In the depths of a British winter, Queensland's 'best job in the world' campaign appeared like a dream on online news sites and TV.
Audiences were mesmerised by the thought of a six-month island sabbatical exploring coral seas, diving with turtles, bragging about the great time you’re having and netting £68,000 for your troubles.
But the marketers of Queensland’s tourism campaign are the ones really cashing in. From Puerto Rico to Bhutan, the viral spread like wildfire through the internet.
Tourism Queensland was looking for an ‘island caretaker’ to hang out on Hamilton Island, where the only real work seemed to involve maintaining a blog, with photos
and videos letting the world know about your stay.
When it was first launched, the dream job attracted so much attention that the website crashed after thousands of hopefuls tried to log on. Since then, millions have visited the site and more than 20,000 people from 180 countries have signed up.
Some applicants set up their own websites to show Tourism Queensland that they would be the ideal candidate; bloggers are extolling the merits of the destination to readers, before they’ve even visited. Some even started websites dedicated to the competition.
What started out as a £1.5 million marketing campaign generated more than £70 million worth of publicity for Australia’s northeastern state – free exposure that could only have been dreamt of beforehand – a good chunk of it in the UK.
The success of the viral campaign, mostly online, in achieving the objective of raising awareness of Queensland among holidaymakers not only surprised those involved, but left many in the industry green with envy that they had not thought up the idea themselves.
Consumers are increasingly influenced by what they find on search engines, websites, blogs and social media sites, especially when it comes to holidays.
A survey by eDigitalResearch found that more than half a polled group of customers said they would be more likely to shop online for a break this year now that the economy has slowed.
Director Michelle Fuller said: “As travel companies offer competitive deals online, people are relying on the internet, not just for background research, but to book holidays.”
Fuller continued: “Interestingly for operators, the survey showed that 32% of people would not use an agent to research their holiday before buying online.”
Many tourism boards and operators have upped their game and profiles using technology. The successful ones have integrated their online campaigns seamlessly with their offline ones.
Digital agency SmallMediaLarge founder Neil MacLean said: “Don’t divorce traditional marketing from new media; they go hand in hand.
"If you create a blog, YouTube channel or build a social network around your brand, use every traditional tool in the box to tell people about it.”
New Zealand has done this with its latest What Do You Say UK? campaign with TV and print adverts. Travellers to the country are encouraged to get involved with its mobile movie studio at 50 tourism hotspots around the country.
Visitors are then able to send video diaries and a digital holiday scrapbook posted on YouTube to family and friends in the UK.
Tourism New Zealand’s regional manager UK Gregg Anderson said: “The service is all about harnessing new technology and marketing through social networking in a
way that allows people to talk immediately to those at home about their experiences.”
Successful examples still remain the main source of inspiration and are the best way of understanding how to engage consumers.
Good examples include Chicago Joe, a destination personality designed to bring the city to life for agents, to InterContinental’s concierge websites, which tries to do the same for the group’s destinations.
At this stage, it is a burgeoning market and tourism boards, operators and agents are inherently conservative, with a handful of exceptions. In the words of MacLean: “Don’t jump into new and social media just because it is cool. It needs to justify your investment.”
You can, and should, measure how effective your campaign is - innovation is no substitute for results.
Thankfully, good analytical tools are now cheap or free and can show you how well the market is responding to what you are doing, what they are looking for and how many people continue on to your booking engine.
Here are some useful posts on analytics tools you can try:
- Five excellent free/almost free analytics tools [CenterNetworks]
- Analytics on the cheap: Six free stats packages [10e20.com]
- Ten promising free web analytics tools [Six Revisions]
Case study: Reinventing Kenya
Kenya lost 90% of its tourism during the destination’s peak season in 2008 due to political unrest.
Many operators discounted during this period to make up for losses, but ethical operator Acacia Adventure Holidays wanted to do something different to bring tourists back.
Why? Because ultimately it’s not just about holidays: conservation projects depend on regular cash flow from travellers and employment is a major issue in Kenya, as tourism is a major industry.
By launching the Crazy About Kenya portal with the Kenya Tourist Board, Acacia Adventure Holidays has created a positive vibe, profiling the local people online, including artists and musicians, to give travellers an insider’s perspective.
Guidebook firm Rough Guides got involved with Crazy About Kenya’s Call of the Wild competition, which was successful in building up a list of addresses for future contacts.
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