Ireland’s Gathering

Like many countries around the world, Ireland’s economy took a big hit back in 2008. But while other countries have been able to slowly pick up the pieces, Ireland’s unemployment rate remains at a high 14%, and the number of foreign visitors to the country has dropped dramatically. To combat the stigma surrounding the country and to raise revenue, the country launched a tourism campaign called The Gathering to bring tourists to Ireland in 2013. The campaign is targeted at the 70 million people of Irish decent who live abroad, specifically the half of those who reside in The United States and Canada.

The Gathering

So what is The Gathering all about? It relies on the initiatives of individuals and organizations to host events or “gatherings” all over the country. Those who want to post an event can create an account on the website and register their event, at which time it will be searchable by date and by location in Ireland via an interactive map. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of events happening all over the country this year, ranging from clan gatherings, to pipe band championships, to lamb festivals, to choral festivals and every other Irish type of event that you could imagine (even a redhead convention). Visitors are encouraged to plan their trips to Ireland around which events they wish to attend. For example, someone with the last name Arthurs would probably be interested in attending the Arthurs clan gathering, and would plan their travel accordingly.

Ireland Gathering

Where’s England??

Ireland Gathering

As you zoom in you can find more events

 

The website also has a section that features daily stories about the different gatherings that are happening. One recent story was written about the Tolkien Burren Society Festival. Apparently Tolkien spent a lot of time in Ireland, and it is believed that the Burren inspired The Lord of the Rings.

So has this campaign actually worked? Apparently, yes, at least to some extent. Visits to Ireland by North Americans rose by 17% in the first quarter of 2013. Tourism is at an all time high compared to 2009 and years since, but still hasn’t quite made it back to the numbers that Ireland saw in early 2008 just before the crash. It’s still too early to tell whether or not this campaign will be able to bring in enough tourists to set it back to pre-crash level, but I think it’s safe to say that it is off to a good start.

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Bien fait, Emirates, Well done

When I fly abroad, I usually travel on American airlines (not just American Airlines, but also United and Delta). On every flight to or from a country where English is not the primary language, there are always one or two flight attendants who speak the native language. It’s fun (and sometimes tedious) to hear and compare the announcements in two different languages.

But everything isn’t as great and multi-cultural as it seems. On my flight back from Turkey a few years ago, I sat behind a very traditional, older Turkish woman who didn’t speak any English. When the American flight attendant who was pushing the drink cart down the isle stopped at her row and asked her what she wanted to drink, the woman responded “su”, which means water in Turkish. However, the American flight attendant, didn’t understand, and (rather rudely, I thought) replied that they didn’t have soup, so what would she like to drink?

I’m not really sure why I didn’t jump in and help them out. I had been in Turkey for almost a month and had picked up quite a few useful words and phrases, “water” being one of them. And yet I just sat there and watched this miscommunication continue for a few more minutes until the Turkish flight attendant came over and was able to fix the situation.

Me in Turkey

Me in Turkey

From what I understand, flight attendants are assigned to certain routes that they keep for a long period of time. So unless this woman had just recently been switched, it is safe to assume that she had flown this route many times. And yet she never bothered to learn even the most basic Turkish words that she would need to use at her job! This was mind-boggling to me, and annoyingly  reflective of the stereotype about Americans that we assume everyone else speaks English so we don’t bother to learn other languages. Wouldn’t it make more sense for airlines to have a completely bilingual crew in order to ensure that everyone, whether they speak English or not, has a pleasant flight?

This is why I am usually impressed by the language capabilities of flight attendants on foreign airlines, the few times I have flown on them. I recently discovered a new ad campaign from Emirates that highlights the airline’s linguistic capabilities and multiculturalism. The campaign is called “Share a Smile“, with the tagline “with our multi-lingual crew”. On its website you can find videos highlighting different charming phrases in 14 different languages.

