Inspiring Destination Marketing – A Recap of #DTTTGlobal

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a Global Tourism Marketing Event held in Brussels – DTTT Global – Disrupting The Future Destination.

 

The 6th anniversary of the travel marketing event brought together travel marketers from Europe, Asia and North America to share in best practices for marketing destinations.  

Reminiscent of Online Revealed, the Canadian Conference I co-produced for 10 years, #DTTTGlobal has brought together education, community and inspiration to the global travel community.  The flagship event, along with the other programs that The Digital Tourism Think Tank  produce, provides a platform for Destination Marketers to be inspired, test innovation – and to share in best practices in marketing travel online.

Leveraging the stories, the people and the energy from last week’s event in Brussels, I will be drafting some summaries of takeaways in the coming few weeks. Until then, my recap of my week in Brussels.

 

As we head into 2017 in just a few weeks, it is time to reflect on strategies and tactics that drive new visitation, more engagement, and more conversions – and to prepare to pivot again as the digital ecosystem will once again shift before budgets and plans can adjust.

 

Top 10 Highlights of my Adventure in Brussels with #DTTTGlobal

 

1. Working alongside the  #DTTT team and watching them work tirelessly to prepare an event that would deliver inspiration and drive innovation.  

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2. Meeting and sharing stories with travel marketing professionals from around the Globe, and seeing just how small a world this is.

 

peopledttt

 

3. Seeing that the challenges we face in marketing travel are Global, and knowing that there is a growing global network of professionals ready to share, help and inspire.

 

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4. Le GrandPlace is awe inspiring.  I cried walking into it at night for the first time.

 

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5. It’s all about people.  Nick, Ramona, Ilaria, Rob, Jeffrey, Emma, Roberta (virtually) and all of the amazing people the Think Digital Travel team brought together.  I look forward to our continued adventures and thank you for inviting me along for the ride.

 

dtttglobalteam

 

6. Content is King is still a thing.

 

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7. We destination marketers know how to pull the heart strings with video.

 

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8. BeautifulDestinations. Enough said.

DTTTGlobal conference

 

9. Love of Beer and Food is universal among travel marketers.

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10. We have come along way in marketing destinations – and we are about to embark on much more as digital and social continue to challenge and inspire us!

 

digitaltransformation

 

I’m already planning my journey to Copenhagen for #ContentCampus in March!

How to un-tap social media and measure ROI with technology

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 11.42.40 AM

I was recently asked what technology or innovation in digital marketing that I was most excited about. Although I am biased in my answer, I am always excited to see the results when technology can provide both innovation, and results in the bottom line.  

There are many successful case studies of brands leveraging user-generated social content to tell their stories. Early adopters have been rewarded with deeper relationships with influencers, powerful website and marketing content that is so captivating to their audiences that they are staying connected to the brand website longer.

The longer that eyes remain engaged with the content, the more meaningful the  experience will be in learning about the product, service or experiences that a brand offers.

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 11.02.06 AM

 

The technology behind user generated content marketing is not new. However, executing the strategy around the technology to fully leverage the thousands of images and video content being created around every brand, product or experience, is the key to ensuring that an investment in technology or software generates the return on investment that it should.

How to un-tap the power of social media

Greatwaterway.com

Ontario’s www.thegreatwaterway.com invites visitors to become part of their story.

There are hundreds and maybe thousands of pieces of content being created and shared about your brand every day.  Consider the amount of social content being posted and shared by these two popular brands, just in the last 30 days:

HashtagSearch_Hashtagio

 

This is the “visual word of mouth” that the socially connected consumer has created, and that wise marketers have untapped in helping them to reach, capture and retain both new influencers who will be their best brand ambassador’s, but also more engaged customers – at the point of transaction.

What should marketers be thinking about when determining a technology platform and  strategy to capture and un-tap crowd-sourced content as part of the marketing mix?

 

Influencer marketing

Photos, videos and brand stories are being created and shared by Instagrammers, top influencers on Twitter and YouTube stars who have an engaged community of followers en mass. Rewarding influencers with a shout out, a follow, or a reward, and featuring their content alongside other brand messages is a means of not only generating good content – but also in building an army of powerful brand ambassadors.

The future of influencer marketing is to be able to build and engage with a wider net of influencers, who may have niche communities and a smaller audience as a whole – but powerful content and more targeted reach. Marketers must find a way to manage and measure this in order to gain reach.

Social Media Contesting

Social media contesting works to engage new Fans on Facebook, but are these leads being nurtured and developed into a perspective customer or brand ambassador?  How do you determine a return on your investment when the transaction or lead generation has occurred outside of the brand web asset?

The idea is to pull the contest to a landing page on the website instead of running it through Facebook or YouTube, and manage both the content assets, as well as the entries to ensure that the lead generation you are looking for is not simply lead gen for Facebook. Leverage social media channels as the powerful marketing vehicles they are – and drive your customers back to the point of conversion.

 

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Nova Scotia tourism was recently named by SKIFT as one of the Top 25 Destination Websites in the World, with a specific mention of the creative use of crowd-sourced content.

 

Managing permissions and rights for images and videos

All UGC marketing platforms, or social media aggregators of content worth looking at should have the ability to pull in and re-publish social media content and provide an automated permissions request built in. Outside of the obvious reasons to obtain permissions to use content posted on Facebook or Instagram, asking permission also gives marketers the opportunity to initiate a conversation with posters of content, encourage more content submissions and increase the number of shares. This also allows the brand to build an arsenal of images and videos that can be re-published to become part of the brand marketing strategy.

Adding fresh social media content to the website will immediately improve the stickiness of the website and keep customers close to your point of conversion longer. Consider nurturing relationships with professional photographers who use Instagram as a means of promoting themselves. Work with them to showcase their work – and tell your story. Follows and shares are the currency of the social media economy, and content creators will be thrilled to be recognized and supported by your brand.

