Country managers Don McDougall (Europe), Paul Minich (Canada) and Thomas Ludington (USA) are tasked with keeping Cayman in the minds of potential visitors and the subsequent injection of cash into Cayman. Part II
Each of the Department of Tourism employees answered a set of questions posed by The Journal regarding the country-specific issues inherent in their day-to-day jobs and overall planning to promote the destination. Last month the marketing professionals spoke of economic conditions and what their own roles involve and now they turn their attention to matters of media, trade shows and more.
Can you explain some of the methods which are successful in getting good press?
Don McDougall (Europe): Our visiting journalist programme has proved massively successful in terms of coverage achieved in target media and also in terms of delivering return on investment (i.e. equivalent cost of exposure versus paid for coverage.) Our affinity marketing strategy is also a hugely successful method of ensuring wide brand exposure, through third party company endorsement of the destination and in achieving coverage via that third party company’s data base/high street space.
The advertising strategy allows Cayman a wider brand awareness combined with an aspect of education through the combination of above the line creative appearing alongside extensive advertorials in our media plan.
A solid sales and destination training programme via the most prolific travel trade distribution channels ensures that travel agents and tour operators are well versed to convert and sales leads generated by Department of Tourism marcoms.
Paul Minich (Canada): I divide press coverage into two camps – consumer and travel trade for the industry. From a consumer point of view, we have worked hard to educate general interest journalists (as opposed to travel-related journalists) and this has worked extremely well. As an example last year we invited food critics to Cayman Cookout as visiting journalists. We are still getting press and it is eight months after the event! Also, we have entered the on-line world with our PR efforts and this has been a critical success factor for us over the past two years.
On the travel trade side of things, the Canadian office has really ramped up its presence in the industry and that has translated into excellent press coverage for the travel agents, tour operators and airlines. The Cayman Islands as a brand is very visible within the trade.
Thomas Ludington (USA): Today, to garner good press, we look for items that are unique to market. Simple promotional fares, or packages don’t cut it. Clearly some of the things we do on island such as the National Geographic Challenge, our Fresh Air Fund Program are very unique and therefore newsworthy in the USA. The Kittiwake was also a phenomenal story this year because it had so many unique aspects – such as the fact that It was the first US ship to be given to a foreign country to be sunk and used as a reef. Additionally, our efforts in the areas of medial tourism, ecology and sports tourism all have some unique and interesting elements that journalists can latch on to and find that thread to weave a story from.
What is the role of social media and how has this impacted the marketing mix?
Don McDougall (Europe): CRM and social media plays an increasing role in customer loyalty and word of mouth endorsement for the destination. By utilising several social media streams simultaneously, we can keep Cayman top of mind amongst an audience which has opted to receive our communication. We can also tailor make specific content related news/opportunities to an audience already segmented by personal interest selection. Social media is instant, impactful and measurable.
Paul Minich (Canada): Canadians are among the heaviest users of on-line activities in the world, spending a disproportionate time on-line as a life style. We are connected as a nation. Our goal in Canada is to create a sense of “community” amongst Canadians who are interested in seeing not only what is happening in the Cayman Islands, but also what the Cayman Islands is doing in their communities at home. Our “events based “ marketing strategy has us involved with Canadian travellers in their home markets and we aim to use social media to create a buzz about our presence. It works.
Thomas Ludington (USA): Social media has emerged to be a very affordable and effective tool to communicate our story to people who have an interest in the region and the experiences we offer. It’s human nature to share experiences with each other and there is no better form of advertising than that good word of mouth. We can speak to these groups about the things that interest them, which helps in getting them to make the call to book their vacation. In this way, we can speak to areas such as culinary, dive, family, romance, sports and of course travel. As far as the mix is concerned, social requires a high degree of human resources to maintain the relationships formed and to keep the dialogue active and in addition, we are spending a large amount of man hours implementing our social media strategies.
What is the role of trade shows?
Don McDougall (Europe): Business to consumer niche interest themed events (such as nature shows, dive shows etc) are becoming increasingly more important and lucrative, compared to traditional business to business travel industry shows. Modern communications and media means that buyers no longer wait for trade shows to find inspiration and/or potential business contacts. They do so via the web/e mail and Skype. Even B2B is going virtual with the potential of a virtual Caribbean event on 16th December.
Paul Minich (Canada): In Canada we have opted to spend our promotional dollars at well targeted consumer events as opposed to consumer trade shows. Sponsoring a Rolls Royce street party is an example of this shift in philosophy. However, trade shows do remain important for the travel trade, as industry trade shows allow us to meet and educate travel agents efficiently.
Thomas Ludington (USA): Trade and consumer shows afford us the opportunity to interact with key influencers such as travel agents, wholesale operators, and dive industry people etc. on one place over a day or two. In addition to being able to speak with them, and put our promotional collateral in their hands, we collect their contact information and e mail addresses so we build our data base and can communicate with them in the future via social media and e mail. Additionally, the market intelligence gained from these shows enable the tourism department to identify market trends and perceptions of the destination that help us craft the messaging that we go to that particular market with. The same holds true at our consumer shows. We target dive, epicurean, romance, general travel and some sports shows and events that attract our target demographic.
How do attractions such as Kittiwake or events like Taste of Cayman go down with your target market?
Don McDougall (Europe): Kittiwake was a huge opportunity to gain extensive media coverage through PR activity and indeed will drive visitation from Europe as it complements the whole Cayman dive experience, which is already quite well known amongst the dive fraternity.
Culinary and music events are less of an opportunity because Europeans are surrounded by their own cultural diversity all close at hand, of which food and music are major motivators. Travelling for 13 hours to attend such events from Europe is not as attractive an opportunity as it is to someone who is exposed to less cultural diversity and who only has to travel from the USA.
Paul Minich (Canada): Very significant, especially when marketing to the niche sectors I described earlier. The dive community is obviously very focused on the excitement of Kittiwake, and as another example, when we talk to culinary enthusiasts in Canada they make travel plans around January to enjoy the epicurean activities. These events also provide story lines for editorial coverage-both print and on-line, which helps develop our PR initiatives.
Thomas Ludington (USA): These are fantastic events that give us the ability to differentiate ourselves from the competitive set by providing platforms that create demand. For instance, the sinking of the Kittiwake got us tremendous press in the dive magazines as well as national electronic media. This creates the interest and reasons for the consumer to visit, whether it be for the first time or a return. Taste of Cayman reinforces our dominance in the culinary aspects of our destination, which has become an integral part of vacation planning; especially in our target consumers. These are tremendous hooks, which journalist like to write about and consumers like to brag about the fact that they’ve been there.