Managing and optimising reputation sits comfortably at the top of most destinations’ list of priorities — and rightly so.
The benefits of an excellent national and international reputation are countless and include the following:
- Becoming more appealing to travellers
- Attracting new and returning visitors
- Building loyalty
- Encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations.
However, maintaining this positive perception is a complex and multifaceted challenge.
Measuring and tracking reputation is relatively simple for brands, hotels or restaurants, as they can rely on reasonably accessible and easy-to-use tools (eg: Travel Appeal).
When it comes to countries, cities, or territories, the situation is entirely different.
A destination’s reputation is a composite of the prestige of individual businesses such as hotels, restaurants, cafes, museums, parks, and shops within a tourist destination, mainly relying on the thousands of reviews dispersed over hundreds of online channels.
To maintain a competitive edge, destinations should use reputation management strategies and tools, given the high stakes involved.
The question of where to begin can be daunting, but breaking it down into smaller steps can make it more manageable.
In this blog, we’ll look at the six top best practices to optimise the perception and competitiveness of your tourist destination.
1 – Rely on data rather than experience and intuition
More often than not, institutions and organisations perceive a destination differently from its locals and tourists.
Determining the overall sentiment is complex and cannot be accomplished solely through personal experience or intuition.
However, data analysis can provide invaluable insights based on real-world information on which you can base your communication strategy while offering the best service possible to your audience.
Pierangelo Romersi, Director of Visit Emilia, the DMO of the Emilia Romagna region, put in perfect words this need:
It’s, therefore, crucial to conduct a comprehensive analysis of your reputation and create a strategy for improvement based on the data you have. You can do this through the following:
- Collection of digital traces related to the places and attractions of the destination
- State-of-the-art measurement
- Analysis and comparison
- Implementation of the corrective measures
- Performance assessment
Such a task cannot be performed manually. It requires tools to aggregate, normalise and interpret all online content and scores in the different languages available.
2 – Observe conversations, and note the subject matter and tone of their communication
The reputation of a destination is closely tied to the experience of its visitors. To improve the destination’s image in customers’ eyes, it’s essential to understand their accurate perception.
What do people talk about, and how do they talk about it when they stay in a hotel, a restaurant, or a museum?
At Data Appeal, we use the “Sentiment Score” KPI to measure sentiment accurately.
Through this metric, you can understand the overall perception of your destination. Plus, by analysing opinions based on traveller type and origin, you can learn how and if sentiment varies from market to market.
This sort of information is incredibly precious from a marketing point of view, too, as it allows you to tailor your communication strategy to your audience’s needs and preferences.
Let’s take a real-life example. Below is an analysis of the origin of travellers who have left reviews about the city of Liverpool in the last six months, with the corresponding sentiment.
Interestingly, the most numerous, i.e. content written by Brits and Irish, are very optimistic (Sentiment over 80/100), while visitors from Mediterranean countries — Spain and Italy — have a slightly lower perception.
Are you familiar with the topics these groups usually discuss and the issues they often raise? By carefully examining their concerns, your organisation can pinpoint the underlying reasons for their discontent and take the necessary steps to fix them.
(Sentiment analysis by country of origin in Liverpool – source: Data Appeal Studio)
3 – Identify any areas of weakness and make the necessary changes
Tools allowing in-depth semantic analysis of issues related to the destination help DMOs pinpoint the main issues affecting the travel experience and any problems concerning that destination.
However, such analysis becomes only useful if it’s followed up by concrete and decisive action on the part of the destination.
Challenges such as a consistent shortage of parking spaces, excessively high costs, poor public Internet connection, transport inconveniences or access to tourist sites are symptoms of an underlying issue on which the destination, with the help of public and private entities, can intervene effectively.
This is also the right approach to allocating infrastructure and service improvement budgets.
The following is a semantic analysis of all the content published in the last six months in one of the most renowned Italian cities.
Accessibility has the lowest Sentiment score (74/100) among the most recurring topics.
Based on this information alone, it is worth rethinking access to specific cultural venues in the city.
(Analysis of the most discussed topics in the destination – source: Data Appeal Studio)
4 – Align marketing campaigns with travellers’ expectations
Launching marketing campaigns that create false expectations in travellers or are off-target can have a real boomerang effect from a reputational point of view.
A better approach is to align with the opinions of the hundreds of visitors to the destination, enhancing the strengths revealed by the semantic analysis of the digital traces.
Let’s say the sentiment analysis indicates that certain museums, beaches, or clubs are the most appealing aspects of the destination. In that case, it would be a good idea to focus on promoting these types of content through social media marketing campaigns.
On the other hand, investing in aspects of the destination that are highly criticised by tourists may negatively impact its overall reputation and attract a segment of tourists bound to be disappointed by the experience.
5 – Develop a solid sustainability plan to meet the changing expectations of travellers
Rome was not built in a day. Similarly, a tourist destination can’t implement sustainable practices overnight. It requires constant and organised efforts: by public stakeholders, individual operators and residents.
If a destination wants to enhance its reputation by satisfying the preferences of travellers, it must prioritise sustainability sooner rather than later.
Sustainable tourism is no longer just a trend; it’s a necessity. More and more travellers are conscious of their environmental impact and look for destinations prioritising sustainable practices.
Implementing green initiatives, such as waste reduction, use of renewable energy and efforts to conserve local natural habitats, training operators with special courses and incentives, and actively involving environmentally sensitive travellers are just some of the actions needed to change trajectory.
The city of Barcelona, considered a trailblazer in city sustainability, is an excellent example of how a sustainable strategy should be integrated into the destination’s tourism message.
The official visit Barcelona website explains this very clearly: Turisme de Barcelona is one of the Glasgow Declaration signatories, meaning the city has committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations. Barcelona was the first Biosphere City in the world thanks to its commitment to sustainability in the tourism sector. It counts more than 300 companies working towards a responsible tourism model.
6 – Raise awareness and train and involve local operators
As mentioned, the reputation and image of the destination depend on those of each business: hotels, restaurants, clubs, museums, parks, stations, etc.
The better the offering, hospitality, service and quality of each brand and place in the area is, the better the overall reputation will be.
To give an example, consider the well-coordinated efforts of South Tyrol and Trentino in providing high-quality services and products. Both regions have built a solid and positive reputation over the years.
This is why DMOs are called upon to act as a point of reference for all operators in the supply chain.
In order to enhance their performance and increase their understanding of their responsibilities, it is crucial to arrange training sessions, collaborative efforts, guidelines, and proven strategies that, if implemented consistently, will positively affect the destination’s reputation.
PromoTurismoFVG, the DMO of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, has made training for operators one of its tourism assets.
If you want to take control of your online reputation, it’s essential to follow these initial steps.
Improving the reputation of a tourist destination requires consistency and care and must be managed in parallel with all marketing activities.
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