Is your destination doing as much as it can to support the travel trade? Working with and through the global travel trade is a critical part of any destinations marketing program.
There are two types of operators – those who are selling your destination and those who are not. Your goal is to convert those who are not selling your destination yet and to support those that are, to sell more.
This blog post briefly identifies tactics for effective trade marketing by a destination.
STEP 1 – IDENTIFY THE TARGET MARKET
Identify the target market: Don’t try to be everything to everyone, identify a few niche sectors that your destination can over-deliver on (bird watching, photography, cycling etc) and identify the top operators in the key source markets that you want to work with. You are looking for operators that are not yet selling your destination but are selling similar products, or perhaps they are selling trips to neighboring countries.
Build a database: A CRM tool is critical for tracking your success and invaluable if there is turnover in your office. At Solimar, we use salesforce.com, but any Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool will help you keep track of the communication that you have with each operator. The CRM should list the company and the key contact person at that company, ideally you’ll have contact with a product development person and a marketing person.
Once you have identified the target companies and correct contacts, you can start your relationship development work. Your second task is to raise awareness.
STEP 2 - RAISE AWARENESS
At Solimar, we are often working in destinations that are less well known and our first task is to put the destination on the radar of our target travel trade.
Educate the Trade
First, we create an educational tool – typically a Destination Specialist Program that works like an online course with quizzes that need to be passed to successfully complete the program. But it could also be webinar or even a downloadable PowerPoint. The idea is to provide basic information on the country’s geography, key selling points, brand and practical information that the trade need to know (visas, vaccinations etc).
Incentivize the Trade
To incentivize trade to take the course or watch the webinar, provide certain benefits that can be gained from taking the course. Here are examples of benefits provided by countries to their specialists:
Canada – Canadian Specialist Program
The Canadian specialist program gives specialists access to a detailed database of Canadian suppliers as well as a listing on the consumer facing website.
Australia – Aussie Specialist
Aussie specialists get access to marketing tools, a dedicated support line, a travel club membership which affords them discounts when traveling to Australia, additional training modules (on niche products etc) and informative newsletters.
Namibia – Namibia Destination Specialist course
The Namibia specialist courses lists specialists on their Facebook page, consumer facing website, provides participation in innovative online campaigns (with syndicated Facebook applications etc.) and gives specialists priority on FAM trips.
Motivate them to keep marketing your destination
Once someone becomes a specialist, it is important that you continuously create new sales tools and update your old ones. Sales Tools provide the trade new ways to engage their communities and give you an excuse to continuously reach out to your trade partners. Sales tools will be of special interest to operator who are already selling your destination but need support to market it further.
Here are some great examples of sales tools from around the world:
- Content Kits from Namibia – Each week the NTB sends out content for social channels.
- Story Ideas from the Canadian Tourism Commission: CTC regularly sends out story ideas to the trade and media
- Sales Toolkits from Namibia – “How to Sell Photography Tours in Namibia”
- Image and Video gallery from Greenland
- Easy to download pull-up stands and posters to promote Britain from Visit Britain
- Suggested itineraries from Visit Denmark
- Co-op advertising from Travel Wisconsin
Once you’ve created the educational program and the sales tools, you need to market them. This is where the CRM comes in handy. Each time you email, call or meet a trade partner, that interaction is logged in the CRM, and you can keep track of what partners have taken the specialist program, who is using sales tools and who is selling the destination.
STEP 3 - CONTINOUSLY KEEP YOUR DESTINATION TOP OF MIND
Newsletters: Newsletters are key to keeping your destination top of mind among the travel trade. Whether you send them monthly or quarterly, consistency is key.
According to MailChimp, the industry average open rate for travel is 20% and click through rate is 2.77%, so don’t despair if you feel a low percentage of your contacts are reading your newsletter – just having your destinations’ name pop into their email inbox, means that it stays top of mind.
Campaigns: Create campaigns that the trade can also use in their marketing of your destination. In Namibia, we had a campaign called Landscape Escape, where users were encouraged to share a photo of the “Landscape they wanted to escape,” for a chance to win a trip to the beautiful landscapes of Namibia. The competition was hosted on a Facebook applications that was syndicated to our travel partners who were selling Namibia. Each week we sent out content to help them promote the competition, which further engaged their communities. The banner at the bottom of the app was customized for each partner and read “Can’t wait to win a trip? Check our Namibia itineraries today!”
THE QUESTION EVERYONE WILL ASK….DO YOU HAVE ANY FAM TRIPS?: You’ll often here “I can’t sell anything I don’t know,” this is a fair enough statement, and FAM or Educational trips are an integral part of any destination marketing strategy – but it can be difficult to know who to invest in. Don’t be shy to ask the trade qualifying questions such as:
- How many trips to you sell every year?
- How many trips to you sell to my destination every year? (if they don’t yet sell to your destination, ask about your region)
- What is the per day spend of your clients?
- What percentage of that stays in-country?
FAM trips should be open to operators and agents that have already invested some time and resources into your destination, for example, by taking a specialist course or participating in a campaign.
STEP 4 - MEASURE
Don’t forget to continuously measure everything you do. Your CRM system will help create reports which track your progress and you should survey your partners once a year to gauge their sales. Reporting on your outreach and sales should be done at least every quarter, so your stakeholders can also see your progress!
Natasha Martin is a trade marketing specialist at Solimar International. Find her on LinkedIn. Photo: Mads Pihl, Visit Greenland