Category Archives: DMOs

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

The Countdown Begins













Among all the conversations and interviews, RSS feeds, emails, tweets and Facebook content that reaches our desks everyday, a few simply stated pearls of wisdom shine more brightly. These are the gems that steer us as we collaborate with experts on our forward programming to #eTS14.

That’s why we’re curating “60 Ideas and tips for the 60-Day Countdown” leading up to the 15th Annual eTourism Summit, October 8-9, 2014.

Attendance update: As of today, we have 16 spots left for eTourism Summit.

In case you’ve missed any gems this week…or, even better…if you’ve got one to share, get in touch on our Facebook page.

60 Days To Go: Locals = Organic Engagement

There they are! Just look out your office window. Residents of your own fair city are evangelists-in-the-making, as we heard from Seen in Cincinnati and Montreal Moments at #eTS13.  Allison Cooper, Visit Tucson, puts it well, “Your target market for Facebook fans are locals with civic pride who like to brag about where they live to their out-of-town friends.”

59 Days To Go: How to Find New Influencers

A wise suggestion from Nate Huff, Miles Media, “Harness the power of your community. Underemployed event planners, bloggers, photojournalists and videographers make great partners.”

58 Days To Go: Curate Like You’re Hanging Art at the Met

Like a museum, it’s not about filling halls and walls. “Curate your content like a museum would. What you don’t post is as important as what you do post,” points out Martin Stoll, Sparkloft Media. Free lunch is over; you’re paying to distribute your news. “Look at your social media platforms as niche publishers,” is the advice direct from Facebook executives.

57 Days To Go: Top Trends for 2015 from MMGY’s Media Supervisor

MMGY Media’s Jessica Cox calls out these 2015 “trends that continue to change the way we plan, buy and consume media.” She foresees an even bigger focus on Attribution, plus continuing conversations around Viewability, Cross-platform media, Native advertising, and Programmatic buying. Are you ready?

56 Days To Go: How to Budget For Interactive Marketing in 2015

According to Lynn Carpenter, Chief Marketing Officer for Visit California, it should look like: 70% spent on bread and butter proven programs; 20% on innovative new ideas and 10% on bleeding edge experimental programs. Does that formula work for smaller DMOs and attractions as well?

55 Days To GoWhat About Facebook and Real Time Comms?

Krupa Patel, Facebook, hinted that “B2C two-way communications is a future Facebook strategy.” Does this mean Facebook engagement evolves to brands communicating with followers via real time chat on Facebook Messenger? What will it cost?

54 Days To Go: Do You Eat Wheat?

“Programmatic buying is the gluten of advertising.” It’s a buzzword everybody uses, but few understand, according to Jimmy Kimmel (who is not a speaker at #eTS14!) as reported in AdAge. Could programmatic buying have different meanings for different uses?

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Tracks You May Have Missed: Marketing to the International Traveler Online: The BRICs and Mortar

By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

It’s not rocket science.

1024px-Surfaces_brick_wall_with_mortar_closeup_viewIn the balance

In the early 70s, the nation’s first convention and visitors bureau assembled a small delegation to Europe to promote the bold idea of inbound Visit USA tourism. America’s tourism balance of payments was far from balanced at that time. What a novel idea it was back then for New York City to suggest that, as Americans flocked to Europe for the Grand Tour, Europeans might actually find something worthwhile to see in the New World.


Ten years later, Florida and others joined the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau to bring a tiny delegation of one dozen US destination trailblazers exhibiting at the first London World Travel Market. That same year, New York City and Pan American World Airways dipped a toe in the water to test Japan, a market which had not developed any US tour offerings beyond Guam, Hawaii, and a tiny taste of the West Coast for the more adventuresome.

Moving on (line)

Back then, we had to go there to get anywhere at all. We had to press the flesh with tour operators, airline sales reps, trade press. We needed to build group inclusive tours or forget it. In the 80s, USTTA in Tokyo used to advise DMOs that it was all about showing up over and over again, building relationships and trust, exchanging Christmas cards, attending JATA, and sitting down together at the tatami mat with chopsticks in hand.

Our approach has changed, too. Now you can create the relationship to prompt the buy directly with the consumer and you can do it online.

Who got the memo?

Fast forward a few decades, and the balance of payments now tilts the other way. The list of countries we’re wooing has changed according to Jiri Marousek of Brand USA. Canada and Mexico have matured; the memo has been widely distributed. Europe, quite frankly, already got the memo. Japan got the memo has called a time-out. BRIC nations are taking up the slack.

