This Is How you Design a Digital Communication Strategy for a Tourist Destination

The Comtur 2.0 project, in which professors from the Malaga, Vigo and Surrey (UK) campuses of the Universidad Rovira i Virgili participated, between 2013 and 2016 focused on studying the use and influence of social media and “communication 2.0” in making tourism-related decisions and in the brand image of destinations. Some quite useful applications for Spanish tourist destinations, right at a time when social media and “communication 2.0” are becoming indispensable tools in communicating and branding tourist destinations.

The primary objective of this project was to analyze the use of social media as a communication tool employed by tourist destinations and also how tourists themselves utilize social media in their search for information, in order to understand how it influences travellers’ decision making and brand image creation for destinations.  Proposing practical recommendations useful for all Spanish tourist destinations on the use of social media proved to be quite a challenge.

The methodology applied in the said project is based on the study of the tourist destinations’ strategic planning involving social media, its effect on user shared content and the user opinions. For the first part, the strategic planning, interviews of communication executives responsible for the main tourist destinations in Spain were conducted and a survey was carried out of digital communication managers in these 36 sites designated for tourism.

Most acknowledged having a strategic plan and social media guidelines, affirming at the same time that this agenda is one of the themes shared in official accounts, with which they intend to increase the number of followers, moreso than improving individual engagement and active listening with tourists and potential tourists.

Next, more than two thousand messages and images were analyzed in the main social networks pertaining to these 36 destinations -Facebook pages, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr accounts- to assess tourist attractions, the emotions they generated and the impact destination-related content had on users. In this sense, a methodological technique of content analysis, with both quantitative and qualitative aspects, was applied. The main conclusion in this section: there’s still plenty of room for improvement in terms of generating conversation, utilizing a robust combination of different formats and setting the right tone in the digital communication promoting tourist destinations.

Finally, a survey was carried out with 800 people who traveled during 2016 in order to understand the information they seek and through what digital media, as well as the credibility they give to these channels; a discussion group was also convened to delve into more specific aspects of the survey.

Among the results worth highlighting in this part, it is striking that travelers give the most credibility to TripAdvisor, official Facebook accounts of destinations, travel blogs, official blogs of destinations and friends in social media, from which they fundamentally seek guidance on accommodation, excursions, leisure and tourist attractions before deciding to make a trip.

Finally, it is worth noting that approximately half of the respondents have shared negative messages about a trip they’ve made; signs that destinations are supposed to learn from to renew their strategies. Sometimes these messages get deleted, when they are deemed offensive.

What will be the next steps? Wha’s next? Bots, AI, big data? These changes require the tourism industry invest in these lines of research, as the benefits that they offer are already worthwhile.

Francisco Javier Paniagua 
Professor of Communication at the University of Malaga

Digital Communication, Essential to a Company’s Strategy

Bárbara Yuste, Director of Digital Communication, explains why digital communication is important,  its contributions and its instruments. Digital communication is not just an option today, but rather a necessity for any company. It is and must be an essential aspect in any communication strategy that seeks to grow in the digital environment. An environment, by the way, which is in constant change and in which new and better tools appear every day with which companies can connect with their audiences.

Digital communication is important for companies for two main reasons:

  • It is the best channel to maintain a constant flow of information and therefore allows us to obtain much needed feedback from both external and internal audiences
  • It is the ideal platform to connect with our audiences and transmit our messages to audiences that we would not otherwise reach.

Digitally Native Brands

In recent years we have seen numerous examples of digitally native vertical brands: digitally native brands which are born, live, and grow on the internet, with a business model of lower risk, greater ease of launching and enhanced with proposals that engage digital consumers. These are brands such as Allbirds (shoes), Casper (mattresses), Away (suitcases), Glossier (cosmetics) or Claire (paintings). Brands of this sort are also present in Spain, with brands like Hawkers (sunglasses), Colvin (flowers), Marmot (mattresses) and Pompeii (shoes), among many others. Some of them are short-lived in nature or still far from the profitability, but as a whole, these types of brands are becoming ever more numerous and with a greater market presence. This is a generation of emerging brands that aren’t bound by sectors, although perhaps has more of a presence in the field of fashion and accessories. Disruptive companies, different, simplified and with a distinctive feature: they are born into the digital realm, with Instagram as their means to success (although not exclusively). But their digital character makes them unique in other factors: they focus on user experience, they offer a simplified range of products, they are presented with a careful mix of style and convenience and generally come with customer services and logistics. Some of them, over time, also cross over into the physical realm, opening stores -permanently or temporarily- to complete the brand experience. Branding Essentials in the 21st Century
Design, convenience, simplicity, user friendliness … the digitally native brands owe their success to the simplicity of their value propositions, which connect well with some consumers keen on practicality, accustomed to purchasing online who look for reasonable prices and good style, while also counting on the trendiness of exclusive and innovative brands.
Authenticity, proximity, credibility and exceptional customer service complete the characteristics of this brand type. Studying how it all works teaches us an abundance of key lessons; such a blueprint offers an authentic master class on managing communication and marketing in the 21st century.
Among the main takeways are strategic positioning, limited-time offering, excellent service, simplified buying process and authenticity in maintaining customer relationships, almost reaching a point of informality (in style) and combined with exceptional professionalism in service. These are a set of features that users value and reward with their purchase.
In fact, with these in place the consumer feels little to no sense of risk: they usually count on prices adjusted for quality products and an efficient and free return service, key to the success of e-commerce platforms. The next few months will likely bring us new names further enhancing the DNVB category, with brands launched to conquer new audiences and simplify the complicated world of digital sales, bringing with them experiences and practices rife with lessons on how to communicate successfully in today’s markets.

  Juan de los Ángeles Founder of C4E Consulting Services and Professor at the School of Communication of the University of Navarra