Virtual Events and the Future of Tourism
Virtual events for travel influencers? It’s a good start!
In the ultra-competitive global tourism market, countries from Australia to Zambia are caught in a constant struggle for the attention of tour agents. While many consumers now plan their own trips, travel agents and travel writers are still critically important for countries looking to attract new visitors. Until very recently, countries have focused on traditional outreach in order to win the hearts and minds of travel influencers; these activities include training sessions, 1:1 relationship management and the distribution of informational materials. While these efforts are undoubtedly effective, they also require a significant time and financial investment.
Given the difficulty (and expense) of getting travel agents to visit multiple countries to learn about the best places to see or foods to try, organizing a virtual event to supplement in-person efforts is an easier and much more cost-effective route to go down. Countries that rely on tourism to keep the economy afloat benefit greatly, as they can now showcase exactly what they want travel influencers to see and experience when one of their clients decides to visit. In fact, there are many compelling reasons why every tourism board should consider running a virtual event.
Five reasons every tourism board should consider virtual events
- Improved ROI – One of the highest costs for any in-person event is the cost of getting attendees to the location. This is especially true in the case of tourism related events where international flights, visa costs and entertainment are involved. Virtual events provide a cost-effective way for governments to train travel influencers without breaking the bank.
- Increased reach – Even if sufficient budget is available, many attendees cannot attend a particular event due to time constraints or previous engagements. As a result, I have seen numerous cases where adding a virtual event has helped to drive a 10X increase in reach (compared to just running an in-person event).
- Content and speaker quality – Virtual events reduce the coordination burden that is typically associated with in-person events. As a result, tourism boards are free to spend their time developing the best possible content and finding dynamic speakers. In addition, since virtual events rely on virtual content, event managers are often able to get high-level speakers or government leaders to participate who would not have been available in person.
- Reaching the right people – While this is not always the case, it is often true that the people you want to reach out to most are not the ones who are able to attend your event in person. In fact, in many industries, your most successful partners are exactly the ones who don’t have time to spend on the road away from their customers (especially when international travel is involved). Organizing a virtual event increases the probability that you will be able to reach your best customers even if they have limited time available.
- Building a consumer platform (eventually) – In the short-term, virtual events will help tourism boards to reach travel agents and other influencers. But in the long–term, they have the potential to change the way travelers research their destination. By betting on virtual events as a mechanism to reach influencers, tourism boards can build the skills that they will need to reach consumers in the future.
Targeting travel influencers is only the beginning…
From a consumer perspective, the growth of social media and user-generated content sources (tripadvisor.com for example) is already forcing tourism boards to expand their efforts beyond traditional broad reach marketing. In an environment where consumers are increasingly connected, TV commercials and infomercials will need to be balanced with more targeted virtual efforts and community building programs. In this environment, virtual events have a potentially important role to play in giving consumers the information they need to choose their next holiday destination.
For example, travelers want to know much more about a potential location than what the beaches look like at sunset. They want to know about the culture and language of the country. They want to learn about the activities that will be available when they arrive. And, they want to get a feeling for any difficulties that they may encounter along the way. While these questions are difficult to answer on a traditional text-and-pictures based website, they are absolutely appropriate for a virtual event. In addition to driving increased visitor numbers, virtual events have an important role to play in creating consumer advocates. Consumers who invest time understanding a country’s culture, art, language and activities are much more likely to tell their friends about their experience through social media and on travel sites. While tourism boards have yet to embrace consumer-focused virtual events, it is only a matter of time before this occurs.
Virtual events and the future of tourism
In the highly competitive global tourism market, tourism boards are locked in a battle for the hearts and minds of travel influencers and potential visitors. For the most part, countries have continued to focus on traditional efforts to drive their visitor numbers. From a travel agent perspective, these efforts include direct outreach and on-location in-person events. In terms of consumer engagement, mass-media marketing continues to be a favorite choice. However, as recent events have shown, virtual events have a strong role to play in helping tourism boards to reach their targets. In the short-term, such events will likely be limited to helping countries to train travel agents and travel writers. But, longer term, virtual events have the potential to fundamentally change the way that travelers research their destination of choice.
Join the conversation. Agree with me? Good. Disagree? Even Better! Tell me why…
How else will virtual events and hybrid events influence the future of the tourism industry?
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