America is the world’s most visited country. Brand USA is focused on eliminating red tape to make us visa-free and easier for more international visitors to get here and spend here. How many? 100 million per year by 2021.




Be greedy

The eTourism Summit ’13 discussion by presenters Jiri Marousek of Brand USA, Laszlo Horvath of ActiveMedia, and Evan Saunders from Attract China suggested what else needs doing by DMOs. “Remember,” they said, “the whole of America is a bigger draw than its parts.” With a target of hosting 100 million international visitors by 2021, we all win some. How much we win against our fair share really is a question of how adroit we are as DMOs in reaching international travel shoppers via online resources as well as convincing foreign and domestic carriers to increase international air service to secondary airports.

 Blast off!

Evan Saunders of Attract China explains: China is a rocket, but not rocket science. With an estimated 1.5 million traveling annually from China to the USA, average length of stay is longer and spending is pegged at $6,000 per person/per trip.

Facebook not spoken here

How to reach the 59% that are independent travelers?  Well for once, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google are not the answer. In China, they’re inaccessible. However, 55% are on Weibo (China’s Twitter) and Baidu is the main search engine.

 “All Aboard!” on Union Pay

The best and the most simple way to: 1) send out a message that your destination is “Chinese friendly” and 2) capture Chinese visitor spend is to get on board with Union Pay.

 Union Pay is the preferred vehicle for monetary transactions. Saunders’ says:

–   Facilitate Union Pay

–   Promote Union Pay as your unique selling point

–   Display the logo on your Chinese landing page

–   Go to to review your website loading experience

 From Austria to Zimbabwe

What works for China works elsewhere when it comes to these universal recommendations from Horvath:

–   Have a local host and domain

–   Use human translators

–   Know where each country is in its buying cycle mindset

–   Know what the hot buttons are for each separate market and act on them

–   Replace ads with experiences

–   Supplement photos with stories

Storytelling is the new black. Do it (accurately) in the local language and add photos. 


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Filed under China Ready, Countries, eTourism Summit San Francisco, SEM

Tracks You May Have Missed: Branding, Storytelling & “Complainvertising”

By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Those who tell the stories rule the world.

Martin Stoll from Spartkloft Media and Sarah DeVries from BLiNQ hit the right chords with destination tourism marketing pros, pointing out massive changes since Facebook launched ad exchange less than one year ago. Currently, 62% of business users report they are paying to boost their reach at brands that were only just introducing a Facebook company page in late 2007/early 2008.

The emphasis has moved from tactical to storytelling. Speakers at the eTourism Summit 2013 suggested that everyone needs to humanize their brand, that is, choose someone (or something) to tell the story.  And, watch your back. The public’s newest weapon is called Complainvertising.

Stoll-bio-photo_thumb[1] Martin Stoll, Sparkloft Media   Sarah_Headshot100 Sarah DeVries, BLiNQ Media

British Airways, this means you.

The deep truth is that you’re not in charge of your own brand. This was demonstrated in September by a recent cringe-worthy tweet that provided British Airways bosses with a virtual crash landing. Not satisfied with the standard suggestion to write BA customer services when the airline lost his father’s luggage, a disgruntled Hasan Syed spent $1,000 for a promoted tweet to air his frustration: “Don’t fly @British_Airways. Their customer service is horrendous.” BA found those bags in a hurry while Hasan was interviewed by major television and news outlets on both sides of the pond.

Some folks just don’t learn. Believe it or not, BA’s Twitter profile still reads: “We love reading your tweets & try to answer all of them between 0900-1700 GMT Mon-Fri” with a link to their website. Mind you, this from a business operating globally 24/7 which has already been named and shamed.  Hasan’s response? “I got what I wanted. I win.”

Barilla pasta boss is in a pot of hot waterbarilla

CEO Guido Barilla made a big faux pas which Martin explained, “Got the pasta brand into a pot of hot water.” Now trending is #BoycottBarilla due to this remark: “We won’t include gays in our ads, because we like the traditional family.” Boom. Invitation not to buy Barilla pasta has been accepted by GLBT advocates worldwide and the corporate apology, “In the interview I simply wanted to highlight the central role of the woman in the family,” …not so much. How not to handle a social media nightmare 101.

