Latest Trends of Destination Marketing

Digital Tourism Think Tank – #DTTT2018
Helsinki, Bio Rex 29.-30.11.2018

I visited one of the most intriguing events in the traveling field the Digital Tourism Think Tank 2018 last November. Helsinki had the honor to host around 300 participants from all over the world in the event held in fabulous Bio Rex facilities.  #DTTT global is a perfect place to track where about traveling field and destination marketing is now and what the future holds for them.

Personally, I have been working in the traveling field altogether for more than 7 years. Surprisingly, traditionally, the field has not presented the sharpest end of digital and technological development, not to mention service design or design thinking. In my opinion, the field has been rather slow in adapting to the changes and disruptions that take place faster and faster. Due to my maternity and student leave, I had not been attending this event in two years. Now I noticed, that quite a lot had changed since the year 2015.

Many interesting keynotes were presented the day I attended the two-day event: Finnair, Finavia, Australian Tourism Data Warehouse and Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) such as Visit Finland, Visit Dubai and Wonderful Copenhagen. They all had their interesting cases, but it would be useless trying to describe them all. What I was after, were the latest trends in the traveling field that would emerge through the inspirational cases and viewpoints.

#DTTT2018 keywords (by the author):
open data, APIs, ecosystem, platforms, seamless customer experience, experience economy, feelings, passion, co-creation, sharing, sustainability, good content

When looking at the keywords I spotted in the event, it seems the traveling business is not anymore that far away from design-led business and innovation approach. Open data, data collaboration and open API’s (Application Program Interface) were emphasized in several occasions to be the key in managing travel experience and offering a seamless customer experience.

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Also Finavia’s Eero Knuutila talked about “API economy”.

Visit Finland has started a large-scale project in data collaboration among the traveling business operators, and the Australian Tourism organization has even a specific Tourism Data Warehouse which collects, manages and shares all the relevant information regarding their business. Most importantly, as Visit Finland’s Kaisa Kosonen stated: “attitudes towards sharing have changed during the last years”.

“Attitudes towards sharing have changes during the last years.”
– Kaisa Kosonen, Visit Finland

This has been a very important step in going to the direction where sharing is viewed more advantageous that keeping information for competitive reasons and trying to do everything alone. Also, the limited budgets several DMOs unfortunately have, certainly have encouraged in taking a new direction in this sense.

Almost in every speech the word “platform” was mentioned, and in many also “ecosystem”. As Finnair’s Kristiina Kukkohovi captured, “digitalization is not about apps and channels but ecosystems and platforms”. The sharing approach has led to the inclusive approach of different actors which form the ecosystem of a good service selection to the traveler. Now, every DMO wants to offer a platform which offers and/or gathers good content and where all the customers, potential and existing, can connect to before, during and after the visit. Some of them have succeeded better than others, and I am very happy to notice that Helsinki Marketing’s MyHelsinki service in top-notch in this category. A service that is referred to by the most impactful DMOs and traveling field actors.

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Tia Hallanoro from Helsinki Marketing presenting the customer journey of a Helsinki visitor.

It is a known fact that feelings and passion are related to traveling ever since it has become a leisure activity. What is new, is that now marketing strategies and even business cases are built on feelings and experiences, such as the new service developed by Finnair, which promotes and sells experiences to their visitors. Also, “customer experience” was mentioned several times during the day. A seamless customer experience is something that the DMOs and other travel operators are reaching for by new means.

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Finnair’s Kristiina Kukkohovi explaining how happiness can be digitalized.

Some of the DMOs are already using co-creation as a means to develop the experience. And at least one of them even has a clear design thinking approach to their entire strategy, like the example of Wonderful Copenhagen, the DMO of Copenhagen.

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Have you ever thought about the locals being the most important factor in the traveling experience for visitors? I haven’t, or at least not in this scale that Wonderful Copenhagen presented. There has been, and still is, a hype around live-like-a-local phenomenon. Many DMO’s, including Visit Helsinki, has put into use the knowledge the locals possess and used that in marketing. Local experiences interest even more visitors, rather than famous monuments or big attractions.

What Wonderful Copenhagen inspirationally pointed out, was that the locals do not live in a destination but in a city. They also suggested that instead of asking what locals can do for you, ask what you can do for locals. They consider locals strategically important factor in the customer experience of visitors. Therefore, it is rightful to ask what tourism can do for locals.

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The background for this kind of thinking comes from over-tourism, which many popular cities and countries as destinations have faced. Amsterdam is one of them, and Copenhagen has faced similar challenges. In a rather small city, the growing number of visitors want to visit exactly the same places at the same time, such as the Little Mermaid, Anne Frank’s house, etc. This has led even to strategies which drive visitors away from these super attractions, even in the outskirts of the city.

Wonderful Copenhagen has valiantly stated that tourism is not a goal in itself for them, but as a means to develop the city. This is their strategic choice, and recently they introduced their new strategy “Tourism for good”.

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This example leads us to perhaps the most important keyword the emerged in the event: sustainability. The traveling field and DMOs are facing perhaps the biggest disruption ever come to their way, which comes alive in such phenomena like over-tourism and people’s changing traveling behaviors, especially linked to flying. This is something which the DMOs still have a very different approach to.

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Visit Dubai announced that they want to grow the number of visitors because they have the infrastructure to support it. Whereas Helsinki Marketing clearly stated that Helsinki seeks “not quantity, but quality in growth”. And then there is Wonderful Copenhagen which bases their entire tourism strategy on sustainability. Clearly, this is the theme that will be, or at least it should be, grasped immediately in the traveling field and destination marketing organizations.

It remains to be seen what the #DTTT2019 will present for us in this sense. And it remains to be seen how, or if, the DMOs will apply design thinking or service design more into their business operations. If you are interested in traveling, and it is in any way possible for you, I recommend attending the next event which will be held in Espoo somewhere around late November this year.

Laura Saksala

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