DMO Best Practices – Innovative Uses of Social Media

Destination Marketing Organizations around the world have realised the added value of using social media channels to market their destinations and increase awareness. There are certain examples though of DMOs that seem to have “broken the code” coming up with innovative campaigns and other uses of social media channels. Let’s have a look at a selection of best practices of DMO social media use.

The Banff Squirrel & Twitter

The fun element of destinations is definitely what social media can bring out and it should not get lost along the way. A viral sensation since 2009, the cheeky squirrel in Alberta’s Banff National Park became famous after stealing the spotlight in a tourist’s photo.

It all begun when Melissa Brandts, who was visiting from Minnesota, set up her camera on a tripod to capture her and her husband, in front of picturesque Lake Minnewanka. The little ground squirrel appeared, became intrigued with the sound of the focusing camera and popped right into the shot. The couple submitted the photo to a National Geographic contest and the magazine posted it to an online gallery on Aug. 7.

Within hours of the meme taking off, Banff Lake Louise Tourism produced “Banff Crasher Squirrel: The Movie” on YouTube and created the @Banff_Squirrel Twitter account which now has almost 7.000 followers. The squirrel has a continuously scrolling conversation with tourists via Twitter on the Real Banff page that many people find enjoyable to follow. As of April 2011, the Banff Squirrel is ranked # 4 among the 25 Most Influential Tourist Boards and DMOs Online published by

VisitPhilly, Twitter & 2-way engagement, is the official visitor website for Greater Philadelphia. Through @visitphilly, tweeter Caroline from leads lively conversations, publishes a Photo of the Day contributed by followers and encourages people to visit a branded page on Foursquare, the location-based social networking website and game. This sort of two way engagement has led the DMO to the 7th place of the 25 most influential DMOs online according to .

Many DMOs are using Facebook to promote their destination, however most are using their FB pages to promote events, throw contests and engage in short conversations. Few DMOs have used it in order to unite audience and stakeholders towards greater causes and strategic goals.

Anaheim/Orange County & Community engagement

Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau launched a Facebook sweepstakes program entitled “Share Our Sunshine” celebrating its 50th Anniversary. The basic idea behind the campaign was to involve the entire community.

Eighty of the hotel, restaurant and attraction partners of the Anaheim/Orange County bureau participated in the campaign thus extending the benefits to the entire tourism region. Another best-practice element was to target the prizes to various categories of winners: trips for men, trips for women, getaways for two and family excursions.

Visit Florida & Crisis Management

Visit Florida-the official tourism marketing corporation for the state of Florida – hosted the “Great VISIT FLORIDA Beach Walk”on November 2010 to clear up any doubts about the status of Florida’s beaches in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“One of the great elements of Florida Live was the activation of Floridians to tell the real story,” said Chris Thompson, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. “We reached out to our ‘Share a Little Sunshine’ fans on Facebook and asked them to post date-stamped images of our beaches – and they proved to be great fans. Recent focus groups told us those real photos, taken by real people, were really powerful.” Studies that people who visited Florida Live were 31 percent more likely to visit Florida during and after the oil spill than those who had not been to the site.

Photos of Florida’s 825 miles of beaches appear in the “Florida Live” feature on so potential visitors can see the latest beach conditions for themselves. Florida Live was created in May 2010 to maintain consumer trust through the course of the crisis by providing real-time updates from destinations around the state, coupled with live webcams and consumer generated content. Recognized as a best practice for crisis management, Florida Live has proven to be an innovative use of technology and content to address the oil spill situation.

Toronto and integrated video technology

In Canada, the city of Toronto is using innovative video technology that taps into Facebook and other social networks via  informal “ambassadors.” Tourism Toronto in the summer of 2010 began setting up interactive video recording stations at a number of festivals and attractions and invited residents and visitors to record messages about why they love Toronto.

After each video is recorded, the technology compresses a copy and instantly attaches footage that adds music, imagery, Tourism Toronto branding and a call to action.If the consumer decides they want to share their video, the “brand wrapped” video clip is then uploaded to their Facebook page, YouTube and Twitter accounts or sent to them by email.

The program is unique from several standpoints – the instant branding video technology has never been used before and Toronto is the first DMO to use this new technology and this kind of approach to promoting a destination. “The combination of community-based engagement, video footage and social networks wins on a number of levels,” says Clifford Ward, chief creative officer for, creator of the technology.

