Tourism’s Advocacy Opportunity

From bushfires to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, 2020 has been a year defined by crisis. Amidst these challenges, groups like AFTA, CATO, ATEC, CLIA, and many other industry advocacy bodies, have been joined by business representatives including Alan Joyce and Graham Turner to call for targeted government support to alleviate the myriad stresses facing our industry. And, while we welcome the advocacy, no matter what camp is leading the charge, we can’t help but ask if there isn’t a better way for our industry to be represented?

Organising a coordinated response that represents the travel industry poses a challenge in itself due to our industry’s overwhelming size and the interlaced interests, relationships and dependencies of each stakeholder within it. There are a number of secondary and tertiary industries that indirectly, but inevitably, depend on travel and tourism dollars for their success. And, for every type of stakeholder, there are associations and federations looking to carve out the best deal for their members. The problem arises when there’s no singular body to represent the industry, as loosely defined as it is, as a whole.

As COVID has made all too clear, the inconsistencies in how a global crisis impacts various sectors of the industry makes coming together with one cohesive voice and strategy all the more challenging. But, challenging doesn’t mean impossible.

In response to Sydney’s 2014 lockout laws, the hospitality, music, and entertainment industries came together as Keep Sydney Open. Representing a range of venues and stakeholders in nightlife districts around Oxford Street and Kings Cross, the newly created organisation established an active platform and effective voice for change.

The group initially used high-profile figures to wage a strong public awareness and activism campaign, organised political marches and petitioning, and eventually transformed into a fully-fledged political party, running candidates in seats across state in the 2018 New South Wales election. Following a close defeat, the group redoubled their efforts, and in early 2020, achieved their goal of repealing the laws.

Image credit: Kimberley Low

While each of the constituent businesses were striving for slightly different outcomes, as an umbrella organisation providing a straightforward message – “Keep Sydney Open” – they crystalised an entire industry’s sentiments into direct political and social action.

We’ve seen the beginnings of this approach through groups like The Australian Travel Industry Lobby Group and Together in Travel who have shown us the power of grassroots campaigns to reach large numbers of stakeholders through social media, but a more formalised body would be able to further capitalise on that groundswell of activity to drive action with local, state, and national impact.

The new industry-wide advocacy body we propose should comprise of two distinct arms, one representing inbound and domestic tourism, and the other representing outbound and international tourism, allowing for strategic advocacy decisions specific to the needs of both. These two arms would encompass the range of different businesses in the industry from agencies to airlines and integrate and work alongside the already-extant advocacy bodies. Having the versatility and flexibility to accurately monitor and respond to each sector through the full development of any crisis would allow for more impactful advocacy, and ultimately more effective support from government.

The immediate main goal for this new, two-winged body should be to petition for, and assist in, the creation of a number of strategic governmental frameworks. These frameworks would help to define a playbook for all players within the industry, helping inform strategies around public education, public health and economic incentives.

Public Education

The travel industry can fortunately point to so many examples of the positive change it can affect. There is a great opportunity to educate the public about travel’s promotion of marginalised communities, its championing of eco-friendly tourism practices, and even to simply inform consumers about how the industry itself works. A perfect example of this is the confusion and misinformation that abounded earlier in the year as consumers sought COVID-related refunds, and the industry struggled to detail the processes slowing down the movement of funds.  A concentrated public education initiative would go a long way to minimise the impact of negative narratives in the media, and help the public understand the immense net positive impact of our industry.

Public Health Policy

Thanks to Australia’s early and decisive public health decisions and a small helping of luck, we have weathered the COVID storm relatively unscathed compared to parts of Europe, America and Asia. Domestically, it appears that most states are completely reopening, and the industry should work with governments to implement strategic and targeted health policy that would clamp down quickly and effectively on any further outbreaks without reimposing the stress on business that comes with blanket border closures or lockdowns. The travel industry, as one of the most obvious and hard-hit victims of those kinds of sweeping measures, has a responsibility to lend insight into managing this new world of health policy, and to help craft future strategies. Only with these new measures in-hand, will the industry, and especially the travel trade, be able to assess when selling to consumers may restart in earnest.

Economic Incentives and Support

From travel agents to baggage handlers and everyone between, the tourism industry directly employs over 660,000 Australians, and indirectly supports many more. In parts of Australia, tourism is the key economic driver of the community, injecting more than $60 billion dollars into the national GDP. With such significant economic impact on the line, the industry must draw attention to the operators, agents, and businesses that draw their income almost exclusively from travel, and how supporting them means supporting economic growth. Even when travel restrictions are lifted, we know from experience that travellers will be unable, and reticent, to travel in the earliest days. Studies show that even with huge incentives, tax breaks, and significant new legislation, inbound tourism to the United States didn’t recover to historic trends for more than five years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Australian federal and state governments will need to enact further economic support and incentive to help tourism businesses stay afloat and recover well past the first planeloads of international tourists touching down on our runways. As CATO has noted, the Australian government’s AU$128-million-dollar one-off grant to agents is just the tip of the iceberg needed to keep the industry afloat in 2021 and beyond.

Preparing for the Next COVID

When we find ourselves in crisis, it’s natural to want a quick fix, but, as an industry, we need to see the opportunity to enact long-term structural change. While we may not have all the answers, we can learn from other industries’ struggles and begin the process of building a stronger more cohesive structure of support for all the people that depend on travel and tourism. It may already be too late to fix the issues that have been exposed by COVID-19, but when the next crisis strikes (and it will), we can be better prepared to support every sector of our industry and make sure no one is left fighting for themselves.

Google Mapping Your Way to Positive Destination Perception

Destination marketers today are operating in an increasingly digital world. They’re now responsible for managing perception and brand for their destination across a growing list of platforms that contribute to travel planning and in-destination experience. With so many platforms begging for attention, the challenge is identifying the best place to start.

The answer is Google Maps.

79% of consumers use Google Maps as a part of their travel experience (Skift Report, Deep Dive into Google 2020) and 67% use the “Explore Nearby” feature as part of researching or booking trips (Phocuswright, Travel Technology Survey, Q4 2019). As these travellers chart their routes and itineraries, they’re virtually exploring key points of interest and local businesses solely through their representation in this singularly powerful platform. And, each unique listing along the way will either positively, or negatively, contribute to that searcher’s overall perception of the destination.

With more than 3 billion direct free connections being made each month in the Maps application (Google’s Economic Impact data, 2019), destination marketers can find huge opportunities within this channel. By working in concert with stakeholders, it’s possible to ensure every point of interest and discoverable local business showcases accurate information and visually appealing imagery in order to proactively shape positive destination perception.

Gate 7 and Miles Partnership have worked with destinations to customise the Digital Destination Optimisation program to improve destination perception, drive stronger tourism outcomes, and provide targeted support to local businesses by investing in their presence on Google Maps.

Supporting Positive Perception

If destination marketing organisations (DMOs) aren’t paying attention to how their destinations are being holistically represented online, then who is?

The Digital Destination Optimisation program helps destination marketers ensure Google Maps has accurate information, navigation, and high-quality imagery associated with key points of interest to encourage confidence and positive perception of their destination.

Case Study: Wayfinding Accuracy – The Pinnacles, New Zealand

During a comprehensive destination audit, we discovered Google Maps was sending visitors to the Pinnacles in the wrong direction on an unsafe trail that extended the journey by two hours. We worked directly with the Google Maps team to implement a more accurate and safer navigation route to provide travellers.

Case Study: Tourism Asset Identity – Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Lake Wanaka’s Google Travel Guide incorrectly showcased images of Lake Hayes, a completely different destination that is over 90 minutes away. We helped replace the incorrect images with accurate and appropriate images of Lake Wanaka.

Preparing Local Communities and Businesses

Optimising local business profiles on Google Maps has a positive ripple effect that improves engagement with other nearby businesses and destination tourism assets.

Up-to-date profiles are 70% more likely to attract location visits and are 50% more likely to lead to a purchase for businesses (Ipsos research, 2017). To maximise perception, it’s critical to ensure both points of interest and local stakeholders are working in concert to convey the destination brand message.

Case Study: Listing Quality & Completeness – Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Lake Wanaka Tourism wanted to improve the accuracy and completeness of listings for all critical tourism stakeholders in the region. Through targeted training workshops for local business owners, the DMO was able to improve crucial metrics including business verification and quantity/accuracy of listing content.

Case Study: Improving economic outcomes with digital upskilling – New Mexico

With all advertising on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Mexico Tourism Department saw an opportunity to capitalise on unplanned downtime by launching an initiative to improve the digital readiness & representation of regional destinations across New Mexico by providing immediate support to struggling communities and tourism businesses.

By subsidising the Digital Destination Optimisation program for it’s stakeholders, New Mexico Tourism Department provided thirty-two regional destinations with complimentary audit, activation, training & content creation services at no additional cost to the individual RTOs. During the subsequent audits of more than 4,800 individual Google business listings, we found 13% of these businesses were missing from Google and 29% had yet to be claimed and verified by the business owner. Through the program, more than 1,850 high-quality images added by the DMO which generated 4.3 million organic consumer views in the first month.

Increasing Desirability of Destination Assets

In a world where attention has become a commodity, making a great first impression through high-quality imagery is critical.

Unfortunately, the opportunities for non-branded imagery to appear alongside approved destination content is increased in Google Maps where user-generated photography can be associated with points on the map. By taking ownership of visual representation in Google, destinations are able to identify and, in some cases, remove unflattering assets which diminish the vibrancy of key attractions and businesses. They are also able to maximise the return from expansive catalogues of existing destination assets.

Case Study: Disaster Recovery – Puerto Rico

Following a devastating hurricane in 2018, Puerto Rico needed to kick-start tourism quickly. But their recovery efforts were hampered by a significant number of negative images depicting the aftermath of the disaster.

Utilising content creation and street view capture initiatives, Discover Puerto Rico embarked on a content collection program that covered half of the island and produced more than 1,000 branded assets to upload into Google Maps.

These images have generated more than 14.2 million organic views since August 2018.

Case Study: Significant Scale – Visit San Luis Obispo County California 

After auditing 4,221 Google My Business listings for local stakeholders, Visit SLO Cal and seven regional DMO partners embarked on a massive content creation initiative which covered 146 locations across the county. During the initiative, more than 200 low-quality images were removed from Google and replaced with 3,115 new high-quality images. These photos have been viewed more than 16.5 million times across Google’s products as of August 2020.

Need a hand?

If you’re looking to improve your destination perception, Gate 7 provides a turnkey solution to audit and improve the representation of tourism assets and local businesses in just three months. Our Digital Destination Optimisation program has been successfully implemented in 160 destinations worldwide, optimising in excess of 70,000 Google listings. It’s a smart way to elevate consumer perception of your destination while driving serious value to your local business and tourism communities.