Social data asset development and management

Sourcing photography and video production from vendors can be an expensive hit to your bottom line. In addition, research shows that user generated content is more engaging and more trusted than professionally produced content. It is important for marketers to start to build asset libraries of user generated social media images and videos to add into the marketing mix to keep it fresh and vibrant. In addition, keeping image and video assets sorted and categorized by content type increases marketing automation and efficiency.

Lead capture and measuring ROI on social media

Many companies struggle to find their ROI from social media, but believe it or not, you can gauge the return on your social media investment. By using technology and analytics, marketers are now able to track conversions on a sign up, App download, purchase, or page visit as a means to measure the impact that social media content has on their sales.

They key is to use social media channels as marketing tactics to drive users back to the point of conversion, not send them back out to Instagram once you have the customer on the website.

SEO and Website content

Website bounce rates, time on site, and average  number of pages per visits have been illustrating to marketers for quite some time that websites are not engaging or as good at closing the sale as they once were.

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Consumer user behaviour has changed, but most brand websites have not kept up to ensure that their storefront is engaging to a new kind of customer.

Consumers spend more time on Social Media channels than ever before, and less time on websites. By showcasing social stories on the website,  visitors are able to engage and share social media content from the website, and are more likely to remain on the website, instead of bouncing out to Facebook or Instagram. By giving users a similar experience they get on Instagram or Facebook – brands will keep customers on the website longer, and have the chance to further engage them to sign up or buy.

In addition, “Social signals” – or referring traffic back from a social network have also become a key factor in Google’s search ranking. Marketers need to continue to add links to social media posts to encourage users to go back to the website and engage with the brand. By providing similar content on the website, marketers can capture and retain that lead longer, and also increase the amount of fresh SEO friendly content added to the website.

 

What’s next in the technology behind UGC marketing platforms?

 

Personalized delivery of social content upon returning to the website, within marketing messages – and in emails.

This can be done now with platforms such as Hashtagio, allowing brands to tag and categorize UGC content to be searched and re-published at any time, to any place.

Automated tagging of visual content via AI technology

Although this is the not so distant future, I would caution that many brands are not even fully leveraging crowd sourced content now.   There are only a few brands that are fully un-tapping the potential in injecting social stories into the marketing mix.  Testing how crowd sourced content can impact the website performance and sales should be the first step before investing in automating the tagging of content.

It is the curation and categorizing of the content itself, as well as the implementation and measurement of success that is more of a priority for most brands.

 

UGCmarketing

Technology and marketing automation are on the minds of marketers more than ever before.

Keep this advice in mind when researching solutions for managing user generated content, or any other software or technology for that matter. Software bells and whistles will not be the key to tapping into the power of crowd-sourced content. Take the time and deploy resources to the right implementation strategy. The results will be improved efficiencies in social media marketing, proven ROI and of course, increased sales.

 

By Alicia Whalen

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 3.17.50 PMAlicia Whalen is a blogger, speaker and Chief Evangelist for Hashtagio the platform pulls in social content by Hashtag, Location or @handle. Content is tagged and searchable and can be republished on brand websites, in emails, and in other media. The Hashtagio UGC marketing platform provides automated rights management to obtain permissions to use images, and advanced analytics to brands build direct connects with Instagrammers, tweeters and Youtubers. Hashtagio is a social data asset management tool, a UCG marketing platform, and a website marketing automation tool that allows brands to fully leverage social media stories.  

The Next Gen Influencers for Travel

With 76 percent of travellers posting vacation photos to social networks, and 50 percent of people confirming that travel content on their social feeds influenced their travel plans, it’s clear that social media has had an impact on the travel path to purchase.

If we know this to be true, then the obvious conclusion is that travel marketers must not look just to Bloggers and YouTuber’s with followers in the thousands to help build reach and engagement with “influencer marketing campaigns”, but also look to the army of influencers who don’t all have followers in the thousands, but are already sharing their brand stories today.

Search for destination specific Hashtags on Instagram and see for yourself.  144, 579 tagged and posted images in Instagram for #Cannonbeach – a popular tourist destination near Portland Oregon.

CannonBeach_Instagram

A search in Instagram for #Cannonbeach presents 144,579 results

 

Travel as a category has the most potential to leverage specific content being tagged with Hashtags, and shared across social media channels – with or without the official prompting from a DMO or tourism operator.

In preparing for a discussion I will lead at the upcoming DigMe16 Summit in Philadelphia, on “The State of Influencer Marketing,” I reached out to some of my travel industry colleagues to discuss how influencer marketing has evolved, and what makes a campaign a success for them.  I have learned that even since 2015, “influencer marketing” has shifted to become more expensive, and harder to track return on investment – even with a big win in engaging with a well known Instagrammer or Blogger.

Engaging a high profile Instagrammer, who will also contribute a travel blog, some extra video and Snapchat content to a highly targeted audience is certainly providing valuable content and lift for destination marketers, but this type of influencer is becoming more difficult to get to, and more expensive to secure, even over the same time last year.

 

Influencer marketing can be extremely effective, but the compensation expectations of influencers means travel marketers are going to have to get more creative if they want results.

 

What I can conclude is that it is becoming harder for brands with small to medium sized budgets to achieve impactful campaign reach through traditional influencer marketing programs that worked in the past.  It is also a slippery slope when engaging “transactionally” with influencers as social media is a medium that demands transparency and authenticity, both to consumers – and to advertisers.

The state of Florida recently announced that they would be reviewing marketing spending because of unclear ROI, and a lack of transparency in engaging high profile personalities to visit or endorse the state. (Source: Skift)

So what does next generation influencer marketing look like?

Few travel brands are leveraging the power of social stories that are being created day in and day out by brand ambassadors that already on mass follow, engage and share content on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many other social channels.

 

Perhaps the user-generated content shared by existing and future brand influencers, those who may not have millions of followers, but who’s content tells a good story, is relevant and trusted, and is generally shared with positive sentiment is the silver bullet in Next Gen influencer marketing? 

 

Consider that in mass, these stories become part of a larger story that a brand can tell leveraging their army of influencers – instead of focussing on one or two heavy hitters.  When content is good – it is re-shared no matter how large the original follower base is.  Here lies the next generation of influencers. Your social media army.

