tourism certified ambassador program destination academy

Why Your Destination Needs Online Tourism Ambassador Certification

A decade ago, grassroots marketing was nothing short of a subsidiary tactic for generating brand awareness. Marketers didn’t put any value to the frontline visitor experience until recently, when social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok began having an influx of users. Today, what was deemed a marketing afterthought is estimated to be a $5-$10 billion industry.

Despite this opportunity, some destination marketing organizations (DMO) and convention & visitor bureaus (CVB) are still skeptical on whether they should invest in designing and maintaining a tourism ambassador program. For that reason, we decided to create an in-depth guide on why a tourism ambassador certificate program is a must-have for leisure, convention, domestic and international market development.

So let’s get down to business.

 

What's a Tourism Ambassador Program?

A tourism ambassador program is an ingenious marketing strategy where a destination marketing organization works with is various stakeholder groups (government, business, residents and tourists) to achieve specific goals like improving visitation, building a positive brand reputation, or increased recognition.

The tourism and destination ambassadors usually leverage their love for sharing the destination with others to accomplish the goal of promoting positive visitor experiences within your city, state, country or region. These uplifting moments drive visitors to utilize their own social media channels to further promote your destination as a desirable place to visit. This can be through online channels like social media posts or blogging or offline strategies like when providing transportation, attractions and experiences, front desk services at your hotels, guest services at the airport, trade exhibitions, and events. Blending these and letting your ambassadors do the work for you is the perfect recipe for success.

certificate tourism ambassador certified certification

In essence, tourism ambassador programs usually don’t follow a distinct timeline or duration, but most of the partnerships are generally long-lasting. For the best outcomes, CVBs and DMOs must equip their tourism ambassadors with up-to-date and real-time information to keep the end-users (visitors) hooked on the destination's content. This information includes:

  • New product and destination details or offerings
  • Price changes and available discounts
  • Any changes in the destination's marketing tactics
  • CVB press and announcements

What's to gain from a Tourism Ambassador Program?

Working with credible and friendly tourism ambassadors benefits your destination in several ways. Most importantly, they can boost your brand on social media, instigate sales increases, and spread positive messages about your destination. Below is an in-depth look at how your business can benefit by having tourism brand ambassadors. 

Ambassadors stretch your budget further

certificate tourism ambassador certified certificationUnlike one-off, short-term influencer partnerships, ambassador programs secure more loyal, long-term alignment with community stakeholders. Tourism ambassadors are more likely to volunteer their services and/or incorporate your messaging into the work they already do, serving visitors and creating travel experiences. 

Ambassadors amplify brand awareness

Thanks to your visitors' enormous social media following, tourism ambassadors can create moments that compel new social posts, stories & experiences. Therefore, driving awareness about your destination, making it a household name among people who plan conferences, and those who love to travel but never considered your area before. They also promote brand awareness faster than traditional advertising.

Ambassadors improve your brand's image

Did you know that visitors prefer authentic local experiences rather than the same things to see, do and eat they can get back home. Who better than a local tourism ambassador to bring humanity to an otherwise faceless brand? Tourism ambassadors can help promote your destination image and help it stick to each visitor's memory. Ambassadors also help improve your destination's image by attaching positive experiences to it. 

Ambassadors protect your reputation

Imagine your destination making headlines in the press for all the wrong reasons. Without trained and certified ambassadors, your visitors would most likely believe the misleading headlines. Each tourism ambassador comes in handy on such occasions to defend your destination against defamation or derogatory statements that might hurt your reputation with your target audiences and future visitors.

Ambassadors offer unmatched publicity

No more making huge investments in paid ads to promote new product releases, upcoming events, or destination news. Each brand ambassador can overdeliver on all of these and at a budget that’s more attractive than traditional marketing tactics.

certificate tourism ambassador certified certificationAmbassadors are advocates for your DMO or CVB

Aside from boosting your destination awareness, tourism ambassadors also spread positive word-of-mouth about your work, improving stakeholders' opinions about your destination marketing organization and increasing your convention & visitors bureau affinity.

Share news about important issues or public initiatives with your tourism ambassadors to rally support for your cause.

Ambassadors can grow your destination's social accounts

Picture this: thousands of visitors arrive in your destination; each a social media following of hundreds, thousands or more. If they are repeatedly posting about your destination with hashtags or a link to your destination’s pages, that’s MILLIONS of people being exposed to your destination EACH DAY. That will definitely gain new followers for your destination's social accounts. Additionally, you can recruit influencers to become tourism ambassadors to do a “live take over” of your destination’s account to grow your following even more.

Why should you certify Tourism Ambassadors?

Certificate vs. Certification

Certification validates and recognizes an individual’s existing experience, competency, knowledge, and skills. The certification requirements usually include experience and education components. For example, the eligibility requirements for the Certified Association Executive (CAE) include:

  • Experience: three years of experience as a CEO at a qualifying organization, or five years of experience working at the staff level at a qualifying organization.
  • Education: a bachelor's degree or higher, or in lieu of a degree, eight additional years of professional work experience.
  • Continuing education: 100 hours of broad-based qualifying professional development within the last five years preceding the application submission.

Certification programs are not linked to any specific learning program—a key distinguisher from certificate programs. Instead, certification programs assess the individual’s previously acquired knowledge and skills. The assessment of certification candidates is broad in scope.

Certification usually requires individuals to recertify if they wish to maintain their designation. The certification renewal requirement ensures that designation holders continue to pursue professional development and stay current in their field.A certificate program is linked to a specific learning program or series of learning programs. You may also hear certificate programs called “Assessment-Based Certificate” or “ABC” programs.

