Tourism marketing plans cannot work without proper research

At the end of his book, “Confessions of an Advertising Man”, David Ogilvy lists a few isms that include: “We prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance.” Yes I have been reading this page turner of a book and learning quite a few things.

It is indeed getting harder to concentrate on a real book in today’s world of internet notifications. In today’s world if you were not plugged into the internet for a good number of hours, you could throw your friends into a panic.

This book could not have come in at a better time because when many were commenting about a marketing strategy gone wrong or should I say, one that took a wrong curve. All East African Community members rely heavily on tourism receipts to keep their economies above water.

The region has been gifted by nature with some of the most spectacular flora and fauna. I mean where else can one see the great wildebeest migration, tree climbing lions, mountain gorillas and snow peaked mountain?

It is however not enough to just have these blessings without making the effort to package and sell them well to the rest of the world and also to the people of the land.

Able bodied men and women on the payrolls of the different tourism boards in the region spend a big chunk of their lives trying to figure out how to attract tourists, how to retain them and how to get them to spend while on tour. Many of them are my friends and it is indeed not an easy job for them.

The starting point for all these marketing strategies has got to be research. I am talking about exhaustive and in-depth research. David Ogilvy is considered by many as the most famous publicist and father of marketing or advertising.

In his book and in other books as well as his many years of practice, he bequeathed us many lessons that are relevant to this day.

Ogilvy spent a good number of years working for George Gallup, the founder of the Gallup Poll, an agency known for doing market research and surveys. Here he horned his skills as a researcher and grew to love the value of research in advertising and marketing.

In his words, “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.” He stresses that this is the most tedious part but it is mandatory. You have to do it. You have to study your consumer in detail.

As East African countries embark on marketing the various tourism products they have on offer, intense research should always be the foundation of this marketing. To my good friends in the various tourism boards, how do the people you are marketing for think and what exactly are their needs?

Take the example of domestic tourism. This is an area that many tourism boards started paying attention to a little late and it shows in some of the campaigns that are poorly executed.

Without dwelling on any particular country’s campaign, I want us to think about who in a country needs to indulge in domestic tourism. How many of them put aside time and resources to visit their own country? Why and when do they do it? How do they arrive at this decision and what affects that journey?

What is their general perception about tourism in general, the products, the services and the facilities around? Tourism boards should carry out intensive research and establish the personas of the domestic tourists and like marketers, they need to understand the buying process of a consumer.

Once you have established the personas you need to go deeper and find out where these people live, where they work what their general aspirations in life are and even what kind of language they use. After all it is that very language that you will use when speaking to them.

Armed with this good information, you can then go ahead to craft a solid marketing strategy. The strategy should be able to answer all the questions that potential domestic tourists may have.

Selling your country to its owners, the citizens is really no mean feat. It is even much harder when you are too lazy to do proper research.

Email: ssenyonga@gmail.com

Blog: www.ssenyonga.wordpress.com

Twitter: @ssojo81

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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