I have never flown Emirates before, so I have no idea if every member of their crew is actually bilingual, but they are sending the right message with this ad campaign. Every language is beautiful and deserves to be respected, as do all of the multi-national individuals who fly on airlines, no matter what they look like or what language they speak.

So bravo Emirates!

Until next time, gule gule

Boston Strong

It has been quite the week for the city of Boston.

It’s been both heartwarming and interesting to see the outpouring of support from all over the country, and even the globe. I say interesting because I’ve noticed that, in all the support, people have been highlighting everything that Boston stands for, from its puritan roots, to its New England slang, to its college vibe, to its marathon runners, to its famous baseball team, to its kind people. In a sense, it is almost getting branded. Granted, we all wish that this could have come about under much better circumstances, but it is a fascinating study of how destination branding works by finding the best about a place and highlighting it. So lets take this time to celebrate how awesome Boston is!

Below, I’ve included some of the examples of support that I’ve come across.

Boston's got British heritage and its own unique slang

Boston’s got British heritage and its own unique slang

You've gotta be pretty strong to survive those cold New England winters

You’ve gotta be pretty strong to survive those cold New England winters

Rivalry? What Rivalry?

Rivalry? What Rivalry?

So many Boston symbols in one sign!

So many Boston symbols in one sign!

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 2.31.56 PM

Boston is full of helpers

Boston is full of helpers

Boston is freedom

Boston is freedom

Boston has amazing schools

Boston has amazing schools

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 2.53.40 PM

And most importantly, this:

#Prayforboston

Cool Tourism Strategy: The Best Jobs in the World

Imagine that one morning you are scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, feeding kangaroos in the afternoon, and sipping wine at an Australian vineyard at night. Sound like a great vacation? Well for six lucky people it will be their JOBS!

Me studying in Australia

Me studying in Australia

Tourism Australia has just closed applications for its competition called The Best Jobs in the World, a genius marketing tactic based off of the success of The Best Job in the World, hosted by Tourism Queensland in 2009. The winner of the 2009 competition was a British man named Ben Southall who beat out 35,000 others to become caretaker of Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. He is now working for the Queensland Tourism board and is helping to market the new campaign.

The premis of the competition is this: There are 6 positions, and each person selected gets a $50,000 salary and $50,000 for living expenses, and gets to live his or her dream for six months. The positions offered are: Chief Funster, who will be stationed in Sydney and will get VIP behind the scenes access to write reviews of some of Sydney’s best events like the Vivid Festival and Mari Gras; The Outback Adventurer, who will be stationed in the Northern Territory and will get to immerse him or herself in indigenous culture and explore the Outback; The Park Ranger, who will be stationed in Queensland and will be expected to promote plant and animal life, patrol the beaches, and test the water temperature (is that code for swimming?); The Wildlife Caretaker, who will be stationed on Kangaroo Island and be in charge of caring for the animals there, which include kangaroos (duh), sea lions, seals, dolphins and koalas; The Lifestyle Photographer, who will get to work for the publication Time Out Melbourne, and have the opportunity to photograph interesting things happening all over the city; and last but not least, The Taste Master, who will be stationed in Western Australia and be tasked with going to all the best restaurants, pubs, breweries and vineyards.

Being the Taste Master looks divine

Being the Taste Master looks divine

It should come as no surprise then that the contest received applications from more than 130,000 people within the first 72 hours. By the time the contest ended, they had received over 500,000 applications from over 287,000 people. The applicants hail from 140 different countries, with the majority coming from the United States, France, Australia, Italy, and the UK.

This campaign is a genius PR technique to raise awareness about the huge variety of tourism opportunities in Australia. They want to attract enthusiastic youths and tap into the travel psyche of all the thousands of hopeful candidates. All of those people who have their hearts set on one or more of these six jobs? They will be so devastated to be turned down that they might decide to visit Australia on their own dime. And that’s what I call a good marketing campaign.

 

Until next time, G’day, mate!

