In response to all this, Egyptian travel businesses and the Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA) are beginning to realize that once reliable methods for promoting Egypt may not be sufficient to turn the tide quickly enough and convince people that Egypt remains a safe and desirable tourism destination.
The evidence of this realization? An E-Tourism and E-Marketing Conference strategically held in Cairo amidst a second wave of protests last month. The conference, organized by the International Organization for the E-Tourism Industry (IOETI) focused broadly on social media and digital marketing, featuring eight travel bloggers among its speakers.
The aim: to help the audience better understand what travel bloggers do, how to leverage their experiences, and how to integrate partnerships with them into an effective online marketing strategy.
Who attended the IOETI conference?
The 150 people who attended the two-day conference came mainly from across the Middle East, and in particular the Egyptian tourism industry. Attendees included the Egyptian Tourism Authority, tour companies, hotels and properties, PR companies and press.
While most participants were familiar with the concepts of social media and digital marketing (and less so with travel blogging), not all understood them thoroughly or were actively employing them in their marketing strategies.
Egyptian travel companies not only need to increase awareness of what Egypt is as a destination, but they also need to deliver this with a finely tuned message that says “Egypt is safe.” The conference provided ideas and tools that could help them try to change this perception.
Who were the speakers involved, including participating travel bloggers?
Michael Leander, as keynote speaker, kicked off the conference with a presentation about the key components of a winning digital marketing strategy and how to promote engagement with clients in the travel industry. He challenged attendees not to think of themselves as working in the tourism business, but rather the experience business.
The upshot: none of us is in the business of selling a bullet point list of destinations and features, but rather an experience.
This was a perfect lead-in for travel bloggers to speak about what we do (ie. experience exposure) and how our work can benefit Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and travel companies.
- Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll (that’s us!) from Uncornered Market: Maximizing Destination Exposure: Working with Travel Bloggers to Tell Your Story
- Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil from The Planet D: How Working with Travel Bloggers can Increase Sales and Brand Visibility
- Jen Pollack Bianco from My Life is a Trip: Social Media Content Marketing: The Art of Travel Blogging
- Erica Hargreave from Ahimsa Media and Roamancing: SEO Optimization and case study of Digital Character Storytelling
- Jan Polatschek of Travels with Jan: Steps to Create a Successful Travel Blog
- Ralph Velasco of Ralph Velasco Photography: Better Photography to Enhance Your Online Presence
(Full conference agenda here.)
Key Takeaways about the benefits of working with travel bloggers:
1) Immediacy of Exposure: Using their blog, content and social media reach, travel bloggers can impact destination exposure and alter the nature of the conversation about a destination almost immediately. This is a contrast to the regular life cycle for print media. For a destination like Egypt facing an urgent need to allay prospective tourists’ security concerns, the opportunity is now.
2) Content with Long Shelf Life: Travel bloggers are digital storytellers armed with a host of skills to capture experiences in multi-media ways and outlets to share these with growing and receptive audiences. That content, based on its quality and resonance, can influence online conversations forever. This is crucial, as a vast majority of consumers go online to get the information that informs their travel choices.
3) Trust Factor: Travel bloggers are real people; they are accessible. Members of their communities trust them; they inspire others to enjoy similar experiences. This combination of trust and inspiration is what helps to make audiences do more than just consume content, but to take action and ultimately book trips.
4) Destination Ambassadors: When a travel blogger has a good experience, he wants to share it loud and wide. He is then seen as an authority on that destination, service or product, which then turns him into an informal ambassador. The cooperation between bloggers and Visit Jordan is a good example of this.
How were these topics and presentations received?
Based on discussions after our presentation and the conference itself, several ETA representatives were inspired to use material from the conference for a presentation to their ETA management regarding a new marketing strategy that emphasized cooperation with travel bloggers. We’re told that the presentation went well, but an official ETA decision on the pursuit of that strategy remains.
The lesson here, as always: Things take time (or “TTT” – thanks goes to keynote Michael Leander for this apt acronym).
Like any strategic evolution and adjustment, it’s incumbent upon us as travel bloggers, writers and travel consulting professionals to continually shepherd the education process regarding the whys and hows of working with our community. Pitching that clearly outlines a value proposition and includes a healthy dose of relationship building can only help motivate Egyptian – and other – tourism organizations to make the shift.
For the sake of Egypt’s tourism industry – and all those people who depend on it for their living — we sincerely hope they do, and do so quickly.