Focus on Local SEO over Keyword SEO to Drive Economic Impact

While keyword optimisation will always be an integral part of a comprehensive search engine optimisation toolkit, it’s just the tip of the iceberg in the world of SEO.

Most initiatives to improve visibility on search engines tend to fall into one of three categories:

  • Technical SEO: optimising website pages to be easily crawled and indexed by search engines. Think fast load time, mobile-friendly, search engine friendly technology, and solid information hierarchy.
  • On-site/Content SEO: optimising content to provide the best and most relevant answers to key target audience questions. Think keyword research, page titles, meta descriptions, and UX.
  • Off-site SEO: maximising authority to encourage prioritisation by Google. Think back-link strategy and valuable content.

While all of the above will help to maximise visibility, when it comes to capturing and converting highly lucrative audiences who are ready to purchase, the most important—and often unsung—strategy is local search optimisation or Local SEO.

What is ‘Local SEO’?

Local search has been around for a number of years but has been pushed to the forefront of importance for marketers and businesses alike as users increasingly search on-the-go from mobile devices.

According to Google, 46% of all searches now have a ‘local intent’. Optimising for these specific searches not only increases business visibility in featured local search results, but it also places businesses directly in front of a motivated audience with intent to purchase.

The key difference between a local query and a keyword query like ‘Where should I travel domestically this year?’ boils down to search intent. Searches such as ‘coffee shops near me’ or ‘cafes in [destination]’ signal that users are on the brink of converting and ready to buy.

Think with Google states that 18% of local smartphone searches led to a purchase within a day compared to only 7% of non-local searches. The significantly higher conversion rates associated with localised queries underscores their importance to businesses that need to move the needle quickly as they work to recover. Something those of us in tourism understand all too well.

Even for searches that don’t include a specific location, or ‘near me,’ Google assumes a preference for businesses close to the searcher and calculates proximity and relevancy of all indexed Google My Business (GMB) listings in order to provide what it thinks are the best options. These suggestions are listed before the organic results and are referred to as the ‘snack pack’, the ‘local pack’, or the ‘native pack’.

92% of searchers select businesses on the first page of local search results.

Whatever you call them, these local results pull key pieces of information from Google My Business listings including reviews, ratings, opening hours, and contact information. And, they’re not just valuable, they’re powerful. According to one study, 33% of clicks go to local ‘snack pack’ results and 40% go to organic results. In other words, to ensure the best organic results from Google, just one strategy just isn’t enough.

Local SEO vs. Keyword SEO

Generating nationwide search visibility is an uphill battle for small businesses. Many of the top search terms and keywords are already owned by big, established brands with significant resources and digital marketing funds. When faced with this challenge, the opportunity for local businesses is actually less about being #1 for every keyword or query, it’s all about being represented for the queries that will have the most business impact.

Recent data indicates that 78% of local search queries end with an enquiry or conversion. To put that in perspective, a click from a local search yields a 4 in 5 chance of commercial impact. Think of Local SEO as free advertising that’s focussed on people who are most likely to become customers. No fancy marketing targetting required.

By establishing a solid local optimisation strategy, businesses can take control of their region while quickly, and sometimes dramatically, increasing the quantity and quality of organic leads driven by Google. The first step is having a top-quality, accurate Google My Business listing.

The New Yellow Pages

Once upon a time, people used to go to their trusty Yellow Pages to find business information. Today, these consumers are turning to Google. And, while a business would never allow their address or phone number to be incorrectly listed in a traditional directory (not happy, Jan), there’s less attention being placed on their Google My Business listing, the holy grail of Local SEO strategy.

That lack of attention can sometimes carry a serious commercial impact for the business, as shown in these stats from Bright Local:

  • In the last 12 months, 71% of consumers had a negative experience because of incorrect local business information found online
  • In the last year, 22% of consumers visited the wrong location for a business because the address was incorrect online
  • 80% of consumers lose trust in local businesses if they see incorrect or inconsistent contact details or business names online
  • 68% of consumers would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information in online directories

But, we just can’t end on a negative note. While there’s no doubt that inactivity or “letting it be” is the wrong move, SEO Tribunal shows that even a small investment into Local SEO can supercharge business visibility and revenue.

  • After making a local business search on a mobile device, 88% of consumers will either call or visit the business within 24 hours
  • 70% of consumers will go to a store because of the information they find online.
  • 73% of consumers trust a business after seeing that it has positive reviews.

It’s these kinds of results that local businesses need right now.

Need a hand?

Tourism marketing expert Gate 7 provides a turnkey solution that audits and activates Google My Business listings for your local economy or tourism operators in just three months. The Digital Destination Optimisation Program has been successfully implemented in 160 destinations worldwide, assisting in excess of 70,000 individual businesses. It’s a smart way to drive serious value to your local business community while giving them have a strong Local SEO foundation to build upon.

Maximise Recovery by Thinking Locally

The stakes are so high for tourism destinations. An influx of bushfire and Covid-19 recovery funds promise the opportunity for regional tourism organisations (RTOs), councils, and other local leaders to provide the crucial support necessary to restore local commerce and tourism. At the same time, local businesses are desperately calling out for solutions that provides real impact in their day-to-day operations. It’s a heavy responsibility to get it right; the survival of these businesses may depend on the choices being made right now.

The biggest hole in most destinations’ digital strategies is overlooking poor quality business listings and imagery from tourism operators in their area across Google properties, leaving a less-than-desirable impression for the destination and a huge opportunity to provide front line support for operators.

There are tangible benefits gained by investing in elevating the overall quality of this often over-looked channel. When done well, destinations will enjoy increased awareness and visitation while helping local businesses secure the vital revenue they need to stay in business.

Why Optimising Google My Business (GMB) Is Critical

On any given day, approximately 45% of traffic comes from ‘direct’ search, where searchers directly type a business name into the search bar. The remaining 55% is driven by ‘discovery’ search, where users discover a business through options presented by Google. Increasingly, these results are driving traffic into Google-owned properties. That means that businesses who rely solely on known audiences (i.e., direct search) are speaking to less than half of their total possible audience.

The information found across Google-owned properties is primarily determined by the information contained in individual Google My Business (GMB) listings. In order to attract travelers searching online and capitalise on opportunities for conversion, businesses must make GMB optimisation a priority. It is the largest single factor in maximising local search visibility and capturing customers with immediate intent to visit or purchase.

According to Ipsos Research, businesses with up-to-date GMB profiles are:

  • 2.7 times more likely to be considered reputable
  • 70% more likely to attract location visits
  • 50% more likely to lead to a purchase

Despite these significant upsides, many local businesses have yet to make critical updates necessary to improve their performance.

A deep dive into GMB

Business verification
When a business is verified on Google, owners lock control of their business profile, meaning only they will be able to update business information. This protects businesses from fraud and ensures that only correct and relevant information is displayed on Google.

Moreover, when listings have been verified, trustworthiness is increased for searchers. According to Google, businesses that have been verified are twice as likely to be considered reputable by users.

Business verification also unlocks a suite of GMB tools to help with uploading images, responding to reviews, and managing business information across other Google-owned properties such as Google Maps, Local Pack, and more.

Data Accuracy
Think of a GMB as free advertising through Google, helping to generate awareness and impressions with both locals and visitors alike. As with any directory listing, ensuring the accuracy and completeness of all information found in the listing is critical.

While it’s not surprising to hear that 93% of consumers are frustrated by incorrect information online, knowing that more than two-thirds (68%) of consumers would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information online highlights the true cost of disregarding this increasingly critical channel. If it’s not convenient and straightforward to find and connect with a particular business, there will always be another one waiting in the wings.

High-quality imagery
We generally process imagery more quickly than text, so businesses that showcase high-quality images have the upper hand on those that don’t.

According to Search Engine Land, businesses with more than 100 images have significantly higher conversion rates. These businesses also have higher exposure rates, suggesting that photo volume and frequency is an important signal that contributes to ranking in Google.

The images that populate local GMB listings are a combination of photos uploaded by the business owner and user-generated photography added by customers. Taking control of the images associated with a business listing is not only important for brand perception and management, but it also helps potential customers better understand the business.

The Delicate Conundrum

As organic traffic continues to decline, it’s imperative to deploy new ways to reach, engage, and convert online traffic. Local search optimisation through Google My Business isn’t just a timely solution, it’s crucial for the successful recovery of local tourism economies.

There’s no question that local tourism operators are in dire need of digital support. The delicate conundrum is finding a solution that delivers tangible value and real impact when staff resources are already stretched so thin.

Need a hand?

Gate 7 understands the challenges facing time-poor regional tourism organsations and councils and has established a turnkey Digital Destination Optimisation ProgramDigital Destination Optimisation Program that bridges the digital gap for operators in a fully managed program that requires no additional staffing for local organisations.

The program has been deployed across the world, already helped more than 160 destinations and 70,000 individual businesses. The program can be customised to individual destination needs. Contact us for a free consultation.

Optimising Beyond Owned Channels

The Challenge: Investing in Recovery without being Thwarted by Ever-Changing Hotspots and Border Closures

Many tourism recovery initiatives are being held hostage to the mercurial nature of politicians, changing travel restrictions, and other uncontrollable factors. How do Australian destinations, focussed on rebuilding their tourism economies (and local economies in general), direct their efforts without being rendered redundant by ever-changing and unpredictable conditions? It’s paramount to identify easy-win investments with both immediate and long-term benefits, regardless of border status and changing hotspots.

While travel may be on hold for now, travel planning certainly isn’t. Aussies remain sluggish hitting the ‘book now’ button, but continue to search for inspiration and travel-related content. Herein lies the opportunity.

The Gaping Hole in Digital Destination Strategy

Destination marketers and tourism businesses tend to prioritise their website and social channels as the crown jewels of their digital marketing mix. The lion’s share of time and financial resources are earmarked to continually optimise these channels. (Just keeping social media channels populated and engaging is a full-time job.) But, as organic traffic continues to decline, there is a growing struggle to maintain similar returns on digital marketing efforts.

Google has cemented its monopoly in search with 94% of all searches taking place in its platform. This highlights the unparalleled power and impact it has over our online activity.

In an increasingly digitalised world, we take in hundreds of data points as we research to make decisions. Given that most of us have an average attention span of eight seconds, we want answers as quickly as possible. This gives a big clue around the declining return from owned channels.

As Google continues to optimise for user experience, seamlessly providing relevant information without the burden of additional clicks, expect increasing challenges as fewer and fewer people visit websites. Search activity is increasingly staying on Google properties, further increasing the percentage of zero-click searches (which surpassed the 50% mark in Q2 2019).

