, it’s not about past or present, but future. Works best when you think of your content as actionable, creating travel tips, itineraries, must-dos, free things, etc. It’s OK for a business to start with 24 boards, populated with 20 vertical images on rich pins. Enid Hwang’s tip: omit hashtags, they may penalize you. 

YouTube: 71% of travel searches on YouTube are for specific destinations, trumping search at 58%. Seeing Y-o-Y growth at 179%. Destinations and attractions account for 40% of all travel video views. Talk to your visitor centers, address what people want to know when developing video content. Google’s Shaun Aukland says, “Video is the next frontier.”

Google: Importance of search through the five stages of travel: Inspiration/Planning/Booking/Experiencing/Sharing. Note that if all advertising were to move to mobile-only, that’s OK, since 50% of all travel-related searches are now on mobile. “The importance of mobile is the single most important thing you can take away from this conference,” suggests Shaun Aukland. He emphasizes that the  “under-35s understand this stuff naturally,” and management from the governor’s office right on down should “listen to them, give them budgets and let them lead.” 


  • Best-practice example: Memphis video kills it in one minute with poetry and a voice over that rivals Richard Burton. – (filmmaker Peter Bragiel, In Transit)
  • Audio is 50% of your presentation. Use music to convey desired mood of video. – (Marla Johnson, Aristotle)
  • The story must be the foreground, the destination is the background. There’s nothing unique about eating out, a nice glass of wine, a swimming pool. Golfers already know where the golf courses are.
  • Remember that Vimeo is where Millennials are hanging out. “Subscribers are currency. Forget views. It’s about how many people have relationships with you.” – (Peter Bragiel, InTransit)

      *  “What are your top 10 Google and YouTube searches? Are you answering those questions with video? Start.”  – (Shaun Aukland, Google) 

  • You can even do it in-house. Too many ideas? Break up the topics into short, separate videos.
  • “Must. Do. More. Video.” – (Melia Dicker, Visit Mississippi)
  • “Like a home video?” Fly the producer over!” – (Peter Bragiel, InTransit)

Social Media & Advanced Social Media Marketing

  • Create a social media culture in your organization. Your chief storyteller and best brand ambassador may be sitting right next to you. – (Gathan Borden, Visit Louisville)
  • Get to your community’s bloggers. You don’t have to be first to the punchline, but do pass the good stories along.
  • Join the Instagram conversation. Among Millennials with smartphones, 43% are using it. Thursday is the biggest day. – (Katie Cook, Visit Austin)
  • “What’s even better than targeting your customer? Finding other ones just like them.” – (David Fluegge, Colorado Tourism)
  • Keep your Facebook and personal pages separate. Business Manager is the solution. – (Josh Collins, Visit Williamson County)
  • Start “thinking like a publisher.” Facebook is. – (Mo Sherifdeen, Travel Oregon)
  • Advanced analytics, custom audiences, lookalike, tracking pixels, using your own mailing list: tools are your friends. “Spray & Pray approach won’t work.” – (David Fluegge, Colorado Tourism)
  • “Native beats banner.” – (Jessica Cox, MMGY Global).  Native advertising is here to stay, so join the crowd, use it wisely. – (TJ Salo, DreamPlanGo)
  • Focus on one KPI at a time or you’ll end up achieving nothing. – (Tess McBride, Sparkloft Media)
  • Consider targeting email unsubscribers to continue conversation elsewhere on social. – (David Fluegge, Tourism Colorado)

       *  “A sense of place is the filter I put every piece of content through. How strongly does it evoke a destination?” – (Talia Salem,  Brand USA)     

Attractions Social Marketing

  • Change happens. “Be tolerant of chaos.  Let the ground move under your feet every single day.” – (Geoff Drake, Monterey Bay Aquarium)
  • Make your organizational chart flat. Employees such as mountain climbers and aquarium explainers are hearing fabulous comments from the public every day. Use compelling, appealing assets from the top of the world to the bottom of the ocean. “Cute baby otters works, too.” – (Geoff Drake and Theresa Ho, Yosemite DNC)
  • Attractions now have the upper hand with flash sale sites. – (Bob Schwartz, Boston Duck Tours)

