Episode 02

5 Mistakes Tourism Marketers Make

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Episode Description

In this episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast, Kaitlin Eskelson from the Utah Tourism Association joins Adam and Jordan to talk navigating outside opinions in a marketing position, mistakes in marketing, and Kaitlin's take on the most important component of tourism marketing. 

"The Travel and Tourism industry is moving so quickly, we're bound to make mistakes. A lot of what we do is trial and error and I think that, again, going back to that guest experience and having a little bit of humility, it's sometimes just saying 'sorry, we tried our best on that one, it didn't work but we've learned from it and can move forward', I think that's really what people are looking for and what marketing campaigns should be all about. Being authentic, but admitting to when you make a mistake"- Kaitlin Eskelson on making mistakes in marketing. 

Meet our Host and Guest(s)

  • Name: Adam Stoker
  • Position: Co-Owner and CEO of Relic
  • Favorite Destination: Fiji
  • Dream Destination: New Zealand
  • Name: Jordan Barker
  • Position: Co-owner of Relic
  • Favorite Destination: San Francisco
  • Dream Destination: Hawaii
  • Name: Kaitlin Eskelson
  • Position: Executive Director of the Utah Tourism Industry Association
  • Dream Destination: Hitting all the national parks across the country in the family RV

“5 Mistakes Tourism Marketers Make” – Show Notes and Highlights

Marketing is full of trial and error. Because the tourism industry is moving so quickly, there are bound to be mistakes. However, you need to learn to iterate quickly and stick with what’s working according to your analytics.

Things don’t necessarily become easier when you get a bigger budget but the best way she helped a lot of destinations in the state office was through co-op programs that could be bought into with small, incremental levels that would help destinations buy under the Utah Life Elevated brand.

Another challenge she has been working on is coming up with a great campaign to follow the “Mighty Five” National Parks campaign. How do you create another campaign that may never get better?

Kaitlin’s advice for new tourism marketers is to educate yourself in traditional tourism marketing. Go to a few conferences and absorb everything. Learn what you know and what you need to seek help for. Be authentic, be yourself, be creative and passionate.

Kaitlin’s advice for dealing with board and county politics is to have a facilitator or third-party agency at the table to speak for you and not be offensive because they have an outside view. Agencies are professionals and experts in their field so they can tell you what has been tried before and what works.

In Kaitlin’s opinion, the most important thing for a marketer to do is to understand who your client is and the most important component of tourism marketing is the guest experience.

Kaitlin thinks that the future of tourism marketing is going to include a more holistic approach for destination marketing and an increased responsibility for tourism marketers to have a larger role in the entire experience of becoming destination management organizations.

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Episode Transcript

Adam Stoker:                    Okay, I’d like to welcome everybody out to the second episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast; we’re excited to have you. We’ve got a special guest today. It’s Kaitlin Eskelson from the Utah Tourism Industry Association. Kaitlin’s got a pretty vast background in tourism, and has worked on several campaigns including the Mighty Five campaign for the state of Utah, and we’re excited to chat with her a little bit about her experience and some of what she’s seen in the industry during her career, so Kaitlin, we’re excited to have you.

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Well, thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Adam Stoker:                    Great, and then you know unfortunately we also have Jordan Barker with us from Relic.

Jordan Barker:                  Oh, hello.

Adam Stoker:                    Just kidding, not unfortunately Jordan.

Jordan Barker:                  That was kind of mean.

Adam Stoker:                    Kaitlin, today we want to talk a little bit first about your history. We’ve got a few questions that we ask everybody we have on the podcast and kind of start there. I’d like to hear a little bit about you, what you’re doing now for the Utah Tourism Industry Association and your background. Just give the listeners an idea of who they’re listening to here.

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Yeah, of course. I am currently the executive director of the Utah Tourism Industry Association, and we are not really the marketing, but more of the educational and the legislative arm of the tourism industry here in the state of Utah. We have various partners across the state that we work with very closely to make sure that we provide continuing education as they are trying to keep up with all of the trends. Then, of course, we spend a significant amount of time on our legislative efforts just trying to maintain the whole perspective that tourism is really good for the state, the economic driver of it all, and making sure that we continue on this upward trajectory of increasing marketing dollars and getting people from out-of-state into the state.

