A new Travelzoo survey in the UK shows that price is the leading factor when choosing a vacation destination and accomodation.
While this is not shocking news, especially as consumers search for value in a still-downtrodden economy, it does raise red flags for destination marketers who focus the bulk of their energy on showcasing their locales.
Many tourism boards do put some emphasis on value and discounts. The Orlando Magicard, Lisbon's dining and shopping cards, the Miami Beach INCard and so many others give discounts ranging from percentages off of dining to a dollar off of mini-golf.
A search on Google using the phrase "tourism board discounts" brings up first-page links to offers from three US tourism boards (Orlando, Las Vegas, Telluride) and five international tourism boards (Goa, Lisbon, Gibralter, Tuscany, St. Lucia). Intestingly, the links to the US destinations go to their home pages, while the international destinations tend to point toward their actual discount page or a partner offer page.
In a price-conscious world, though, the biggest challenge is to position a destination as affordable in a meaningful way while still promoting the many ways a tourist can spend money in that destination.
Should hotels drop rates? Should theme parks give away free dining with park tickets? Should tourism boards put a greater emphasis on price?
We'd love to hear about how price impacts your destination and how you address it through marketing, discounts or other ideas.
If you see a lot of kids wearing pink today it’s because of “Pink in School.” Pink in School is an anti-bullying initiative run through Facebook. On the initiative’s Facebook page, Pink in School encourages its fans to wear pink on Tuesday, March 22, and to upload a profile picture of them wearing pink or, better yet, the official Pink in School T-shirt to take a stand against bullying and to increase awareness of the issue.
The Pink in School T-shirts are free and provided by Shirts in School, a marketing services company that pays high school and college students to wear T-shirts imprinted with other companies’ messages. Shirts in School started and organizes the initiative as a non-profit version of its services. The concept of Shirts in School is simple and effective. Students sign up on Facebook to receive their free T-shirts; to get paid, they must wear them in school for at least one day. In addition to wearing the shirt, the students must post their photo wearing the shirt on Facebook and other social media outlets, as well as a link to or a post about the advertiser. This way, companies not only get publicity value, but can easily monitor reactions to a campaign based on the posts of the participants and the comments by their friends. The students get paid $ 10 a day and can keep the shirt. Their schools receive an additional $2 as an incentive to support the concept.
Shirts in School’s marketing method successfully combines traditional word of mouth marketing with social media efforts. After the first participants had signed up, the concept “went viral,” says president of Shirts in School Richard Whitney. Now, an average of about 200 students signs up every day. It’s a win-win situation: students get free clothing and Shirts in School gives advertisers access to a highly desirable but hard to reach target group of 14-to-21 year-olds.
Social media is becoming the number one crisis communication device. Not only is it used for fixing a damaged image or restarting a career, it also serves as a much-needed platform for gathering information and mobilizing volunteers, as in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake and the Brisbane floods.
Currently, Facebook, Twitter etc. promote and support relief efforts in Japan and help the population reconnect. Many organizations and companies like the Red Cross or Groupon use social media to make support for Japan as easy as possible – some as easy as a mouse click. Spark Energy is adding an additional dollar to its donation to Japan for every person that “likes” one of the company’s Facebook pages by the end of the month. So instead of putting your hands in your pockets, all you have to do is give a thumbs up online.
But social networkers may use all ten fingers to help. Facebook’s online games FarmVille and Café World currently include purchases benefiting Japan. FarmVille players can buy Japanese radish crop and the chefs at Café World can buy Japanese décor. All proceeds go to Save the Children.
As for other information and reconnecting people, social media is in high demand in both Japan and the U.S. Despite blackouts, Japan’s Internet availability fortunately is relatively stable and, without a working phone system, an unmatched device to stay in touch with loved ones. Shortly after the quake, 1,200 tweets per minute were sent from Tokyo alone. Google published a Japanese version of its People Finder (see also last week’s blog entry). Within the U.S., the tsunami’s estimated times of arrival on U.S. shores were available on Twitter before the official government warning. And one of Japan’s top social media companies, Mixi, raised more than $1.5 million dollars for relief efforts in only two days.
Social media and fashion are apparently a match made in heaven. Social media devices like live streaming, Facebook pages, blogs and videos fuel online discussions on brands and designers and result in thousands of new fans and followers. Curve ID jeans, for instance, “cheekily” uses YouTube to demonstrate their product’s effectiveness. Result: Nearly seven million views. Bebe’s new blog earned the fashion brand 66,428 new fans and a sixth-place ranking on fans and followers-surveying famecount.com. Victoria’s Secret invites brides to view – and purchase – the new collection of whites at an online shop, resulting in 69,000 new fans. And Burberry’s fashion show live stream attracted more than 100,000 fans. First place on Famecount goes to Converse, with more than 175,000 new fans. Converse.com not only lets visitors watch videos or shop online, they can also create their own sneakers. Together with its All Star sneaker line, Converse to date has 23 million + fans.
Finding lost persons is the idea behind Google’s Person Finder. Originally created with the U.S. Department of State to find lost persons in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, the website is presently used to help victims of the Christchurch Earthquake. The Person Finder can be found on a website launched by New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission. The site further features reports, videos and information on accommodation, alerts and volunteers. Its users can easily submit important information via Twitter.
Hotels in Myrtle Beach, SC are joining social media with a website to compete with travel sites for last-minute offers. On the Myrtle Beach Facebook page, the tab “This Friday” features hotels’ last-minute specials for the upcoming Friday. The “This Friday” tab also links directly to MyrtleBeachHotels.net, a website for last-minute hotel deals in Myrtle Beach. Using social media and their own websites, hotels avoid the 30 percent commission they would otherwise have to pay at a travel site.
Shopping hub Hubzi blends online shopping with social media. While the website serves a similar purpose to Craigslist, Hubzi lets vendors create a profile listing contact information, contact person, ads, and products links or videos to boost the buyers’ trust in them. Customers can post comments and reviews on vendor profiles.
Kraft Foods uses a combination of tweets to promote one of their products. Whenever two people tweet the phrase “mac & cheese” at the same time, both get a link leading to the “Mac & Jinx” promotion, where they are asked to give Kraft their address. The person to submit their info first gets five free boxes of Kraft’s Mac & Cheese and a T-shirt.
Recently, Facebook’s Like button has become more of a promotion tool. “Liking” something now results in a full wall post complete with story, blurb and thumbnail that won’t be easily overlooked.
However, there are more sophisticated – and fun – ways to use Facebook as a promotional tool.
NBC, for instance, rewards everyone who watches the trailer for its new show “America’s Next Great Restaurant” on the show’s Facebook page – to date liked by 215,378 users – with a free Chipotle meal. Concurrently, Chipotle is conducting an in-store texting promotion that offers customers the chance to win a catered burrito party.
But carnal instincts are not the only motivation to Facebook users’ attention. The Facebook application FrontierVille serves as a promotion tool for the animated movie “Rango,” which will be released this weekend. Rango, a chameleon voiced by Johnny Depp, appears as a character in the online game, and players must watch the movie trailer in order to add a Rango statue to their homestead. Active FrontierVille users: about 19 million.