#InCostaBrava blog trip

Costa Brava recently organized a bloggers trip to the destination under the tagline 16 Bloggers.  7 Days.  1 Amazing Destination

#InCostaBrava brought 16 bloggers to the region for a week to sample the best experiences of the region, pulling together businesses and resources from all levels to create a major online buzz.  The event culminated with a social media workshop where bloggers and tourism providers discussed tactics and strategies as well as a reflection on the week.

According to Andy Hays, one of the invited travel bloggers , the #InCostaBrava group trip proved to be a successful model of social media tourism outreach due to the following factors:

  • The organization trusted the bloggers not just as content providers, but as “digital ambassadors”
  • They found the right people for the trip with a good mix of styles and backgrounds
  • There was a high level of teamwork in the destination, where all stakeholders, from tourism board to hotels and museums opened their doors and were on board to provide their best service
  • #InCostaBrava drove traditional PR and outreach opportunities beyond Social Media
  • The ambassadors were given what they needed in order to complete their “mission” successfully. #InCostaBrava wanted people to tweet and share photos and on-the-go coverage.  So they provided Wifi throughout the entire trip

Do you have other best practice examples in mind? Share them with us at the comments below!

Destination BrandWatch: New Marketing Initiatives from New Zealand, Las Vegas, Greece, Ecuador, Seychelles and more..

New York Yankees Star to Promote New Zealand

New York Yankee Curtis Granderson is heading to New Zealand in January with the help of Tourism New Zealand.  One of America’s top baseball players, Granderson will be in New Zealand in his role as a global baseball ambassador to youth, and to help promote tourism to New Zealand in the United States. Held up as Major League Baseball’s ‘nice guy’, Granderson will experience tourism activities across the country, sharing them with his social media networks across the USA. Tourism New Zealand General Manager Brand and International Public Relations Catherine Bates says that as well as being a great baseball player, as a respected humanitarian, philanthropist and educator, Granderson would be a great advocate for New Zealand in the important American market. Source:

Going global: Las Vegas revamps international tourism strategy

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is going global with a new proposal to attract more international visitors to the city. Only about 14 percent of total visitors are from out of the country. But according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, international travelers make a big impact.

“They tend to spend more and stay longer,” says Cathy Tull, Senior Vice President of Marketing. “They spend more on rooms, shopping, eating out, and drinking. All those types of things,” adds Jeremy Aguero, economic analyst and founder of Applied Analysis.

Tourism leaders want the city to evolve into more than just a vacation destination for people abroad. Their focus going forward is to increase foreign business travel by attracting more international trade shows. They’ve already booked some for 2011 and 2012. Tull believes it’s a step in the right direction to get us on the world stage. So far, the only direct international flights to Las Vegas are from Great Britain, Canada, and Mexico. The LVCVA also announced plans to spend more money on advertising. It wants to better utilize social media sites to attract visitors.The agency reportedly plans to add $5 million to its current $71 million marketing budget based on hotel room tax revenue that has been higher than anticipated for several straight months. Source

Greek Plan to Boost Year Round Tourism with Nation-Wide Events Will Benefit Travelers

The Greek government has announced its intention to draw more tourists with a series of nation-wide events and an Internet campaign. Holiday specialists Travelmatch expects this to make Greece an even more appealing destination for travellers.

Excellent tourist programmes are the cornerstone of a good holiday, and they do not come about unless the local government is behind them. Clearly Greece is committed to investing significantly in this respect.
Greek officials have announced that they intend to launch a sustained effort to draw tourists to their country. The strategy is focused on a series of nation-wide events which will encourage year round tourism. Travelmatch, the online travel specialists, expect this to yield significant benefits for tourists travelling to Greece. Alex Francis of says: “Excellent tourist programmes are the cornerstone of a good holiday, and they do not come about unless the local government is behind them. Clearly Greece is committed to investing significantly in this respect.”

Greece’s tourism strategy is expected to incorporate the Internet and social media to draw more people to the country on holidays. It will also focus on underdeveloped markets such as China and Russia. According to Francis, this is a significant development as it will make information about holidays in Greece more accessible to potential tourists from all over the world, including the UK. He says: “Strong media campaigns will help spread the word about this excellent country; Greece has some of the most appealing sites in the world and we fully expect this initiative to yield strong results.”

