Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Many C’s of eTourism

Sunshine, a blue sea and 25 degrees outside temperature is just excellent when I know that at the same time it is freezing cold and snowing back home in Vienna. However, we had no time to relax at the beach because the topics covered on the second day of the E-Tourism & E-Marketing conference in El Gouna were far too interesting and not be missed. Just to make you a little bit jealous, though, I post a foto of me in the beautiful garden of the El Gouna Mövenpick hotel.

The presentations on the second day were centred around the themes distribution 2.0, branding 2.0 and tourism education and how tourism businesses and organizations can make the best usage of social media applications.

Matt Jerwood, discussed “How Tourism Organizations Can Embrace Digital Media and New Channels of Distribution” and pointed out that the “norm” of digital media usage evolves quickly and the challenge for tourism organisations is to keep up with that speed of change. He concluded that it does not make sense to put the same effort into all activities but tourism businesses should analyse and evaluate the strengths & purpose of different platforms and applications such as social media, email, mobile, web, sms or voice for different user activities. Not all platforms or services are likewise suitable for creating awareness, browsing for information, purchasing a product or post sales activities. Online is certainly an important part of the entire marketing mix and therefore businesses should also start reorganising their budget and shift it from traditional marketing to experiental marketing because online drives traffic and reservations. It’s all about selling experiences!

The issue of “E-Learning and Capacity Building in the African Travel Sector” was discussed by Damian Cook. He explained that eTourism consists of a number of important C’s in the travel life cycle that we need to consider in our marketing communications . eTourism means

  • Communicating the right
  • Content across a variety of
  • Channels to the best value
  • Clients who will
  • Convert to a sale and keep
  • Coming back

Dimitrios Buhalis provided an overview of how DMOs can exploit the new technologies for marketing and distribution. He revealed that he was able to predict the future but he cannot say when it will happen …
Nonetheless, he presented the lessons to be learned in order to tackle the challenges of the future. Travelers, he argued, were always connected through social networks and mobile applications. Therefore, a simple list of inventory of products and services is no longer enough for DMOs to stay competitive. They need to promote experiences and develop location based services for tourists en route.

The last session of yesterday was dedicated to Tourism education which faces challenges such as increasing globalization, sustainable tourism development, informatisation of the entire tourism value chain and the growing importance of innovation. As a result of this, tourism education should consider these trends in the curriculum design and educate and prepare students for the flexibility of the tourism market. Tourism is an important and growing industry also in 3rd world countries and a high quality tourism education is considered as a major imperative especially in African and Arabic countries.

In my presentation on “Tourism Education in Europe and Overseas” I focused on student employability. Employability is regarded as a key performance indicator for Higher Education Institutions. The three major stakeholders in tourism education are the students / graduates, the higher education institutions and the industry (see illustration below; based on Sofia Reino).


There should be a very close interrelationship between all the stakeholders. The aim of higher education institutions is to endow the students in the related subject matters with the key assets knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA) so that they will be fit for and competitive on the labour market. The industry asks for specific skills and competences of the graduates and life-long learning has become crucial in our fast-changing times of increasing internationalization and globalization.

You can download the complete presentation on “Tourism Education”.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Always On – Challenges for eTourism in a Changing World

I am currently in the beautiful city of El Gouna, Egypt, attending the 2nd International Tourism Online Marketing Conference. El Gouna is also called the Venice of the Red Sea for its beauty, peacefulness and its scenic beachfronts, however, I must admit that so far I have unfortunately not seen much more but the conference venue.

The conference was opened yesterday by Mr Amr Elezabi, CEO of the Egyptian Tourist Authority (see foto below). In his opening speech to the approximately 250 participants he emphasized the importance of eTourism for Egypt and other Arabic and African countries to tackle the issues of communication and information, knowledge transfer, eTourism and eMarketing.

A great number of international eTourism experts from all over the world will give presentations on a variety of topics (see detailed conference program) over the next 3 days and share their expertise with the conference participants. I had the honour and the pleasure to moderate the first session this morning which was titled “E-Tourism Today” and then give a presentation myself in the second session on “Online Advertising”, and I would like to share with you the most interesting and important statements from this today.

The first presentation dealt with the “Challenge of Change” and was held by the change consultant Michael Jackson. “What?”, you might wonder now, “Michael Jackson at an eTourism conference?” But of course it was not THE Michael Jackson (and how could he?) but the other Michael Jackson, which he calls himself ironically. Although one could say that the king of pop was also a good example of change.

Michael pointed out how the speed of our lives has changed over the past 20 years due to a dramatic increase in communication through email, web-applications, smart phones and social media applications such as Twitter and Facebook. The challenge for us is to be “always on” in order to stay informed and competitive. We live in a world that is going to be more collaborative than ever before in history and especially businesses can benefit from these developments. A good example for collaboration, which was presented by Karl Wöber from Modul University Vienna, is the Tourism Information System TourMIS (www.tourmis.info/) which is a free platform for the tourism industry to exchange marketing knowledge about cities and destinations and contains also several benchmarking functions. Michael Jackson concluded that those who do not use or have the technology such as iPhone, Blackberry or Android will be left behind. That can be seen as rather bleak scenario because it creates a digital gap between those who have access to the technology and those who have not and in turn increases the information gap. This issue is also dealt with by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) as Alex Rayner, eTourism advisor to the UNWTO, explained.