The opportunity that travel marketers should be looking at next is how to showcase powerful stories shared by brand champions, how to reward and engage creatively with every day Instagrammers and Snapchatter’s – and how encourage more sharing of content using Hashtags that are already organically being used.

Travel marketers that will win with the next generation of Influencers are already planning strategies to creatively engage and reward their social media army’s – in addition to securing quick wins with super star social personalities of the moment.

SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google’s Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google's Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

Online Revealed Digital Marketing Conference returns to Toronto for its 9th year

It is almost that time again!  Next week will mark our 9th Online Revealed Canada Digital Marketing Conference!

Since 2005, A Couple of Chicks™ have produced the Online Revealed Conference to ensure that the travel industry in Canada stays ahead of the digital trends. Much has changed in the world of digital marketing, but it is still all about distribution!

With tourism spending in Canada approaching $90 billion annually (according to the Conference Board of Canada), the impact on the economy is far-reaching.  Tourism marketers need to be ahead of the fast-paced digital curve to ensure Canadian destinations, hotels, attractions and other tourism related products and services are reaching digitally connected consumers.

The right content, at the right price, to the right consumer.

Now more than ever before, marketers need to be innovative, creative and strategic in their marketing and communications.  In producing the annual learning conference for those charged with digital and social media marketing in the tourism and hospitality industry, we have always maintained a focus on providing content that will ensure that the travel industry in Canada stays ahead of the digital curve.

My partner Patricia Brusha and I have, and will continue to push the envelope to ensure that the Online Revealed Conference brings NEW, innovative, cutting-edge digital, social and mobile marketing technologies and tactics, as well as real-world practical application learning’s to ensure our attendees have the tools needed to succeed online.

Again this year, we will be hearing from experts from Google, TripAdvisor, BING, and Travelzoo, as well as from from leading tourism marketing professionals from across the country who are succeeding in driving traffic and conversions online through social media marketing, mobile marketing, and other digital marketing strategies aimed at attracting travel consumers.

These are real stories of tourism marketers from destination marketing organizations, hotels, hotel brands, attractions and other suppliers who have made the digital shift and are sharing their successes.

This year’s Toronto 2014 #ORC2014 agenda is packed with 2-full days of digital marketing and social media workshops, case studies, networking opportunities, keynotes, as well as the Canadian eTourism awards showcasing excellence in digital and social media marketing for the Canadian travel and tourism industry, and the Destination Benchmarking study highlighting best in practice digital marketing tactics for marketing destinations, as well as key learnings from performance benchmarking of DMO web assets in Canada. 

>  Big Data and how to use it to increase marketing efficiency

>  Mobile technologies for consumers who are multi-device users

>  Social media community management, monitoring, measuring ROI and best practices

>  Game changing trends in Meta Search and what it means to travel

>  Measuring digital marketing success

These are only a few of the topics that will be addressed over the two-day event.  The value in attendance is unmatched within the travel and industry with over 30-expert speakers,18-digital marketing workshops, panel discussions, digital and social media marketing case studies, 3- Keynote Speakers, as well as various networking events to continue the conversation after the main program.

This year we will revive  the post-networking reception “after hours” ORC with the “Lay-Z-Boy Lounge with Peller Estates wine and Xbox” – always an Online Revealed highlight event!

Online Revealed Conference highlights include:

–  Game Changer student mentoring event (NEW) for the tourism and hospitality industry, with participation from Hilton Canada, IHG, Tripadvisor as well as students and faculty from various post-secondary graduate programs from Ryerson University, Humber College and more: April 7, 2014

–  Jon Montgomery, Gold Medal Olympian | Host, The Amazing Race Canada Opening keynote: April 8, 2014

–  Annual Canadian eTourism Awards celebrating excellence in digital tourism marketing in Canada: April 9, 2014 from 12:30-2:00 pm

–  Canadian DMO Benchmarking Study: Key learning’s from the 3rd annual Canadian Destination Benchmarking report program, benchmarking the online performance of destinations across Canada.  Key learning’s presented.

–  Special Event and Receptions hosted by Aloft Vaughn Mills, and A Couple of Chicks™ featuring a performance by pop group 4Count, managed by industry giant Nick Cannon and the La-Z-Boy Lounge with Peller Estates wine and Xbox: April 8, 2014

–  Digital and social media marketing workshops and case studies presented by Tripadvisor, BING/Microsoft, Google, Travelzoo, Expedia, Sojern, InterContinental Hotels Group and more.

–  Executive Conversation with Philip Wolf travel innovator and founder of the global travel research company and conference PhocusWright

Drew Patterson CEO & Co-Founder of CheckMate former founding team for travel giant KAYAK, and current CEO of Room 77, discussing the Mobile application that is revolutionizing mobile check-in: April 9, 2014 Closing address

There is still time to register!  We are welcoming back many ORC Alums, as well as new attendees from all across Canada. For conference registration and additional information about Online Revealed Canada and related events, visit www.onlinerevealed.com.  

We hope to see you at #ORC2014 next week!

 

 

2014 Canadian eTourism Digital Marketing Award Winners Announced

The 2014 Canadian eTourism Award Winners—including Nova Scotia Tourism Agency, TravelZoo, Newfoundland and Labrador, and more will once again be honoured as part of the annual Online Revealed Digital Marketing Conference for tourism stakeholders in Canada from April 7-9, 2014 in Toronto.

 

The current digitally connected world of consumers expects content to be delivered at the right time, to the right channel, at the right price. Consumers demand personalization and immediacy while also expecting advertising to be entertaining and engaging. It’s no wonder that driving consumers to buy has never been more challenging for marketers—especially in the travel industry.

The 5th annual awards, presented in association with the Online Revealed Conference April 7-9, 2014 in Toronto, will honor the Canadian travel brands that have successfully met the digital challenge, producing effective and creative digital and social media marketing campaigns for the contemporary online travel consumer.