       *  Vary your content, tone of voice, even grammar and punctuation for each social media platform according to user demographics. It works. – (Amie Wong, California Academy of Sciences)     

  • Mobile bookings means massive opportunities in the tours and activities space, even a storefront within the app. – (Michael Berman, Peek and Alex Bainbridge, TourCMS)

Small Budgets, Limited Resources

  • Maximize Twitter hashtags, Instagram and Pinterest when there’s no money. – (Leslie McLellan, San Jacinto Valley CVB)
  • Video need not be expensive. Maintain the rights and use contest entries.
  • Q: If you could have only one staffer on social media, what skill set? Designer? Photographer? Writer? A: “Don’t overlook a sense of humor.” – (Marla Johnson, Aristotle)  Tip: Check out graduate school of journalism students to find all 4-in-1.
  • Prioritize your channels, prioritize mobile.
  • Develop a tone of voice. (Tucson got 824% FB organic reach with “Advice From a Cactus” post.) Use other people’s content. (ScenicWA got 2500% organic reach with one-a-day image feeds.)

MICE Marketing

  • Look in the right place. You’ll find this audience on LinkedIn. – (Mandy Volpe, UniqueVenues)
  • Use website landing pages for specific types of meetings.
  • Push notifications will be the email marketing of tomorrow.

Experiential Travel

  • The sharing economy is here to stay. Embrace it, work with it.
  • Restaurateurs see as complimentary (appreciation of good food and company), not competitive. – (Guy Michlin,
  • International visitors wanted to “live like a local.” Now they want to “meet the locals.”
  • The physical distribution of Airbnb changes a visitor’s experience with a destination, since they primarily live an average of 5 days where hotels are not found. – (Andrea La Mesa, Airbnb)

Out-of-the-(Tool) Box Thinking

  • We have street view. We have satellite view. Why not drones? Drones are the something in-between. 
  • Not perfect is the new perfect on Snapchat. You don’t have to maintain the image of a perfection to get engagement. Watch developments: Snapchat Stories, Our Stories and Snapchat geotags…not to mention ads. – (Martin Stoll, Sparkloft Media)
  • Bitcoins have a higher and more steady demand than Expedia anticipated, and “none of us should be ignoring this innovation.” – (Michael Gulmann, Expedia Media Solutions)
  • Google CEO recommends Googlers to work one day/week out of mobile exclusively. Grounds the consumer experience, invites innovation. – (Shaun Aukland, Google)

Media Buying

  • “Data and creativity are the Montagues and Capulets of advertising. They’ll start working together with formidable results.” – (John Durham, Catalyst S+F)
  • “Mobile advertising is in its infancy,” at currently only 2% of all ads. – (Scott Swanson, Opera MediaWorks)
  • Fasten your seat belts, but you don’t have to drive your data as crazily as the big box retailers do. – (Chris Smuthy, Sojern)
  • “The real purchasing strategy lies in the why and the how – not the where and the who.” – (Sabrina Wilson, Ad+Genuity)
  • Evaluate ROI during campaign, not just at completion.
  • Use call to action words appropriately; different ones apply to awareness, inspiration, consideration, activation, re-living.
  • “Invest in storytellers. In Louisiana’s best content, you can just smell the food.”- (John Durham, Catalyst S+F)

“There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.”Nicholas Butler Murray (1862 – 1947) educator, former president of Columbia University

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Filed under Attractions marketing, Digital Tourism Marketing Trends 2015, DMOs, eTourism Summit San Francisco, Facebook, Google, Instagram, KPIs, Native Advertising, Pinterest, Snapchat, Social Media Platforms, Storytelling, TripAdvisor, Twitter, YouTube

See Tomorrow: 21 Changes in 12 Months

Photo: Geoff Wong

Photo: Geoff Wong

How 21 Digital Marketing Areas Have Changed in the Past Year

Q: How is Digital Marketing like placing your finger on a drop of mercury?

