Selling exotic lands to the American public can
be challenging for many in the travel industry, but it doesn't need
to be a lonely process! With over 100 tourist offices based in USA,
representing not only foreign nations, but states and even individual
cities, these National Tourist Offices (NTOs) can be excellent resources
and partners in your marketing activity.
Although NTOs vary greatly in size and services,
the do share a common goal. Each is looking to maximize the economic
benefits of international tourism for their own patch. They are typically
keen to work with those companies that can deliver visitors to them,
whether you're an Airline, tour operator, wholesaler or travel agent.
Traditionally, the National Tourist Office has merely
been an information source, but in the extremely competitive travel
marketplace many NTOs are adding innovative marketing services to achieve
the competitive edge.
DESTINATION MARKETING TO CONSUMERS
In achieving their goal to get passengers to their
destination, many Destination Organizations have identified two important
roles: Building "Primary" demand, and stimulating conversion
Primary demand can be defined as building desire
for the category or in this case the destination. In some ways the work
is not unlike the task undertaken by the California Raisin Board and
the Milk Board. The ubiquitous "Milk Mustache" campaign is
designed to build "primary demand" by encouraging people to
drink milk. The California Raisins made eating raisins cool. Neither
of these campaigns promoted a single company's product. In the same
way NTOs are developing campaigns to encourage desire to travel to a
destination. Whether it's the friendly Australians of the Australian
Tourist Commissions campaign, the children of Ireland or the beaches
of Jamaica each of these campaigns is attempting to build desire to
travel to the destination. These campaigns can significantly enhance
the value of hotel and wholesaler advertising. By timing campaigns to
leverage destination campaigns operators can get a boost to their own
efforts in selling travel. It is worthwhile to check on NTO ad schedules
when planning media.
Some NTOs do not leave it at that! Although it can
be argued the mere process of undertaking this "primary" demand
advertising allows the private sector to focus on advertising to convert
the desire to sales some National and State tourism offices work with
wholesalers and operators to ensure the sale is converted. Through involvement
in co-operative marketing they will develop plans to ensure the interest
generated by "primary demand" translates into actual passengers.
But don't expect the NTO to just hand over a check
to help your marketing. Many NTOs want to be sure their cooperative
efforts are stimulating "new" marketing for their destination.
They may look to you to prove they are not just paying for activity
you would have been doing anyway. More and more, NTOs are moving away
from simply "subsidizing" production via buying pages in a
Don't discount advice from NTOs out of hand either.
Many of these organizations manage a "portfolio" of projects
with cooperative partners and, although the confidentiality of individual
projects is normally carefully protected, can advise what works in their
PUBLIC RELATIONS AND PUBLICITY
Another area of marketing that many NTOs have embraced
is public relations. Many strive to develop close relationships with
journalists from both trade and consumer publications. Many NTOs can
be very useful in helping get the word out about your product in their
POTENTIAL CLIENTS FROM BROCHURE REQUESTS
Information distribution to the industry and to
consumers is the core role of most NTOs. Many NTOs still meet that demand
with internal travel staff, often from the destination itself, answering
questions. Several NTOs however, are finding new ways to answer those
questions and reach new audiences with expanding needs. Some are outsourcing
the role to professional telemarketing and distribution companies, others
have introduced 900 numbers and, of course, the web is becoming an important
point for information distribution.
The introduction of the World Wide Web to the consuming
public is quickly changing the way NTOs distribute information. Destination
websites provide extraordinary amounts of information to both consumer
and trade. (See box for websites).
Most NTOs recognize the value of contacts made through
their information distribution process and have compiled databases of
contacts. Many have programs in which travel partners can access these
leads for further marketing. (Remember the NTO relies on the industry
to convert the sale!) These are often extremely valuable leads as they
represent people who have already expressed a desire to travel!
MARKETING INTELLIGENCE AND RESEARCH
For many tourist companies, gathering marketing
intelligence concerning those markets that are attracted to various
destinations is a daunting task. Fortunately, NTOs regularly sponsor
this type of study and provide results to interested parties at little
or no cost. Depending on the destination the amount of information can
In addition to arrival studies that provide information
on the demographics of visitors many NTOs undertake other marketing
research including market segmentation studies, exploration of the psychographics
of their actual and potential clients and research into the most effective
communication strategies to reach their targets.
Again, check with your NTO to discuss what information
they can provide to make your marketing activity more effective.
Questions for getting the most from an NTO
When do they run ad campaigns?
What are their cooperative marketing policies?
What about their public relations activities?
What sort of stories do they push?
What sort of publications and newsletters do they
Do they have databases available for marketing?
Can you link to their web site?
Do they have up to date market research?
What tradeshows do they facilitate?
Do they have marketing materials? (Postcards, tourshells,
Can they do product training?
LOWERING THE BARRIERS
Once you have committed to marketing an international
destination there is a lot you must do to sell effectively in a marketplace
with increasingly sophisticated travelers. There are product development
issues and staff training requirements. Also, the cost of developing
marketing materials for your international product can be high. Researching
product, sourcing marketing materials, writing copy to explain the destination
to your market and developing promotional prices all contribute to unwanted
expense. NTO services are being realized in these areas to reduce costs.
Researching Product: NTOs provide detailed and unbiased
information on their product, including key contacts. They can advise
you about what's "hot" what's not and what's on the way up.
Many sponsor trade events both big and small to bring potential buyers
together. Several NTOs run the equivalent of "Pow Wow" in
their own countries to facilitate the product development process.
Training: NTOs can provide excellent (and free!)
product and destination training to your selling staff. With the opportunity
cost of not having staff totally able to make every sale count this
is an excellent service for many wholesalers and tour operators. A few
hours with the sales manager from an NTO can make a great difference
for the sales person selling a destination they have not yet experienced
Marketing Materials: NTOs can reduce the cost of
marketing in a variety of ways. Many produce at materials that can be
used by hoteliers, wholesalers and operators. Some NTOs charge but most
do not and at the end of the day any cost will be considerably lower
than the cost of your own photoshoot. The types of materials you might
ask about include:
CD-ROMs of visuals
As with all types of organizations levels of support
will vary from organization to organization. Nevertheless NTOs can be
a source of real value to travel marketers promoting international destinations.
Just remember the old adage, "We are here from the Government (somebody
else's government no less) and we are here to help!"
The websites for National Tourist Offices can be a source for great
information for marketers. Even beyond just information distribution,
NTOs are using websites for more sophisticated internet based marketing
like consumer e-zines, web based newsletters and subscriber "alerts".
Many will allow links to appropriate product. Here are just some of
the sites sponsored by NTOs.
Hong Kong http://hktausa.org
Queensland Australia http://queensland-holidays.com.au