Google My Business (commonly known as GMB, and formerly known as Google Local and Google Places) is a business listing on Google. Information from it feeds into a variety of important Google-owned properties with high online visibility, including Google Knowledge Graph, Google Local Pack, Google Maps, and more.

Quantifying Lost Opportunities

The average split for business visibility in search results is 45% direct; the result of people looking for a specific business as part of their search query. The remaining 55% is discovery search; people searching for a business category and then choosing from the local business results provided by Google.

Businesses and destinations must maximise their results from both direct and discovery search. If the focus is purely on direct, then more than half of all possible visitors are being missed. By turning a proportionate level of resources to optimising GMB presence, this gap can be filled.

Poor Quality Listings Impact Destination Perception

On average, 55% of GMB listings have photo quality issues, 40% are missing key data, and 25% haven’t been verified by the business owner. Many operators lack the knowledge (or time) to regularly update and optimise these listings. The impact of incomplete or poor quality data goes well beyond the lost opportunity for the individual business; It negatively impacts the overall image and perception of the destination.

Rebalancing Digital Strategy

Destination marketers universally understand the importance of digital marketing and have a robust program focussed on owned channel optimisation, promotion, and keyword SEO. But all too often, ensuring the quality of operator GMB listings is seen as outside their sphere of influence and is subsequently left to chance, leaving a gaping hole in an otherwise sound digital strategy.

Redirecting investment will alleviate the disappointing and incomplete information often found on GMB listings from local restaurants, attractions, and hotels. By improving the depth of information and quality of imagery contained in local GMB listings, destinations will provide direct service and benefit to their community constituents while also considerably lifting the quality of their overall digital footprint and brand image. A win/win scenario for both the tourism community and the destination at large.

While GMB listings won’t replace owned channels, they must have equal billing in destination digital marketing strategies. For every dollar or hour spent on website optimisation, a similar amount should be dedicated to this powerful channel which provides quality reach to the broadest possible audience.

A Turnkey Solution That Supports Local Tourism Operators

Tourism marketing agency, Gate 7, recognises the dilemma for destination marketers; In their time-poor environment, how can they efficiently address this challenge?

Together with Miles Partnership, we have developed a turnkey solution that supports local operators while elevating destination perception. The Digital Destination Optimisation Program can be customised to suit any destination’s needs, no matter how big or small. Contact us today for a free consultation.

TIME to Give Back to my NZ Travel Agent Family

Wayne Mitcham, Country Manager, New Zealand

During my eight years representing Brand USA in New Zealand, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many travel agents in New Zealand. I know so many personally now, I’d go as far as to say we’ve become a family. Through countless learning incentives, expos, fams, and co-ordinated training sessions, this family has shown Brand USA and me personally, nothing but endless support and encouragement.

Together, pre-COVID, we were working with two specific goals in mind: to increase visitation to the U.S. and showcase its many diverse states and territories, and to market and promote the USA as a destination that doesn’t just provide the holiday of a lifetime, but a lifetime of holidays for agents’ clients. Then along came the pandemic, and with it, devastating results for the travel agent industry. We have been doing all we can to provide ongoing support through this time, however, it never feels enough.

This was my time to give back.

So, you can imagine how delighted I was to be approached by The Travel Industry Mentor Experience (TIME) in July this year, to become a mentor in its new MentorMe program, designed to support those in the industry that may be going through changes in their career and need constructive mentoring. This was my time to really give back and it felt right. So naturally, I jumped at the chance.

The not-for-profit organisation was looking for senior industry leaders (past and present) to offer constructive dialogue and support during 20-30 minute Zoom calls with individuals who have signed up (at no cost to them). I was told that my name had been passed on by a current mentor for MentorMe – hurrah!

Unlike TIME, which commenced in September 2019 as a longer-term offering that mentees sign up to, MentorMe is a newly launched program is designed for mentees that need specific career advice, guidance on personal development, or just a friendly and understanding ear from someone outside of their usual circle during this challenging time. Sessions may be one-off, or if mutually agreeable, my mentee and I can continue our sessions for as long as we like.

How are mentees matched?

Well, just like with online dating (not that I am very familiar with it; I have to caveat this in case my partner’s reading and starts asking questions…), pairs are matched based on the suitability of their attributes. For instance, someone may be looking to improve their social media presence and personal brand or may need a little help with the right connections and training. As I’ve been in the industry for a while and regularly invest in upskilling myself, I am able to help make those introductions while sharing useful tips and tricks.

I filled my online form in… ‘Enjoys long walks on the beach and prefers cooking over eating out’… Just joking, it was more like ticking yes to areas of expertise. In my case, I chose the following topics: airlines, marketing services, brand/PR/digital/social, event management, career coaching, transferrable skills, resume writing, interview skills, and personal brand development on social platforms. And just like the dating game (I imagine!), I waited. Only I didn’t wait long – within three weeks, I was matched with my mentee – a travel agent looking to grow their business online.

Due to confidentiality, I won’t discuss specific details about my mentee, however, I will say that our 45-minute session went really well. As I mentioned at the start, my travel agent family has given me so much support over the years – it was good to give back and make a crucial difference for a peer. I went into the session thinking that even if my mentee takes away just one thing, it was worth it. As it turns out, I was able to provide a few nuggets of advice plus links to resources they weren’t previously aware of. And that opened their eyes to a world of help which could save them time and stress. All they needed was a helping hand to point them in the right direction.

What an excellent program MentorMe is. I would highly recommend signing up if you are in the travel industry and feeling a bit lost – which hey, who in this current time ISN’T feeling a bit lost?! But particularly in our industry – what a tumultuous journey it has been.

I am so thankful I was approached for MentorMe and look forward to future sessions and mentee matches via MentorMe or the full TIME program which has a new intake in October. I feel even more connected to the travel industry and will continue to give back to my family as much as I can.

Learn more about TIME’s MentorMe or full TIME program.

Maximise Your Destination Marketing Campaign with a Travel Trade Partner

Integrating a co-operative travel trade partner into your destination marketing strategy is a smart way to both promote your destination and drive an often impressive ROI.

Yet, with so many potential marketing partners to choose from, it’s important to critically evaluate your options before signing a contract.

Depending on your destination marketing strategy, you may want to assess working with wholesalers such as Viva Holidays, touring companies such as Intrepid, retailers such as Flight Centre, online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia or Luxury Escapes, and even airlines. We haven’t even touched on amplification through media titles yet!

Any partner should be assessed on (at least) four considerations:


  • Depth of (your) destination product available
  • Opportunity for further product development
  • Size of agency and B2B opportunities:
    • The larger the agency, the more agents that can be educated about your product or destination
    • B2B opportunities include utilising your partner’s online training programs for education, their sales team to assist with messaging, and/or the ability to distribute content via company channels


  • An ability to leverage existing content to increase reach
  • Addition of evergreen content e.g. destination guides or itineraries
    • A shared target customer profile and established relationships with your key audiences
    • Additional channels they can bring to the table e.g. owned and social channels, training incentives, e-newsletters


  • The fit with your marketing strategy and/or ability to share key insights
  • Great knowledge and product in your market and ability to effectively sell your destination
  • The potential to share the cost of your campaign


  • A commitment to training the wider travel industry
    • Key events which you can attend
    • Educational tools/webinars in which you can be included

If you are a regional tourism organisation, for example, you might look to partner with traditional retailer Helloworld – and its wholesalers Sunlover and Viva Holidays. This partnership will give you access to travel agents (the frontline!), training opportunities, social and owned channels, plus eDM distribution with shared audiences i.e. multiple touchpoints for your co-operative campaign to be seen and therefore increase visitation to your destination.

One recent example is Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and Luxury Escapes. Port Macquarie-Hastings Council wanted to expand its local partners’ distribution as well as raise destination awareness amongst Australians. Partnering with Luxury Escapes, marketing surrounding the campaign included Instagram and Facebook posts, with a Mantra the Observatory package offered online and eDM as the call-to-action.

To authentically tell the destination story, Gate 7 worked with local Port Macquarie photographer and influencer Lisa Michele Burns, who took part in Luxury Escapes’ Instagram Story Q&As and a one-day takeover. A detailed destination guide was shared on the Luxury Escapes website, showcasing what to eat, see, and do in Port Macquarie.

The campaign resulted in 996 hotel packages, 3177 room nights, 4,873 PAX, and $530,000 revenue for Mantra the Observatory.


Travel trade partners are also great for media campaign calls-to-action

Before COVID stopped us from our beloved travelling (who’s with us on that first outbound flight?!), Brand USA New Zealand sought the help of the largest privately-owned Kiwi travel company, House of Travel, to provide an exclusive call-to-action for a consumer campaign titled ‘Go Beyond’.

Designed to inspire and engage Kiwis to go beyond a U.S. city or state they would normally visit, House of Travel set up a dedicated landing page with tactical air and packaged deals aligning with the destinations featured in NZME’s content schedule, as well as a competition for one lucky winner to receive a $10,000NZ travel voucher.

Gate 7 and House of Travel worked with NZME’s radio station and partnering airlines to implement 38 individual House of Travel store activations, touring an impressive, branded hot dog stand to each. Based on new airline routes, the ‘Incredible Hot Dog Tour’ showcased various U.S. city-themed hot dogs that were handed out to agents and customers, driving mass education and engagement.


Luckily, most of us in the world of travel are used to working with multiple partners.

Don’t limit yourself to just one and think about which other travel brands could assist in promoting and selling your destination. For instance, bring on-board (excuse the pun) an airline, car hire company, or hotel to provide a competition prize and significantly extend your budget. You can also jointly create content that can be repurposed and leveraged across multiple channels for all partners. Once you’re in it together, you’ll be surprised at how far your tactical marketing campaign can go.

When Travelex approached Gate 7 and its client San Diego Tourism Authority with a proposed content campaign to promote their Travel Money Card, their immediate need was securing an appropriate destination partner for a competition prize. But, recognising a much greater opportunity, Gate 7 pitched a comprehensive campaign optimisation that would include the addition of airline partner, American Airlines, the power of two well-known influencers – Little Grey Box, plus a dash of our “create once, publish often” mentality to extract as much value as possible from every asset.

The resulting campaign exceeded expectations with an ROI of 517:1 (USD), more than 20,000 unique competition entries, visibility at airports across the country, and more than 2.5 million social impressions.

Co-operative campaigns don’t drive extensive reach, distribution, efficiency, and increased visitation without a strong partnership, clear goals, and experienced stewardship.