Lee Hunter, Marketing Manager with Google, shared his insights into technology changes and trends with the audience. He identified three drivers for technology change:

  • Ubiquitous connectivity (rember – always on!)
  • Democratization of the tools of production (shift from social media to business media)
  • Falling costs of communication

These changes have also led to new basics in eTourism and eMarketing:

  • Relevance of the marketing communications in order to harness increased customer engagement
  • Precision in targeting the customers (e.g. through local geotargeting)
  • Deeper connections with customers
  • Constant innovation: be nimble and willing to adapt and experiment.

My presentation dealt with “Search Engine Marketing” (SEM).The two most frequent activities on the Internet are sending emails and searching for information (see foto below). About 80% of all journeys start with a search query in a search engine (mostly Google) and therefore search engine marketing has become increasingly important over the past few years. Moreover, tools such as Google AdWords require only little technical understanding but focus rather on marketing and content issues. Another asset of SEM is that it gives marketers a better control over the budget and the performance measurement of marketing campaigns.

The key success factors of a successful SEM campaign are:

  • to define the conversion goals of the campaign
  • to find the right keywords from the consumer’s point of view
  • to write appealing ad text copies
  • to monitor and optimize the campaign performance
  • to invest time and endurance (learning curve!)

If your are interested in SEM, you can download my presentation on Search Engine Marketing. (pfd, 580 kB)

In the following days topics such as Distribution 2.0, Branding 2.0, Tourism Education, Email Marketing and Content Management will be covered on this conference.

So keep visiting my blog for more insights into the eTourism research and industry.

You can follow the proceedings of the conference (in German) on www.twitter.com/guenterexel

Sunday, 6 December 2009

How to Conduct Email Marketing that Doesn't Suck

In response to my last post on “SMEs favouring Email Marketing” a friend of mine from a tourist office called me and asked whether email marketing was still an effective conversion and customer retention tool because there obviously is a shift of communication towards social media platforms? Moreover, she argued, another drawback of email marketing was that users’ mailboxes are filled up with not only private or work related emails but also with a lot of spam and therefore the low opening rates and even lower clicker through rates for email campaigns are not worth the effort. Sure, she had a point! And I have to admit that I receive newsletters occasionally that make me wonder whether email campaign managers ever have the interests of their subscribers in mind?

Nevertheless, I think that email marketing has a number of advantages over other online tools provided that it is carried out in the right way. And right means in this context saying the right things to the right people in the right ways at the right time.


This also implies that email is only one tool of many in the whole online marketing mix. What are then the success factors for email marketing campaigns? One advantage of email is certainly its versatility for different objectives. Popular email marketing formats include:
  • Newsletter: information about products and services is sent to the subscribers on a regular basis
  • Campaign: the information sent is linked to specific user interests (e.g. winter sport highlights)
  • Reminder: message is sent at a predefined point of time (e.g. online check-in for flights 24 hours before departure).
  • Alert: information is sent only when certain criteria are met (e.g. special offers for family holidays)
  • Survey: valuable marketing research data can be gained by sending questions and answer options to subscribers. Surveys can be included in all the other email models listed above.
Further benefits of email marketing compared to other online marketing formats comprise the relatively low fulfilment costs, the faster campaign deployment, the ease of personalisation and targeting, the simple and cost effective options for testing, the combination with other online marketing goals such as driving traffic to the website, and finally the many possibilities for a detailed reporting in real time which facilitates a thorough analysis and optimisation.

Despite of these advantages e-marketing managers have to be realistic in terms of performance measures such as opening rates, click through rates and conversion rates. There are a several barriers or filters which narrow down the conversion funnel for email marketing campaigns (see my own illustration below, click to enlarge).


The first obstacle is that in practice rarely all sent emails will be delivered to the subscribers due to a variety of possible reasons (e.g. spam filter, email address has changed, user settings in the email program). Therefore, maintaining the integrity and improving the quality of the email address database is essential for successful email marketing.
The first filter from the recipient’s point of view is whether the subject line is relevant and interesting. On average only 27 to 50 per cent of email subscribers open an email newsletter (n.b.: figures were collected from various sources) and scan through the content. If the content is geared to the user interests and needs (filter 2) then the average click through rates on articles or offers add up to 10 to 28 per cent. The final hurdle is whether the offer is attractive enough (filter 3) that the user will actually purchase it. The conversion rates of email marketing campaigns typically range from 2 to 5 per cent.

As a result of this, the success of email marketing is dependent on the clear definition of the campaign strategy and goals, the professional implementation and the ongoing performance analysis and optimisation. Like with all marketing tools, the content must be geared to the customers’ needs and interests. Dave Chaffey (in his book Total E-mail Marketing, 2006) suggested the mnemonic acrostic C R I T I C A L as a checklist for email marketing success factors. C R I T I C A L stands for:
  • Creative: design of email (layout, colour, image, copy text)
  • Relevance: the content meets the needs of the recipients
  • Incentive: the benefit for the user, ‘what is in it for me?’ (if I click on an article)
  • Targeting & Timing: same message to all recipients or individualised; time of day, week, month etc.
  • Integration: consistent with and reinforcement of other marketing communications
  • Copy: structure, style, explanation of offer, location of hyperlinks
  • Attributes (of the email): characteristics such as subject line, from address, to address, date/time of receipt, format (html, text)
  • Landing page: hyperlink to web page for more detailed information
Finally, it must be emphasised that email marketing is permission marketing and subject to legal and ethical constraints. Thus, emails should only be sent to customers who have explicitly and knowingly given their consent in an opt-in or even double-opt in subscription process and users must have the option to unsubscribe at any time.

Resource tip: Download the very comprehensive “Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing” by DMNews (pdf, 6.7 MB)