Up until recently, most destination marketing was done with traditional media: newspapers and magazines, public transportation, and television.
Baidu is the most popular search engine in China and the fifth-largest website in the world based on average daily visitors and page views.
The internet giant has developed everything from social networking products to music, mobile, and travel services, but its principle business remains online advertising. Altogether, Baidu’s online marketing services made up 99% of the company’s $7.9 billion in total revenue in 2014.
Han Dong is Baidu’s Director of Destination Marketing, a division that deals with the company’s destination-specific advertisers.
ChinaTravelNews’s Aaron Stewart sat down with Han recently to discuss topics such as the changing face of destination marketing, how TV and mobile have influenced Chinese travelers, and the unveiling of O2O digital service tool Baidu Connect.
Out with the old, in with the new
With spring now sprung, it’s a ripe time for travel. So how do you decide where to go?
Distance, cost, food, and local attractions are all key factors when considering your next vacation. And destination marketing wants to help you decide which place is best for you.
Destination marketing is the practice of promoting a city, region, or country to attract more visitors. Up until recently, most destination marketing was done with traditional media: newspapers and magazines, public transportation, and television.
But with over one billion people around the world traveling internationally every year, and China alone generating half a trillion dollars in total travel revenue in 2014, competition in the travel market is as fierce as ever. That has pushed destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to come up with new ways to attract visitors.
“In the last year or two, the rise of the fan economy, the revealing of WeMedia, the diversification of internet advertising, all brought a new way of thinking to destination marketing,” Han Dong says. “The 2013 show ‘Where Did Daddy Go?’ brought exceptionally good marketing results to places in the show like Snow Village and Jiming Island. Travel-related searches on Baidu for destinations in those popular travel shows grew five, even 10 times.”
TV shows like “Where Did Daddy Go?” – a documentary/reality series that puts Chinese celebrities in challenging parental situations – became a new form of destination marketing. A number of locations featured in the show, like Snow Village in the remote northeast and Jiming Island off the coast of Shandong, saw visitor numbers soar after appearing on air.
A similar phenomenon occurred in the small town of Selby, England, where Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou was married in January. In the wake of Chou’s wedding, the town’s thousand-year-old abbey and nearby castle saw a spike in visitors, mostly from Asia, as tour operators scrambled to add the scenic spot to itineraries and translate visitor brochures into Chinese.
The use of pop culture to promote a destination highlights the current shift away from traditional media and towards connecting consumers with more personalized experiences.
“Ten years ago income was lower, information was incorrect,” Han explains. “When people were making their travel decisions, more relied on advertisers passing on information. If I said, ‘We have the most beautiful scenery, come here and you’ll enjoy service fit for an emperor,’ users had no choice but to believe me, because so few people around them had been there before, and there were no other channels to obtain additional information.”
“But with the way information is flourishing like it is today, consumers are smarter,” Han continued. “You say your scenery is the most beautiful and the service is good, they’ll ask what you are basing it on.”
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