 

How Travel Marketers Can Take Advantage of Social Media Activity

If you’re anything like me, you’re pretty much addicted to your social media accounts.  Even when I’m about to leave the country, and I think to myself  “I should really use this time to take a break from social media”, it never ends up happening. This means that social media sites can provide a wealth of information to travel marketers.

Social Media

So many social media sites, so little time!

People use social media for all aspects of their travel experiences , from the pre-trip planning, to the mid-trip status updates and tweets, to the post-trip photo sharing. A lot of this is done on Facebook. I often see Facebook statuses along the lines of “heading to X in June, anyone have any recommendations on what to see and do?” Wouldn’t it be cool if marketers and advertisers anticipated these types of posts and paid for Facebook ads to appear whenever a status like that was posted? For example, if I said that I was going to Hong Kong, Facebook could read that and choose to show me an ad that says “Heading to Hong Kong? Why not stay at the Peninsula Hotel?” Now THAT would be some really useful advertising!

Apparently, 85% of leisure travelers use their smartphone’s while abroad. This is slightly surprising considering how expensive that can be if not done properly (FYI the best thing to do is to put your phone on airplane mode and pick up Wi-Fi wherever you can). While I’m traveling, I like to post updates on my Facebook and Twitter. Marketers could use the same Facebook advertising strategy to reach me at this stage. If I post about Portugal, or check in at a local restaurant, they can show me ads about what to see and do in Portugal. Twitter makes this even easier with hashtags. Marketers can search for certain hashtags and tweet back to people who are in their area, asking them if they are interested in say, a Portuguese wine tasting.

Foursquare is another great resource to use while traveling, although I’ll admit that I have yet to try it out for myself. Check out this article for Foursquare marketing tips.

And then of course there is Instagram. Instagram is the social platform I use to share photos while I’m still abroad. Like Twitter, people can tag their photos so that they end up in certain groupings. Marketers can search through these tags and comment on photos. I would definitely be pleasantly surprised and impressed if I got a personalized comment from a company that complimented my photo and gave me a suggestion about what to see in that place.

Instagram Portugal

Here is an Instagramed photo of me using social media on my phone while updating my blog at the same time in Portugal

You would think that once people return from a trip abroad, that travel marketers would no longer be interested in them. But this isn’t true. They want you to write reviews and spread the news to your friends. A cool idea for a marketer at a hotel would be to ask for guests’ twitter accounts and to tweet at them when they return home, saying “If you enjoyed your stay with us, we would be eternally grateful if you would write us a review on tripadvisor!” They could also encourage guests to take photos around the hotel and to identify the hotel when they upload the photos to Facebook and Instagram. That way their friends will see what an awesome place the hotel is and might want to book a room there if they ever go to that location.

Until next time, 再见

Pinterest: The Ultimate Destination Marketing Tool

If you are a marketer or owner of a travel agency, hotel, or airline and you aren’t on Pinterest, then you are losing out on a lot of potential business and exposure. Why? Because Pinterest is THE place that people, especially women, go to look at gorgeous pictures of exotic locations. How do I know this? Well first of all I’ve read about it. Travel is the 9th most popular category on Pinterest, and “Favorite Places & Spaces” is the 6th most popular board name.

From my Pinterest

From my Pinterest

Secondly, I know from first hand experience. The three things I pin the most are food, fashion and travel, and these are the three places where I get the most repins. Check this out if you are looking for some serious travel porn.

And it makes sense doesn’t it? People who are marketing destinations are going to promote their businesses with beautiful pictures. And what do people like to pin on Pinterest? Beautiful things.

Did somebody say beautiful things??

Did somebody say beautiful things??

The important aspect for marketers is that travel photos on Pinterest create desires. A person who is sitting at work, bored out of her mind, might come across your pin, wish she was at that gorgeous tropical beach, and click on the pin to locate the original site of the photo. If the link happens to lead her to your resort or your travel agency that is offering great deals, she might actually think about going! That’s the thing about Pinterest. People pin things that they want in the future more often than things that they already have or have already done, which is awesome for marketers.