Unlike certification, a certificate program provides instruction and/or training to acquire specific competencies, knowledge, and/or skills. The student is assessed on their mastery of the intended learning outcomes of those programs, and is awarded a certificate to recognize that mastery. Certificates are not awarded merely for attendance.

Digital badges may also be awarded as an additional visual representation of the student’s accomplishment. Learners are increasingly interested in obtaining digital badges because they are public, sharable proof of accomplishment, unlike paper certificates that remain unseen in file cabinets and on office walls.

RELATED: Tourism Ambassador Training & Certification by The Tourism Academy

 

Why offer certification and/or certificate programs?

certificate tourism ambassador certified certificationASAE Foundation researchers investigated the benefits of credential programs both to the associations that award them and to the professionals who hold them. Here’s what they learned.

Credentialing programs:
  • Increase member loyalty to the association.
  • Increase the association’s visibility.
  • Increase the association’s legitimacy as the voice of its members.
  • Reinforce the association’s value.
  • Provide a service valued by both employers and members.
Associations reported that credentialed members were more likely to:
  • Be leaders in their field and maintain a competitive advantage.
  • Comply with standardized practices.
  • Renew their membership.
  • Hold a leadership position within the association.
  • Participate in association activities.
Managers of credentialing programs identified the following benefits of credentialing for designation holders:
  • Recognition
  • Elevated status
  • Improved reputation
  • Sense of achievement
Knowing many designation holders, I’d add a few more to that list:
  • Deeper, wider knowledge of profession and industry
  • Bigger-picture, strategic perspective
  • Access to new relationships: fellow study group members, candidates, designation holders, and employers
  • Competitive edge
By offering credentialing programs, your association is training and recognizing the leaders of your profession or industry. You’re helping to bridge skills gaps in your tourism industry’s workforce. And, you’re building your association’s reputation as the place to come for professional development and advancement.

Creating a Successful Tourism Ambassador Program: What does it take?

Creating a successful tourism ambassador program may seem complicated from the outlook. But if take a step-by-step approach, it’s not as difficult as you expect. Here’s our proven formula:

Step #1. Set your goals and key performance indicators, KPIs

What do you aim to accomplish from the program? Here, you should list or determine the following:

  • The budget you can afford to dedicate to the program
  • The number of tourism ambassadors you want to certify
  • The kinds of DMO/CVB-to-ambassador engagements
  • The volume of posts required for you to hit your goals
  • The volume and quality of content you want your ambassadors and visitors to share
  • The increase in new visitors, contracts and sales that you expect to gain

Step #2. Draft an incentive strategy

How do you plan to deliver incentives to the tourism ambassadors certified? The three most common strategies for incentivizing your certified ambassadors include:

  • Upfront reoccurring incentives – where you reward them on a regular basis in advance using experiences, cash, gift cards, and/or products. This is the best option when you want your ambassadors to create original content about your brand and products and feel like they are an extension of your team.
  • Incentives after post or activity – this is where you give your ambassadors experiential direction and a program (volunteer or employee) schedule then reward them on a per-activity or social post basis. This option is usually recommended for long-term collaborations where you’re still feeling out the ambassador's value.
  • After activity + bonus payment – this involves giving your ambassadors a goal (hours volunteered, people served, experiences had) to hit over a certain time period (like the holidays) and then monitoring their participation and performance. This option can be a win/win partnership for a influencer that converts and a destination with popular products. 

Step #3. Identify ambassador unique strongholds

Every destination has unique experiences, goals and objectives, making it challenging to find a one-fits-it-all tourism ambassador model. However, you can decide whether an ambassador under consideration is the right fit if:

  • They've volunteered to participate
  • They’ve used your brand’s hashtags or shown love for your destination repeatedly
  • They’ve engaged in similar campaigns previously and performed impeccably
  • They have a large and active online audience
  • Their engagement rate is above average for their following

Step #4. Find and invite your ambassadors

The next step is announcing the opening program and/or position and finding potential candidates. If you’re already running an influencer, volunteer or staffed front-line program, we suggest asking your high-impact, top-performing influencers first since they’ve already been exposed to your destination marketing organization, its culture and objectives. After selecting your preferred destination ambassadors, the on-boarding process begins. This involves sharing your:

  • Brand needs and expectations
  • What your ambassadors will receive in return
    • Compensation, rewards and/or incentives
    • Shout outs on your brand pages
    • Free experiences
  • Consumer insights and research
  • Marketing campaign calendar

Step #5. Launch the Program

certified ambassador tourism certification front-line alignment destinationBelow are our recommended best practices for communicating with your ambassadors after launch:

  • Brief them regularly
  • Notify them of new products and offers first
  • Give them the liberty of creating social content and visitor interactions their way
  • Make them feel like an extension of your in-house team
  • Ask for their feedback on your destination and its products/initiatives
  • Send them curated gift packages with items like:
    • Product samples
    • Destination swag
    • Seasonable items

Step #6. Track Success

After getting your tourism ambassador certification program up and running, the next step is measuring its success by revisiting your KPIs and comparing them with real-time performance.

Watch indicators such as:

  • Your brand’s following and other social metrics like engagement
  • Your website or e-commerce traffic
  • Visitor, meeting and convention volume year over year for the period

You can leverage performance analysis tools like Brandwatch to gauge the overall impact of your certified ambassadors’ and visitors' posts and comments. What’s more, you can conduct tourism ambassador surveys to gain feedback regarding crucial factors like incentives, communication, program execution, etc. This can give you ideas of what adjustments you want to make to the program going forward.

Get the hype and buzz your brand needs

Ambassador programs are all about creating long-term relationships with your community. When your influencer’s audience sees your brand’s content repeatedly over the long-term, your company begins to grow exponentially, both in sales and awareness. Isn’t that every business owner’s dream?

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!

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