A: Just when you have it figured out, it moves…again!

eTourism Summit is the only industry venue that brings together DMOs and attractions to learn about the changes in all 21 areas of digital marketing that they must master AND meet the experts (and peers)  to explore and see what’s next.


How 21 Components of Digital Marketing Have Changed in the Last Year: 2013 vs 2014

Digital Area





 Hummingbird/Conversational search 


Keyword targeting

 Behavioral re-targeting/PPC Video


Necessary for SEO

 Ghost town -useful mostly for Hangouts

Facebook (organic)

Collecting followers

 Posts with Share-ability

Facebook       (paid) 

Boosted posts

 Social CRM


Should I spend    time on this

 Access to Millennials

Snack-able Video



ROI Metrics 

Conversion to hotel  sales

 Measure Branding

Website design

Responsive Design

 Becoming a Destination’s Concierge 


For DIYers

 Targeted Pinning

Digital Dept. Required Skills

Internet savviness


Mobile Marketing

 Apps v Responsive  Design 

 Mobile Optimization for everything



 True Vue (pay/view in excess of .30  sec.)


Wanderers in  residence

 Paid Influencer Marketing


Creating a viral  video

 Multiple videos for different niches

Big Data

Understanding it

  Shrinking it to work for you

Content Marketing


  Images and Video

Email         Marketing

List segmentation

  Mobile optimization+ Gmail and  Canadian  deliverability


Finding your voice

   Targeting tweets to conversations about  your destination

Native Advertising

How to define it

   Syndicated targeting to those most  likely to  visit your website


Website traffic

   ROI vs KPIs


Click here to register for #eTS14.  

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Five Questions about Digital Media Marketing for Jessica Cox, Media Supervisor, MMGY Global

Jessica Cox

How to Budget :: What’s a good PPC cost benchmark :: Top Trends in Buying Digital Media  

ETS: How should a small-to-medium DMO marketer approach their budgeting?

JC:  It’s a difficult question to answer as it really varies based on the circumstances and goals of the destination. At large we recommend around 15-20% of the budget go to search, 8-10% go to social including FBX, 5% email/enews, 3-5% video which can include rich media, 12% content/native ads, 45% display and 5-7% mobile/tablet.

ETS: Besides Google, Facebook, Twitter, in which platforms should a DMO invest their energies?

JC: We want to be clear there is a difference in paid advertising opportunities and building content via social platforms. Beyond what you mentioned, we believe there is a value in Pinterest, Google +  and YouTube in terms of building content for destinations.

ETS: With the recent algorithm changes and competitiveness of keyword searches/phrases, what would you benchmark as a “good” PPC cost for paid search, paid social and native advertising?

JC:  I assume you mean bid price? Or perhaps cpm vs cpc? I would hate to put a price tag on any specific buy as again the varies based on execution and strategy. The cost of native advertising varies as it really depends on what you are looking to do, but I would urge you to look at reporting capabilities and paying based on engagement or views where possible. In terms of search, it also depends on if you’re buying branded vs non-branded terms. For social, you have to look at if you are buying direct from Facebook and twitter or through a third party. For example, it used to be you could strictly buy ads to generate Facebook fans but now there are so many more opportunities that change the pricing.

ETS: There’s a lot of buzz around Native Advertising. Can you  tell us how it is different from what we used to call Advertorial?

JC: The definition of native advertising is still being developed as it encompasses a broad range of categories. However at a basic level, it’s a method in which an advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content within the user experience. Native Advertising is really just a natural evolution of the traditional advertorial. The idea behind an advertorial is that it was traditionally written in the form of an article in the voice of the publication. Whereas native advertising also helps provide more content and engagement for the consumer, allowing for more creativity beyond articles and traditional banners.

