Written by: Jennefer Ontiveros
The creation of the Internet has changed how travelers access information. (Hays, et al.2012). Social media has provided different experiences to plan and book trips. Travel blogs have become really important for destinations because written content provide consumers with the opportunity to share travel experiences that encourage others to consider visiting the destination.
What is Destination Marketing?
Destination marketing refers to the different strategies used to promote the destination brand, which are defined and perceived, by name, symbol, or logo (Aker, 1991). Destination marketing is also seen as a crucial activity to improve the attractiveness of the destination and position the destination in the market place. The success of the promotion of the destination will depend of diverse factors such as a good marketing plan and the promotion of product and services.
Social media platforms in Destination Marketing
Social media has become a good promotional tool for tourism marketing. It empowers consumers to participate and interact in different platforms. Social media has changed the way people think and share their travel experience. In theory social media platforms are divided in 3 main domains: networking, sharing and gaming. (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Blogs are found in the domain of sharing and networking because it allows interacting with others and sharing content. (Lange-Faria & Elliot,2012). This interaction can be done by posting comments, receiving feedbacks and engaging others in the communication. Additionally it is necessary to keep in mind these 3 aspects when doing tourism marketing. (Safko & Brake,2009).
- Enable positive online conversations.
- Internet is about influencing others.
- Travel and tourism are intangible and easy to market online.
Since tourism is a product it is essential to promote the “good experience” of it, and for this reasons travelling and picking up the best of the regions are becoming part of the destination-marketing plan. Online blogs are available to consumers as a source of information. The information provided online might alter the customers’ final decision making on the destination (Pan, MacLaurin & Crotts, 2007). Nowadays it seems that user generated content is becoming the most credible source of information for travel (Lange-Faria & Elliot, 2012). Research suggest that user generated content (UCG) tends to be more trustworthy than information provided by traditional marketers. The use of social networking and blogs sites allow that consumers enter other fields that in the past were under the control and influence of traditional marketing. In tourism social media is turning into “the best friend” of customers where travel information and experiences are shared (Xiang & Gretzel, 2010).
Travel blogs and Destination marketing
Travel blogs has become such a powerful vehicles that destinations can tell their stories and build good relationships with potential visitors. Digital word-of-mouth communications is the most preferred as travel information sources (Crotts,1999). Sharda and Ponnada (2008) defined blogs as virtual diaries that are stored on the web and available to anyone. Blogs combine a set of text, videos, images and audios. They are like virtual stories, full of experiences that provide the public a taste of what experiences could be like when visiting the destination (Leu et al.2005). The interpretation of these experiences are becoming more and more popular with the help of social platforms. (Woodside, Cruickshank,& Dehuang,2007). People can share blogs posts with family, friends, which allows interaction and build an engagement with potential visitors that can turn into new visitors to the destination. Research also shows that people tend to trust in online word of mouth more than traditional media (Johnson and Kayne 2013).
Bloggers motivations for producing posts vary from entertainment, information, and self-expression (Papacharissi, 2002). Travel Blogs have shown to have an important role in the online space, which can help to market the destinations among people. As reported by statista (2011) there are around 173 million blogs in the Internet where posts are coming up daily and with years it increases more (Baker & Green, 2005). For marketers this would mean that travel blogs are popular and have important implications for destinations marketers and for the functions inside the DMO (destination management organization’s).
Travel blogs are also useful to monitor visitor’s attitudes towards a specific destination (Lange-Faria & Elliot, 2012). The DMO can collect the information regarding different characteristics and attitudes of the traveller towards the destination, which later can help to adapt the marketing strategy according to the customer’s profiles. All the information gathered in blogs and on the Internet is valuable for the DMO (Woodside, Cruickshank,& Dehuang,2007).
Having travel blogs as a source for marketing might also have its downside. One of this can be that the free access to the information. This can mislead communications specially when the users are anonymous online. It also can disconnect other smaller customer groups from the information provided on blogs. In some cases not much interactions or comments can be seen on a blog. (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011). The anonymity, the free access of posting online and the lack of interactions in the blogs might create potential problems for both customers and marketers (Dellarocas, 2003).
However, there are good of cooperation’s of tourism blogs and destinations. A good example of successful blogger campaign and destination marketing is the South Africa tourism, which is collaborating with 15 international travel bloggers to promote their destination. This has helped the South Africa tourism to be promoted with the #meetsouthafrica campaign in social media and travel blogs (Southafricatourism n.d). Tourmag (2015) has also reported that VisitBritain has been working with bloggers for around 2 years, and it has become part of their marketing strategy. The cooperation with tourism bloggers has helped them to increase the visits in the country by promoting different campaigns.
Other good examples of destination marketing are Colombia and Chile, which were awarded for their innovative strategies among tourism market in South America. According To FICOD (international forum of digital content) Colombia was good ranked among 62 digital strategies to promote tourism. It was above other European destinations like Germany and Greece.
Overall, blogs have a unique capacity to show how visitors live the experience that destinations recall for them. This creates the destination brand promise that can be portrait through diverse travel blogs. It is vital for tourism marketers and the tourism industry in general to understand travel blogs as a new technological phenomenon and its implications on destination marketing.
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