                                             That is kind of what we do on the day-to-day. My background really stems from not even knowing that I was going to be in the tourism industry, to be honest. I got a Bachelor of Science in business and marketing and always had a lot of interest in marketing, but really never knew that tourism was a thing. And I really didn’t know that until I moved out to Utah to be a ski bum, which was my goal, but it turned into much more than that. I came out here and started working for various DMOs, worked through that process and was very much on the international side and the domestic side. Then, I ended up at the office of tourism where I did all of their international marketing as well as some of the rural marketing, which is kind of a shift there. Then, just a couple of years ago, I landed at the tourism industry association. So, it’s been quite a ride.

Adam Stoker:                    Great, great. Before we get too down to business, another question we ask everybody is what is your dream destination? If you could go anywhere in the world, Kaitlin, where would it be?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               You know, it’s really funny because I find myself vacationing in Utah if I have weekends to get away. There’s so much to explore here, but I think probably my dream destination when my kids are a little bit older is to hop in our RV and try to hit all of the national parks across the country. That’s kind of a bucket list for us. We’re a really active family and we love road trips. So that is what we would do.

Adam Stoker:                    How long would that trip take, Kaitlin?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Oh my gosh, I just read an article on Google and there was sort of this mock how do you hit all 48 states?’. It said that just the drive time alone would take about three weeks if you wanted to hit them all. I’m thinking a summer sabbatical sounds really great.

Adam Stoker:                    Man, that would be incredible. That sounds like a blast. I think I would definitely need my kids to be a little older to take an entire summer and do that.

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Yeah, for sure. I have twoyearold twins, and they’re way too much of a handful right now to even think about anything longer than four to five days.

Adam Stoker:                    That sounds a little crazy with twoyearold twins, especially twins. I’m a twin, and I know the pain that caused my mom, I can’t imagine her being in an RV with me and my brother going across the country.

Jordan Barker:                  Brutal, brutal.

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Yes.

Adam Stoker:                    Let’s dive into the topic a little bit. Jordan, we want to talk about mistakes that marketers make — especially tourism marketersand how they can avoid those. Jordan, what’s something that you see, that’s a mistake that people make and maybe Kaitlin can comment from there.

Jordan Barker:                  Yeah, for sure. I think, obviously, we work with several destinations, so it really depends on the destination we’re talking about. But some of the common things that we see, one mistake in particular, is that they try to do too much all at the same time. No matter what your destination marketing budget is, it’s finite, and there’s only a certain number of resources regardless. Even if that budget’s a million dollars or $100,000 or even less. There are only so many hours in the day, and there are only so many things that you can do with that budget. I think a lot of times, everyone goes to these conferences, they hear all these great things, all these great ideas of things that they want to do, and rightfully so, they’re super passionate about their destination and they want everyone in the world to know about it. So, what they end up doing is peanut buttering, if you will, their budget. They spend a little bit here and a little bit there. And, oftentimes, what we see, is that without focus it’s really difficult to get the effect, the impact and the ROI that you’re really looking for.

                                             I think one mistake that’s pretty common is they know that they want to be doing a lot of different marketing tactics. Instead, I think what ends up being more impactful is to get a channel where you see some traction get that really dialed in and then expand to the next one, and the next one. It’s never this, “You started this and you’re done and you can rest. You’re always in this continuous optimization and improvement process, but I think that’s one thing that we definitely see.

Adam Stoker:                    Focus, yeah.

Jordan Barker:                  Yeah.

Adam Stoker:                    What do you think Kaitlin? Have you seen that?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Yeah. I’ve actually been doing a lot of thinking about this lately, and I’m sure this is something that we see across the country and even globally, but tourism marketers are really expected to wear so many hats, and a lot of times they’re in pretty small offices. So, a lot of times it’s kind of like how do you be that expert on everything? So, I think that that is a really hard thing.

                                             The other key to that, or another point to that is that a lot of time — and we see this in Utah, at leastcounties are marketing by county. You know, because that is how the money flows, and the money that’s coming into a particular county is expected to be spent on county messaging. And I think that while there’s a big responsibility there to promote your county, we also have to remember that visitors don’t travel that way, and they’re not just going to stay in one particular county during their travels. While there is a responsibility to promote your very specific destination, I think there’s also some benefit in creating some regional partnerships and some collaboration, and also I think that way the money will go a little farther. Creating packaging and messaging around a region might be another thing that we could, as an industry, do a little better at.

