Globally, locations are executing programs to attract people – either as tourists, investors or for any other unique interests. Unlike yesteryears when countries were the identifiers, specific locations, cities or counties have emerged as key destinations. So much so that awareness of some locations or cities is significantly higher than even the country. There is a tendency towards mentioning destinations rather than cities. For instance, and without any order of preference, cities, and locations such as Madrid, Dubai, Bali may have high awareness, and only later does one then ask – in which country is that location? That is destination marketing.
As Africa also opens, especially with the free movement as a key driving area within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), we should expect to see continued push of destination marketing within the continent. Not only will countries try to attract visitors from the continent, but also key locations within respective countries.
The competition to attract tourists, investors is intensifying, not only at global level, but also regional and local points. Regional integration continues to play a key role. For instance, with a visitor getting a regional pass, the East Africa region is no longer about the countries – but unique destinations within each country. Legacy attractions such as wildlife parks, the Kilimanjaro, the Nile or even Gorilla treks …etc, will continue to attract visitors. In addition, new locations are emerging.
Counties in Kenya have in recent past invested in forums in a bid to attract visitors, whether local, regional or international visitors (including the diaspora). A recent discussion with Laikipia county shed light on how it is executing programs in making it an attractive destination. Uniqueness is key. “We have a package that offers visitors experiences – from wildlife, landscapes, the equatorial climate, use of 20 airstrips across the county, we have a unique offering” said Biwott Tirop, the county executive committee member in charge of Trade, Tourism and Cooperatives.
To realize the objectives of Laikipia as a destination, the county is working closely on private public partnership programs. This close cooperation is not only bringing in synergies from both ends, but also has a multiplier effect. This arises from both the collective as well as respective effort from each party.
Pic 1: Sanctuary for the Northern White Rhino
For example, the above sanctuary for the Northern White Rhinos at the Ol Pajeta Conservancy has brought a lot of attention to the county. This is an example of benefits from such partnerships.
In developing programs for destinations, technology plays a key role. From real time feedback to online presence, use of technology will continue to impact such programs. Optimization in search engines, accompanied with the unique propositions and pictures of the destination, will play a key part in raising awareness.
Endorsements and testimonials are also important in attracting potential visitors. This should include user generated testimonials. Sites such as trip advisor provide platforms for user generated reviews. In addition, marketers within that location should create and share stories about the destination. Social media will continue to play a key role in sharing testimonies and stories from both visitors and marketers. Such testimonials services are part of the wider experiential marketing programs. Testimonies can only come from experiences.
Having accurate data helps in understanding the gaps in the offering. Like many any other marketing programs, the process starts way before the visitor arrives and runs even after the visitor departs. Data at key points of interest along the visitor journey will help in bridging gaps in service delivery. Use of data for enhancing visitor experience across various points should be an iterative process.
“Lack of adequate data remains a key challenge in executing the Laikipia as a destination program. We need data to help us plan and work closely with all the stakeholders”, said Mr. Tirop
The tradeoff between volume and value plays a key role should be another key consideration. What is the optimal number that a given destination can accommodate to ensure realization of value? How about ROI of the programs and for the parties involved?
Pic 2: Thomson Falls in Ewaso Nyiro river (Nyahururu)
Involving the local communities executing programs is a key consideration. The cultural and communal aspects are important consideration areas. There should be a clear role in identifying the engagement with local communities. The most important is to ensure all stakeholders are involved in the process. In addition, local engagement is important in the market place – from sourcing of products to providing labour and services to the establishments within a given destination.