The best keys to destination promotion on the Russian market: watch and use!

Passion or pixel: what is more important to promote a country on the Russian market? For the first time in the history of Russian tourism market heads of offices of ten tourist destinations, marketing and IT specialists have discussed effective methods of area promotion as part of the OTM-2017 online fair.

The roundtable discussion “How to attract Russian tourists? Technologies of destination positioning on the Russian tourism market” was held on the 20th of February in Moscow hotel Swissotel Krasnye Holmy as part of the Online Travel Mart: Summer 2017 fair, supported by the Association of National Tourist Office Representatives — ANTOR that has been uniting national tourist offices working on the Russian market for many years.

The roundtable discussion was organized by the Profi.Travel company specializing at promotion both separate travel products and destinations in whole. Several times a year the company holds thematic roundtable discussions inviting public and tourism authorities from Russia and the whole world. But this roundtable discussion is exceptional: for the first time national offices as well as marketing and IT specialists have gathered at the same table to analyze real keys to country positioning on the markets of Russia and CIS.

Olesya Oleynikova, Deputy Director General of Profi.Travel:

There is an interminable controversy regarding the most effective way to promote travel product – online or offline. Based on our experience, we can say: one should combine both approaches. Nothing can substitute the warmth of personal meetings, and nothing can be compared with online coverage. We are glad that today’s discussion was interesting for all the participants of the meeting and useful for the whole market.

Discussion on promotion – at the forefront of the new season

Market is anticipating a successful season: after the recession of the last two years interest of Russian tourists to foreign destinations is growing again. Many reasons lie at the heart of this tendency: stronger rouble, milder visa regulations (in the case of the UAE), change of political situation (in the case of Turkey) and deferred demand: Russians that have spent their last year vacations at their dachas this year, most probably, will finally afford going abroad. Which destination they choose that depends on skillful country promotion.

The discussion was devoted to the methods of destination promotion. The participating countries Great Britain, Austria, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Israel, Catalonia the region of Spain, Sharjah and Abu-Dhabi Emirates have shared real successful keys to working on the Russian market.

What to choose online or offline? B2b or b2c? Is it better to rely on tour operators or work directly with the audience? Should one take bloggers or travel agents on the informational tour? What gives better results passion to the destination transmitted through personal contact or new technologies? Which language to choose to communicate in CIS countries and how to work with negative informational background? Participants of the roundtable discussion have shared their experiences and answered clarifying questions of other destination representatives. Every destination has its own promotional strategy, and each one bears fruit.

Many instruments were mentioned that may be used not only by separate countries, but by separate regions as well.

It is worthy to take a note of these best methods both for NTOs that are entering Russian market and Russian regions. Discussion participants have actively made notes and captured new ideas.

The participants’ speeches were watched by the tourism professionals from 27 countries: Great Britain, Germany, the USA, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Israel, Turkey, Thailand, Singapore, Sri-Lanka, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan.

The roundtable discussion was broadcasted online and is available in Russian and English.

If you want to know: how can cooperation with IKEA help to sell more tours to Sweden, how Abu-Dhabi emirate is organizing advertised tours, what kind of Brit Agents VisitBritain is preparing, whether it is possible to transmit passion to the country via email and how such a province as Catalonia is attracting 70% of all the tourists in Spain watch full replay of the roundtable discussion.

Greece: send bloggers on vacation and get in the Guinness book with a salad

Last year Greece attracted almost 1 million tourists. Despite the crisis, the country has decided not to shrink promotional budget but actively promote the destination instead. As George Mavromatis, marketing specialist of Greek National Tourism Organization, said, one of the directions of NTOs’ activities are blogger tours.

George Mavromatis, marketing specialist of the Greek National Tourism Organization:

«We have sent to Greece 12 bloggers with half a million subscribers each. They have elaborated on all the details of their travels in blogs, and after coming back have visited several broadcasting stations to share what a wonderful time they had in Greece. I think it was very effective.

Often help in destination promotion comes from tour operators specializing on this destination. So, Mouzenidis Travel is actively participating in promotion of Greece. Last year Mouzenidis together with the Greek National Tourism Organization have conducted a campaign that made quite a splash: a giant Greek Salad. On the 4th of September on Red Square everybody who felt like it (about one thousand people) could take part in making a giant portion of Greek salad the result weighed 20 tons and 100 kg. “The pot” was a scoop of a dump truck. The salad set a Guinness world record.

Alexander Tsandekidi, Director General of Mouzenidis Travel:

We have far exceeded our budget that time, but it was worth it. Red Square was overcrowded with people wanting to cut the salad! Of course, we have luck that Greece is a country that can be advertised in any image accentuating history, nature or cuisine.

Great Britain: fighting travel agents’ stereotypes to increase the tourist flow

For VisitBritain in Russia b2b segment is of utmost importance. The company is actively working both with tour operators and travel agencies.

