When studying abroad in Australia, many of the destinations I decided to research and visit were places that a travel blogger, aGoPro photographer, or even a country had posted on Instagram. That’s so weird to say, but it’s true – Australia itself was posting pictures of baby koalas, beautiful beaches and luxurious foods I needed to see and try. I mean come on…
But I really do find it fascinating that countries need to promote themselves through these channels to get travelers’ attention and ultimately drive the tourist experience. Back in the day, travel agents were the ones pushing people in certain directions, but now with the transparency and availability of all the information online, people are making their own decisions.
Beyond my own experience, Australia is a regular pro in the tourism marketing world. The campaign “There’s nothing like Australia” has many different focuses and is shared though many different forms of media, social being just one. They even posted a Guide about how to get the most of a marketing campaign, using this one as the example.
Australia puts an emphasis on staying on top of social trends, like video/Instagram stories currently, eye-catching content, and forming a plan. Also, by sharing users content, it is interactive with their followers and has people generating the content for them for free. Brands that work with their followers benefit in more ways than one – and Australia, through their social media, has turned themselves into a brand.
Antigua Barbuda Romance
On Valentine’s day, the country with the most weddings per capita launched a Facebook page dedicated to romance. “Our goal is to provide exceptional experiences for all visitors each and every time, and we believe that this tool is another way to provide a richer customer and visitor experience.” – CEO of Antigua and Barbuda Tourism. Along with pictures and posts, a global sweepstakes is being held for a romantic vacation to Antigua. Increasing awareness, creating conversation, and getting people to interact via this giveaway are a great way to increase tourism for the country. Additionally, for someone like me, seeing beautiful photos on social media gets me thinking about these places and adding them to my list of “must sees.”
Peru – Land of Hidden Treasures
With inspirational messages as a place to “discover yourself” Peru wanted to increase awareness of the country’s beauty and drive tourism. The use of videos highlighted different experiences that are Peru specific like foods, sand boarding, and the amazing Macchu Picchu. It included luxury vacation stays to camping, making travel accessible for everyone. Measured by a Facebook study, “the strategy increased the country’s recognition in South Korea (by 17%), Germany (8%), France (7%) and Argentina (7%).” 
What is amazing to me is that I went to Peru probably right before or in the beginning of this campaign, and ever since I have seen Peru in every “must go” or “top countries of 2016” guides. When social channels are filled with promotion for a certain place, and it is beautiful, eye-catching content, magazine editors, travel sites, and newspapers will also pick up on these trends, creating more press on the country. Social media opens direct country-to-consumer information flow, and allows people to see their tourism options, creating awareness of places like Peru.
#OnlyInLouisiana & #TexasToDO
States can do it too! I read an article that Louisiana is launching a campaign around the hashtag #OnlyInLouisiana, hoping that visitors and residents will create the content, and share why it is a great tourism destination. However, when searching the hashtag, not much content has come up by the state itself or by other users. This is an example of a need for more publicity about the campaign – and if the @louisiana Instagram itself (which doesn’t seem to exist) had a strong following and began posting user-created content, there could be a stronger backing around the campaign.
The Texas tourism board has got it figured out. With @TexasTourism having almost 65,000 followers, it uses content from these followers: people are posting with the #TexasToDo hashtag in order to share their favorite things to do in Texas. The tourism website itself also has the ability to upload and share your must-do’s in Texas. This is an example of a more strongly backed state’s campaign that uses social media to drive tourism.
Something different – Japan’s Powder Dash
Japan tourism created a Facebook game that allowed users to “try out” the powder snow that Japan offered travelers. Players could “race down mountains, hit jumps, do tricks, in a bid to score high points and unlock advanced snowboards,” all while challenging and sharing with friends.
Japan tourism is another example of a well established country on social channels, with large following and great content.
Many countries should follow in pursuit if they are in the hopes of increasing tourism! By setting up social accounts, sharing user content, and creating buzz through press and travel sites, it is a low-cost and effective way of promoting travel to a country. Following Australia’s guide, and being inspired by Peru, who did not have that strong presence to begin with, I hope to see more countries taking reign of their social media channels.