Over 22 years, Gate 7 has established strong relationships within the travel trade industry and collectively built the knowledge required to drive visitation from Australia and New Zealand to destinations around the globe. If you’d like help finding the right partner to optimise your next destination marketing campaign, give us a shout.

What Australian Agents Need to Better Sell New Zealand Destinations

It’s the question on every keen Australian traveller’s lips: when will the much-anticipated Trans-Tasman Bubble open so we can holiday in New Zealand?

While government discussions continue on both sides of the Tasman, now is the time for New Zealand destinations to seek out connections with Australian travel trade across the ditch, building relationships and sharing insider secrets that will allow them to sell with authority.

“Pre-COVID, 49% of Australians booked their New Zealand holiday through a travel agent. That’s why travel agent training is so important: they can get first-hand knowledge from the destinations and be one step ahead. Agents will once again be a popular way to book travel due to the assurance of calling them 24/7 if any issues arise so it’s important to keep them fully trained.”

Wayne Mitcham, Gate 7 Country Manager – New Zealand


According to a recent ‘Aussie Agent Insights for Selling New Zealand’ survey* conducted by Gate 7 in late-July, most Australian travel agents anticipate that nearly half (45%) of their clientele will be keen to book a New Zealand holiday in the next 12 months. Not only this, a staggering 9 out of 10 Aussie travellers will be keen to explore the country by road, and fittingly, 8 in 10 agents are keen to sell off-the-beaten track experiences to their customers.

The survey, which targeted 125 high-performing Australian agents out of Gate 7’s database of more than 4,500, revealed that in order to sell New Zealand regional and city destinations with confidence, Australian agents desire more knowledge, information and tools – particularly when it comes to off-the-beaten track destinations, new accommodation, and attractions in New Zealand.


The top NZ destinations agents anticipate Australian travellers will visit are Queenstown (a clear winner with 91% of responses); Auckland (71%); Rotorua (64%); Christchurch, Hawke’s Bay, and Marlborough (equal 60.7%); and Lake Taupo (55%).


Most Australian consumers are keen on self-drive holidays (91%), followed by wine and culinary touring (75%) and great outdoors and natural wonders (73%).


According to the survey, the most popular element Australian agents want to sell New Zealand as a destination is information about “hidden destinations” (a clear winner with an 85.7% response)—places that might appeal to travellers who have visited New Zealand before.

“We have found that road trips are going to be very popular with Aussies when they come to New Zealand, and it’s about getting out and exploring those hidden gems that they probably don’t know about, or do know about but really haven’t had the opportunity to visit.”

For instance, two-and-a-half hours’ drive south-east of Auckland is a beach called Hahei, where you can grab yourself a spade and dig a hole to create your own thermal spa, as there’s thermal activity under the sand. In Wellington, you can visit Weta Workshops – Peter Jackson’s home – take part in a behind-the-scenes tour of the Weta Cave. And some might be surprised to know there is amazing wine country approximately an hour and a half’s drive north-east of Wellington, called Martinborough,” Wayne continues.



While destination information is the most obvious practical tool for Australian agents seeking a deeper knowledge of New Zealand, the survey also revealed that webinars, product information, downloadable maps, and visual libraries are also valuable resources; while local information and insider knowledge is invaluable.

And that’s the advantage of utilising an industry expert like Gate 7 to forge and facilitate stronger relationships between destinations and the travel trade.

“Gate 7 has access to people from the destinations who are locals and know it inside out, what’s hot, what’s not, all the tips and tricks – and that’s something we’ll be able to share with agents in training webinars.”

We have all the key information, all the insider insights – plus we’ve got the expertise and the systems to do these large-scale agent educations and engagement. So that’s a win-win–both for the destination and the travel agent community.

Now is the time for New Zealand destinations to get on board with Gate 7, to tap into their database of Australian agents, to ramp up their training, and help them find out about all those hidden gem destinations in New Zealand, outside of the main gateways,” Wayne said.

*’Aussie Agent Insights for Selling New Zealand’ Survey, July 24, 2020 – 125 Australian agents surveyed from Ontraport database.

3 Expert Tips to Help Destinations of any Size Engage with Local Travel Trade

Aussies and Kiwis are satisfying their love for travel and adventure by looking no further than their own backyards. In fact, Traveller’s Post-Covid Research Report indicates that 82% of survey respondents intend to travel within their state or around Australia.

This trend is no doubt driven by current COVID realities, but also by an emerging spirit of connectedness amongst Australians and Kiwis and a strong desire to support local communities big and small.

Destinations looking to capture their share of this domestic market should consider a variety of strategies to generate awareness and desire. One such strategy is establishing a stronger relationship with their local travel trade to open up travel product distribution channels and incorporate an additional sales arm through engaged travel agents.

Before you can jump into relationship-mode, it’s important to understand the travel trade environment and ensure you’re “trade ready.” Not sure where to begin? We’ve got three tips (plus a bonus tip!) to set your destination up for success when it comes to travel trade engagement.

We recommend starting with a comprehensive travel trade audit to understand your travel product and package distribution through major channels. Once you understand your starting point, you can begin evaluating new channels and strategically select the ones that cater to your target audience and demographic.

Tip 1: Find your space in the market and make it a part of your packaging and engagement strategy

Travel agents generally perceive Australian and New Zealand destinations as all somewhat similar, signaling an opportunity to inform them what unique opportunities you have on offer. To educate the trade on your destination, you must first consider what makes you stand out. Then, weave those unique selling points through your destination’s messaging, product, and packaging.

Once you’re ready to engage the trade community, cut through the noise with a unique training program or incentive. You could host an epic virtual roadshow, a series of informative webinars, or a training incentive to sweeten the deal for the agent community.

When tailoring incentives, understanding the current environment, and how the prizes you provide will add value to the agents is key. For example, rather than providing the usual grand prize of an airplane ticket, Brand USA strategically chose smaller weekly grocery gift card prizes during their ‘One Badge Wonder’ training incentive. As many agents were facing little to no income during the lockdown, the utilitarian prize, which could be used to alleviate financial stress, was highly motivating.

When producing educational materials and assets, remember to align with emerging travel trends (like the current self-drive trend), and provide itineraries that give agents what their clients are requesting. According to surveys conducted by Gate 7, agents are increasingly keen on ‘brandable’ itineraries that allow them to customise marketing materials with their logos and brand elements.

Tip 2: Engage and educate your local operators and stakeholders

As many regional Australian and New Zealand operators have not had much experience working with the travel trade, they may not fully understand the benefits of travel trade distribution. Educating your local stakeholders on how to engage and collaborate with trade networks and highlighting the value of paying commission to leverage the network’s highly engaged database of customers is crucial to maximising the partnership between your destination’s stakeholders and the trade.

No matter the size of a destination, as long as there are reasons to visit and things to do, you can find opportunities through trade distribution. Our friends in Port Macquarie discovered this for themselves after undertaking a pilot trade campaign resulting in almost 1,000 packages sold for one local operator in just one month.

Tip 3: Leverage your amazing content to help paint the picture

In an increasingly noisy consumer space, getting your destination’s content seen by the right people is critical. After all, a picture speaks a thousand words, and the more eyeballs your content gets, the greater awareness (and visitation) your destination will receive.

Extend the reach of your destination’s beautiful image and video content by distributing it through trade channels and provide travel agents with assets to create packages from the available products. Not only is this a great way to lower cost as traditional methods of advertising can get fairly expensive, distributing your content through a carefully selected trade partner will enable you to target a niche audience that is already aligned with your value proposition.

BONUS TIP! Make travel trade a key audience

While all destinations create communications that target unique consumer audiences, all too few consider the massive travel trade community as one of their key audiences. Rather than incorporating travel trade as an afterthought in your destination marketing strategy, consider how you can bring them right to the forefront of your communications.

You might try:

  • Building an agent-specific page on your destination’s website. Bigger country-based tourism organisations such as Brand USA generally host two unique websites, one targetting consumers and one targetting the travel trade. While setting up a brand new site might be a big first step, creating an agent-specific landing page or section on your website is a great first step.
  • Setting up specific communications to the agent community such as a monthly email blast to update the agents on your destination’s news and offers.
  • Incorporating trade-focused posts into your social strategy. The best practice of country-based tourism organisations is to create separate social channels for consumer and trade. However, creating a handful of agent-focused posts to include in your existing socials is an easy and effective way to get the ball rolling.

Taking any of the above steps will put you in front of dozens of other local destinations who have yet to prioritise their relationship with local travel trade.

And remember, you don’t have to do this all at once. Start by making a roadmap and pick just one of the suggestions to trial. With so many possible travel trade partners to choose from and myriad ways to maximise the relationship, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach. But, we are sure that any approach which integrates travel trade will provide a better return on investment and pave the way for a fruitful relationship well into the future.

With over 22 years of experience collaborating with the Australian and New Zealand travel trade, we understand their world and their challenges. Let us help you forge new relationships and reap the benefits of true travel trade engagement. Drop us a line and let’s chat about your goals.

Integrating Public Relations into your Destination Marketing Strategy

It’s no longer enough to tell people that they should head to your destination; there needs to be an emotive reason to connect and draw them in, along with a call-to-action to alter behaviour: ultimately converting inspiration into sales.

A mix of effective, tailored communications, leveraging content across multiple channels, and implementing strategic travel trade partnerships to secure that “holy grail” call-to-action we’ve mentioned, will help you create an integrated destination marketing strategy that supports every stage of a traveller’s decision-making journey.

You’ll want to engage a range of traditional and non-traditional media to maximise the reach of your message with an emphasis on thinking laterally. While large-reaching, top tier media are certainly a priority, you should also target niche print and digital publications that tie into individual passion points, as the audience there is likely to be most engaged—and book upon recommendations in the titles they read. At Gate 7, we use various tactics to get our stories picked up including pitching programs that incorporate breaking destination news and timely hooks.

Many brands have become publishers in their own right, which opens up a myriad of opportunities to create targeted content for already-aligned audiences. Are your audience families who want kid-friendly options? Grey nomads looking for their motorbike holiday of a lifetime? Couples looking for a romantic getaway? Whoever they are, where they are searching is where you want to be.

Use aligned influencers to inspire travel

Of course – social media has changed the way many people plan their holidays. The 2019 topics & trends report from Facebook IQ found that 67 per cent of travel enthusiasts on Instagram use the platform to look for inspiration for new places to travel to. And a similar number (62%) used Instagram to build excitement for new trips. Tapping into social media and partnering with well-chosen influencers is therefore key.