OoOohh

OoOohh

And now that Pinterest has added analytics, you can actually see how successful your pins are and how many impressions you are getting. So there is no downside to getting a Pinterest, except perhaps that it will use up a little bit of your time. But that small cost is more than worth the opportunity to get your photos out in front of people who actually want to see them.

Until next time, Sayonara!

Cool Tourism Strategy: Portugal’s Pousadas

I’m writing this blog post from inside of a castle in the town of Estramoz, Portugal. Sound strange? Well, it feels that way too. I have a feeling that most buildings that can date their origins back to the 13th century don’t have great wifi. But this is not most buildings, and it’s not most castles either. This is the hotel that I’m staying in, and it is one of 37 pousadas, or government owned hotels, in Portugal (with a few in the Azores and in Brazil), which are similar to Spanish paradores.

Pousada in Estramoz

Pousada in Estramoz

Pousada in Estramoz

Pousada in Estramoz

Pousada in Estramoz

Pousada in Estramoz

Antonio Ferro, Minister of Information and Propeganda came up with the idea for pousadas in 1940. The first pousada opened in 1942. They were intended to be hotels that were “genuinely Portuguese”. The most typical and well known pousadas are in historic buildings such as castles, monasteries and convents, and are converted into hotels in an effort to both preserve the magnificent history of Portugal (many of the buildings were in bad shape when the government bought them), and to allow tourists (many of whom are Portuguese themselves), to live it.

These hotels really do give visitors to Portugal an experience unlike any other. Because of the state of disrepair that many of the buildings were in, the architects put in charge of renovating them were able to take a lot of artistic license and create modern hotels with unique design elements inside of the ancient buildings. And yet some of the pousadas retain a lot of their original design, such as the one in Evora, which has small rooms because the building used to be a monastery and the guests rooms were built out of the cells of the monks!

There are also pousadas that are classified under the labels “historic design”, which means that they have both historic and modern elements; “charm”, which means that they are in typical and charming Portuguese buildings; and “nature”, which means that the hotels are located in natural environments with elements of eco tourism.

You can travel around the Portuguese countryside hopping from pousada in tiny town, to pousada in tiny town, experiencing all that these wonderful hotels and their surroundings have to offer.

In 2003, the Pestana group bought majority stock and took over the management of the hotel chain because the government was not making enough money off the venture and decided to privatize it. Presumably now that the hotels are under professional management, they are doing better. However, I have not been able to find financial information about them. But the fact that they are continuing to expand and build new hotels, and the fact that many tourists that I have met here seem to be doing the “pousada hop”, I’m guessing that the hotel chain is doing pretty well. And why not? Who wouldn’t want to sip wine from a castle terrace after a long day of sightseeing?

Pousada Cascais

Pousada Cascais

Inside Pousada Cascais

Inside Pousada Cascais

Until next time, adeus!

Romania asks “Why don’t you come over?”

Romania wants to show the world what a great personality it has!

Romania and Bulgaria, two of the poorest countries in Europe, joined the EU in 2005. In response, Great Britain put transitional controls in place to prevent a flood of migrants from these two countries into the UK. But those controls expire in December and Britain has decided to take action.

One suggestion that has been put out there is that Great Britain put out advertisements in Bulgaria and Romania that highlight the negative aspects of the UK and of its citizens to deter people from moving there. Needless to say this has offended many people in Bulgaria and Romania and one Romanian newspaper decided to show off the intelligence and great sense of humor of its people in a spoof ad campaign called “Why don’t you come over?” that turns the tables on Great Britain and encourages people to come to Romania.

Here are some examples of this clever campaign:

Kate and Pippa Middleton

Kate and Pippa Middleton

That sounds appealing!

That sounds appealing!

