Collaboration key to tourism dispersal goals

Myanmar Tourism Marketing (MTM) yesterday launched the 9 Enchanting Discovers of Myanmar, highlighting the country’s diversity of attractions and natural beauty by focusing on nine lesser-known destinations of Kyaing Tong, Loikaw, Mergui Archipelago, Mogok, Mt Victoria, Mrauk U, Putao, Hpa An and Hsipaw.

With destinations around the world grappling with overtourism and undertourism, speakers at the recently-concluded PATA Destination Marketing Forum 2018 in Khon Kaen believe that primary and secondary destinations should work in collaboration to better realise visitor dispersal goals.

Michael Goldsmith, vice president of marketing, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, opined: “I think it’s important that secondary destinations work in conjunction with first-tier destinations. For example, when I market Las Vegas, I want travellers to Las Vegas to experience other things that surround (the city).”

Instead of constantly promoting the already popular Bagan, other similar temple complexes such as Mrauk U (pictured) can instead be highlighted in marketing campaigns, which in turn will help with tourist dispersal

“The majority of people who enter Thailand come through Bangkok, so how do you disperse travellers from there?”

Well aware of overtourism in destinations like Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand has launched a new Hub and Hook strategy to nudge travellers to other destinations in the country. Thailand’s main cities, such as Khon Kaen, would act as a hub city, while its nearby hook destinations will be Udon Thani, Nong Khai and Kalasin.

While destination marketing has traditionally been led by the government, tourism businesses in the private sector also have the power to raise the profile of second-tier cities if they join forces and put in a concerted effort.

One example is Danang, a destination previously suffering from undertourism. A group of hotels – dissatisfied with Vietnam National Administration of Tourism’s marketing – took things into their own hands to establish their own DMO.

Torsten Edens, COO of Go Beyond Asia, elaborated: “This is how Central Coast Vietnam, which started out with 10 hotels, was established. The (organisation) now encompasses 50 (local tourism stakeholders) such as hotels, restaurants and golf courses.”

Central Coast Vietnam even went a step further, and pitched to airline companies why Danang should be a destination they fly to, and this has helped the city become one of the most successful destinations in South-east Asia.

Edens surmised: “There is room out there for destinations to do their own marketing if they are not completely in line with what the government is doing.”

“(Promoting a second-tier destination) needs (a concerted) effort especially from the private sector. It’s so easy to sell what is already out there. Instead, we have to talk in unison about these new destinations, and be proactive and passionate about them to support them,” added Willem Niemeijer, CEO of Thailand-based Yaana Ventures.

“In many destinations, there’s so much out there to explore. Innovation is really important. The moment a destination is already ahead of the curve, go (and promote) a new destination,” he urged.

Meanwhile, Niemeijer reminded that to counter overtourism, destination marketeers have to get away from “perceived highlights”, citing Bagan in Myanmar, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and Phuket in Thailand as examples.

For instance, Myanmar promotes attractions that are already very famous, such as Bagan, which is now overrun. There are other as interesting places in the country such as Mrauk U, which has lesser footfall, but are equally as beautiful. Similarly, Angkor Wat receives millions of tourists yearly, but there are plenty of outer temple complexes like Banteay Srei on the outskirts of Siem Reap.

Also, Phuket has more to offer than beaches, but beaches are where tourist crowding tends to occur.

Niemeijer pointed out: “There’s a national park, there are mangroves to be explored, there’s also a gibbon rescue centre that’s not visited enough it is scrambling for funding, and even a successful effort in northern Phuket to release turtles back into the sea. All these need to be highlighted instead of the beaches, because people will come to the beaches anyway.”

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