A recent Gate 7 campaign tapped into the trend for immersive travel and influencer-generated content with a successful campaign for the Japan National Tourist Office. Based on two popular influencers’ journeys, content was curated into hero itineraries for each of the Hokkaido and Kansai regions. All rich media assets were embedded into an interactive online map and itinerary to bring it to life and show audiences where – and how – to spend their time. Inspirational content and ads were served to an audience who were engaged with Japan, travel and Japan National Tourist Office, to maximise engagement and attract higher conversion rates.

The magic of partnerships

Pairing with similarly-aligned brands reaps huge rewards when it comes to co-operative initiatives. You can partner with travel-specific brands such as travel agencies, airlines, or hotel chains, or explore opportunities with brands outside of travel like fashion, finance, or lifestyle. Either way, the key purpose will be strengthening your offer and tailoring outreach for your desired audience, taking them on the journey with you. A trade partner can often share valuable insights into and access to their target audience through opt-ins, access to their points of sale, distribution channels, and the call-to-action that enables tracking increases in sales.

Gate 7 partnered with Australian retail store General Pants to launch a socially‐led content campaign highlighting West Hollywood. The campaign featured influencers that aligned to both brands and involved them creating content in destination, which was shared during the trip, as well as afterward – to promote a consumer competition. Trade partners Helloworld and Delta airlines teamed up with West Hollywood Travel + Tourism to drive bookings. The content was shared across General Pants’ social channels and in-store video, point of sale, and window promotion.

The campaign generated an exceptional ROI of 155:1 and was a huge hit with all partners.

Breaking it all down

If you want to make the most of your marketing spend, an effective strategy should incorporate PR. It has to target a specific market, span multiple channels, and integrate a travel industry partners (or partners) to provide the point of conversion.

It takes time to form the powerful relationships necessary to find and maximise opportunities, but that’s where destination marketing insiders like Gate 7 can add significant value. With the right knowledge and relationships with the right people and brands, it is much easier to form strategically sound partnerships.

And, once you find that perfect combination, the results will follow.

A Travel Trade Primer for Regional Destinations

Traditionally, many of Australia’s regional destinations have relied on word-of-mouth and heritage travel for visitation.

But, in an increasingly competitive domestic market, the challenge now is how to engage beyond the traditional travellers, promote your region’s unique assets, and encourage visitors to book (and stay awhile.) While there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, many destinations can benefit from investigating opportunities to tap into Australian and New Zealand travel trade distribution networks.

“It’s a good time for domestic destinations to be seeking out  travel trade distribution avenues, because the consumer is largely restricted to travelling in Australia; so by highlighting your product via those channels, you’re increasing awareness, increasing distribution, and highlighting the appeal of your destination.”

Penny Brand, Director of Tourism Development at Gate 7


To illustrate the potential of the trade’s reach, Ms. Brand notes the mid-NSW coastal town of Port Macquarie’s first foray into a travel trade partnership.

By thinking outside the square, Port Macquarie looked at ways to increase its distribution through travel agency networks, making it contractable and selling the destination to the agents and their direct clients.

For instance, Port Macquarie’s initial campaign was a partnership with an online travel agent, Luxury Escapes, incorporating luxury accommodation at Mantra along with a wine tour and strawberry picking.

The results were quite spectacular, generating numbers usually seen with large-scale international campaigns. Luxury Escapes’ EDM reached 926,271 members; while 33 social media posts generated 508,983 impressions, 2,388 interactions, and 3,285 clicks. As a result, nearly 1,000 packages were sold during the campaign period, an ROI of 4,416 % from the campaign spend.


The success of the Luxury Escapes campaign, Ms. Brand believes, was creating a new niche and targeting a demographic not normally associated with Port Macquarie and its family-friendly vibe.

“Australian consumers lacked awareness of Port Macquarie’s luxury offerings. This package highlights that the destination has properties with a high level of service; and it added value by including wine tasting, which Australians love to death, and strawberry picking which was really cute and unique.”

By packaging products into a compelling accommodation and activities bundle – particularly one that addresses current trends such as wellness or the environment – the consumer becomes locked into a more inclusive trip. It gives the client a set cost, things to do, and it keeps the travellers in the destination for longer, spending more money while they are there.


To see the potential of product development, one need only look at how international destinations have successfully marketed their assets in partnership with the travel trade. For example, a targeted distribution strategy made in conjunction with the PR team at Gate 7 helped Californian destination North Lake Tahoe cement Australia as a key international market, increasing tourism product listings by 620% over the course of four years and increasing in-destination spend by 99.5% over three years.

The key to this success was repositioning the destination as a more prestigious voice, enhancing its premier snow/ski status, developing year-round product distribution, and driving awareness of the region’s tourism products amongst the travel trade.

“No matter how small a destination is, it’s still totally achievable for them to get great mainstream distribution through the Australian travel trade,” Ms. Brand says. “If it has product and reasons for people to visit, it’s achievable for even the tiniest spot to make its stamp.”


Another key to successful packaging is to encourage the client to book their holiday right now. While international travellers tend to be a captive audience, domestic travellers often need to be nudged with more urgency, lured by limited offers, time-sensitive add-ons, and flexible booking conditions.

“The three driving factors to get consumers across the line and book now are a good value tactical price, with value-adds or exclusives, and flexibility to the consumer – a peace-of-mind guarantee that they rebook at any time should the circumstances change,” says Penny Brand.


Finally, with face-to-face meetings still largely off-the-cards in the ever-evolving COVID climate, regional destinations and businesses should also look to left-of-centre opportunities to engage with the travel trade. This might include utilising creative resources such as virtual roadshows to inspire, forge memorable experiences, and reach niche retailers; or be as simple as contributing to trade news through well-regarded communication channels such as KARRYON. The Gate 7 Resource Centre is another valuable one-stop portal that provides information and updates from clients to the travel agent and media communities.

One example of a successful and socially-focused campaign offering innovative “in the trenches” empathy to the travel trade is Brand USA’s One Badge Wonder training incentive. This initiative creatively found a way to drive agent training through the USA Discovery Program by offering utilitarian incentives such as supermarket vouchers to alleviate financial stress during lockdown. This not only reduced prizing costs for Brand USA, but it represented a valuable incentive for agents in the short-term.

It’s all part of nurturing relationships that will have long-term benefits, an investment that will undoubtedly see your business grow and flourish beyond the current crisis.

Regional Tourism Operators – Do you need help maximising travel trade distribution for your destination? Start with our Distribution Analysis and Packaging Fundamentals program. A simple, two-step process analyses your current distribution through 24 well-known travel brands with recommendations for further expansion. We also help you empower your local community of operators with an educational webinar and tools to help them engage travel trade.

Drive domestic tourism with distribution and packaging support

Maximising travel product distribution networks

As Australia tentatively emerges from COVID-19 lockdowns, our sorely impacted travel industry has a beacon of hope – the resurgence of local tourism.

With the closure of international borders, domestic travel will become the “new normal”, with regional destinations benefitting from Australians’ insatiable love of adventure. The challenge now is for local tourism bodies to capitalise on these opportunities, expanding their market share by creating smart packages and expanding their distribution networks.

According to the Tourism Transport Forum, Australia’s tourism industry has suffered terribly during the COVID crisis, bleeding almost $10 billion a month during lockdown. But there is a silver lining as restrictions ease, with the local market poised to capture a slice of the $65 billion that Australians typically spend on overseas holidays each year.

“For those Australians who can afford to do so, we want them to feel an almost patriotic duty to get out and support the jobs and small businesses of their fellow citizens by having whatever Aussie holiday they can,” Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham recently told the National Press Club as he urged Australians to “holiday at home”.

Indeed, as soon as lockdown eased, resilient Aussies packed up the family car and hit the road, continuing the momentum that had started in the wake of the bushfires of buying and travelling locally. For tourism operators, the focus now is how to lure visitors in an increasingly competitive market and encourage them to stay longer and spend more.

“Traditionally, a lot of smaller destinations would have relied on word of mouth or historical travel, people who have been coming year after year,” says Penny Brand, Senior Account Manager at Gate 7. “For instance, the challenge with a destination like Port Macquarie (in NSW) is to think of it not just as a stopover, but a destination in its own right. After the bushfires and COVID and associated restrictions, it’s time to look outside the square.”

Regional Destination Distribution

One way regional tourism bodies and individual operators can pivot in the current climate is to look towards a marketing strategy typically associated with international travel: working with the travel trade to produce tailored packages that add value and highlight what a region has to offer. Of particular appeal, Ms. Brand says, are assets that address current tourism trends – such as wellness, environmentally-friendly activities, and immersive experiences.

“By really highlighting the availability of attractions and different experiences that the consumer can do, it will keep them there longer and spending more in that destination.”

For example, Port Macquarie recently teamed with [online travel agent] Luxury Escapes to create a three-night package, staying at the Mantra and including a wine tour and strawberry picking. That went incredibly well because there were things to do and activities within that stay.”

According to Ms. Brand, working with Australian travel agents on exclusive, value-added deals helps to further a destination’s reach and get more eyes on the product – with the added benefit of supporting small businesses who have also suffered during the pandemic.

“As we know, travel agents have been feeling the pinch dramatically over the last few months, and they are now looking at promoting domestic tourism to their network,” Brand says. “The agents 100 percent need new product – for one, they can’t sell international travel – at least, not in the short term – so they are definitely looking to branch out and promote domestic vacations.”

But for destinations and tourism operators that traditionally have not relied on travel trade, what advantages are to be had by teaming up with agents as a touchpoint for consumers?

“Travel agents traditionally have an incredibly loyal client base that they have been booking for years; they can also put all the different pieces together, such as hiring the car, doing the stopover on the way up, putting the different attractions together,” Brand says, “Also they’re fabulous if anything goes wrong, as we’ve seen over the last horrible four or five months!”

A Quick Win that Pays Dividends

By forging distribution relationships with Australian travel agents, local destinations and operators will not only make themselves front-of-mind for domestic travellers, but they will also position themselves to benefit when international borders do eventually re-open.

“By working with the travel trade, you are opening your product to the inbound market when full restrictions lift – so by making those deals with agents, your product will be available internationally,” Brand says. “So it has a double benefit – for now, the domestic push, the “buy Australia, travel Australia”; and later, internationally as well.”

Of course, COVID-19 may have changed the face of travel permanently; and operators must continue to adapt in order to optimise the booking process and provide security and reassurance to potential visitors. Health and hygiene will remain a priority; while open-ended vouchers and flexible booking conditions will reassure consumers that they won’t lose money in case of a crisis.

“Australians are a very resilient travel market; we are just a lot more adventurous and really quick to rebound,” says Penny Brand. “International travel will eventually resume – but for those who aren’t yet comfortable with travelling overseas, there’s loads for them to do domestically. Everyone wants to help local businesses.”