The Awards are judged by a volunteer group of tourism marketing professionals, and led by the Canadian eTourism Council, a national forum of Canadian tourism marketing executives specializing in online communications.

With a mandate to collaborate and leverage emerging digital media channels in order to successfully promote Canada as a travel destination, the Canadian eTourism awards showcases some of the most successful digital marketing campaigns, websites, Mobile apps and social media marketing campaigns in the travel industry. The annual Online Revealed digital marketing conference for tourism has been home to the awards since its inception.

“We continue to be amazed at digital media excellence and innovation coming from the travel industry in Canada.” said Carol Alderdice, Manager of Web Technologies, Tourism New Brunswick, and Canadian e-Tourism Awards Chair. “The eTourism awards give us the opportunity to recognize star performers and share best practices in marketing Canadian tourism.”

Council members include representatives from Travel Alberta, Travel British Columbia, Travel Manitoba, Tourism New Brunswick, Newfoundland Labrador, Nova Scotia Tourism, Travel Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Tourism Saskatchewan, and Tourism Yukon.

 Winners of the 2014 Canadian eTourism Awards Include:

  • Best Innovative Use of Technology = Tourism Tofino
  • Best Mobile App = TravelZoo
  • Best Online Campaign = Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
  • Best Social Media Campaign = WestJet
  • Best User Generated Content = Nova Scotia Tourism Agency
  • Best Website = White Oaks Resort & Spa

 

Title sponsor BING along with eTourism award sponsors TrustYou, Miles Marketing Destinations and T4G will be presenting the awards at a luncheon April 9th as part of the annual Online Revealed Digital Marketing Conference, being held at the Hilton Toronto Airport hotel.

The Canadian eTourism Awards recognize the evolution and marketing power of the digital space, including social media and traditional consumer websites. Entries are eligible from all over the world, though they must market, sell, or portray Canadian destinations, products, attractions, or experiences.

For more information about the 2014 award winners, or to purchase tickets to the eTourism Awards luncheon or Online Revealed Conference registration visit www.onlinerevealed.com

About Online Revealed:

The Online Revealed digital tourism marketing conference provides travel and tourism professionals with unique and innovative online marketing education, with an agenda that includes educational workshops, keynotes and panel discussions, all driven by the industry, for the industry. The event, now in its 9th year is produced by leading digital marketing firm, A Couple of Chicks™. Online Revealed Canada is supported by industry partners from Bing, TripAdvisor, Travelzoo, Marriott Canada, IHG and the over 350 annual attendees from across Canada who attend each year.

Congratulations to the 2014 eTourism award winners!

There is still time to register for Online Revealed 2014 – April 7-9th at the Toronto Hilton Airport Hotel.

 

 

What's HOT in Social Media according to @acoupleofchicks (and other good sources)

Forget about the current heat wave in Ontario, lets talk what’s HOT in social media.  It seems like there is a new viral video, vine, keek, or tweet making Mashable.com and even offline news headlines every day.

Here is a roundup of some of the recent hot topics in social, and why we think they are important to take note of:

Tweet-able Soundbite’s…Should you care to share: 

(or for those who prefer to read article highlights in 140 characters or less. I get it. Note this is also located at the start of the blog post and not the end. You are welcome.)

– Smartphone penetration up 17pts in Canada in 2012 to represent 62% of mobile audience #HotinSocial @comScore @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– What u need to know about #Facebook #Graphsearch #GSO (graph search optimization) + new FB Ad tool #PowerEditor @acoupleofchicks #HotinSocial http://www.ideahatching.com/?p=800

– Search #6secondpostcard on Twitter for examples of #travelvines @zoebfox @mashable @acoupleofchicks #Tourism #Vine #HotinSocial via www.ideahatching.com 

– 77% of LinkedIn users search for company brand pages, 65% of journalists use LinkedIn as a reseach tool #travelmedia #LinkedIn @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– Hot in Ontario.  Really Hot. #melting #heatwave #sweating @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com

Facebook’s Graph Search is here

Get ready for Facebook Graph search to overtake your profile soon.  Graph Search is rolling out to users across North America and now making Facebook more of a social search engine than ever before.

Facebook hopes that now you will search restaurants and hotels that your friends (and friends of friends) LIKE on Facebook, and that this will become more important to users than what  the Google Reviews or Tripadvisor’s review’s say.  The searchable content will not be simply tagged status updates, but will also be links to posted pictures and videos of personal Facebook profiles.  The algorithms that go into that data-sorting I am sure would boggle the mind.

How many have actually looked back through the history of your Facebook life since you sent your first Poke?

There can be some pretty bad photos, and maybe even some embarrassing status updates.  What about those family photos posted from that trip to Disney in 2010.  Wasn’t that trip right after that horrible hair dye incident?!

  Chick Tip: Time to check those Facebook privacy settings friends!  

Hotels, travel destinations and brands, for more on Facebook Graph and how it will impact you,  refer to this recent article posted on Tnooz. The article some great insights on optimizing for Graph Search and gives a nice recap of GSO (graph search optimization) and what hotels need to know about updates to brand pages.

 Power up your Facebook Ads with new Power Editor

Facebook now gives brands the ability to target Facebook ads to their current customers based on email, phone or Facebook user ID list. The new feature is called Custom Audiences, and is available through their new tool they call Power Editor.

Power Editor is a browser plugin created by Facebook as a way to manage and bulk edit ads. For more on Power editor and why you should be using it be have a read of this article we posted to the Chicks Facebook community page earlier this week.

Chick Tip: Time for a Social Network Refresh?

Are you sharing the types of updates tailored to the latest platforms, and suited for today’s digitally savvy and mobile connected consumer? Have you updated your profiles or brand pages lately?  Your social community profiles may be in dire need of a refresh!

With recent changes to major Social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, you may be missing out on using some great new ways to tell your story and connect.

It also may be time for a website design refresh, taking into account that many consumers are now online on tablets and scrolling through content in a different way then even a year ago.

According to a recent *comScore report on Canadian trends in the digital space, Mobile access is up 10% (2012 over 2011), with new research that shows that cell phone users are likely to also own a connected device such as an e-reader or tablet.