Let everyone help tell your story

Destinations finding clever ways to include the customer in the storytelling include the giant I AMsterdam sign frequently used as a photo opportunity by tourists. The whole world got a look at London Olympics fans posing before Tower Bridge from which the enormous logo was suspended for the countdown and 2012 games. More photo ops come from pop-up interactive volleyball games on Santa Barbara beaches, guest Happy Hours at Kimpton Hotel lobbies, and the innovative Visit a Swede campaign coordinated by the national tourist board. Taking it to the simplest level, the message is that a guest will repeat and share with passion about experiences such as these, which sure beats the brand boasting about itself being such a friendly place.

 Give them what they like

Drill down. Find out why you want to point a Brazilian visitor toward a field of wildflowers and how you can fill a hot and humid Florida beach with British aiming to go home looking like lobsters.  Message South Koreans about Android apps from trendy outlet malls and, if you’re located in or near New York City, use an image of the Statue of Liberty in your call out to Canadians.

Why Facebook? Because...1024px-Facebook_like_thumb

Because 76% of those planning a trip are using Facebook in the process. Because one-third are consulting with friends to regularly solicit opinions. Because photos are responsible for 66% of engagements. Because when you supplement photos with the native language, your likes increase five times over. Because you can use your CRM for re-targeting on Facebook. Because you can build your engagements with those who have liked your Facebook page through Facebook Exchange. Because your ROI will climb…and then, your boss will smile.


Our takeaways:

  • • Great storytelling can come from visitors, residents, a DMO’s stakeholders.
  • • Consumers have a voice, and it can be a powerful one.
  • • Surprise and delight works wonders.
  • • Passion connects people and places.
  • • Every town has landmarks; think outside the box.
  • • Think in mobile first.

Powerpoint presentations with thanks to presenters Martin Stoll and Sarah DeVries:


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Facebook’s Lee McCabe: “If It Works It’s Obsolete”


Facebook's Lee McCabe and Jake Steinman after the interview

Jake Steinman, founder and and CEO of eTourism Summit met recently  with Lee McCabe, Facebook’s Head of Travel, for a candid discussion about tactical ways in which destinations and attractions can use Facebook as a more effective platform.

Like the Facebook platform itself, the company’s campus in Menlo Park has changed substantially in just the year since our E-Tourism Summit (ETS) group last visited for a field trip. The complex has since grown into Main Street in a Small Town USA, with three-story buildings on both sides of the street, and they contain restaurants, bike shops, printing shops and a Facebook flagship store with all types of Facebook branded t-shirts, hoodies, and bric-a-brac.

There are “twenty-something” hipsters who seem to mix freely with more seasoned “thirty-something” adults, creating an environment that gives the headquarters the appearance of a college campus—only with an air of accountability permeating everything.

McCabe comes most recently from Expedia, where he led its hotel partnership team, and seems to have a firm grasp of the travel landscape; he has plans to grow the travel vertical team, which is based in Austin, into sub-verticals that may include one to focus on destination marketing organizations.

An excerpted version of our question-and-answer session follows: (Photo : Lee McCabe (left) at FB headquarters)

ETS: What advice would you have for travel industry sectors such as DMOs or attractions that are using Facebook’s ad platform to target prospective fans that most likely to engage with them?
McCabe: One of the biggest problems that most travel companies have is that they built an original fan base that doesn’t have an affinity for their product or destination. A good example of a DMO success is Tourism Australia, as they follow these basic principles:
o The foundation of their fan base consists of Australians who are passionate about their country
o Their fans have friends who have visited Australia
o You have those who may not know anyone living in Australia, but have visited the country and have enough passion for it to continue engaging. Nearly 90 percent of their posts are user generated. Your best marketers are friends that have been to the destination.ETS: What can the average destination say Berkeley, California learn from them?
McCabe: You really only need a few hundred people to create a rich content engine. For example, if they only had 500 fans in the beginning and their average post is seen by 30 percent of their fans, that becomes their benchmark. That means that there are some posts that are seen by only 10 percent of their fans and others that might be viewed by 50 percent. The post with the higher engagement is somehow resonating with your fan base and the best way to expand is by:
o Including similar posts in the same time slot on a similar topic
o Boost your post by using non-organic ads on Facebook to help find your target audience. For example, if a post depicting a scuba diver has generated high engagement, you target scuba divers within a 1,000-mile radius of your destination.
o This advice can be summarized by:
 Post
 Benchmark
 Boost posts that engage beyond your benchmark

ETS: How many times per day should brands post?
McCabe: It varies per brand, but generally we recommend to post two to three times a day to stay consistent and engaged.