Regional Tourism Operators – If you’re looking to maximise distribution and sales through Australian travel trade, we can help. Start with our Distribution Analysis and Product Packaging program, a simple program that identifies opportunities to expand your product distribution through 24 travel industry brands along with an educational webinar and practical cheat sheet to empower your local tourism operators to increase theirs.

The Power of Brand Partnerships

Brand partnerships can be an incredibly powerful marketing technique to drive visitation and return on investment for your destination. In fact, a 2017 Business Collaboration Index released by American Express revealed that mid-sized companies that engage in brand partnerships usually achieved a profit of 1.4 times their investment.

A carefully selected brand partnership can help you open up new promotional channels, supplement reduced marketing budgets, and build awareness and prestige amongst key niche audiences. Now, maybe more than ever before, brands are keen to be a part of the recovery narrative; brand partnerships allow regional tourism organisations to leverage that desire in order to create outstanding campaigns that provide benefits for both the destination and the partnering brands.

What exactly is a brand partnership?

A brand partnership is a strategic alliance between two brands to tell one cohesive story while creating a win/win partnership. Marketing trends have reflected that consumers these days (in particular Millennials and Gen Zs) are increasingly associating their identity with brands that reflect their values. A talk by Vice Media on the 24th of July 2019 in Sydney, Australia revealed that 7 out of 10 Gen Z consumers were more likely to support a brand that mirrors their values. As consumer identities become further entwined with brand identities, selecting a brand partner whose values and audience reflect yours will be essential in reaching the right audiences, and driving visitation to your destination.

For example, the all-too-recent Australian bushfires and overall heightened awareness of the climate crisis have seen the rise of the “conscious traveller,” someone who travels to support local communities and is conscious of the impact of their tourism dollars. This traveller may be motivated by volunteer opportunities to assist local communities and will respond well with a lifestyle brand that has strong sustainability and environmental values.

What kind of brands partner with destinations?

Travel brand collaborations can take various forms with a multitude of brands including (but not limited to) fashion and lifestyle, hospitality and/or finance brands.

Pro Tip! Any travel brand partnership must provide a clear point of conversion for the destination. That’s why we recommend including a direct connection to the travel trade industry by incorporating a travel agency or airline brand into the partnership.

Fashion and Lifestyle
With aligned audiences, solid point-of-sale presence, and loyal fanbases, fashion and lifestyle brands are great partners for destination marketing campaigns. Fashion shoots or influencer content provide inspiration to an engaged audience while compelling travel incentives provide retailers with opportunities to boost sales.

One of the biggest pleasures of travel is indulging in new cuisines and flavours, so naturally, travel lends itself to integration with hospitality brands. These partnerships are appealing to the hospitality brand as it allows them to grow awareness and increase sales through competitions that offer travel prizes.

Finance brands are constantly looking for opportunities to bring their relevant travel products to life and offer access to their loyalty databases and promotional investments through partnership initiatives.

What does a successful brand partnership look like?

When done correctly, an effective travel brand partnership is a proven way to access non-traditional promotional opportunities, reach engaged niche audiences, extend marketing budgets, and build awareness and prestige for both parties. Here are several examples of Gate 7 initiated brand partnerships that have achieved the above objectives:

Accessing non-traditional promotional opportunities and reaching engaged niche audiences
As an edgy youth brand with a highly engaged and hip millennial audience, General Pants Co. was the ideal partner for West Hollywood Travel & Tourism Board, whose objective was to strengthen their position as a quintessential, cool LA destination. The partnership allowed West Hollywood to be promoted across multiple channels and locations, including influencers’ social and websites, General Pants’ display windows and in-store point of sale displays as well as their social channels and eDMs.

The results: Strategically targeting a niche audience across multiple non-traditional channels and reinforcing WeHo as the ultimate LA destination generated over 15 million impressions and 280,000 likes.

Extend marketing budgets
San Diego Tourism Authority partnered with Travelex, a currency exchange provider, in a highly successful partnership that allowed both brands to achieve desired results with limited budgets. San Diego Tourism Authority leveraged Travelex’s owned advertising channels such as screens and boards in airports and shopping centres to entice travellers with winning a trip to San Diego through converting their currency with Travelex.

The results: The combined marketing budget of the two brands allowed San Diego Tourism Authority to achieve an ROI of 517:1 and delivered a media value of USD$830,063.

Building awareness and prestige
With the objective of strengthening awareness of Los Cabos as the ultimate Mexican destination, Los Cabos Tourism Board partnered with popular Mexican food retailer, MadMex, who was looking to increase sales and brand prestige. Los Cabos’ destination offerings were promoted across MadMex’s channels, eDMs, and all Australian stores and outdoor scooters, providing awareness across a myriad of consumer touchpoints. Meanwhile, MadMex customers were incentivised with winning a trip to Los Cabos, allowing the brand to increase food sales and boost prestige.

The results: Over 50 thousand sales and entries to the competition plus an 8.91% increase in email database contacts. (anticipated was 3%) There were also more than 38,000 sessions to MadMex’s website during the month-long incentive.

We’ve spent years making friends with brands inside and outside of travel to produce some pretty fantastic partnerships that generate awesome results. If that’s something you’re looking for, you should drop us a line.

Australian tourists drive through Royal National Park

5 Tips to Supercharge Your Social Media Strategy in the Post-COVID World

Local travellers are hungry to hit the roads and skies as Australia and New Zealand start to lift travel restrictions. Here are five ways to refocus your social media and content strategies to help Australian RTOs maximise destination recovery messaging and capitalise on the wave of domestic travel on the horizon.

Be honest and upfront

Travellers have been overwhelmed with 24-hour news, so it’s important to provide a sense of confidence, transparency, and normalcy. As you reinsert your brand into the online discussion, be honest with your audiences about how COVID was (or is) impacting your region. It will help allay fears, signal transparency, and present valuable opportunities to highlight your recovery.

Support operators who have been most impacted and keep information up-to-date to help guests plan their trips, avoid closures, and come away with a great outlook on future travel. Hint: answer questions that you’re receiving (or expecting to receive) with easily shareable content, giving you another way to showcase your destination.

Target a restriction-relevant audience

Destinations should hone their content and distribution for each unique geographic audience. By plotting out a series of three- to four-week campaigns, you’ll be able to capitalise on the phases of reopening while retaining a bit of flexibility and ensuring each audience what they need to start dreaming (and booking) in your destination.

Reuse, Recycle, Repost

Finding the time, energy, and resources to create new content that highlights your destination’s usual energy and excitement is always difficult—no less so when locked down. But, changes in consumer expectations and behaviours may provide an opportunity to utilise previously overlooked content. A sparsely populated beach may not have aligned with your messaging before, but now highlights a socially distant (and responsible) experience worth promoting. Recut videos to emphasise a new USP like open spaces, or record a voiceover that gives new context to existing visuals.

Establish a partner-to-posting pathway

Promote your stakeholder communities (and save yourself some work) by establishing an easy, clear way for them to promote their content on your channels. It’s a win-win— operators increase their reach and DMOs easily source content without having to spend time and money finding or creating it.

Reach out to your stakeholders and provide a process for them to share their content in the right format and with the right accreditations for your channels.

Buy some ads

While many businesses are hibernating, a large portion of digital advertising spend has ceased, causing pay-per-click (PPC) costs to dramatically fall.  Evidence from sources such as Neil Patel shows ROI on paid advertising increasing up to 71%, meaning now is the time invest in PPC ads if you have available budget to do so. In today’s pay-to-play environment, even websites optimised for SEO struggle to generate traffic without integrating a paid content strategy.

Utilise short, localised campaigns, produce varied creative, and target your ads to well-defined audiences at each phase of recovery. Large corporations usually buy big in broad demographics, leaving highly targeted, niche audiences ripe for personalisation open for smaller brands.

Bonus: Take that data deep dive

For those who have a little extra bandwidth, pour over your channels’ data with an eye toward ROI. Analysing your data will present the most valuable audiences for each phase of recovery. We’re all living in times of rapid change, so remember to find the time to examine your audience at least twice a year. (This is a critical, and often overlooked, part of social media marketing.)

If your data opens your eyes to new audiences, consider new channels. Platforms like Tik Tok and Snapchat may seem full of teen memes, but their usage rivals Facebook and Instagram in younger demographics. Even if they aren’t in your strategy today, Tik Tok is the most downloaded app in 2020 and Snapchat/Tik Tok users spend roughly equal time on these platforms as they do Instagram and Facebook. With stats like those, it’s hard to discount their place in future marketing channel mixes.

Hyper-localisation and niche targeting aren’t just used in social media, they’ve been accelerating quickly in Public Relations and earned media placements over the past few years also.

Australia and New Zealand Chart a Path Forward

As Australia and New Zealand begin lifting travel restrictions and regional travel resumes, it’s key to understand how both countries’ COVID responses have managed local economies, travel sectors, and health systems.

Due to geography and government policy, both Australia and New Zealand were spared many public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 and have nearly ceased community transmission. Both also made significant efforts to hibernate their economies and insulate citizens and small businesses from the personal economic impact—thus minimising job losses and preserving “the shape” of their local economies to allow more seamless return to normal as the health crisis abates.

Key Figures:

  • AU$320 billion (US$209.7 billion) in aid and stimulus for the Australian economy, including income support and small business relief.
  • Specific tax relief and stimulus for Australian local tourism operators and organisations.
  • NZ$12.1 billion (US$7.36 billion) in stimulus for the New Zealand economy, including income support.
  • Travel and Tourism recovery roadmaps released in early May, outlining three-phased response.

While there have, of course, been significant declines in tourism, there are a number of aspects that signify travel by Australians and New Zealanders will indeed rebound once given the green light: airlines have mostly maintained routes, simply pausing their schedules, many travellers have opted to hold credits rather than taking refunds, and online search trends indicate a continued wanderlust once conditions allow.

Why are we on holidays all the time?

The Australian lifestyle is morphing. Migration out of the suburbs and into inner-city culture is rampant as the great Australian dream of owning a house-with-a-yard (and 2.5 kids and a dog) becomes more and more out of reach. Rising interest rates and property prices have presented challenges to the attainment of the family home and the desire to own property is consequently starting to wear thin.

Home may still be a cornerstone of Australian life – but what people define as “home” is rapidly changing. People in Australia’s capitals have new priorities. Shiny new apartments mean less rooms to furnish and clean and less gardening, which in turn means more leisure time and budget, translating into a rapid increase in itchy feet and subsequent holiday plans.

Frequent overseas travel has become more attainable and more economically viable. Many households feature two adults in full-time work with evenings spent planning the next big trip.