Consider that browsing content on a tablet such as an iPad is much different than browsing on a desktop, or even a smart phone. There are design and usability issues to consider when developing or re-developing any new website, but this is especially true now.

As an indication of changes in design and navigation, note that WordPress and Tumbler blogs and website page templates have become much more image rich, with less room for content, with more “Sharable” plug-ins.  Most new websites are also applying a more responsive design for easy scrolling navigation on a tablet.

 Let’s talk Twitter

Twitter has been busy working to make the platform more useful, secure, and apparently more fun.  The latest and greatest to hit Twitter is Vine.

Twitter Vine allows Twitter users to express themselves in short looping videos. Vines can be created via an App for iPhone and Blackberry, and now also on Android devices.  Check out some examples of travel videos on Vine by search on Twitter using the Hashtag #6secondpostcard.

Twitter has also announced a new Canadian headquarters with former CBC personality Kirsten Stewart at the helm! Welcome to Canada Twitter – and @kirstinestewart we are happy to have you lead the way!

Time to pay attention to LinkedIn

LinkedIn has taken the 3rd spot behind Facebook and Twitter as the most popular social media channel in Canada, up *38% in usage according to comScore’s recent trends analysis.  It is time to pay attention to your linkedIn profile, and your company or brand page on LinkedIn.

77% of LinkedIn users have searched for company brand pages, and 65% of journalists have used LinkedIn as a researching tool. LinkedIn company pages and profiles are indexed in search, and LinkedIn is quickly becoming the go-to network for business and professional networking.

This is not your momma’s job search/resume posting website anymore!

Authors Note: I cannot say “weather” or not that the title of this post was influenced by the incredible HOT temperatures currently being experienced in Ontario.  I reiterate. Hot.

Find me on Twitter @acoupleofchicks and let me know if you think that there is something we should cover next!

What’s HOT in Social Media according to @acoupleofchicks (and other good sources)

Forget about the current heat wave in Ontario, lets talk what’s HOT in social media.  It seems like there is a new viral video, vine, keek, or tweet making Mashable.com and even offline news headlines every day.

Here is a roundup of some of the recent hot topics in social, and why we think they are important to take note of:

Tweet-able Soundbite’s…Should you care to share: 

(or for those who prefer to read article highlights in 140 characters or less. I get it. Note this is also located at the start of the blog post and not the end. You are welcome.)

– Smartphone penetration up 17pts in Canada in 2012 to represent 62% of mobile audience #HotinSocial @comScore @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– What u need to know about #Facebook #Graphsearch #GSO (graph search optimization) + new FB Ad tool #PowerEditor @acoupleofchicks #HotinSocial http://www.ideahatching.com/?p=800

– Search #6secondpostcard on Twitter for examples of #travelvines @zoebfox @mashable @acoupleofchicks #Tourism #Vine #HotinSocial via www.ideahatching.com 

– 77% of LinkedIn users search for company brand pages, 65% of journalists use LinkedIn as a reseach tool #travelmedia #LinkedIn @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– Hot in Ontario.  Really Hot. #melting #heatwave #sweating @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com

Facebook’s Graph Search is here

Get ready for Facebook Graph search to overtake your profile soon.  Graph Search is rolling out to users across North America and now making Facebook more of a social search engine than ever before.

Facebook hopes that now you will search restaurants and hotels that your friends (and friends of friends) LIKE on Facebook, and that this will become more important to users than what  the Google Reviews or Tripadvisor’s review’s say.  The searchable content will not be simply tagged status updates, but will also be links to posted pictures and videos of personal Facebook profiles.  The algorithms that go into that data-sorting I am sure would boggle the mind.

How many have actually looked back through the history of your Facebook life since you sent your first Poke?

There can be some pretty bad photos, and maybe even some embarrassing status updates.  What about those family photos posted from that trip to Disney in 2010.  Wasn’t that trip right after that horrible hair dye incident?!

  Chick Tip: Time to check those Facebook privacy settings friends!  

Hotels, travel destinations and brands, for more on Facebook Graph and how it will impact you,  refer to this recent article posted on Tnooz. The article some great insights on optimizing for Graph Search and gives a nice recap of GSO (graph search optimization) and what hotels need to know about updates to brand pages.

 Power up your Facebook Ads with new Power Editor

Facebook now gives brands the ability to target Facebook ads to their current customers based on email, phone or Facebook user ID list. The new feature is called Custom Audiences, and is available through their new tool they call Power Editor.

Power Editor is a browser plugin created by Facebook as a way to manage and bulk edit ads. For more on Power editor and why you should be using it be have a read of this article we posted to the Chicks Facebook community page earlier this week.

Chick Tip: Time for a Social Network Refresh?

Are you sharing the types of updates tailored to the latest platforms, and suited for today’s digitally savvy and mobile connected consumer? Have you updated your profiles or brand pages lately?  Your social community profiles may be in dire need of a refresh!

With recent changes to major Social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, you may be missing out on using some great new ways to tell your story and connect.

It also may be time for a website design refresh, taking into account that many consumers are now online on tablets and scrolling through content in a different way then even a year ago.

According to a recent *comScore report on Canadian trends in the digital space, Mobile access is up 10% (2012 over 2011), with new research that shows that cell phone users are likely to also own a connected device such as an e-reader or tablet.

Consider that browsing content on a tablet such as an iPad is much different than browsing on a desktop, or even a smart phone. There are design and usability issues to consider when developing or re-developing any new website, but this is especially true now.

As an indication of changes in design and navigation, note that WordPress and Tumbler blogs and website page templates have become much more image rich, with less room for content, with more “Sharable” plug-ins.  Most new websites are also applying a more responsive design for easy scrolling navigation on a tablet.

 Let’s talk Twitter

Twitter has been busy working to make the platform more useful, secure, and apparently more fun.  The latest and greatest to hit Twitter is Vine.

Twitter Vine allows Twitter users to express themselves in short looping videos. Vines can be created via an App for iPhone and Blackberry, and now also on Android devices.  Check out some examples of travel videos on Vine by search on Twitter using the Hashtag #6secondpostcard.

