Digital marketing for the tourism industry

Digital Marketing

by Sam Munro 183 Views 0

Throughout March I’ve been touring Northern Ireland with the lovely people from Tourism Northern Ireland and Digital DNA. Starting in Derry-Londonderry, moving on to Newry, Ballymena, Omagh and finishing in Armagh, I’ve been discussing digital marketing with a range of tourism businesses to help them use digital marketing to widen their audience and bring in more business.

digital marketing for tourism and hospitality

Tourism is a huge sector in Northern Ireland, representing 4.9% of GDP and employing over 40,000 people. And it’s a growing sector too. The government projects that by 2020, 4.5 million visitors will come to Northern Ireland every year, so it’s essential that the providers, often small businesses, are in a position to capitalise on this opportunity.

Digital DNA and Tourism Northern Ireland ran a survey in early 2017 to find out what the issues were in the sector, so the roadshow could focus on their needs. Some of the results were surprising, some not so surprising.

On the surprising side, for example, over 60% of the respondents had been in business over 10 years, an incredible stat when you consider how tough trading has been since the great recession that kicked off around a decade ago.

hospitality and tourism marketing stats

On the other side of the ledger, seeing that 99% of the businesses who use social, use Facebook, was the least surprising news since the BBC announced they were going to show the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special again for the 43rd year in a row.

social media use in the tourism sector

Common themes that ran through the results were:

  • how to reach a wider audience,
  • where should advertising budget be spent,
  • what new channels should business be using, and
  • how to make the most of TripAdvisor – although when digging a bit more, what this really means was how to avoid bad reviews on TripAdvisor!

Strategic First

Having reviewed the results of the survey, there was a temptation to jump into a tactical workshop for the day and run through 101 CAT PHOTOS TO TURBOCHARGE YOUR BUSINESS or HOW YOUR BUSINESS SHOULD ATTRACT MILLENNIALS USING SNAPCHAT or something like that.

OK, these aren’t titles I ever considered (even though 101 cat photos would be amazing to present!), but I did look long and hard at a number of tactical workshops that would pay dividends in the short term. However, in small tourism businesses, time is precious, staff are seasonal and social media can change quickly, leaving the companies with advice that won’t serve them over a long period of time.

So we did what we do best – focused on the strategy. The 7Cs process The Tomorrow Lab use for delivering digital marketing makes a great framework for delivering workshops – its simple, progressive structure allows each participant to create something bespoke to their business. It’s also effective – the 7Cs has been the core of the activity here at The Tomorrow Lab for a while now and has been tested across a range of businesses of all sizes.

Over the course of the day, I’ve been taking the businesses through the process, starting to build out their own strategy as the day goes on. By taking this strategic approach, each business will have the structure and the tools to be able to develop their digital marketing, assess what channels will work for their business and choose what measurements are the most relevant.

digital marketing Belfast

Now for the hard part – implementation

In many ways, developing the strategy is the easy bit! The companies still need to go back to their front desk/office/kitchen table to deliver this strategy. That’s alongside running the business, delivering amazing customer service, managing staff, sweet-talking the bank manager and all the other important stuff that happens in micro and small business.

So to help with the implementation, the presentation also included some hints and tips for content creation; from how to create ideas, to time saving tips for delivery and where to look online to get cheap(er) design or copywriting services.


At the time of posting, we’ve done three workshops, with a diverse crowd at each. Some companies have really dived into the process and taken pages and pages of notes away with them, while others have been looking for the two or three key ideas they can implement immediately to make the biggest difference.

It’s also been an incredible learning experience for me too. Working closely with the participants has given me a new perspective on how micro and small businesses operate, the challenges they face and how they overcome them.

I can honestly say I salute every single one of the companies I’ve met so far. The passion they have for their business, the devotion to their local area and the enjoyment they get from their job is infectious. It has made the workshops a joy to be involved with.

More training!

The Tomorrow Lab doesn’t just do tourism roadshows. We host out own events which will continue to run throughout 2017. The Tomorrow Lab Presents, #TTLPresents to its friends, kicks off again for 2017 in May with a social media event. To be the first to hear about when tickets go on sale, pop your email in the box below.