Bad news for Bunnings is good news for destinations. More people are travelling than ever before.  Tourism expenditure by Australians is growing faster than overall consumer spending, indicating the rising priority of holiday-making for Australians.

Fiona Collis from IPSOS Research calls this new group of residents and traveller Affluent Urbanites. A set of people whose attitudes and aspirations are focused on the city’s litany of pleasures.

“For Affluent Urbanites, living near the city is a distinct lifestyle statement. Locations boasting iconic features whether cultural, epicurean or natural, are all highly attractive to them. They like to walk to and from schools, shops and cafes. Being able to walk to places within the community creates a very tangible feeling of belonging to the neighbourhood. Affluent Urbanites also cherish being surrounded by people with similar interests and values” Collis says.

The addiction to urbanism also manifests in a desire to live like a local abroad and to shack up in Airbnb’s and other similar accommodation in other towns, cities and ports around the world too.

Apps like Trip Hobo are an extension of the Share Economy that lets travelers share their itineraries and pass on tips for living like a local.

The outlook for continued growth in Australian travel is fantastic, particularly for those destinations and experiences that are able to showcase the kind of enriching, deep and transformative experiences consumers are looking for as they grow tired of spending on material possessions.

Up & Away

Gate 7’s Managing Director, Jo Palmer, tells us how aviation technology is changing the game for Destination Marketers and travellers alike.

The world is getting smaller. With each new year, evolving aviation tech is providing the opportunity for new routes—and with it the chance to fly direct to somewhere undiscovered. Whether it’s surfing frozen shores under the Northern Lights in Iceland, line dancing to country music in Nashville, or eating crabs on a bike trip through Sri Lanka, the changing face of aviation is great news for globetrotters. As international airlines continue to add service around the globe, Australian and New Zealand travellers can fly direct to more destinations than ever before.

“One of the biggest contributors to growth in travel to any area in the world is direct access by air. From a traveller’s perspective, it’s like giving them a box of new toys to play with. Within recent history, it has become possible to fly directly from Perth to London, from New York City to Reykjavík, and from Auckland to Chicago, but all of this was made possible by new aircraft technology,” explains Jo.

The 777, 787 and A350 are completely changing the long-haul operating environment. New aviation technology has opened up routes that simply weren’t previously physically possible, or were not profitable with older, less efficient aircraft.

“As a direct result of the new 787s, there are about one hundred new routes that have been opened up around the globe.  Fuel equates to around 30-40% of an airline’s operating costs, so the introduction of these more efficient aircraft is having a significant impact on service opportunities,” Jo says.

The opportunities for tier-two cities are also significant.

Once new international routes are confirmed, cities and states are propelled into action through these new markets. There is also strong incentive for airlines to be flexible and nimble in order to make the most of emerging opportunities. For destinations, it’s about being quick to market and creating traction to ensure new routes show strong yields for airlines.

“This is where we come in and can facilitate their marketing in Australia and New Zealand. Together we engage in a plethora of activity to help position destinations as top-of-mind considerations for travelling consumers.”

Conversely, Jo observes tier-one cities like London or Los Angeles cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Competition is fierce, diverse, and heating up.

For those locations that have historically enjoyed being ports of entry for international arrivals — these new routes open up a new set of challenges. To maintain demand, they need to avoid the trap of becoming “been there done that” for travellers. They need to showcase the diverse sides of their destination and work hard to keep them fresh and new.

“From a destination marketing point of view, new international routes stimulate the competitive landscape. It’s fantastic news for travellers and no doubt drives up their intention to travel. For marketers, it drives innovation and out-of-the-box thinking for destinations and tourism products while forcing us to hone in on the best ways to tell compelling stories that connect with their target travellers.”

How to travel well on an aeroplane

We all love to travel, but how best to prepare and arrive fresh and ready to go rather than looking like we’ve been through the ringer? To find out more, we caught up with Charlotte Dodson from TravelWell and Ali Lalak from Cloud Nine to understand how they’re adding value to the long haul travel environment.

TravelWell, the nifty, now award-winning inflight health app is taking off, bringing, yoga and meditation to travellers in their seat. In a similar vein, Australian start-up Cloud Nine is gaining traction with their luxury travel packs designed to pamper passengers during their long flight.

As people travel more frequently, and become more aware of the stress it induces – a whole raft of health-related products are being checked in.

“Airlines are simply doing what any well-run business does, they’re reading the marketplace and reacting to it,” says Charlotte. “From adding yoga and meditation apps like ours to entertainment programming, to airports offering yoga rooms, salad and juice bars, there’s a health movement around travel that’s growing in scale.” says Charlotte.

It’s not just the passengers who stand to benefit from all this health focused activity.  The travel industry at large could be the ultimate winner, with more people travelling as the downsides of travel stress further dissipate.

Cloud Nine Global agrees. The exciting new Australian travel brand started by two sisters who long lived on opposite sides of the world from each other, was created to improve the travel experience rather than just talking about it.

“Our trips back and forth were getting more difficult the more we travelled, and we were inspired to find a way to make the experience of travel more convenient, luxurious and (most importantly) fun for ourselves and our fellow travellers. Our goal was to find a way to arrive at our destination feeling rested, glowing – and ready for an Aperol spritz,” says Ali Lalak.

“We aim to make the experience of travel not just easier, but truly enjoyable”, says.  Cloud Nine Global offers beautifully curated travel packs that are both practical and luxurious.

Jason Charles Hill drone photography in Peru's Huascaran National park

One Day that Changed my Opinion on Influencers

As I slumped onto a rock on the side of a Peruvian mountain, looking out at the valley below, trying to suck in every available molecule of oxygen from the thin air, one question bounced around my pulsating brain: why don’t more social media influencers lounge by pools? This is hard work!

Hiking to Laguna 69, one of the many incredible glacial lakes in Peru’s Huascaran National Park with heavy cameras and lenses strapped to your back is no mean feat. It was here that I found myself chaperoning four amazingly talented social media influencers on a trip through the Andes, an experience that completely changed my understanding and respect of influencers forever.

My travelling companions were Jason Hill, Emilie Ristevski, Matt Cherubino and Annie Tarasova, together with their mountain of gear. These four were intrepid explorers, heading up, down and around mountains, valleys and deserts the world over, capturing images of some of the most awe-inspiring vistas on the planet.

Many people have an impression of influencers reflective of the most obvious but very narrow slice of social media users – that they are on big money, highlighting extravagant free luxury suites or unboxing free sneakers. But influencers come in many shapes and sizes, and it’s the skill of the destination marketer to align goals with an influencer’s strengths, aesthetic, skill in content creation and following.

Far from spoiled brats demanding first class everything, the carefully selected influencers were exceptionally collaborative every step of the planning process, working alongside us to research an itinerary that would appeal to their audience and capture the incredible natural highlights of Peru. They knew their abilities and wanted to push their limits to capture the right shots. They suggested travelling to Laguna 69, one of the more remote lakes in the National Park, due to its incredible turquoise colour and glacial surroundings.

Embarking at 5am from Huaraz, a city high in the Andes, we wound our way up precarious mountain paths until we reached Llanganuco, a lake lower down the range. We were already 4000 metres above sea level and looking out from the lake, we were already sitting high over the clouds above the adjacent range on the other side of the valley. This was where our ascent would begin!

From here, it was a fairly flat first few kilometres, wandering past clear streams that ran through green meadows, punctuated by the odd cow or Incan hut. The air was cool without being cold, and with my heart rate climbing, I could feel only the slightest sniff of altitude sickness. After about 30 minutes the flat meadow turned into a gradual slope and then a switchback-filled mountain climb, as we continued the ascent.

The switchbacks were gruelling and with every step I had to fight the urge to collapse. It was a hard-fought battle between my brain, gravity, growing altitude sickness and my general lack of physical fitness. Through all this pain, the social media influencers pushed on. They too were feeling the pain, and at various times, each would fall back, occasionally joining me at the back of the pack, but all four powered on, dedicated to getting the best content for the project.

Around 4.5 kilometres, or two-ish hours into the hike, I had taken a battering. The influencers, and our insane guide Eddie (who quite believably claimed to be able to run the trek in 45 minutes), were all tiny specs in my blurred vision and I was struggling. I found a spot on the side of a hill to rest. Unfortunately this would be the end of my ascent. I sat for a few minutes, attempting garbled Spanish at passers-by who were handling the altitude far better than I, before I began my slow, long and arduous descent.

The same could not be said of my intrepid photographer friends, who, despite having equally serious altitude sickness and health concerns, fought their way to the peak. These weren’t precious influencers who reviewed first-class flights. These were true adventurers who were driven to share their experiences with their community of like-minded followers. And the results show.

Days later, when we were down around sea-level, the content creators started to share the images they captured on the mountain and the feedback from their followers was immediate and telling. While each photo drew in thousands of likes, the comments pointed to a following that was engaged in the destination, with many people noting these content creators served as inspiration for their next trips. The followers had indeed been tangibly influenced.

Finding the right influencers for any content project is key; those willing to go over and above for their followers, whose core brand values are consistent with the key messages you are wanting to drive home. Finding them takes tenacity and patient analysis, but it all pays off. Let the itinerary be guided and shaped by them and the results from highly engaged followers will come.

How can Augmented Reality enhance travel?

Augmented reality (AR) has emerged in recent years as a vital marketing tool. It allows destinations to change the way people perceive the environment, and it allows richer decision-making tools for those planning where to go next. Medium last year reported a whopping 84% of consumers said they would be interested in using VR and AR for travel experiences.

While the UX will continue to evolve, Augmented Reality will be most valuable to hospitality and travel.

This week Gate 7 caught up with augmented reality artist Charles Clapshaw in Bondi to gain some insights into how big companies are currently using AR.

“For AR you have to think a little bit in the future, because some big changes are going to happen in terms of the technology we are walking around with in our pockets,” says Charles.

“In the future AR ‘portals’ will allow us to explore and share environments much more spatially. To virtually walk around in them and understand proximity, depth and height through them. We will be able to click on objects to buy the whole holiday from within an immersive AR environment and it will become much more cinematic and seamless than what we are seeing in the market today.”

AR is so useful to travel and hospitality businesses, precisely because airlines, hotels, museums and resorts are selling a physical environment to visitors. AR means that almost any environment you can think of, can be enhanced with an AR layering. AR will provide the portal that transports you to the deeper, 3d world, and this is scalable as it’s accessed through smart phones.

As he explains Augmented Reality can scale faster than virtual reality because it leaves behind the “nerd-ville” factor of wearing a headset.

“Every year Virtual Reality is missing its audience estimates because no one wants to be the person in the corner of the gallery with the headset on,” Charles says.

