The Digital Tourism Show #003 - Experiential Marketing

Chris Torres

2016-11-06 14:23:00

A tourism product is what you buy; a tourism experience is what you remember.


The norm is for most destination based businesses to focus their marketing efforts on a particular product. This may be an activity like a tour of the Vatican or something quite specific like the amenities that a particular hotel room has to offer.

From the knowledge and experience I have developed over the years, it has become abundantly clear that to truly connect with your customers is to focus your brand and customer experience on emotions. What stories will your customer learn? What feelings will they experience on the journey you have set for them?

Tourism marketing that focuses solely on package tours, with little to no personal involvement, is dead.

I have experienced this myself with some of our own customers wishing to run a tours and activity business online and specifically asking that a phone number or contact form not be present on the website. This sends completely the wrong message to their own customers.

If you cannot be bothered to interact with your customers why would they bother with you? This is not how to build a brand experience and quite frankly it is a lazy attitude to have. Funnily enough, these businesses no longer exist, despite my best efforts to advise them.

It’s all about connecting. You must connect with your customers first and then, in turn, you should look at connecting them with the people and cultures of the destination you are promoting. Look at your entire product range and see where you can add value and customer focused experiences. What unique interactions can you add to this experience? This adds value to your business during and after the experience when they share photos, videos and stories across social media, tagging your business in the process.

To ensure you engage with your customers from the first click all the way to journeys end, and beyond, you must work closely with your suppliers, tour guides, hotel staff and even bus drivers to ensure the experience is exceptional. One bad experience at any stage will reflect negatively on your business.

Make the tourist a participant in the experience you offer. Experiential tourism is one that shows the visitor what they can experience rather than describes it. It will encourage tourists to participate in the destination’s culture. This may mean taking your customers on a guided tour - for free - to the best places to eat and drink during their stay, rather than just telling them about it in the hotel guide that you gave them. One of the products you offer may be a trip to the theatre, so why not go one step further in the experience and arrange a ‘VIP Package’ with a backstage ‘meet and greet’ with the cast.

Adding your local knowledge to part of the experience is vital. Your customers will develop a loyalty and they will come back to you time and time again. It also gives you an opportunity to ‘up sell’ other experiences and tours, face-to-face, that they may be interested in.

Experiential tourism may also deliver a sense of accomplishment for the customer. For example, I had wanted to visit Japan for as long as I can remember. I wanted to visit the many sights that it has to offer and get the true ‘Japanese Experience’. What I hadn’t even thought about doing was climbing Mt Fuji to see the sunrise. But the tour company that I booked with sold me on that experience and the sense of accomplishment will be with me forever. It was the highlight of my time in Japan.

You can create experiential tourism ideas around your destination’s art, music, culture or heritage. Whatever it is your destination is famous for, or not, what experience can you provide a customer that no one else can?

The best tourism providers create interactive experiences around all aspects of the journey. Pre-departure, planning, at destination and post trip. You must remain relevant in today’s tourism landscape or fear being left behind.

At Senshi, we are experts in helping you deliver and promote these experiences, turning lookers into bookers. This may be through helping you create experience defining videos, customer generated content and strategic social media development. We could even send one of our experiential tourism marketers on a tour to experience first hand the experience you offer.

Contact us today and one of our advisors will get in touch.

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