                                             Because I know that we’re talking about where the money flows, but again, visitors just don’t travel that way.

Adam Stoker:                    So let me get this straight, you’re saying that people don’t plan their trips around the county lines that are within the state, is that correct?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Yeah, that’s correct. At least in Utah, and I think it is similar across the country, all their funding comes back to a very specific geographic area. And while I think we all understand that, I think it benefits to partner with regional areas, because, at the end of the day, visitors don’t know county lines, they don’t know state lines. One time I was talking to someone overseas as I was traveling for the office of tourism, and I said, “Have you been to Utah?” And they were like, “Oh no.” And then they saw a picture of Delicate Arch in Moab and they were like, “But I’ve been there.” And I said, “Okay, well, yeah, then you’ve been in Utah.”

                                             So a lot of times these visitors are traveling for the experience, but sometimes they don’t even know exactly where they are in relation to the physical geographic barriers.

Adam Stoker:                    Totally. And it’s actually a hard paradigm shift to have happen mentally, when we’re so organized into those geographical areas. Tell me a little bit, Kaitlin, when you were at the state of Utah, tell me a little bit about some of the challenges. Maybe, if you’re willing to share, even a mistake that maybe you made that you learned from and that maybe our listeners can learn from as well.

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Yeah, so, oh my gosh, I have some really embarrassing stories that I really don’t want to share on this podcast, but I will share one little one and this kind of goes back to the idea that we’re all going too fast and we’re wearing too many hats, but I won’t get down to specifics. One time I put an ad in a very prominent magazine on an airline and had actually approved it, so it was my fault, but I had switched images. It said a certain national park, and that wasn’t the image that it was showing. That’s one of my most embarrassing stories of my career, and it was just one of those things. But again, it goes back to wearing so many hats, and moving so quickly and trying to get so much done and be everything to everyone that, I guess, at the end of the day we can’t be perfect.

                                             We did make it right, so I’ll go on record for saying that, but I think that one of the things — and again because we’re all so busy in trying to get the visitor into the stateis we really forget to circle back on the guest experience. I think that’s hard because in destination marketing we’re not necessarily the booking channel and we don’t necessarily own the client, because we’re not like an airline or a hotel where the booking happens, and we then own that client and we can re-target them and all of that. I think that something we could have done better, and can still do better to this day, is circling back on the customer experience and making sure that we’re targeting them in meaningful ways and encouraging them to come back and visit. I don’t know, it’s a hard one, I don’t know if that’s done via an online signup at check out, I’m not exactly sure how that all happens, but I’m a firm believer in delivering on the brand promise, and I think that going above and beyond as an entire stateas an entire destinationto make it a really special, engaging, meaningful experience is really important.

Jordan Barker:                  That makes sense, that makes a lot of sense. I want to double click on that — making good on that brand promise — because, we hear a lot about that. So how do we make sureand I guess maybe there’s a question for you Adam, I know we work with several destinationshow do we make sure that the brand promise, and to Kaitlin’s point, the expectation of that visitor is met? How do we make sure that’s aligned?

Adam Stoker:                    Yeah, I think it requires a little bit of vulnerability and maybe some honesty about who we are as a destination. I think Utah is a unique market too, because I swear every county in Utah has incredible, incredible places to visit, and things to do. But I think we all know what we may not be the best at, or may not have the best customer experience, and it requires being a little bit of honesty about what we are and what we are not. But if we try to market what we want to be, and will never be, the customer comes and has a poor experience. I don’t know, it’s hard to admit, but there’s some things that we may not be the best resource for in our neck of Utah, if we’re speaking specifically for Utah DMOs.