Instead he believes that AR will be embraced by the new generation of user who grew up playing Pokemon Go and are happy to don a pair of sunglasses to add AR’s benefits to their world.

“Rather than us just looking at a flat website on a screen you will be able to enter a 3D world and experience the beach or the forest you are about to visit.

“The largest relevancy to travel and tourism is that AR is going to be at one with communicating the benefits of more three dimensional offerings. They will seductive environments that you can’t resist entering,” Charles says.

On a very practical level, AR will enable us to travel better. Last year, Travelport worked with easyJet to build an AR app that helps travellers to work out if their carry-on bag will fit in the overhead cabins. At the airport too, by connecting AR with Google Maps, this technology will provide easy to follow digital signage.

“When you get off a plane in a strange airport in the middle of the night, the AR app will help you to find your gate with handy arrows pointing out how to get there,” Charles says.

The full extent of opportunities for the travel industry with AR is still up in the air, but it’s clear that it will have a use and impact on every stage of the travel cycle.

Sustainable Tourism is the Untamed Frontier of Luxury Travel

The term “sustainable” is bandied so frequently around in tourism circles, that it is easy to connection with the real meaning behind the sustainability movement. The word is used in so many different ways, from a throw-away synonym for “environmentally-friendly”, to using in a hole in the ground for a bathroom, or sleuthing through a phrase book to learn “soy milk” in Portuguese. Sustainability doesn’t mean sacrificing the pleasures that make travel special, and it certainly doesn’t fly in direct opposition to the idea of luxury travel.

Sustainability in travel is about keeping destinations and communities thriving and beautiful for future generations. It is an understanding that you are a small part in the long story of a place or a people, and that should be preserved long after you are gone.It is about rewarding those businesses who understand the fragility of the intrinsic attraction of the destination and do everything in their power to protect that, channelling the demand itself toward preservation.

Take Machu Picchu, for example. In the century since its “rediscovery”, the citadel has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and opened up to tourists from all over the world. But very quickly up to 5,000 tourists a day were visiting an archaeological site that was only designed to house a few hundred Incan aristocrats. In 2017, the Peruvian government implemented restrictions to limit the number of visiting tourists and enforced a framework to ensure that Machu Picchu will exist for centuries to come. At the core of sustainable travel is a well measured, balanced approach to secure preservation, longevity, the retention of authenticity and ensure benefits flow back to the local community.

Sustainable doesn’t have to mean basic. Down the mountain from Machu Picchu, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is an example of sustainable tourism at its most luxurious. The hotel is built into the mountainous “cloud forest”, and is modelled after ancient Incan villages. The spa specialises in traditional health and wellness treatments, and the restaurant serves outstanding Peruvian specialties created with locally-sourced, organic ingredients. Water is recycled and cleaned before it is let back into the river system, and every soap, detergent and shampoo is made from local natural ingredients. Guests can take nature walks with local guides who proudly exhibit the wild beauty of Peru’s rainforest.

While that may not sound particularly ground-breaking, these small changes minimise the hotel’s footprint on the surrounding environment, maximise its investment in the local community. It is all presented in a unique and luxurious way.

Increasingly, travellers are demanding sustainable environments on their holidays, and are willing to pay more for these. Today’s luxury holiday experiences simply must be created through a sustainability lense. Travellers want to sleep easy in the knowledge that their holiday money is working to help the locals and to preserve the very cultures and environments that have attracted them in the first place, for many generations to come.

Narrowcasting: The Future of PR Placements

If you were to visit any travel media website, the most popular format of article doesn’t answer the question “where should I go?” or “what should I see?”, but some form of “what should I do?” For the modern traveller, the driving force has shifted from ticking off a bucketlist item, to using travel as a form of self expression and a new environment in which to engage in their passions and interests.

The impetus is clear; Successful travel marketing requires storytelling about how travellers can get involved in the activities that they love.

While broadcast and syndicated print media continues to offer huge reach and readership numbers, which do have impact (and look fantastic in reports), but often the message can be quite generic, to cater to such broad markets. Contradicting established logic, placing stories in small, niche, and specialised media is where the future of travel PR is heading. Why? Because the energy to drive action is far more potent the more targeted the story can be. Narrowcasting is where the conversion lies.

Mass awareness broadcasting has certainly not become irrelevant, and still has an important place in the media cycle. In the initial phases of a brand breaking the local market, creating mass awareness drives incredible momentum for a brand in the public eye. But narrowcasting gives us the opportunity to move a consumer along the funnel from thinking “what can I do in this destination?”, to “how can I do what I love in this destination?”

Narrowcasting does exactly that; targeting PR placements to environments where audiences are engaged, informed, and most importantly, ready to buy. If the name doesn’t give it away, it is the opposite of broadcasting; moving away from mass-reach, low-impact PR placements to targeting small segments of the population who are hungry for content that relates to their lives. It’s putting away the drag net and getting out the spear-gun.

In July 2018, the California’s Pacific Coast Highway was reopened to the public after months of repairs following a devastating landslide in 2017. To celebrate the reopening, Visit California hosted a “Dream Drive”, with over 80 historic vehicles driving in convoy along a 200 kilometre stretch of the coast.

One of the drivers invited for this trip was Australian V8 Supercars legend, Craig Lowndes, who had recently announced his retirement from the sport. Aside from the broad newsworthiness of the reopening of the highway, Lowndes’ participation meant that there was keen interest in the event from both sporting and motoring media, delivering the key messaging directly to audiences where it would have the most impact.

Gate 7 was able to lock in coverage for the event in titles as broad as Fox Sports, to niche non-travel publications such as SpeedCafe, and RedBook. Further, a partnership with Channel 10’s motor-sport program RPM, secured nearly 10-minutes of niche, passion-focused television coverage directly to enthusiasts who would look to drive the iconic stretch of coastline; far more coverage than we could have hoped to garner through traditional wide media distribution.

In this new status quo, where there’s a more balanced focus between mass reach and narrowcast placements, the challenge of measurement and ROI becomes a lot more complex than measurements of reach and readership. How do we weight the increased impact of more targeted placements? In digital publications, understanding engagement levels through analytics that point to page-dwell times, bounce rates, and comments is already commonplace, but of course quantifying these sentiments in print presents a more difficult challenge.

It’s not an easy challenge. Together with our clients, we are looking for ways to correlate specific brand messages to the level of context in the publications where placements are achieved. Travel PR, after all, is the art of leveraging media relationships to build a public image, which drives tourism to a destination or product, not simply to accrue large reach numbers for the sake of hitting quotas or besting previous goals.

Matthew Cherubino shoots Huarcaran from Huaraz, Peru

Get Vocal, Get Local

Social media is such a powerful and revolutionary marketing tool. It allows brands to talk directly with consumers in unfiltered ways utilising a huge range of content types and styles, as well as listen to their real time feedback.

Australian and New Zealand audiences are globally ranked as some of the earliest adopters of new technology and social media platforms. Combined with their larrikin sense of humour and high levels of education, this makes social a primary medium for international brands catering to the market.

As both countries start to look at emerging from the global COVID-19 crisis in a relatively strong position, their travel markets are itching to start moving again. Connecting with Australians and New Zealanders has never been a better market strategy for international brands. Launching, and maintaining a social media presence can be a minefield, so here are five tips from the Gate 7 social team to help you create or refine a local social strategy.


1. Think Global, Post Local

In Australia and New Zealand, social media users are easily turned off by content that is cookie-cut for international audiences. Preference is shown to brands that make the effort to localise their content, voice and design to cater to local tastes and needs.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything needs to be created from scratch for the local market. Before you rush headlong into preparations for a brand new social media page built from the ground up, it may be more efficient, cost effective, and impactful to leverage key elements from the global page.

Since 2012, Facebook has offered a very powerful, but often overlooked feature, known as the Facebook Global Page. For a large portion of big-name brands, products and destinations, the platform allows pages to segment out sub-sections of their audience into individually-managed regional pages to give a more unique local flavour to content, while still accessing the resources of the global page.

2. Authentic Content

In the social media landscape, authenticity is king; Users are interacting with brands on a personal level and what they see must ring true and deeply reflect the key brand values that attracted them to follow. The strongest content strategy is focussed on bringing your strengths to life in your brand’s authentic tone of voice.

The same evaluation that you would have made of your brand’s values for public relations and marketing purposes will fit into a social context, with slight adjustments to be made to your voice, as you’ll be speaking directly to consumers over social media. Set out your “visual narrative” and define your general aesthetic, personality and tone of voice. These are the foundations of the content plan.

Create structure around your messaging pillars; what are the USPs you want to bring to life, the key messages you want to share with your audience? Built upon your content plan that will see you deliver these messages in a considered and consistent manner.


3. Measure Twice, Post Once

Establishing a set of KPI’s and measures and frequently checking in with these will give you the opportunity to learn what’s resonating best and adjust your content accordingly. This is a two way conversation, so you need to be listening to what your audience is coming back to you with.

The huge number of tools available to marketers on social media platforms mean that there is no one-size-fits-all, guaranteed strategy home-run for your brand. The ever-evolving algorithms that rule the roost of Facebook and Instagram also force marketers to continually experiment with their content strategies to maximise results. Keep researching what works for others, but remember that there’s nothing better than your own historical data.

4. Build Community. Boost Engagement. Rinse. Repeat.

Upon launch, your focus should be on building up an audience of fans and followers. Put budget into background ads that will spread your content to a broad audience that you can refine down to people interested in your product or service.

Once the foundation of your community has been achieved and the initial growth surge has subsided, moving to create highly engaging content, responding to followers and fans with comments and sharing similar content will push up your engagement rate. A higher engagement rate then boosts your positioning in most social media platforms’ algorithms, and in turn leads to a higher growth rate with followers.

5. Bring All Your Friends to the Party

The best part of social media is that it is inherently interconnected, both for the average user and for commercial pages. As a brand you can directly interact with other brands, public figures and influencers, and leverage their social capital, audiences and content creation skills to boost your brand’s own profile.

Engaging with an aligned brand or commercial partner can be a very beneficial way to expose your message to a like minded audience. Consumer competitions, activations and sponsored posts in partnership with known and trusted local brands can facilitate you becoming a part of the conversation with that community and expand your reach and following in the process.

Working in partnership with influencers who are appropriately selected for their like minded audience and their skillful content creation is another impactful way to make a splash on social media. A great many influencers will go the extra mile to produce incredible content for a brand that appeals to their interests, and they have a loyal following which gives them great sway.
A final, and far less expensive method of leveraging other pages’ reach is to simply interact with similar pages, with comments, likes and shares, effectively tapping into the conversations others are having with your target community.