Tourism often plays an important role in a destination’s economic development, bringing in visitors to spend money in local businesses, inward investment to develop infrastructure and providing jobs for residents. However, managing a destination sustainably is not an easy task. Tourism, if not planned and managed appropriately can become destructive – over tourism, degradation of the environment, loss of culture, disruption of local community’s lives, seasonality, etc.

Marketing is a powerful tool that is commonly used by organisations around the world to define their brand and attract customers. Destinations are no different. Destination Marketing Organisations, sometimes referred to as Destination Management Organisations when the organisation undertakes a more comprehensive management role, market their destination. They establish a brand image and use Unique Selling Points relevant to their target market to attract visitors.

100% Pure New Zealand is an example of a very successful destination brand. Launched in 1999, it “has been praised as one of the world’s strongest, longest-running and most admired destination brands”*. The success of the brand can be shown in the increase of tourists, from 1.6 million in 1999 to over 3.8million in 2019. According to the national tourism board, 1 billion people saw coverage of the brand between 2007 and 2008, and a recent marketing campaign “Good Morning World” on social media received 605 million impressions and 12 million comments over the period of a year, increasing organic online search of “New Zealand” by 1590%.

But marketing cannot, and should not, only be used to attract more visitors. To ensure that a place, its natural environment, culture, and residents do not suffer, tourism must be efficiently managed. This means managing numbers to avoid over tourism, reversing seasonality if it exists, changing behaviour of visitors that degrade the environment, etc.

1. How to use marketing to reduce seasonality?

Stop promoting your destination in peak season. This may sound drastic, but your target market is obviously aware of your destination, since you are welcoming too many visitors, and stopping or reducing promotion could help take your destination out of the mind of a few visitors, contributing to bringing numbers back to sustainable levels.

Focus all your marketing activities on promoting off-peak activities in your destination. Expand your brand image by promoting the Unique Selling Points of your destination in off-peak season. For example, a coastal destination, could promote specific water-based activities only available or better then (e.g. ice/winter swimming which has many health benefits, any other popular sport that could be enjoyed with less crowds in off-peak season such as surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, etc.). A focus on culinary experiences or other cultural activities and off-season events in the destination could also help to attract visitors.

2. How to use marketing to reduce over tourism?

Reducing visitor numbers with strict limitations is one obvious way to drastically tackle over tourism. Machu Picchu, in Peru, has capped the number of visitors to 2,244 per day for example.

Over tourism will usually take place in peak season, so you may implement similar strategies as outlined above. But over tourism could also be limited to a specific attraction (natural, cultural, geographical) or place within the destination. In that case, stop promoting such touristic spots and focus all your marketing activities to promote other, less popular, spots in the destination. This will help spread tourism resources to the whole destination, reduce congestion and improve the experience in popular places.

3. How to use marketing to change behaviour of visitors?

Visitors can disrupt a destination by leaving trash behind, being loud or disrespectful of the local culture or local community. Social marketing uses the principles of marketing to encourage people to change their behaviour. The NSMC** explains that it is a “process that applies marketing principles and techniques to create, communicate and deliver value in order to influence target audience behaviors that benefit society (public health, safety, the environment, and communities) as well as the target audience”. Find out more about how to do social marketing in their ‘Big Pocket Guide to using social marketing for behavioural change’.

Sustainable destinations focus on quality over quantity. It is critical that marketing activities serve this purpose and attract the right type of visitors – the ones that will respect the destination, its culture, traditions, people, and environment.

Acorn Tourism works with a wide variety of destinations to help them change their market base and attract visitors that will add value to the destination. Key questions that need to be answered are:

  • Who should the destination target (based in the market analysis)
  • What can the destination offer (based on the product analysis)
  • How can the destination stand out (based on the competitor analysis)
  • Which products will bring the destination greatest socio-economic benefit (ie, the priority products for development)

For example, the Caribbean Island of Aruba recognizes that to ensure the long-term viability of its tourism industry, it needs to shift its customer base from Baby Boomers using all-inclusive hotels, to Millennials searching for local authentic experiences. To identify which of their local tourism experiences they could develop and actively market to attract the millennial market, they asked Acorn to produce a Niche Product Development Roadmap to underpin a revised marketing strategy. Read more.




Aruba Niche Product Development Roadmap
Strategic Planning
Kitesurfing at Fisherman’s Huts Noord Aruba

We assessed potential demand for niche activities in Aruba including Adventure, Birding, Culinary, Nautical, Romance, Sport and Wellness and conducted stakeholder consultations to identify the products that could differentiate Aruba from its competitors. The Roadmap provided a detailed action plan for how to develop the niche products with the greatest market potential.



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