It may seem a very simple concept, but knowing how to market tourism, and how to market tourism successfully, are two very different and complex subjects. Tourism is a sector that has endless scope for reinvention and renewal, depending on the target market's preferences. The range of locations, activities and participants covered by the word "tourism" is huge, but this is often where many marketers run into problems. Knowing your target market and really understanding the types of tourism you are trying to promote are the keys to successfully marketing tourism.
Tourism is not a packet of cornflakes. It does not have a sell-by date, and although it has many competitors, it has more than a name or brand to make it distinctive. Tourism can also be incredibly fickle and at the mercy of the weather, financial instability, and over-use. Unlike a cornflakes seller who can buy in corn from elsewhere if the local crop is damaged, tourism cannot be bought in from elsewhere. Ideas can be borrowed of course, but one of the main features used in to market tourism is the unique aspect of whatever the attraction happens to be. Tourism has to ability to be all things to all men, unlike the cornflakes which are essentially a cereal eaten predominantly at breakfast time. If you like breakfast, you may not necessarily like cornflakes. Tourism marketing must appeal to as many individuals with differing preferences as possible, each as a segment of the whole population.
Tourism is an intangible product or service. You cannot say "Here is a tourism" in the same way that you can say "Here is a packet of cornflakes". If marketing is about matching the right product with the right client or customer at the right price, then marketing tourism must have a focused but flexible approach. This means setting out a marketing plan. A marketing plan is a way of maintaining the focus of your marketing activities, while identifying possible areas of expansion and/or change. It should include the objectives of the business or businesses involved in the marketing strategy; the available local resources and community profile; the segmentation of your market and how you intend to attract each group; a budget identifying how much you have to spend and any possible sources of extra income; and an implementation strategy of how the marketing will be carried out.
The objectives should clearly set out what you wish to achieve, how it will be measured, and what time frame you are working to. These may vary is you have several businesses or locations in the area you are tasked with marketing. These objectives must be realistic; it is better to have several small short-term goals than one large long-term target that is too reliant on unquantifiable factors. The community profile needs to take into account the range of businesses or the demographic make-up of the local inhabitants; what they do, how they interact with the tourists at the moment; whether they have already recently experienced a period of change or development, etc. This profile must also include any laws or legislation relating to the thing you are aiming to market, and environmental factors such as regular inclement weather, and any business activity that could have a negative impact on your objectives.
Once you have the detailed analysis of the locality you intend to market, you should move on to building the profile of your target audience, the segmentation. This will look at the groups of people that could possibly be interested in visiting your locality, and the reasons they have for doing so. Take into consideration the disposable income, age, distance and mode of travel, levels of activity once they arrive. The objective of this exercise is to identify a single target group that will be large enough and responsive enough to warrant a marketing campaign directed exclusively at them.
The pricing of the products is crucial to the success of the marketing campaign. You should take into account what your competitors are charging for similar products and services, and refer to existing customer feedback that indicates how much your segment would be willing to pay. This will not be a static figure as the economic climate can influence how affluent an individual feels regardless of how much they actually have at their disposal. Consider also offering some items or services at a reduced rate to off-set some of the more expensive options. However, you must always fully investigate the cost of producing the services or products that you are marketing, including the secondary expenses such as infrastructure maintenance.
Your marketing strategy must include a period of evaluation and readjustment. Once all the elements have been put in place and the marketing has been running for a set period of time, perhaps one or two seasons or years, carry out an evaluation exercise to identify any areas of the original marketing plan that have not been as successful as others, and why that is. Even if it is related to events outside of your control or beyond your original scope, the evaluation exercise allows the marketer to make adjustments and improvements not only for that particular strategy, but also for future marketing campaigns.