Jordan Barker:                  That makes a lot of sense. Kaitlin, question for you: We talk about mistakes, and I think it’s easy for us to compare our marketing efforts, or what we’re trying to do compared to other destinations, and it’s easy from an outsider looking in to feel like those guys have got it figured out, and they’re so buttoned up, and their messaging and their creative looks really spot on, but what we don’t see is what happens behind the scenes and some of those mistakes that are made. So, my question for you would be why is that a good thing? What can we learn from mistakes and why is it okay, in your eyes, for us to make mistakes in marketing and what can we learn and what should we learn from that?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Yeah, I think that making mistakes are a part of the game, especially in marketing where we’re dealing with a lot of creative energy. I also think that the travel and tourism industry and destination marketing is moving so quickly we’re bound to make mistakes. A lot of what we do is trial and error, and I think that again, going back to that guest experience and having a little bit of humility it’s sometimes just saying, “Sorry we tried our best on that one, it didn’t work, but we’ve learned from it and can move forward”I think that’s really what people are looking for. What marketing campaigns should be all about, is being authentic, but admitting to when you make a mistake. Maybe from the marketing side, if you’ve spent a huge amount of dollars on a project and it just didn’t pan out the way you want, then you pivot, and you head in a different direction. I think that’s just a lot of what marketing is all about, sort of that trial and error. And when you find something where you’re getting really good analytics back from it, and it’s really working, then hold onto that and build from it.

Adam Stoker:                    I think you’re exactly right Kaitlin. Mistakes are how we learn, right? And I think every marketing department, every destination will make those kinds of mistakes, and having the humility to learn from it, that’s a big part of making sure we’re doing great marketing. I want to hear, when you were at the state of Utah, we talked about mistakes, and I don’t want this to be a confessional of all the mistakes you’ve ever made, but a lot of people think if I had the state of Utah’s marketing budget, I could do anything and it would be so easy. But I know that at the state level you guys deal with just as many issues. It’s like the more money you have to spend, suddenly you have to tackle international a lot better and you’ve got a lot more markets that you can tackle, but that also creates a lot more variables that could go wrong. So, what were the challenges that you guys encountered that you really had to focus on overcoming when you were at the state tourism office? That could be from a creative standpoint, or even to a volume of work, or the full gamut, what did you see?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               There are so many things that come to mind in terms of unique challenges that state offices of tourism face. One is sort of just being everything to all people. From the international side specifically, I guess I’ll first speak to that, international is a really hard game to play, especially for everyone. A challenge that I faced was we had some destinations that had been in international marketing for 30 years, and we had others that we just entering. You have this huge gap between resources, knowledge, training tour operators, overseas, all of it. So it was really difficult, and I think the best way we were able to pivot and respond to that was by creating some co-op programs that could be bought into on really small incremental levels, that would help destinations buy under the Utah Life Elevated brand.

                                             I think that was something that was a game changer for these smaller destinations with smaller budgets, that wanted to play the game, but they just didn’t quite know where to start, and I think that when tour operators or people overseas are looking for destinations, first they know they want to come to the United States, then they might know they want to come to Utah, but they’re not really sure, so to get them on that granular level of saying, “I want to come to this specific national park.” That takes quite a bit of messaging, so I think for us, creating this kind of tier, pre-packaged co-op program was one of the best benefits that we were able to offer to our DMOsn and our local entities. I think the other challenge that we faced, and we’re facing now is that we had a really successful, extremely successful marketing campaign around the Mighty Five, which is the Mighty Five National parks.

                                             We sold that campaign, we packaged it, and people loved the heck out of it. So now we’re trying to pivot off of what is the 2.0 version of a campaign that may never be … You may never get one that’s better. How do you pivot off of that and come up with the next 2.0 version and we’ve been working on that. Even though now I’m not at the office of tourism, and so closely involved, we’re struggling to figure out how do we push people outside of those anchor tenants into other areas of the state.

                                             And then the problem, or the issue with that is how do those other areas of the state package themselves, to really be marketable. So it’s sort of this downward funnel of how do you manage that visitor, and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges that faces the state offices probably across the country today.

Jordan Barker:                  That makes a lot of sense. Obviously to your point with the campaign being so successful, that’s a common theme that we hear, I think when we talk to destinations is “Okay, how do we either replicate that success or how we might be a rural market and leverage that or take advantage of that in the correct way.” Going back to an advice standpoint, what advice, especially if I’m a new tourism marketer, what advice would you give me? I know, again, we talked about the fact that there’s so many things to tackle, how should I think about that? What advice would you have for me as a new tourism marketer? Let’s pretend that I’m a new tourism marketer, what would you tell me, and where should I start?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Such a good question, because again, as you’re entering, a lot of these folks are wearing so many hats. I would say, first and foremost get a little of traditional tourism education under your belt. Attend some of these local conferences that are kind of addressing all the things, and just let it absorb for a minute. I think once you figure out who you are, and what and play to your role as a marketer in the best way that you know how, you’ll start to identify what are you good at, and what do you need to seek other help from. I think that overall when you’re delving into the marketing, I think it’s really critical to keep in the back of your mind to be authentic, to be yourself, to be creative, because it is a creative industry, it is a passionate industry, and I think that we all need to be putting as many ideas out into the marketplace, testing them and seeing what sticks.