Francis argues that this development is excellent news for both the Greek economy and travellers. He concludes: “A strong focus on bringing tourists to Greece is likely to be very successful and will bring a large influx of foreign spending into this market. Given the economic situation in Greece, this will be very welcome. It is likely that tourists will be the ones who benefit the most though. Their plan of creating nation-wide events is also very exciting as they are sure to be excellent. When these new events are combined with Greece’s many pre-existing tourist draws, it will become an even better destination for tourists.” Source

Seychelles Tourism Board launches marketing initiative in South America with South Africa

In conjunction with Argentina´s leading boutique outbound specialist in South Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands destination wholesaler – Sundance Tours – the provincial tourism marketing entities of Cape Town Routes Unlimited (Cape Town and the Western Cape), Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency, and the National Office of Tourism Seychelles have formed a joint destination marketing venture, pooling their marketing resources in what is a first-ever campaign in South America. These prominent and progressive entities have joined together to inaugurate the campaign by way of the delivery of a travel industry seminar promoting a series of six (6) set itinerary programs under the banner of “Unforgettable Places” to the major retail travel agencies in Buenos Aires.

A morning long seminar attracted an audience of 142 travel agency owners and senior sales specialists, and in addition, the key figures of the travel industry, travel media, and consumer media travel publications, as well as cable TV travel specialist journalists. The Unforgettable Places campaign is aimed directly at highlighting the Argentine traveler and the travel trade, compelling reasons to visit and combine the regional destinations of Cape Town and the Cape Garden Route, Mpumalanga´s natural wonders such as the Blyde River Canyon and world-beating safari activities through the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, and the globally iconic Kruger National Park, plus the relaxation and lure of the heavenly Seychelles islands with their pristine white sandy beaches, distinctive Creole culture and cuisine together with a natural eco-system that time has left untouched.

The Unforgettable Places campaign began in November 2010 and will run initially through to the end of May 2011, with the likelihood of it being extended, based on and measured purely on the success and results of the first seven months marketing returns.

Alain St.Ange, the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board and eTurboNews ambassador, has said that this initiative of partnership with South Africa will bring about a win win for both countries and it reinforces the diversification approach being adopted by Seychelles.

Source: Seychelles Tourism Board

U.S. Virgin Islands Department Of Tourism Launches Local TV Campaign

As a component of its ongoing local tourism awareness campaign, the Department of Tourism is launching five new television spots designed to raise the level of customer service in the Territory and promote the customer service pledge. The ads will air locally on the Government Access Channel and other local cable channels beginning this week. Each spot features a mocko jumbie character who intervenes when poor service is being delivered and “inspires” the service provider to take the customer service pledge. In the spots, taking the pledge results in the delivery of superior customer service, produces satisfied customers and fills the service provider with pride. The interactions depicted in the ads came directly from comments received by mystery shoppers who visited the Territory in 2009 to rate the level of service in the USVI. In addition to placing the ads on local television, the Department plans to incorporate them into school presentations to encourage dialogue about exploring attitudes and cultural differences as it relates to tourism. The spots may currently be viewed online at WWW.USVIMARKETING.COM. The spots were produced by Tell Tale Pictures, a film and digital production company based on St. John.

For more information on the customer service pledge and to take the pledge visitWWW.USVISERVICEPLEDGE.COM.

Ecuador Launches Tourism Marketing Campaign, New Tour Routes

Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism has launched a new branding campaign entitled “Ecuador, Love Life,” along with a series of new themed tourism routes. The routes include “Ruta de las Flores” (The Flower Trail), which focuses on Ecuador’s high-quality roses and flowers. Also featured will be “Tren de Mitad del Mundo” (The Middle of the World Train), focusing on the restoration of the entire 100-year-old railway connecting Quito in the Andes and Guayaquil on the Pacific Coast. The Spondylus Trail will offer travelers a journey through time to discover the Las Vegas culture, which thrived in the country more than 11,000 years ago, as well as to see the remnants of the Valdivia Culture, which dates back to 4,000 B.C. and influenced ancient clay sculptures and utensils. The Spondylus Trail also offers visitors opportunities to stand where the explorer Pizarro first landed in South America to initiate his conquest of the Inca Empire. The Toquilla straw hat (more commonly known as the Panama hat) also originated along this route and is still handcrafted here. Source