Tatiana Horeshok, Head of the Russian office of VisitBritain:

In Russia b2b segment is one of the most crucial in our work. Because it is travel agent who often advises the tourist on where to go and where not to. We have often faced the situation when somebody comes to an agency and hears: “Oh, British visa is so hard to obtain, better not to”. That is why it is so important for us to teach travel agencies with the help of our program Brit Agent, and we, by the way, hold a presentation “Oh, those visas and oatmeal! VisitBritain is dispelling some myths about Great Britain” as part of the OTM fair

How “pixel” is helping Sweden

Sweden has placed their stake on online promotion and cooperative campaigns with tour operators. Before the national office has organized advertising tours, inviting travel agencies to participate in workshops, taken part in International Travel & Tourism Exhibition in Moscow and printed catalogues, nowadays the strategy has changed. All the catalogues may be found online. Workshops are also held online. And altogether, Sweden is now promoted as a whole as a destination that may be fully booked online. Whether a tourist goes to a travel agency or books a hotel on his own that is not so important for the office, however Swedish NTO is intensively working in cooperation with tour operators as well.

Alexander Panko, Head of the Russian office of VisitSweden:

«We are successfully cooperating with tour operators and show ads of their tour products for those who have visited the Visit Sweden website. How is it possible? We have placed a special “pixel” on the Visit Sweden website (the targeting technology allowing, with the help of special marks, to identify a user of social networks who has visited the site to offer him or her in future targeted advertisements on other sites. note of Profi.Travel). What is the purpose: we understand that most people who have visited the Visit Sweden website are not ready to buy a tour right now. But if they see an advertisement of Stockholm afterwards, that increases the probability of buying tours. We have already tried this method in other countries, Russia is the next.

How passion is helping Arab Emirates to attract tourists

The National office of Abu-Dhabi finds that success in destination promotion lies in three components: setting precise goals and being able to focus on them, understanding aims of local tour operators and… being passionate. If a travel agent loves the destination, this passion will be transmitted to a client who will then pay a visit to this dream country.

Eduard Grigoryev, Head of the office of Tourism & Culture Authority of Abu-Dhabi in Russia and the CIS:

Destination promotion via events is an underestimated channel. An event per se is an informational happening that gives the participants striking emotions! We held an event in the Hermitage garden in Moscow that was visited by 35 thousand of people! We could show them the Abu-Dhabi emirate from the point of view of its culture and history, spoke about events that we hold (Formula 1, golf and other). I think that such events should be cultivated, maybe even with combined efforts of all the emirates.

Sergey Kanaev, representative of the Sharjah emirate and Chairman of ANTOR (Association of National Tourist Offices in Russia), is convinced: without promotion a destination will be inevitably losing tourists. During 6 years when Sharjah had no representatives in Russia, the emirate has lost a lot, he says, - including losses in image and tourist flow. But the emirate still has good promotional chances.

Sergey Kanaev, chairman of the Association of National Tourist Offices in Russia, representative of the Sharjah emirate:

According to my experience, travel agencies are not always interested in having vast amount of information on the destination. They are interested in precise facts helpful to boost sales: information on hotels, special offers from tour operators. Also, they are interested in niche destinations: when you approach them with such offers, you get an interested and attentive audience. Sharjah’s product lies in another price range in comparison with Dubai, so travel agents will be excited.

Austria relies on emotions, Germany – on thematic promotion

Austrian national tourist board also counts on emotions. According to the words of Director of Moscow branch of the Austrian National Tourism Office Gerald Böhm, masses of tourists as well as travel agents are in general quite familiar with Austrian ski resorts, Vienna, Salzburg and summer Alpes with lakes. That means, the time has come to surprise, to trigger emotions. Now the Austrians are telling the audience not about the advantages of mountain skiing and restaurant food but how ski resort functions from the inside, and what is going on on the slopes at night. They offer tourists to be the first to ski downhill even before chairlifts began to work. And, of course, they are working with social networks.

Gerald Böhm, Director of Moscow branch of the Austrian National Tourism Office:

I will explain our approach on the example of social networks. We do not think that we should strive to have communities in social networks with hundreds of thousands of users. We have 25 000 subscribers on Facebook, but they are our promoters, our partners. So, a good post, in our opinion, is not the one that gets many “likes”, but the one that has caused a lively discussion. For example, last year, in the end of winter, when everything in Moscow was melting and grey, we have posted a photo “Today apricot trees are blooming near Vienna we wish you too such a spring mood”. And we got fabulous feedback! Such feedback is far more important than high amount of “likes” or clickthrough rates for banners.