In an age where banner blindness is prevalent and destinations are competing for website traffic with the evolution of search, it’s important to continue to find new ways to reach an engaged audience and start thinking more about pushing that rich content.

ETS:  What are the top two or three trends for 2015 in digital advertising by destination and attractions? And the top challenges? 

JC: The top trends for 2015 include viewability, cross-platform media, native advertising and programmatic buying. The interesting thing is that many of these digital trends are also the top challenges we face, a typical problem in an industry where change happens so rapidly.

While we continue to say it’s the year of mobile, we really feel this is the year many destinations and attractions are taking the next step to find ways to reach that consumer in a “mobile environment”. A typical consumer uses multiple devices (desktop, mobile, tablet) when making travel planning decisions so it our responsibility as an advertiser to find them at the right time on each device with the right message. The challenge is how do we track this cross channel attribution, find that same consumer across those devices and analyze the data available in a meaningful way.

Viewability is also a hot topic as more information is released every week in regards to fraudulent ads and bots. It’s also a movement towards buying better quality media. While digital media continues to be one of the most efficient ways to reach your customer, the industry is starting to adjust its metrics to closer align with other traditional forms of media.

It’s important to ask questions regarding viewability and validation up front when buying your media to educate yourself as much as possible to understand where your ads are going to run. There is no perfect answer, but it’s great to know the industry is continuing to push to increase standards for brands and which will lead to a richer ad environment for the future.

Note: MMGY is a sponsor of this year’s


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ETS 13 Summary: A Declaration Of Interdependence?


Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of regular summaries covering a selection of sessions at this year’s eTourism Summit.  

By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

A DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE: What’s next? The kid is highly sociable, growing up fast and getting into new behaviors on what seems like a weekly basis. Furthermore, this kid has learned how to put his hand out for money.

Just when we thought we had our heads around organic search, the kid wants a lock on his bedroom door. We should probably expect this behavior from a 15-year-old, but could anything be more annoying than Google’s Hummingbird changes?

IPOs and monetization mean that social media and search marketing have had to grow up. Nothing on the marketing landscape has changed more in the past five years than the interdependence of social media marketing, mobile strategy, search and content. Because, let’s face it:organic search is now dependent on social, social is tied to mobile, and having a mobile presence is now a critical factor in appearing high in search rankings. The new Circle of Life?

There is, however, a top-rated consensus on what’s in store for 2014: mobile, mobile, and mobile. Secondly, content is not only still king, but has enjoyed an indisputable promotion to emperor. By being more compelling than ever, the best content is now known as “storytelling.”

To address these ever-changing behaviors, Facebook head of travel Lee McCabe used the phrase, “If it works, it’s obsolete.” Put another way, we must all learn to live in beta.

Since change never comes easy, many are wondering whether there is a silver lining. Here are five:

1)  The mobile website vs app and HTML5 vs. responsive design debate is over. Responsive design, having come down in cost, is the clear winner for those wishing to develop one site for all screens.

2)  Tourism companies can strengthen partnerships with stakeholders as they bring social media marketing in-house to better coordinate and grasp content, product and campaigns.

3)  Get to know the younger kids* on the block now, as they will also grow up quickly and either move away or no longer be free to make friends with you.

4)  Everything old is new again. Email is back, but it’s hanging out with the cool kids at Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ where it’s mimicking their behavior.

5)  You can realize serious ROI by utilizing buckets found lying around the sandbox beside friends like Adara and Sojern who have shovels to help get you started.

We like to keep in mind that: “Social media marketing is, after all, “just marketing.”

* Those are the ones with trendy names such as Yammer, Tumblr, Flickr, Seen, Vine, Instagram, Pinterest, Field Trip.


Filed under Digital Tourism Marketing Trends 2015, eTourism Summit San Francisco