Sounds delicious

Sounds delicious

The campaign has now served three purposes. It has shown Great Britain that Romanians are offended, demonstrated that Romanians are actually really smart and that the brits should want them to come over, and, with all of the international press that this story has gotten, it has given Romania a lot of free publicity for tourism!

What’s Next for Venezuela’s Tourism Industry?

As everyone has heard by now, Hugo Chavez, the controversial socialist president of Venezuela passed away on Tuesday. While the world waits in anticipation for what will happen next, not many are thinking about the impact that this will have on tourism in Venezuela. And I’m here to do just that.

Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez

 

When Chavez took power in 1999, the number of tourists going to Venezuela dropped drastically. The majority of visitors to the country were businessmen, students, and people going to see their families. The only notable numbers of tourists went to Venezuela because they were attracted by the controversial political scene, traveling on Reality Tours.

It’s not as if there isn’t a lot to see in Venezuela, which is home to a number of Andes mountains, areas of the Amazon rainforest, the world’s tallest waterfall, and the longest coastline in the Caribbean. The issue is that the government under Chavez made life very difficult for foreigners. The foreign exchange rates were very poor, meaning foreigners, especially Americans, couldn’t get much for their money. This also meant that foreign companies did not want to come to Venezuela, including multi-national airlines (a big problem for tourism). Many companies were afraid that their assets would be seized by the government. Adding to the mess was the resistance of the government to allow the United States to examine the security standards of Venezuelan airports with direct flights to the United States. And let’s not forget about the high murder rates. Venezuela has one of the top 5 murder rates in the world. But Jamaica, which has higher murder rates than Venezuela, and Colombia, which isn’t exactly known for its safety record, both have many more tourists coming in than Venezuela does. Why? Because they actually make an effort to court them. Venezuela has a notoriously bad tourism strategy, which many blame on the country’s reliance on oil revenues. As long as there is money in oil, the government doesn’t see much of a need to explore other sources of revenue. Talk about putting all of your eggs in one basket. This is obviously a really bad idea, especially considering all the effort that is going into developing alternative energy resources and the fact that oil is not a renewable resource.

So what’s going to happen now?

Right now, Chavez’s vice president Nicolas Maduro (a former bus driver) is the interim president of Venezuela. He hopes to hold elections in the very near future so that he can utilize all of the emotion that the country’s citizens are feeling after the death of their leader. He seems to be the likely favorite. Conservative opposition leader Henrique Capriles is expected to face off against him in the election. Regardless of who wins, there will probably be changes made to the way the country is run. Until the elections happen however, people will probably continue to stay away from Venezuela. This is a very delicate time for the country. If Capriles wins, there could be revolts among the lower classes, leading to more violence. However in the long run, a Capriles win would most likely be the most beneficial outcome for tourists (and for the country) because he is in favor of more open policies with the United States and other capitalist countries. But even Maduro could do a lot for tourism if he chooses to. All he has to do is make a concerted effort to develop a comprehensive tourism strategy that makes tourists feel welcome rather than pushed away. Of course there are many other changes that he could make that would make a big difference, but they would clash with his socialist political views. Only time will tell if he, or whoever is elected as the next president, will be able to put politics aside for the sake of tourism and the betterment of Venezuela.

Until next time, Adios!

So What’s the Deal With Egypt?

I’ve had a lot of people ask me if its “safe” to go to Egypt these days. I haven’t been since December 2008 so I don’t have a definitive answer for them. So I tell them what my gut instinct is: GO!

Go to Egypt!

Go to Egypt!

Let’s take a look back at the tourism situation in Egypt over the past few years. In 2010, the year before the Arab Spring, Egypt had roughly 14.7 million tourists. In 2011, that number dropped to 10.2 million and resulted in a loss of 3.5 billion dollars in revenue. Understandably, not too many people wanted to vacation in the middle of a revolution, but this loss hit Egypt hard because tourism is one of its primary sources of income.  But the continued turmoil in Egypt has affected much more than just the tourism industry. It has also kept away foreign investors, forcing Egypt to take out loans from neighboring oil-rich countries.