Germany relies on incessant promotion and thematic marketing.The German National Tourist Board offices have been operating in as many as 30 countries for many years, and even in the times of economic recession the NTO office does not leave the market. According to the words of Alla Belikova, Head of German National Tourist Board in Russia, Germany has chosen the strategy of thematic marketing long ago: every year a certain main topic is chosen (festivals, customs and traditions, cuisine) that goes through all the marketing communications in the course of a year in all the countries where German national offices are operating. And the list of these topics is made up to 2025. Apart from the general strategy, the focus in Russia is given to promoting medical tourism.

Crisis? Increase promotional budget.

Russia is a priority market for Israel: more tourists come only from the USA. That is why, when currency rate in Russia has changed and the demand decreased, Israel has decided not to shrink promotion, but ramp up promotional volumes instead. And result was not slow in coming: thanks to press-tours, blogger-tours, shooting of TV program “Jewish Happiness” with Vladimir Posner and Ivan Urgant, only in the first 4 months of 2016 Israel has enjoyed the amount of visitors exceeding the number of tourist visits for the whole 2015.

At the same time, Israel is giving us a good example that it is possible to develop destination tourism even against the background of unfavorable geopolitical situation: potential tourists are reading about shooting attacks and terror threats every now and then. Wishing to avoid negative connotations and not to scare tourists, Israel has decided to lay emphasis on separate positioning of resorts and major sights.

According to the words of Ksenia Kobyakova, Head of department of the Ministry of Tourism of Israel in Russia and CIS Countriesmarketing publications instead of “Travel to Israel” now advertise “Eilat on the Red Sea” and “Jerusalem the Holy Land”.

The principle of continuous promotional investments is also supported by Dmitry Arutyunov, CEO of the Art Tour operator.

Dmitry Arutyunov, CEO of the Art Tour operator:

Constancy is the secret of success. Even Coca-Cola is still advertising itself. Two years ago, when demand has decreased, we could see different behavior of NTOs. Some of them have left the market, the others have increased their promotional budgets. And now the latest are ready to reap the fruits, because their strategy has worked. And those agents who have used the time of slack to develop their knowledge, now will enjoy positive results as well.

Traditional media against total switch to online

For Catalonia it is more difficult to promote itself in comparison with other destinations, as the Catalan Tourist Board in countries of CIS and Eastern Europe is promoting only this region instead of Spain as a whole. Consequently, the office cannot use the symbols of its land for promotional activities as widely as Germany does. But that is not the reason to be at a standstill. The region is actively using media (both TV and printed press) for promotion.

At the same time, according to the opinion of Christina Ionitskaya, Deputy of Head of Representation of Catalan Tourist Board in countries of CIS and Eastern Europe, it is important to measure expenses and effectiveness: last year, following the results of 12 press-tours about Catalonia, the costs of TV segments and media publications have reached 68 million Euro (that means the sum that the NTO would spend if it decided to pay for all the publications and TV segments). And that is only one of the promotional channels of the region that is receiving 70% of all the tourist flow to Spain. Of course, the reason why this region enjoys more visits than the rest of Spain, lies in its splendid beaches but without promotion beaches would not be sufficient.

Also, as part of the roundtable discussion, observations were shared by Alina Sutulova, marketing director of the Aviareps company (the company represents several tourist destinations at once) and Head of marketing and PR department of the RealWeb company and IT expert Maxim Samoylenko

Alina Sutulova has introduced most interesting keys: direct promotion of Flandria to tourists with the help of ticket aggregators (Ozon travel, Aviasales, Momondo). Flandria has come to b2c through b2b and got a prominent result in sales: the amount of bookings has raised considerably.

Kenya that is considered a luxury destination, was promoted through online sales manual and online academy at Profi.Travel “For Kenya it is important to work with agencies, important to dispel myths, important for the agencies to communicate the message to consumers. We have pointed that Kenya has both mass and niche product Mombasa beaches and safari”, Alina Sutulova told us.

Maxim Samoylenko, Head of marketing and PR department of the RealWeb company, , has given examples from non-touristic field that may be successfully applied in the field of tourism business as well.

According to Samoylenko’s words, in the case of online promotion one small infopackage would not be enough to bring any results: frequency is very important. One more issue that any company should give attention to is mobile traffic. 62% of Google search requests are coming from mobile devices, in other words, if a company’s website is not adapted for mobile devices, its chances to be noticed are plummeting. Also, Samoylenko recommended to choose promotional channels depending on demand: if demand is already created, contextual advertising will bring good results, because the user already knows what he or she is looking for. But if there is no demand yet, the task is to introduce the topic to the market, so online channels and especially videos in Internet (youtube) may be of great benefit.

In conclusion of the discussion, Maxim Samoylinko, IT expert, has drawn a paradoxical conclusion: “I am totally against absolute switch to working online. The best advertising campaign is the one that works.. All the participants have agreed with these words.