This week a conference took place in Athens about the potential of digital marketing in driving Greece’s tourism sector. Greece is an established tourist destination, but could travel operators be doing more to encourage visitors?
“Intense Online Marketing and New Tools: Challenges and Perspectives” might have a bit of a clunky title, but its aim was to look at the benefits, challenges and opportunities of embracing online activity to enjoy greater tourist footfall and spend.
The conference, which took place at Athens Museum of Cycladic Art yesterday, explored the following:
- The role of technology in an era of an increasingly ageing population
- Social media marketing
- Stakeholder management.
Greece’s key selling points – beautiful landscapes, major contributions to literature, art and philosophy and great weather – see millions of people visit the Mediterranean destination every year.
But buffeted hard by the financial crisis of the late 2000s, Greece saw its economy shrink by a massive 23% between 2008 and 2013. The Eurozone crisis seems – largely – over, but Greece is still feeling the effects of the recession. Could tourism – powered by digital marketing – play a greater role in driving the country’s battered economy forward?
Greece tourism facts
- Tourism contributes 16.4% of Greece’s GDP
- The sector employs more than 688,000 people
- 16.9 million international visitors every year
- Top markets: United Kingdom (21.2%), Germany (17.5%), Italy (8.8%), France (5.3%), Holland (5.2%)
- Increasingly, visitors from Eastern Europe and China are making Greece their preferred destination
(Sources: Invest in Greece and World Travel and Tourism Council)
Harnessing content marketing in Greece
The Impact of Online Content on European Tourism, a November 2013 white paper from Tourism Economics, identifies a “relatively low proportion” of Greece’s travel firms using ecommerce to connect with customers.
“Such an imbalance presents a significant opportunity to increase sales with more widespread industry adoption of internet sales and marketing platforms,” the report argues.
- Online content drives 10% of tourist arrivals in Greece – but the EU average is 49%
- The country’s tourism industry would benefit from a 20% increase in demand if online activities were increased
- This would add 3% to Greece GDP and create more than 100,000 new jobs
Room for improvement
As a tourist destination, Greece is well developed. But it is clear more needs be done to encourage an increase in tourism by embracing online marketing. The Athens conference, while recognising that online tools play a “vital” role in promoting tourism, also addressed some issues and challenges.
How to get an online marketing project off the ground?
- Make online marketing a primary channel
- Embrace different platforms: website, apps, search engines, TripAdvisor
- Use social media to engage with would-be tourists
There’s an awful lot of areas Greek operators can focus on. Here are some ideas.
Promoting Greece as a year-round destination
Some 56% of international tourist arrivals to Greece are recorded between July and September, according to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises. Moreover, visitors tend to holiday in Crete, Rhodes, Corfu and Athens, meaning many of the country’s regions are ignored.
Developing a four-season tourism infrastructure and focusing on lesser-visited areas would be a good way to encourage people to visit Greece – whatever time of year and whatever the location.
- Increase online marketing around year-round activities like golf and hiking
- Promote overlooked Greek regions online through comprehensive guides and things-to-do lists
- Don’t just focus on sun, sun, sun – what about food, religious and cultural tourism too?
Today it is crucial that online content is presented in the language of a target market. As English becomes less dominant online, operators are seeing that when they speak to potential customers in their own languages, they see higher conversion rates and a greater return on investment.
This focus is especially important in the tourism sector, where people want concrete information on wide-ranging topics: hotel information, flight information, activity guides to name a few. Marketing should support a wider base of countries and meets customers’ demands for information on services, facilities and attractions.
- Set up dedicated content hubs for top target markets – established and emerging
- Work with a professional translation agency to develop accurate and engaging content
- Develop country-specific SEO and paid search campaigns
Focus on cultural tourism
Culture is a key motivator for European travellers, particularly for those heading to Greece. The Tourism Economics research shows that culture-related searches account for a significant 45% of all tourism-related searches on the country.
- Offer insightful top-five quote pieces from philosophers like Aristotle and Plato
- Produce an infographic charting Greece’s cultural hotspots
- Cover upcoming exhibitions and new museum openings
These suggestions are by no means an exhaustive list of tactics that Greek tour operators could employ. We’d like to hear your suggestions.