In the first half of 2012, the number of tourists in Egypt rose by 23% to reach 5.08 million. However, this was before the election and the tumult and ensued. The election of president Mohamed Morsi in the first free election that Egypt has ever had (and the second ever with more than one candidate), concerned many involved in the tourist industry because of his association with the Muslim Brotherhood. In the months leading up to and immediately following Morsi’s election, people speculated that Egypt would become less and less secular, and that it would have less tolerance for non-Islamic visitors- a huge problem for the tourist industry considering that the overwhelming majority of tourists who visit Egypt are European (11 million out of the 14.7 million tourists in 2010). And even if Morsi doesn’t take action against Western visitors, people in the tourism industry are worried that he will target their favorite activities- segregating beaches by sex, forbidding bikinis, and limiting availability of alcohol. While many Americans might not see this as a very big deal because we tend to go to Egypt for the history and culture, many Europeans visit Egypt on beach vacations, and cracking down on beach-goers’ freedoms would put a serious damper on this section of the tourist industry.

Mohammed Morsi

Mohammed Morsi

To be fair, Morsi has not indicated that he is going to implement any of these measures that some of his more conservative colleagues are calling for, and has been very welcoming to Western tourists. But tourists and Egyptians who work in the tourism industry are still very wary. Morsi recently payed a visit to Iran, where he has been trying to court Muslim tourists, a move seen by some as an effort to introduce more Islamic influence into the tourist industry. Additionally,  There has been a lot of unrest in the 8 months that Morsi has been in power, and he has not done a lot to try to win over the hearts of the people who work in tourism. A prime example can be seen in the tragedy that occurred last week when 19 people lost their lives in a horrible hot air balloon crash in Luxor, the very place where I experienced my first hot air balloon ride 4 years ago. Tour operators and hotel owners in Luxor are furious that Morsi has not made a public statement acknowledging the tragedy and expressing his sympathies for the families of the victims. This high profile crash was not good PR for poor Egypt, who can’t seem to convince people that the country is safe for tourists.

Sometimes you have to take risks if you want to enjoy life

Sometimes you have to take risks if you want to enjoy life

All of that being said, I encourage people to go to Egypt for a number of reasons.

1) For once the country isn’t teeming with tourists, and you’ll get the chance to explore the beautiful temples, tombs and pyramids without having to share the experience with a thousand other people.

2) Egypt is going through a very interesting period right now. Quite historic in fact. Don’t you think it would be cool to be able to say that you witnessed history in the making?

3) All of the bad PR that Egypt gets when something bad happens to tourists actually makes people in the tourism industry and the government go even more out of their way to protect tourists. So I imagine that its actually quite safe.

4) You never know what could happen in the future. If there was another revolution that plunged the country into chaos, wouldn’t you be glad that you had already checked Egypt off your bucket list?

5) Support the Egyptian economy. The Egyptians had the guts to throw out an authoritative ruler who wasn’t serving the interests of his people, and as a consequence, their economy suffered. Shouldn’t you reward them for doing the right thing by going to Egypt and buying lots of souvenirs?

Until next time,  مع السلامة

Sources:

http://www.travelweekly.com/Middle-East-Africa-Travel/Anxious-Egyptian-travel-industry-awaits-elections-tourism-impact/

http://www.timesofisrael.com/morsi-aims-to-bring-tourists-back-to-egypt/

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/egypt-courting-iranians-tourism

http://www.ibtimes.com/under-mohamed-morsi-will-egypts-tourism-industry-conform-islamic-law-704765

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/3/12/50220/Business/Economy/Five-million-tourists-visited-Egypt-in-H-,-up–pct.aspx

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/02/24/egypts-vote-turbulent-streets/1944757/

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765623543/Egypts-Morsi-criticized-for-reaction-to-tragedy.html

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2128881_2128882_2129194,00.html