ETS: What analytic tools are available to higher spend advertisers that are not available to those using Facebook’s self-service model?
McCabe: This depends on their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). If we have clients that are trying to influence destination consideration, we partner with Nielsen for research measurement. If they’re trying to build traffic to their website, they can simply add a tag to the post and track the user’s visit to their site.

ETS: Are there any types of campaign or contests that you see working better than others in the travel space?
McCabe: Unless it’s something unique like Australia’s “Win the Job of Your Life,” which puts the destination at the heart of the competition, it’s difficult to see long-term success with contests or sweepstakes. In most cases, they don’t attract people who are passionate about your product. I think DMOs are best served by building campaigns around seasonal themes that support their TV, print and other (including social) efforts.

ETS: Has Facebook released any products that can be used by DMOs to enhance and assist them in preparing ROI reports for stakeholders and board members?
McCabe: We see some new models that are working well for CVBs and destinations in general.
Use Facebook Exchange to retarget your audience
Facebook Exchange (FBX) allows real-time bidding (RTB) on ad placement and retargeting. RTB lets advertisers bid in real-time on a specific ad impression rather than a larger group, allowing advertisers to show more relevant ads and run more effective campaigns. For instance, if a person is looking at a certain hotel on that hotel’s website, the next time they log into Facebook, that hotel’s ad can show up in the person’s News Feed (which is the most engaging part of Facebook).
Use Custom Audiences
 Custom Audiences allows marketers to find their current customers on Facebook and reach them with relevant ads. So, for example, if an airline has a database of the emails for the people who flew to Hawaii last Christmas, they can use Custom Audiences to reach that same group of people on Facebook and show them an ad on Facebook for a discounted rate to Hawaii this holiday season.

ETS: What other spin-off opportunities does this create?
McCabe: There’s now a new opportunity for co-branding by creating a new packaging offer with an airline or hotel partner that is more attractive. This information can be obtained through data-share agreements with airlines or from Sojern, Adara and other full service DSPs (Data Service Platforms) such as Bluekai or Triggit.

ETS: With the growing importance of “photography marketing,” how can travel brands use the Instagram platform more effectively i.e., is it feasible to market certain images to specific targets, etc.?
McCabe: While we’ve said that ads will come to Instagram within the next year, there are no marketing products on the platform at this time. That said, we’ve seen brands across all verticals effectively build engaged audiences on Instagram, and if you think about it, travel makes sense. Instagram is an aspirational platform focused on beautiful content. Look at what a brand like Starwood Hotels has started to build on Instagram and you can see the possibilities:

ETS: What are the biggest changes in the past year for those who are seeking organic engagement?
McCabe: Your ads should be great quality and relevant to your target audience. We work with brands that believe to “always live in beta” and “if it works, it’s obsolete.” It’s important to learn how to target the fans that are willing to engage and they may not be your friends. We have over 1.1 billion people on Facebook and you may now find people around the world, for example in Scotland who somehow love your product. It’s all about finding the people who matter.

ETS: Are any companies doing a good job of understanding your full targeting capabilities?
McCabe:   MGM Resorts has done an excellent job using Facebook to acquire new customers, convert them into guests, and ultimately brand loyalists. They have consistently seen returns on ad spend higher than 3X for each stage of the purchase.
Using products Custom Audiences and retargeting on Facebook Exchange, the brand has seen a positive return on ad spend
5X+ return on ad spend using custom audiences targeting its customers on Facebook
15X return on ad spend using Facebook Exchange

HotelTonight sought to acquire new customers who would download its last-minute hotel booking app and ultimately use it to book reservations.
To acquire users /app downloads

HotelTonight used Facebook’s granular targeting and two key products: the mobile app install ad and Facebook Offers.
10X higher click-to-install rate from the mobile app install ads, compared to standard mobile banner ads (between October and December 2012).
According to booking and registration data, 80% higher return on ad spend from Facebook Offers than average mobile advertising spend.

ETS: What is the spending threshold at Facebook’s travel vertical where they can receive live support?
McCabe: We aren’t able to share this information at this time.

ETS: One final question. Can you tell us what you plan to talk about at the E-Tourism Summit?
McCabe: My presentation will focus on customization and targeting for travel destinations and suppliers.

