Yes. When you’re trying to get your destination's message and brand out to the world, you probably already know the basics: content marketing, social media, email marketing, and the like.
But there’s a huge marketing resource that many budding destinations (and even top tier destinations) leave untapped: your biggest fans.
After all, one of the most powerful tools in marketing is still word of mouth. Through experience helping grow destinations of all sizes, one of the best ways to get the word out about your area is by getting in touch with your local audience and leveraging them to promote your brand. In other words, by building a tourism ambassador program.
Read on to learn some of the biggest merits of having a tourism ambassador certification program, and how you can get your own started today.
When you first launch or start working with a destination marketing organization or convention & visitors bureau, you’ll be inundating your friends and family on social media with every new blog post and company update you possibly can. That’s natural, and it’s good to be excited, but let’s be honest: Eventually, your contacts will probably start to glaze over your updates. After all, your immediate network is a huge fan of you—but not necessarily a fan of your promotions.
This is where having an growing community of tourism ambassadors who are just as excited about your destination and vision as you are can work wonders. You don’t have to do all of the sharing—because they will. When your DMO/CVB posts a new update or launches a new campaign, your tourism ambassadors will be thrilled to pass it along to their networks, too—helping spread the word about what you’re doing to many more people than you could reach on your own.
Event marketing can be a necessary evil when you’re starting out. Participating in trade shows, community events, and networking gives you a chance to connect with stakeholders and potential new customers, visitors or convention planners. But that costs money, time, and resources (not to mention requires a lot of patience and stamina!).
Luckily, most tourism and destination ambassadors are more than happy to volunteer their time to champion a destination or hometown they love at an event, especially if it’s one they would have attended anyway.
For example, my company The Tourism Academy focuses on improving education for tourism professionals, and we like to have a presence at as many conferences, instructional designer recruitments, trade shows, and high profile events as we can. Since our small team can’t be everywhere at once, we use our brand ambassadors—who are attending these sorts of events on their own—to help spread the word. In the past, this has been as small as outfitting our ambassadors with Tourism Academy swag to wear around the event and as large as having them staff our booth at an expo. We’ve even had brand ambassadors voluntarily ask to hand out marketing materials at educator events where there is no formal Tourism Academy participation. This is particularly helpful because our ambassador team is located all around the globe—and can cover a lot more ground than our small staff possibly could.
Your destination should always be in a state of evolution—whether you’re building new features, launching new products or making improvements to existing ones. But when you have your nose to the grindstone all day, sometimes it can be hard to see the changes that really need to be made. Having stakeholder eyes to give you feedback is enormously important, and your tourism ambassadors can be a great source of that sort of feedback. (They’re also excellent at reporting what the competition is doing, which is something you should be paying attention to anyway.)
Start out by having an open-door (or at least open-social-media or open-email) policy with your tourism ambassadors and regularly reminding them that you want to hear what they have to say. They may have opinions that you don’t like to hear, but know that they’re only sharing their thoughts because they actually care about your destination.
Then, when you’re getting ready to launch a new product or service, try giving your tourism ambassadors exclusive early access in return for their opinions on what needs to be done before releasing it to the world. And, if they love it, prompt them to share positive reviews.
You probably already know that content creation is a great way to bring in traffic and help solidify your destination voice to the general public. And you probably also know that it takes a lot of time! So, if you have a blog, website, newsletter, or other publication, tap into your tourism ambassadors. They’re likely to be excited about the opportunity—and since they represent your ideal visitor, the things they write about are likely to appeal to your other customers as well.
As an educational brand, we decided we wanted our blog to be full of content about our ambassadors’ training, courses and programs, and we’ve found that people have been happy to contribute. And while we give them a general guideline of what they should write about, it seems like they always figure out what our customers are really interested in reading by themselves.
So, how can you begin building a team of awesome tourism ambassadors? A call for tourism ambassadors in your existing newsletter and a call to action on your website are great ways to start. Share your invitation with all of your stakeholders and put out a press release. Be sure to include local civic organizations and volunteer groups in your messaging. You can also turn to Twitter to help you find people who are talking about your sector. Use Hootsuite to set up a Twitter stream based on keywords related to your brand. Those who are continuously tweeting about your keywords and offering up good content can be great people to reach out to.
While some brand ambassadors can be paid for their work, there are many who will represent your destination for free, just because they're excited about it. That said, if you don’t pay your tourism ambassadors, make sure they have access to some special experiences at no cost and any other perks you can throw their way. They should be treated as your most important customers—because really, they are. And together, you can create a lasting brand.
Read about Tourism Ambassador Training & Certification by The Tourism Academy or...
Bring destination stakeholders into alignment to support tourism:
Tourism Ambassadors from all possible market sectors come together to create a full visitor experience. Destinations, both big and small, can align these sectors successfully because each benefits from a positive visitor experience! Here are just a few of those who are positively impacted by your credentialed tourism ambassadors (CTA).
Need help aligning your community, finding tourism ambassadors or designing your tourism ambassador program? Contact us today and our expert team will be happy to help you get the results you’re looking for. Cheers!