                                             Go in, especially if you’re brand new to the industry, because tourism does have differences from others. We’re not selling widgets, we’re selling an experience or an idea, so come into the industry and get a little bit of education under your belt, find some really good mentors that can tell you right off the bat with what does not work, or what they’ve tried and has failed, and then start figuring out authentically what are you good at, and what your destination is good at, and trying to match those together into creating a plan.

Adam Stoker:                    Totally, that makes sense. Jordan brought up people who are entering the tourism industry that are maybe early in their process, one mistake that I’ve seen out there is I’ve seen a lot of people fall into the mistake of saying, “If I was the one booking a trip I would do this.” It’s almost like they’re building a marketing plan based on their decision making process. Why would you say that might not be the best idea?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Well, I think that travel and tourism is so individualized, so your idea of travel is not going to be everyone’s idea of travel. I think, instead of looking at what you personally would want or how you personally would want to book a trip, you need to break it down into various demographics — look at it from the family, the couple, the multi-generational travelers — break it down into subsets, and then look at it from what they would potentially be interested in. I think the best way to do that is to ask them. There are so many mechanisms now of getting feedback from potential customers, whether it’s surveying them or being really involved on social. A lot of those things take time but they don’t take a lot of money, if any and I think the more info you can gather on customers perspectives, the more they’re going to feel like they’re really heard. Again, I think it just kind of loops back into that customer experience and making sure that you’re really identifying what they want.

Jordan Barker:                  Yup, makes a lot of sense. One thing you mentioned that I really liked that you talked about is it’s really easy for us to kind of do what we like to refer to as marketing by committee. So, you have a number of people that have opinions about the destination, they have different ideas of how they want approach the marketing and what’s important to them might not be important to the visitor, to your point. So, I think really looking at the data, that’s one thing that we’ve seen a lot of solid results that we’ve been able to tweak and optimize campaigns as a result of. Whether that’s a survey, whether that’s looking at things like demographic data within Google Analytics, there’s so many tools that we have at our fingertips today to be able to extract that data.

                                             To your point Kaitlin, I think gone are the days of marketing by gut, going with what we think is the right answer, and I think to your point Adam, making sure that we’re not trying to market to ourselves. It’s real easy to look at the data and be able to say what makes sense and how should we be approaching this because it’s really hard to argue with numbers, it’s really hard to argue with facts. So, I think if we can incorporate data, what’s really happening at the visitor level and how do we take that information, we can incorporate that into our marketing message and make it really impactful.

Adam Stoker:                    As a tourism marketer, there’s a lot of noise. You’ve got a lot of stakeholders that want to have a say in what you’re doing, especially if you’re a county destination. The hotels, or the restaurants or even the citizens want to know how that money is being spent. I have been in some board meetings, some destination board meetings and the opinions and suggestions that have been thrown out by people who obviously are not marketers but have very strong opinions about what they believe works. I’m not going to say what they suggested, but let’s just say there were some surprises in there. How do you navigate that, Kaitlin, when there’s so many voices out there, so much noise, so many people saying what you should do as a destination marketer? How do you navigate that?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Yes, so to that point I think that’s when you hire a really good media buyer or ad agency to be your third-party spokesperson to be honest. Dealing with local politics is tremendously difficult, because even when you have a board and you ask them to take off their personal hat if you will, it’s hard, because they’re at some level, maybe they’re a hotel owner, or they’re a guide and outfitter, but they are personally benefiting from the decisions that are being made about the marketing campaign.

                                             So I think that one of the points, one of the first things that I would do is in dealing with the politics is making sure that you have a third party at the table, whether that is a facilitator, and I think personally I have facilitated these discussions for entities. I’ve also hired facilitators and I think they’re well worth their weight in gold, because they can keep a conversations off track, and they can say the really hard things that are potentially going to offend someone, but they’re not offensive, because it’s coming from a third-party agency that’s just looking from the 30,000 foot view.