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Filed under Custom Audiences, DMOs, Facebook, Instagram

Ensuring your Search Strategy gets the Attention it Deserves During an Economic Downturn

With a countless number of conferences and articles are discussing the pros and cons of joining the social media race, one could be forgiven for getting caught up in the euphoria of starting a social campaign.  However, during this era of social media, podcasting, life-streaming, tagging, uploading, etc, etc. it is crucial to maintain focus on a few of the ‘older’ pieces of your online marketing plan, in this case, search.  Additionally, as so many DMOs and CVBs face budget reductions or at minimum, a careful use of funds, they find themselves reviewing interactive expenditures.  What better time to evaluate your SEO and SEM programs.

First, some new research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project on the adoption of search by internet users.
As shown by the chart above, search has become one of the most utilized online tools in a typical day, second only to email.

An excerpt from the memo:

With this increase, the number of those using a search engine on a typical day is pulling ever closer to the 60% of internet users who use email, arguably the internet’s all-time killer app, on a typical day.1 Underscoring the dramatic increase over time, the percentage of internet users who search on a typical day grew 69% from January 2002, when the Pew Internet & American Life Project first tracked this activity, to May 2008, when the current data were collected. During the same six-year time period, the use of email on a typical day rose from 52% to 60%, for a growth rate of just 15%.

Not only do these statistics highlight the clear importance of search in online marketing plan, they also show how quickly search has become a central and ubiquitous part of the internet.  Users have learned and adapted to the search process.  As the report later states, advancements in search and search results have increased the user’s trust in the search tool.  Plus, having Google as one of the largest and most publicized corporations on the planet certainly does not detract from the public’s knowledge of search.

Additionally, the report highlights the demographics of the search user:

Those who are using search engines on an average day are more likely to be socially upscale, with at least some college education and incomes over $50,000 per year. They are more likely to be internet users with at least six years of online experience and to have their homes wired for fast internet connections. Younger internet users are more likely than older users to search on a typical day. Men are more likely than women to search on a typical day.

For DMOs and CVBs looking for that upscale consumer with the disposable income to continue traveling, even in times of economic hardship, these statistics should make a strong case for a SEO or SEM campaign.

Before we move on, let’s look at the numbers in depth:

College graduate+ 66%
Some college 49%
High school graduate or less 32%

$75,000 + 62%
$50,000 – 74,999 56%
$30,000 – 49,999 34%
<$30,000 36%

18 – 29 years 55%
30 – 49 years 54%
50 – 64 years 40%
65 years and older 27%

So, how do you begin a SEO or SEM campaign?  And which one should you focus on?  SEO or SEM?

While most experts agree that using an SEO and SEM campaign in tandem will provide the best results, the value of a long-term SEO campaign should NOT be overlooked.  The short-term gain of a quick SEM campaign can produce solid results, particularly for a specific time period…such as a winter promo / sweeps…however you are, in fact, simply ‘renting’ those returns.  Once you stop spending, you stop receiving that ROI.  On the other hand, a SEO campaign should be looked at as a long-term investment in your search strategy.

For most small tourism organizations, having an external company manage a SEO / SEM campaign could prove to be a budgetary challenge.  Having your advertising agency could be another option, but for most, managing a SEO / SEM campaign either in-house or via an online vendor is the likely solution.

In the most basic terms, an SEO campaign would require less day-to-day management than a modest size SEM campaign.  Which furthers the argument to focus on natural search prior to a PPC campaign.

Easy said than done, to be sure.

Where to start?  To say there are a lot of factors that go into a SEO strategy is a massive understatement and certainly more than we can cover in a reasonable blog post.  Luckily, Google provides a complete help section on how to start, manage and optimize a SEO (and SEM) campaign.  Everything from creating a XML site map to keyword stuffing your pages (not a good thing).

Think of the site this way, here is the search company that owns 60%(ish) of the market and they are telling you how to optimize your site for their product.  Worth a quick look for you or your webmaster.

Additionally, be sure to look at Google’s Webmaster blog ( and the Google Webmaster discussion group (, both excellent sources of information and help on setting up, starting and managing a SEO / SEM campaign.

So, prior to setting up your Facebook Fan page for your destination, take a moment and review your search engine strategy.  In this time of increasing competition and decreasing budgets, a solid SEO / SEM plan is a must for every CVB and DMO.

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Filed under DMOs, Google, SEM, SEO, Travel Industry, Travel Statistics

What are the World’s Top 10 Country Brands?

Everyone loves Australia.

Everyone loves Australia.

What are the World’s Top 10 Country Brands?