Twitter has also announced a new Canadian headquarters with former CBC personality Kirsten Stewart at the helm! Welcome to Canada Twitter – and @kirstinestewart we are happy to have you lead the way!

Time to pay attention to LinkedIn

LinkedIn has taken the 3rd spot behind Facebook and Twitter as the most popular social media channel in Canada, up *38% in usage according to comScore’s recent trends analysis.  It is time to pay attention to your linkedIn profile, and your company or brand page on LinkedIn.

77% of LinkedIn users have searched for company brand pages, and 65% of journalists have used LinkedIn as a researching tool. LinkedIn company pages and profiles are indexed in search, and LinkedIn is quickly becoming the go-to network for business and professional networking.

This is not your momma’s job search/resume posting website anymore!

Authors Note: I cannot say “weather” or not that the title of this post was influenced by the incredible HOT temperatures currently being experienced in Ontario.  I reiterate. Hot.

Find me on Twitter @acoupleofchicks and let me know if you think that there is something we should cover next!

Social Media Case Studies by A Couple of Chicks™

A couple of Social Media Case Studies from A Couple of Chicks™  Digital Tourism Marketing.

Enjoy some of our favourite client case studies from Travelodge Canada, Worldhotels, Ontario’s Finest Hotels, Inns and Resorts, and the Shaw Festival Theatre.   A “bird’s” eye view of our approach to planning and executing successful social media campaigns.

[Bird’s Eye pun intended

 

 

 

A Couple of Chicks Talk Travel: A Guide to Traveling Newfoundland

On the road to Trinity, NewfoundlandAs a Chick, specializing in digital marketing for tourism, I pride myself on being able to plan a pretty great vacation – when I am actually taking one and not working.  I have been across Canada and the US and experienced amazing tourism destinations, but I had never been to Newfoundland.

Like many others, I have been intrigued and drawn into the commercials and YouTube videos for Newfoundland and Labrador.  I can now confirm that the magical place depicted in the commercials does in fact exist.

As a first time visitor, referred to as a CFA, or “come from away”, I did have some help in pre-planning my trip.  The “townies” from Destination St. John’s were the perfect hosts, and provided recommendations that ensured that I did see the most beautiful places in Newfoundland, had a warm meal at the end of a day of traveling, a cold pint of beer, and somewhere to sleep with the sounds of the ocean floating through my windows.

I share with you some of my experiences in this beautiful Canadian province, and give to you some of my “need to know before you go” insights.  This part of Canada is a must do, and you need to plan ahead to make the most of your experience.

From what I had thought, pre-season mid-May, before the long weekend, would provide the best experience as tourists would not be overtaking St. John’s, and the operators in the remote towns on the Island would be happy to see early visitors just as the season was about to kick off.

I started planning my itinerary about a month in advance, and through my experience I have summarized some tips to ensure you get the most out of your visit.

Flying into St John’s from Toronto is easy as St. John’s has direct air access from many Canadian cities including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and as far west as Calgary.  Direct air access is also available from some major US cities, and some European destinations such as London.

Explore the city of St. John’s, more specifically; George and Water streets.   The streets are alive with tourists and locals, live music, restaurants and bars, and of course a pub or 2, or 20.

Signal Hill, NewfoundlandA walk up Historic Signal Hill is a must do.  You can also drive to the top if the hike uphill is too much.  Signal Hill was not an easy climb after walking across downtown to get there, but well worth the hike to the top.  The view of St. John’s, the iconic painted houses, Cape Spear, and the ocean is spectacular.

Yellowbelly Pub and Brewery on Water Street was one of my favorite stops.  Their beer was also served on tap in many other restaurants and bars in St. John’s and across the Island.

O’Reileys Irish Newfoundland pub also did not disappoint, with live music starting late afternoon and continuing into the evening, and featuring traditional Newfoundland music, and even some tap dancing.  Ok, one lone tap dancer, but I digress.

The city also offers some fantastic finer dining venues.  After pub fish and chips, or as Newfoundlanders refer to it as “brown food,” a restaurant like Portobello’s provided for a perfect evening.  The scallops and trout were outstanding, but it was the appetizer of cod tongue with scrunchions (crispy pieces of salted side pork) and tarter that was the surprise favorite for me.

Although there are many smaller Inns and hotels to stay in around St. John’s, the Delta St. John’s was home base. A great location just at the entrance to George and Water Street, the hub of St. John’s – which according to Wikipedia, offers the most pubs and bars per square foot of any street in North America.

I can confirm that this could possibly be the truth.

 

After a weekend in St. John’s, it was time to see some of those vistas of the Atlantic Ocean; waves crashing up against rugged rocks, flowing clotheslines, coloured houses, and small inlet towns around the Island.

My friends at Destination St. John’s, the official visitor and convention bureau for the city, were quick to advise me of a few things as I planned my trip prior to my arrival in St. John’s.  It was technically pre-season for the island and we “CFA’s” need the help.

 

I had been dreaming of the cool breezes off of the Atlantic, and eating lobster fresh from the Bay since seeing Newfoundland and Labrador commercials and YouTube video’s.  As a digital marketing specialist for Travel, it is my job to ensure that the images, video’s and websites tell the story of what a visitor might expect when traveling.  The experiences I had in Newfoundland were everything that I had imagined and more.

As such, I have prepared a list of  “Things to know before you go to Newfoundland,” as I did encounter some surprises along the way, ones that can be avoided with the right kind of planning.

Newfoundland Chicks’ Trip Tips Preface: (try saying that 5 times!)

Cape Bonevista, NewfoundlandI consider myself to be an experienced traveler.  I have pretty good knowledge of how to plan travel online, and I had some help that prevented travel misfortunes (which may have included driving to Cape St. Mary’s, home to the popular Ecological Reserve – instead of St. Mary’s Bay, where I had reserved accommodations – 1.5 hours away).  To my defence, when one Google’s “Cape St. Mary’s,” the 3rd search result is a Tripadvisor listing and reviews for the “Claddagh Inn St Mary’s.”

