Honing the fine art of destination marketing

Trip.com destination marketing specialist Edison Chen talks about present and future trends and needs

As travellers are becoming more tech-savvy, distracted, and consequently more demanding, destination marketing professionals and travel agencies are brainstorming new strategies – from vertical marketing, AI-powered personalisation, Vlog and more – to break through the marketing clutter and capture the consumers’ attention. To this end, Edison Chen, General Manager of Destination Marketing for Trip.com, was present at ITB Asia conference, speaking on “New” Destination Marketing. We spoke to him after the session about some of the key takeaways.

People have to look at a broad range of topics, including branding, content development, product development, big data and PR. You have to look at how to bring all these elements together to come up with a comprehensive plan to promote the destination and to reach all the objectives. This topic is becoming increasingly important. A number of tourism organisations are spending a lot of effort on destination marketing. Some are doing a good job, but some do this in a very simple way, setting very basic objectives, such as number of visitors, and other than that they don’t care much about anything else. But as a destination, you cannot just focus on increasing the number of visitors in a short space of time. You have to look at issues like aviation, awareness, services, content, whether you are talking to the right audience or not… and if you are not doing this planning at an early stage, it will have a bad impact in the long run. We are always exploring at new methods to do destination marketing. Five or six years ago, it was all about doing advertising in the general media, for branding. But nowadays, you are getting data and technology involved, AI, a lot of analysis, and product customisation. So, when the market changes and consumer behaviour changes, the way of doing destination marketing also has to be changed.


Do you see any particular best practices in this respect?

From my experience, I can cite Tourism Australia, L.A. Tourism Board and Visit California, and in this region, Tourism Indonesia, and the Singapore Tourism Board. They are doing a very good job, focusing on different areas, not just numbers of travellers. They are also looking at technology improvement, service improvement, and they are not just promoting one destination. They are not just promoting one single destination; they are thinking ahead three or five years, to the new destinations and experiences.

How do you help DMOs with their marketing?

That’s a good question. A lot of people think Ctrip and Trip.com is just an online travel agent. But in fact, we are more than a travel agent. We are also a media platform, we are also a technology company. We also have the content, and we have the product team. Our job is to see how to integrate all the internal resources, and to work with all the tourism organisations or destinations, to ensure our resources are aligned with their objectives. We run campaigns and activities in partnership with DMOs in different areas, including media branding, product development, big data analysis, content and social media activities. We integrate online and offline, to ensure we give 360° coverage, not only in B2C but also sometimes in B2B. In this way, we can promote a destination in a very comprehensive way.

What would you say is the key takeaway from your presentation?

There is no single standard format for destination marketing. You really need to understand your market, and to have very clear objectives. Then you can choose the right strategy, the right methods, and the right channels to run the destination marketing. Don’t expect to simply nd a model or format for running destination marketing. Customisation, not just for travel products, but also for the destination marketing plan is very important.

Photo: Edison Chen, General Manager of Destination Marketing, Trip.com