                                             I think the other thing that makes it so critical to hire an agency in some regard, because the agency can also act as that third-party professional and come in and say hey we have run the numbers and we feel like this is going to give you your best ROI, your best bang for the buck, but as an agency they’re the professional, and they’re the expert, and I think it’s a little bit harder to argue against what they’re trying to tell you to do.

Adam Stoker:                    You know, it shouldn’t be that way, but sometimes people trust that third party, just because it’s two voices saying it instead of one. That’s not where I expected you to go, I don’t hate where you went for sure as an agency owner, but I think regardless of whether it’s an agency or you’re bringing in someone in-house that buys that media, I think you’re absolutely right, having that outside looking in perspective gives a little bit of confidence for the people involved.

Jordan Barker:                  Yeah, I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I think the other nice thing too is because there’s so many people that have different opinions and they want to weigh in — going back to either having a third party that can help facilitate this or even using the technology yourself —it used to be that the person with the most seniority or a lot of times we refer to the highest-paid person in the room, they were the ultimate decision makers. If their idea was presented in the room, then that’s typically what happened. Everyone had no other option but to fall in line and to execute on that plan or idea. Now, if you’ve got a third party that can help you facilitate this, or again, there’s a lot of technology that helps you to do this, but going back to the data conversation, it’s really nice, because if you do have multiple people with different ideas, let’s test the ideas, let’s run a test.

                                             So if someone has an idea on the homepage, they feel like it should be this design, or the button should be this color, that’s great, why don’t we actually test both of those options, run those tests for a specified period of time, take a look back at the data and let the data do the talking. The combination of either having a third party that can speak to that and to be able to have hard conversations and say things that might not be particularly popular with the board or whoever’s involved, right? But the nice thing about that is again, if you can have the data to support that, it’s a nice way of being able to incorporate various ideas, test those, report back on the data and say this is what’s resonating with the visitor, and this what the visitor thinks.

                                             I mean at the end of the day, that’s really where the focus is right? Let’s make sure that they’re having that experience that we promised they would have and ensure that’s happening.

Adam Stoker:                    And maybe that’s another topic for another show entirely, because how do you take all this data that you have — which all destinations have got a lot of data — how do you package it and organize it in such a way that it’s compelling enough for you to be able to push your plan through the stakeholders that might have something to say.

Jordan Barker:                  Exactly right, yup, exactly right.

Adam Stoker:                    Well, Kaitlin, I think we’ll wind down here, I know you got a lot going on and we don’t want to take too much of your time, but one more question, and actually I think maybe we’ll ask you two more questions, sorry I lied. The first one is, what do you think is the most important thing for a tourism marketer to do? What is the most important component of tourism marketing?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Gosh, I think the most important component to tourism marketing is probably the guest experience. Circling back to really understanding who your client is, not speaking to everyone in the same voice, but giving voice to the visitors and targeting them. Creating sequential communications with them that are meaningful and that are going to not only encourage them book a trip today but also encourage them to relive their experience by telling their friends, and then serving up additional options for stays two through five. I think that is something that we can all do better at because it’s not necessarily the easiest thing. It’s much easier to just put an ad in a publication but I think it’s really critical and a huge opportunity for our industry, and I think one of the ways we can learn more about that is look at some private sector businesses that are non-tourism that do things really well.

                                             Whether it’s car companies, or General Mills or whatever it is, but learning more tactics and how to engage the visitors. I’m not talking just about the front end; I’m really talking about how do we make it that cyclical cycle and encourage them to become our champions?

Jordan Barker:                  I really like that; I think that’s an area that sometimes gets overlooked. I think the focus is not really how do we get someone there to our destination, but how do we keep them coming back? I think a lot of that goes back to keeping true to that brand promise, so that if your marketing message matches what the experience is once it actually gets there, I think that’s key. I think that if you show me, and I think we talked a little bit about this on the last episode, but if you show me an ad of your destination and there’s nobody there and when I get there it’s just as overcrowded mess, that’s probably not going to really resonate with me, so I think that goes back to the brand promise that we’ve talked about. I think you’re right, there’s a lot of companies that do this really, really well, or they get repeat visitors, and that’s the most cost-effective way to market.