OK so that happened.  Make sure you know exactly which place you are trying to get to.  Google clearly does not know everything.

These are not the typical “things to do and see.” My list instead is “people to meet, and how to get to the right places, with a full stomach and a place to sleep.”  This list summarizes some of my experiences and highlights, with points of note for planning a trip to really experience Newfoundland as I did.

Book a car in advance:  Especially in pre-season.  Newfoundland is an island accessible by boat or plane.  Although the ferry access allows for cars, many tourists opt to fly in and rent a car.

There is no other way to get around the Island to experience drives like the “Irish Loop,” or to see remote town’s living on the edge of the Atlantic without a car, or a boat.  If you plan on taking in the coves and inlets along the coast, or you are planning a visit to Gros Morne National Park, or any of the many other spectacular sites, then you will need to rent a car.

In addition, be forewarned that some of the roads are still quite rough coming off of the winter season, and there is not a gas station or diner, or even convenience store on every corner once you veer off of the TransCanada 1 Highway.  This of course is part of the charm.

Book all accommodations (and some meals) in advance:  Innkeepers like Patrick and Carol, who run the Claddagh Inn in St. Mary’s Bay have done such an amazing job in telling the “story” of the experience through Tripadvisor and Facebook, that tourists are making this small fishing village located directly along the Irish Loop a preferred resting point.

St. Mary’s Bay is not a bustling tourist area – at any point in the season.  That being said, the experience that Innkeepers Patrick and Carol have created is well worth the stop.  The stories allow you to get a sense for the community, and what other small communities around the island are like for those who live there.

I was welcomed with a pint of Yellowbelly Irish Red in the small quaint pub before checking into my guestroom.  The Inn has 6 rooms, and Innkeepers Pat and Carol prepare and serve a homemade 3-course dinner for their guests, as well as a full breakfast.   Dinner included Crab from the Bay that was brought in that morning, homemade pea soup, and a window table to watch the sunset.

Pat and Carol shared stories about the town, the history of the Inn, and their adventures since taking over the Inn two years ago, in a town of people that had lived and worked there all of their lives.  The town mayor even stopped in for a Scotch and a chat.

Past guests of the Inn rave about the Claddagh experience online, so much so that they are booked months in advance for rooms, and with limited (or no other) accommodation available in St. Mary’s Bay.  Drop-ins in August, or even just stops for dinner without reservations are almost impossible as the dining room primarily caters to guests of the Inn.

Planning your journey around the Island is a must do for anyone looking to explore the small inlets and coastal towns, and make sure to pre-book not only your accommodations, but also your meals.  Those of us who are used to booking hotels on the day of, or waiting for last minute specials will not get the chance to experience the charming Inn’s and B&B’s in the smaller towns without reservations.

Reserving accommodations and even dining where you plan to stop will allow you to truly enjoy the ocean views, the people, the stories, and the peace and quiet of these small coastal towns and villages.  The Claddagh Inn provided a relaxing and quiet retreat after two days in St. John’s.  It also provided the cool ocean breeze through the window.

I found the Artisan Inn, located on the eastern shore in picturesque Trinity, by searching Google for “must go places” in Newfoundland.

The Inn and the town certainly deserved the accolades.  Trinity, a well-preserved and still populated town, surrounded by the Atlantic, and on route to Cape Bonavista, is reminiscent of a European village.  The town is a popular tourist destination in the summer, and the Inn and surrounding area have been the site for the filming of many movies.

Innkeeper Tineke Gow has been managing the Inn for 22 years, and is just as passionate about Trinity and the surrounding area as if it was her first.  Tineke’s daughter Marieke, who is a trained sommelier and very involved in the local tourism community, manages the Inn with her.  The passion for this place by those who live and manage it is inspiring.

Eastern Newfoundland was recently named a National Geographic Geotourism Destination www.nlgeotourism.com.  The Inn’s restaurant, The Twine Loft is also recommended and awarded an additional star in “Where to Eat in Canada” published annually by Oberon Press.

At breakfast, I spotted a seal in Trinity Bay just outside the window.  Not something you see over coffee and croissants in Ontario.

Trinity Travel Tip: Don’t miss breakfast or Tineke will remind you throughout the day of what you missed.  Freshly baked muffins and fruit are always a nice way to start the day.

Planning your driving route:  My advice is simple. Don’t count on Google Maps or GPS.  Ask the locals, and refer to the good old fashion printed map.  It is kind of fun to pull out the big paper map (preferably without hitting the driver next to you in the head).

A kind of throwback to childhood road trips before Google maps and GPS existed.

One pleasant surprise was the availability of satellite radio in the rental car, and in restaurants and pubs across the island.  This allowed for a customized soundtrack for the longer drives from town to town.

Access to cellular networks: To sum it up, if you are with Bell Canada or TELUS you are A OK for most of the populated area’s around Newfoundland. Rogers – not so much. This is where the access to WIFI in the Inns around the Island really came in handy as SKYPE or Facetime work to communicate – if you absolutely have to.

The experience and hospitality of the people of Newfoundland is unique and special. The people of Newfoundland are incredibly welcoming and proud of their Province, and will make it easy once you arrive “from away.”

On the Eastern shore of Newfoundland

As a coastal tourism destination, Newfoundland is still fairly raw – which is part of the charm and the authenticity of the experience.  A slower pace of life, friendly people with unique accents, live music, fresh seafood, breathtaking scenery, unpredictable weather, and charming tours from fishing boats, with local guides that are passionate about home are what made Newfoundland for me.

There are a few highlights that I won’t soon forget. 

 

The crisp moist Atlantic Ocean air mixed with the smell of lumber and campfire.

The goats.  I like goats, especially this one.

Watching the ocean crash against the rocks at Cape Bonavista, surrounded by nothing but the ocean and rocks.

Tales of lost coastal inlet towns from locals like Bruce Miller.

