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Together in Tourism Marketing

Whether you’re a tourism marketing board or a business in the hospitality sector, here’s some insight that can help you think a little more deeply about your marketing.

Recently, we attended a presentation by Tourism Calgary on their 2015 – 2017 Strategic Plan.    Chairman Rod McKay talked about a few basic areas of focus, including:

  • Energizing the brand of Calgary
  • Working to get incremental spend upward
  • Working together to drive traffic into Calgary

In my opinion, it’s the third area, working together, that is the crux of the mix.   If you can somehow harness the marketing muscle of the thousands of business within the hospitality sector, you can do amazing things.

Marketing Alone or Together?

Consider that every hotel, restaurant, and attraction in a given city likely has a marketing person on staff – if not a whole team of them.   Now, they if they are all working alone, trying to market their individual messages, they’re all competing and making a lot of noise in the market.Working together for Tourism Marketing

But if they all work together on a common platform in some way, they you have another thing – synergy.  Maybe a tourist comes into town to see a play, but stays at a nearby hotel, eats at a nearby restaurant, and perhaps shops in the stores around the theatre.  It’s this synergy that can create a strong unified brand, and exponentially drive traffic.

Marketing Together for Inglewood

Here’s an example that always stays close in my heart.  We were asked to market the Inglewood Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) in 2009, during the bad recession year when all the stores were suffering. One of the strategies we used was to put on inexpensive events that would involve the entire retail community.

One such example was a spring event we called “Springlewood.” This was a few years before social media really took off, but the principle was the same:   Get all the stores in the zone to put on an event of some kind, no matter how small, and have everyone promote it as one big event.  We had restaurants give a free sample of a feature product (like a free lemonade) clothing stores doing little fashion shows, pubs providing live music, and retail stores doing product demonstrations.   We even had a pet store giving little treats aways for the best dog tricks.   When stores didn’t know what they could do to create interest in their locations – we supplied the ideas, making sure every store had a chance to contribute.    Then we supplied the posters, put up the balloons, and photocopied flyers listing all the events, which stores stuffed into bags leading up to the event.   All the stores put up posters and handed out flyers about the event. And all the stores had balloons out front, branded in the bright yellow of the event.

Working together made the event a huge success on a very low budget.   Nearly every store I spoke with told me they’d had record sales that day (too bad that wasn’t enough to calculate an ROI!)  Even the local printer threw in the printing, so literally the event was done for under 500 bucks, mostly the cost of the helium and balloons.   All this even without social media!  So how does this apply to today?

Tourism Marketing – Working Together

Here’s what a tourism board  can do to maximize those principles, and even magnify them with the help of social media.  And even if you’re just an individual business (not a tourism board) — you can create your own microcosm of this by going to surrounding businesses and seeing if they can work as a team – like a mini BRZ.

  • Decide on a brand.  Want to be known as a shopping district?  A cultural or historical district?  A great place for families?   Come up with a direction and overall theme if you can.   It could even be something like “eclectic”  – much like Inglewood is- things you don’t see in a mall.
  • Give clear direction.  Clearly describe what you need everyone to do- e.g. provide photos of their special events/products,  provide a basic template for a blog, ask them to use a common hashtag in their tweets.tourism working together
  • Provide training and tips.  Show participating businesses how they can use events, marketing and social media to help their own businesses, and others that share customers.
  • Provide positive reinforcement.  When participants make great content, tell them – and share all their good content, and encourage everyone to share each others’ good content.
  • Constantly ask  participants to provide more content, and make it unique.   Ask them “What new events do you have coming up?   Do you have photos of new products/menu items/renovations?”
  • Get participants to support each other  by attending and commenting on each others’ events, new products, great service, their content, and by sharing and recommending each other.
  • Provide resources.  Give them a hashtag to use, give them a photo database, give them cooperative support for advertising.
  • Package together.  Put together packages that might include complimentary business – such as entertainment, hotel, and various attractions.   (Tourism Calgary is actively doing this, and looking to add new kinds of packages all the time.)

One thing we recall as being difficult in the Inglewood example:  getting businesses who’d never participated before to jump in and join the effort.    Tourism Calgary alluded to a new model here — knowing that not every business wants to buy a membership, they hinted at a new “pay to play” model — where even non-members can get a piece of the action.   This is a great way to let people “stick their toes in the pool”  – which can often lead to a full dive in the pool.  Try starting with a small commitment (say sharing the cost of a single ad, or a mini-event like what Springlewood was) and then grow from there.

Measuring Your Success

One terrific addition to the Tourism Calgary Strategic plan was the introduction of new “scorecards” that they will be using to measure the effectiveness of all of their marketing programs.  These scorecards measure how well the marketing campaigns are working, but also how well visitors feel about their experiences and whether their expectations were met.  These will be very interesting to see as time passes and year over year measurements are taken.    When you measure your investments and ROI as a team, you can keep tweaking the activities to improve them every time you do your marketing.


You can think of yourself as a separate business, or you can think of yourself as a piece of something bigger.  Alone, you can do your best part within a limited sphere, but when you can synchronize your efforts with businesses around you, you’ll be getting more for your money’s worth.    Our recommendation:  See if you can take this to heart by joining your tourism board, your chamber of commerce, or just working with your surrounding businesses on an informal basis, and see where it can take you.

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About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."