                                             You’ve already spent the marketing dollars to get them to do whatever the intended action was, in tourism it’s to get them to visit. So how do we get them to tell their friends and their families and turn them into true brand ambassadors? I think we can look at a lot of companies that do that really, really well. So, say what you will about Amazon, but they do this really, really well. They’ll give you a product, you purchase it, and then they’ll give you recommendations. So imagine if you could apply that same logic to the tourism industry, if you said, “Hey, you came and visited this one particular spot, did you even know that we also have these five, six, seven other activities that for people like you would also make sense? Based off some of these activities that you guys have expressed interest in.”

                                             I think there’s a huge opportunity there for us to be able to say, obviously there’s an anchor that pulls people into your destination and says “This is why you should come and visit us, but also the next time you come and visit, make sure you come check out our rafting experience, or make sure you come and check out all of the amazing trails that we have.” Whatever it is, our destination has more to offer than this one thing, so bring your family, tell your friends, and give them a reason to do that. Obviously best-case scenario is they organically had such a great experience, so they want to tell their friends, they want to tell their families, they’re excited. It doesn’t hurt to give them a reason to do that and help facilitate that. That could be, “Hey, share this link with a friend” or it could be some sort of competition or contest. I think there’s a number of ways you can do that, but obviously best-case scenario is organically, they loved it, they want to come back, they want to tell their friends about it, but I do think as marketers there’s thing we can do to help facilitate that process, to make it a little bit easier for them to do so.

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Yeah, and I think in a lot of ways it goes back to that old-school concept of loyalty programs. You see companies still using loyalty programs today, a lot of times Marriott or Hilton and they’ve got their reward points. Not that we would issue reward points for coming on a vacation, but how do we serve them up something really special as a thank you?

Adam Stoker:                    Yeah, you know I actually think that’s a great idea, and it leads into my final question. You talk about how we don’t invest very much into the post-visit experience right now, and I think that’s a huge opportunity. I’m glad you went there and maybe if we have you on another time, we’ll go a little deeper on that, because that could be a whole topic in-and-of itself. The final question that I have for you today, and Kaitlin, it’s really been great to have you on. I appreciate your insight, we’ve been educated. We like to ask everyone at the end of the episode, what do you think is coming for the tourism industry? Especially future technology or future ability specifically from a marketing standpoint? What do you think we have to look forward to and tools that maybe we can use or lots of different options, but what could that be? What do you see that as?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               Well, I think that the industry is moving so quickly and I think what we’re going to see is a more holistic approach to destination marketing. There’s really a lot of buzz words right now in the industry around over tourism, and place making is a big one that people like to throw out. I think that as marketers we’re going to see ourselves having a larger role in the entire experience. I think it’s going to not only be on the backend customer service or guest experience but also be a literal responsibility for destination marketing organizations to really pivot to become destination management organizations and I think the marketing role in all of that is servicing the guest at every step of the trip and really packaging the experience in a unique way.

                                             I think that as a management organization that’s going well beyond that as well. I think we’re going to see ourselves delving into the needs of a community and how we help build them out, how we merge the quality of life with the visitor experience, all of that. But I think from a marketing perspective, it’s really going to become not only following up on the backend, but also how we facilitate the experience, serve them up options, as they’re here on the ground.

                                             So one example of that might be implementing a technology system at the national parks or an app where they can log in and they can see that a wait time to hike to a certain monument is two hours, but here’s another suggestion of a state park that you can go to that really would be a national park. It’s national park quality and you’re going to have this awesome experience, and oh, by the way, there’s no wait time at all. I think it’s going to get into this real time marketing, and I think it’s going to become more of a conversation, an ongoing conversation that happens in real time that services guests on the ground and beyond.

Adam Stoker:                    Yeah, a brand connection throughout the experience. I think that’s a great thing and I’m excited to see it come to pass. I’m sure we’ll be able to work together on that at some point. So, Kaitlin thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate having you on. Anything else you want to say before we go, or any last words there?

Kaitlin Eskelson:               No, I don’t think so. It’s been really great to share some of my ideas, and not only that we’re so fortunate to live here in Utah, but also be able to be in an industry that’s so passionate. One of the greatest things about the industry and destination marketing is that we all get to be super creative, we just get to play it out and see what sticks, see what the guest responds to, and if we need to, we can make changes. It’s really a journey, and it’s really fun to work in this industry.

Adam Stoker:                    Great, great. Thanks everyone for listening. We will talk to you soon. This is the Destination Marketing Podcast. I’m Adam Stoker, I’m here with my co-host Jordan Barker, and thanks to Kaitlin Eskelson for joining us today.