Alicia and Bruce Miller having some screetchBruce operates a unique tour of the Eastern shores around Old Bonaventure. With his fishing boat and stories of his life, he speaks passionately about the ocean, fishing communities, and the people of Newfoundland.

He speaks authentically of life in small fishing communities, and about his family who have lived in the area for decades, taking travelers by boat to pockets where small fishing towns no longer exist.   He started doing tours of the area 2 years ago so that he would be able to remain in Old Bonaventure, when many locals have been forced to leave for work.

 

Just don’t ask Bruce how long it would take by boat to get to Ireland, the first land from Newfoundland’s east coast you will hit by water.  He told me we didn’t have enough gas.

  A few other Chick Travel Tips:

1. Don’t ask the tour operators to “Guarantee” that you will see a Whale, a Puffin, or a Moose.  They don’t appear on command.

2. Eat the pea soup and try Cod Tongue

3. Get “Screeched In” on George Street.

4. Enjoy the fresh Lobster and Crab.

5.  Stop at the Bonavista Social Club.  It is completely off the beaten path, but so worth it.  I did not try the Moose burger, but I wish I had.

6. Plan your driving route, and where you will stop along the way.

7. Book in advance.

8.  If you are near Trinity or Bonavista, take the boat tour with Bruce, but don’t ask to use the bathroom.

9. Try the local diners.  The food is home cooking comfort food.

10. Take the lack of cellular service as a sign to totally disconnect.

11. Be ready to hit the treadmill when you return.  So worth it.

These are the real experiences that are reflective of Newfoundland for me.  It is the passion of people that really make an experience, and a tourism destination like Newfoundland so special.

The scenery is not so bad either.

 

 

A Canadian online travel marketing conference turns 8 and goes back to its travel roots

Patricia and I launched the first Online Revealed Canada travel marketing conference over 7 years ago, with an idea to educate Canadian Tourism professionals about how to market travel online.  At the time, we were all new to concepts such as Search Engine Optimization, writing content for the web, website usability, website analytics, and why we even needed to know about all of this as tourism marketers.

Looking back, we are amazed at both how the conference has grown, and how the tourism industry has changed to keep ahead of such a fast evolving new media world.

The first conference held in Ottawa in 2006 (in association with the Canadian Tourism Commission) drew more than 180 attendees, and had a focus on educating travel marketing professionals about ecommerce, and how the web was evolving as a key marketing and distribution channel for hotels, attractions and in destination marketing.  The inaugural event opened with a keynote presentation from eMarketer founder Geoff Ramsey, who once again made a guest appearance at our 5th anniversary event in Montreal.

Coming off of the success in Ottawa, we moved Online Revealed in May of 2007 to Toronto to reach further into the market. Over 200 attendees spent two-days learning about concepts from Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Syndication, Web 2.0, Revenue Management and more, with 15 workshop rotations and numerous keynote speeches and panels, with annual networking receptions, including the Travelzoo party becoming a must attend event, and the now annual Google eTourism awards.

2008 brought us to Calgary, Alberta where we hosted over 230 of Canada’s leading tourism professionals including Destination Marketing Organizations, Hotel Brands, Tourism Associations, Search Engines, Technology Companies and Tourism Marketing experts.  Yahoo! Canada was the premier sponsor, and the two-day event brought 16 workshops, 3 panel discussions and 3 keynote presentations addressing the critical issues influencing tourism in Canada.

2009 saw Online Revealed hosted in Niagara Falls with over 300 attendees, and high profile internet marketing experts from Google and TripAdvisor elevating the conference to new heights, as well as a keynote by well-known TV personality Arlene Dickinson of the Dragon’s Den.

In 2010, we celebrated the 5th anniversary in Montreal with over 250 industry Professionals attending, and Online Revealed 2011 in Toronto (the first year that the conference was co-located with the Canadian Hotel Association Conference).  The conference exceeded expectations with over 500 attendees, and incredible content including a keynote by the mastermind behind Google Maps; Michael T. Jones, Chief Technology Advocate, Google.

ORC 2012 Speakers2012 was the conference’s 7th anniversary, with record attendance and once again, held in Toronto, and co-located with the Hotel Association Conference.  2012 saw the launch of the Destination Marketing Online Benchmarking report with 16 participating Canadian DMO’s.  The report will continue to evolve moving forward to build a research-based approach to benchmarking online marketing successes against Canadian Destination marketing organizations, and against international tourism destinations such as New Zealand and the USA.

Conference content has expanded with innovative topics including; mobile marketing, social media marketing, and keynotes from both Nikki Germany, head of Industry Travel, Google Canada as well as Steve Irvine, Director of Facebook Canada.

The inaugural conference in 2006 produced by “a couple of chicks who knew what they were doing online, and thought they could show the rest of the industry,” has since evolved to become the go-to event for the travel and tourism industry in Canada to learn, connect and be informed about the ever evolving world of digital marketing.

Our focus from the start was to provide hands-on education, and actionable tactics for marketing tourism online, and a community of shared resources and support.

8th Annual Online Revealed Canada conference logoPatricia and I are excited to be back on the road, and back to our “travel roots” for the 8th annual Online Revealed Conference, which will be held this April 2-4th, 2013 in Windsor, Ontario at Caesars Hotel and Casino, with an anticipated attendance of 450, who will once again come together to connect, learn and share with industry experts and peers – successes, opportunities and strategies in marketing tourism and travel online.

In just 7 years, Online Revealed Canada and A Couple of Chicks™ eMarketing have produced 7 Conferences and 6 road shows educating over 1,600 industry professionals by providing over 100 workshops and presentations.

We would like to thank Tony Pollard, and the Hotel Association of Canada Conference, for co-locating our events during the past two years in Toronto.   We would also like to thank all of our past attendees, sponsors, partners, clients, colleagues and friends who have participated in shaping what this event is today.

Moving into our 8th year, we are busy preparing for our best event yet!  As we look forward to the next Online Revealed chapters, I wonder where the next seven years will bring us?  Mark your calendars for April 2-4th for Online Revealed 2013 and we will see you in Windsor!

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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

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