If you’ve been in the tourism industry, you’ve probably noticed that tourism marketing is changing. Old-school tourism marketing was a race to attract the most visitors to your destination by making it look exciting, new and trendy.
Today, tourism marketing is more of a balancing act than a numbers game. Its goals and campaigns are more subtle. No destination wants to drop off the map, but gone are the days when the only thing that mattered was numbers.
If you have been wondering about this undercurrent of change, here are some of the drivers behind modern tourism marketing and the new techniques that destinations are using to stay relevant but not overrun.
Overtourism and Destination Management
Perhaps tourism marketers have done their jobs a little too well in the past. Travel and tourism numbers have skyrocketed in recent years, leading to overcrowding and a diminished experience in many major destinations. Locals and visitors alike now complain about the overcrowded conditions of the world’s most popular locales. The amount of traffic some spots get is threatening to overwhelm local resources, infrastructure, and the environment.
This overtourism phenomenon has those in the industry rethinking their marketing methods. Of course, no destination wants to deter tourism completely. But the challenge now is to balance the number of visitors so the crowds benefit the places they visit without destroying them.
This response to overtourism is called responsible tourism. Responsible tourism is all about using tourism to improve the experience of living in or visiting a place. That may mean using tourism to create new jobs, preserve local heritage, or finance public works. Sometimes responsible tourism measures merely neutralize the negative effects of tourism.
While local governments may spearhead many of these projects, tourism marketers can also do their part in curtailing overtourism before things get out of hand. For example, visitors to Peru’s most famous attraction, Machu Picchu, rocketed 12% in 2018 with more than 1.5 million visitors. That’s an average of 4,300 tourists every day. Destination management and government officials took bold action, introducing a new strict ticketing system. Tickets are now time-limited with slots lasting four hours and no re-entry allowed.
“The new ticketing system at Machu Picchu has not reduced the number of visitors each day, but has been very effective in managing the flow of visitor numbers entering the citadel,” says Sarah Miginiac, General Manager for Peru at G Adventures.
Similar to responsible tourism, sustainable tourism tries to make a positive impact on a destination with the added connotation of that impact being long-term for future tourism. Sustainable tourism is practiced by respecting local culture, supporting local economies, and conserving resources, and the natural ecosystems.
First, make it easy for tourists to conserve resources by seeking out businesses that are environmentally conscious. Tourism marketers can help make their destinations more sustainable by working with local governments and organizations to implement policies that lessen tourism’s impact on the environment.
Promoting sustainability and eco-friendly practices can also earn many destinations more visibility. For example, Palau, Micronesia earned the ITB Earth Award in 2019 for their creation of the “Palau Pledge”, which asks visitors to swear to protect the natural and cultural heritage, as well as new regulations that will ban the sale and use of reef-toxic sunscreens beginning in 2020.
Destination marketers can also help tourists participate in sustainable tourism by highlighting locally-owned businesses and activities that leave a smaller footprint or honor local traditions. Guiding tourists to independently-owned enterprises supports the local economy and allows locals to control the use of their resources and protect their community.
Highlighting the Off-Season
Another way to balance a destination’s numbers is to redistribute visitors throughout the year. Responsible tourism marketers are increasingly luring tourists to visit destinations during their off-season.
Many target groups who are available to travel during non-peak seasons, like childless couples or retirees, or highlight the benefits of visiting at quieter times. Some advertise activities and attractions that are only available during non-peak times with carefully crafted campaigns that paint the off-season as an elite experience that not just anyone gets to partake in.
Like in many industries today, tourism experts are starting to recognize how increasing demand is putting valuable resources in jeopardy.
The difference with tourism is that those resources are entire communities. In response, the concept of tourism marketing is changing. It’s no longer about getting the highest number of people to visit a destination, but rather, managing the number of people who visit and lessening its impact on the local communities and infrastructure.
If you need help adapting your tourism marketing to the new realities of the industry, Connect Worldwide can help. Our experienced international team understands the changing nuances of tourism marketing and can help you alter your strategies to responsibly promote your destination.