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.
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.
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:
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.
Unlike 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
What do you aim to accomplish from the program? Here, you should list or determine the following:
How do you plan to deliver incentives to the tourism ambassadors certified? The three most common strategies for incentivizing your certified ambassadors include:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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!