Pushing local experiences in secondary destinations

From left: Yaana Ventures' Willem Niemeijer, PATA's Paul Pruangkarn and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's Michael Goldsmith (photo credit: Ernelsa Villalba-Abelgas)

Localism, or local experiences, is something DMOs should invest in when it comes to the marketing of secondary destinations, shared speakers at the PATA Destination Marketing Forum 2018 in Khon Kaen last week.

Michael Goldsmith, vice president of marketing, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said: “As a visitor to a destination, local experiences are vitally important. We want to experience what life is like, or what we think what life is like. The experiences that visitors remember are experiences with people and local experiences in their destinations.”

From left: Yaana Ventures’ Willem Niemeijer, PATA’s Paul Pruangkarn and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s Michael Goldsmith

This view is supported by Willem Niemeijer, Thailand-based Yaana Ventures’ CEO, who said: “Travel is all about authentic encounters. It’s about going local.”

For instance, the Intrepid Adventure Travel Index 2018 revealed that adventure travel these days equates to local experiences, with only 22 per cent of the responses equating adventure travel to high-adrenaline sports.

Similarly, in the 2018 Tourism Outlook: The Exploration of Today’s Modern Traveler survey conducted by American Express, 25 per cent of respondents stated that learning about culture and history is their most important travel goal, while 72 per cent enjoy learning about different cultures, and 43 per cent look for local dining experiences.

Richard Cutting-Miller, executive vice president of US-based Resonance consultancy, added that people now care less about material possessions, instead placing more emphasis on experiences, the places one travels to, and how one uses their free time.

“For example, North America was all about Budwiser and Millerbeer. Now, if you go to Portland, Oregon, it’s all about craft brew. It’s about speciality products people enjoy, and they choose destinations to experience these,” he elaborated.

“There’s a tremendous amount of interest, especially from millennials, who want to experience what life is like in a city like Las Vegas. What we have to do is to market and talk about the unique attributes (such as kayaking or hiking), and not just the internationally-recognised tourism attractions, which are often buildings or landmarks (like the Bellagio fountain),” Goldsmith added.

That is why Thailand’s latest tourism campaign also revolves around local experiences, in addition to the launch of a new strategy to lure travellers to other destinations in the country.

Srisuda Wanaphinyosak, Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) deputy governor for international marketing (Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Americas), shared: “This PATA event is complied with TAT’s latest campaign of Amazing Thailand Go Local – which is a landmark project to promote the kingdom’s lesser known destinations – as well as the Hub and Hook strategy, with the main city acting as a hub and hook to the nearby lesser known destinations. Khon Kaen is a great example of a hub city, and (while nearby hook destinations are) Udon Thani, Nong Khai and Kalasin.”

Aside from developing local experiences, the forum also highlighted that for the betterment of the entire society, a close working relationship with locals was also crucial.

Niemeijer pointed out: “A primary mistake that well-intended destinations make when deciding on their marketing plan is not involving the local community. It needs to be from grassroots up. Is (the marketing of the destination) welcome by them? The locals have to be part of the process, or even take the lead.”

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