Australia has emerged as the world’s top country brand for the third consecutive year, according to the 2008 Country Brand Index (CBI), being officially released in London on November 11. Rising from its sixth place ranking last year, Canada is recognized second and the United States rounds out the top three country brands in the 2008 study.

Read the complete story.

Travel industry feeling the squeeze.

As Americans evaluate and pare back their discretionary spending for the remainder of this year, the travel and leisure industries are feeling the squeeze.

Companies throughout the sector — including hotel, cruise ship, theme park and gambling concerns — have all warned in recent weeks that their businesses have slowed or that things could get worse next year.

“The deteriorating outlook for the economy is impacting travel habits and spending, and hotels are expected to experience reduced occupancy levels, and to a lesser degree, some room rate erosion through 2009,” said Scott Berman, principal at consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

For hotels, the picture looks particularly grim.

PwC expects that a key measure of the hotel industry’s health, revenue per available room (RevPAR), to fall 5.8 percent next year, following this year’s estimated 0.8 percent decline. That would be the industry’s first back-to-back decline in the widely watched measure since 2001-2002.

Read the complete story.

US Inbound travel up 9% through August.

The United States experienced a 9 percent increase in international visitors during the first eight months of the year when compared to the same period in 2007. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that 34.9 million international visitors traveled to the country from January to August, and spent $96.3 billion during the period. The 5.6 million visitors in August alone was an increase of 6 percent when compared to August of 2007, and they spent a record $12.7 billion— an increase of 20 percent.

Read the complete story.

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Filed under Branding, Countries, DMOs, Travel Industry, Travel Statistics

Do You Love your Email Marketing Company?

We received this e-mail from a member of the OTM Network that we would like to pass along to all members.  You may respond directly to Maresa, or post a comment on this blog.

“Do you love your e-mail marketing company?” Are you getting great results with your e-marketing? Is your e-mail software simple and easy to use while allowing custom design flexibility? The Albuquerque CVB is currently researching E-mail marketing companies and appreciates any feedback from hospitality or destination clients who are happy (or unhappy) with their service. Additionally, we may develop and RFP for e-mail marketing services so if you are a company that provides these services, please write to mthompson[at]

-Maresa Thompson, Albuquerque CVB

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Filed under Cities, DMOs, Email Marketing

What are the most profound online marketing changes you’ve seen this past year?

We asked three presenters who spoke at last year’s E-Tourism Summit in San Francisco about changes they have seen in the past year and how marketers are coping with them.

For more information about the 2008  E-Tourism Summit, including speaker and registration information, visit

What are the most profound changes you’ve seen in the past year with regards to online travel marketing.

Andrew Ecklund chief executive officer of Ciceron, a digital marketing firm based in Minneapolis. (He will be monitoring the LapTop Laboratory, where he will assist participants to build their presence on YouTube, Wikipedia, and Facebook.

“The impact of the “crowd” on travel decisions.  By that I mean that social networks and social content have hit critical mass.  Secondarily, I am concerned about how DMOs continue to rely on outdated ways of making money from their web strategies. In don’t believe room-bookings are the end-all, be-all of web monetization. We helped launch a significant social media presence for both Meet Minneapolis and the Nevada Commission on Tourism. And we increased the use of online video and syndication of video to drive top-of-funnel interest in properties and destinations.

Doug Hay is the cofounder and CEO of Expansion Plus. He is a top-performing professional with proven abilities perfected through over 35 years’ progressive experience in marketing, sales and management. His partner, Sally Falkow, will be leading a workshop on utilizing PR to penetrate social media at this year’s conference.

“That consumer-generated content – peer reviews, images and video – have driven the boom in online purchases for travel. Clients are asking for help with developing social media – it is a major undertaking for organizations. Social media has gone past the “novelty” stage and is being embraced by Fortune 500 such as Disney and Bank of America.  We’re involved in helping clients RSS feeds and syndication of content on destinations for tourism venues with images and videos – resorts and cruise lines.”

Maresa Thompson, Interactive and Design Manager for the Albuquerque CVB, started with the bureau 10 years ago as a graphic designer is now charged with marketing their website to consumers.  We have launched a very comprehensive Google Map Mash-up that dynamically links to our website database and has mobile features built into it:

“Many companies are shifting their advertising budgets to increase their online presence but this is often a difficult process with traditional ad agency models in focusing on new media. It is challenging to determine where and what to spend your ad resources on and to balance multiple agencies.”


Filed under DMOs, eTourism Summit San Francisco