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What keeps me moving forward

ITB Berlin 2009: ideas to leverage Web 2.0 tools for trade show exhibitors

ITB Berlin- March 2009(one of the world’s leading travel trade show):  some lucky bloggers will have a press pass in order to cover the event provided they leverage the major Web 2.0 tools during the event- those tools are mainly:

– blogging often DURING the event – giving their readers insights to this worldwide recognized event for the tourism industry,

– podcast and vidcast: audio/video are encouraged to be published online for people to listen to/watch it from different devices (iPod, multmimedia players, computers, …)

– micro-blogging via twitter: many people  consider Twitter as a waste of time-I was part of this group until I decided to play the game too and become almost addicted to it :-). But considering that Phocuswright (a well-recognized online travel industry research) and the consortium of travel-related bloggers Tips from the T- list (BTW, if you haven’ t done it yet, I highly encourage you to download and read this Tips from the T list book-which is free- but where you can find a “condensé” of advices from recognized travel 2.0 bloggers all over the world) consider it as a requirement for a blogger to be given a pass proves that twitter is  a tool to consider for covering such events.

Now what’s the point for Madagascar (the country)?

For the delegation that will go to ITB Berlin, or for our national DMO (Office National du Tourisme de Madagascar), I’ d  suggest they do the following:

BEFORE THE EVENT

* from now (January 18th): create a twitter account and clearly indicate on your profile that you are from Madagascar preparing Madagascar’s participation to ITB, have people follow you on twitter

* get in touch with potential bloggers/journalists that will come to ITB. Have those people follow you on Twitter and do the effort of updating your tweets regularly. You can give them insights or excerpts of what you’re going to do before as teasing or as a PR efforts in the view of having a wider “media” coverage for the participation to the event, or in the view of attracting more people to Madagascar’s booth during the trade show

* publish on youtube or dailymotion the promotional videos you are planning to bring to the event,

* gather all the brochures of Madagascar’s participants and upload it on scribd (I’ ve already covered this topic on “how to give an online life to your brochure”), then motivate all your participants, as well as your contacts to spread the word about it through every channel (for example through connections on any social networks that they are member of : on facebook, flickr, wayn,…)

DURING THE EVENT

* increase the number/frequency of your tweets that may announce some events that will happen on Madagascar booth,

* take photos/videos  and directly upload it for people to share it

While hints I’ m giving here are not exhaustive, you may consider having a look at “Trade Show insights”, which I particularly find useful for exhibitors to get used to as they deal with actual experiences

I’ ll also be intersted to discover other ways from you (readers of this blog) about how to leverage Web 2.0 tools for trade show exhibitors…

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mobile communications… what’s in for your tourism activity?

On one hand, ipod, blackberry, and other smartphones …they all come with plenty of  features and most of your clients use them on a daily basis (isn’t it convenient to have all your communication tools in one device: phone, SMS, camera, organizer, USB disk, multimedia player, …moreover all your contacts are within reach through chat, SMS, phone call, web applications, …).On another hand, the number of  content designed for those mobile devices are now increasing . The trend is set: mobile communications goes beyond simple SMS. Anything interesting for your tourism-business?

Talking about online connectivity, one usually think about someone behind a computer browsing the internet. Let’s not ignore the fact that being connected through mobile devices is now a reality. A smartphone with embedded Google maps (however Madagascar map is not well-populated), a tourist that updates in real-time his twitter followers about how happy/unhappy he is about the service you have delivered (mind the buzz), another tourist that updates photos taken from his camera-enabled smartphone a flickr/facebook account, or another tourist that asks for guidance from his “friends” on the social networks he is member of about interesting places to be…: those are all features that are already available for tourists that come to Madagascar now.

In fact, although there’s no rule ot thumb with regard to mobile marketing so far (as well as for Web 2.0 too), one thing’s for sure: your target customers are using those features and give importance to the discussions held on those social networks whether they participate from a laptop/desktop, or they are joining the crowd from their smartphone/mobile devices. Your company may take a step ahead your competitors by actually having a clear marketing strategy on how to surf this wave.

More interesting reading on actual experiences for Avis/Budget Rent-a-Car mobile marketing as well as Red Lion hotels where Eyetravel analyses two approaches for mobile marketing by asking is it “about ROI or brand advocacy”

amazing numbers

$63.5 million generated in one week-end from 4065 theaters (7th best bow of all the time) for the movie “Madagascar-escape to Africa”.

As opposed to that impressive figure,for the 2007 season, Madagascar-tourism industry generated 586,7 billion FMG (if $1=8000 FMG) which is around USD 73 million

Unless I made some mistake in my calculation, Dreamworks is generating in one week-end almost what all tourism sector in Madagascar hardly generates in one year.

if you think having an online presence will cost an arm and a leg… think again

Find below some reasons that may make you think again and a way to easily setup an effective online presence without spending money … (ok, that one is not necessary true as you will have to pay for the time you spend on internet updating your website, unless you are lucky enough to live in some part of Europe, in some places in Africa … I am not even talking about the US and Canada). In fact, this article will be another plea for you to blog

Unless you have very specific needs and features that you want to implement on your own website, there are options you should consider in order to setup an online presence that will help you:

– tell the world who you are,

– but, most interestingly, showcase what you are doing, share some news, share some interesting tips

Ok.. so let’s find out how to proceed

first step: open a wordpress.com account

A lot of blogging platforms exist out there but I personnally prefer wordpress for different reasons among which are: very good indexing from major search engines, a very active community and a proved solution

Creating an account is as easy as creating a web-based e-mail address. Go to http://www.wordpress.com, carefully chose your username (which is going to be your web address similar to http://yourusername.wordpress.com).

an excerpt of wordpress.com profile
an excerpt of wordpress.com profile

Tweak a bit your profile on wordpress.  This is a screenshot of my blog’s settings. Don’t forget to select the predefined theme that suits your needs. You’d be interested in the themes that has some customizable headers

Play around with different templates and widgets,

Then post your first article.

A note though, blogs are mainly for sharing news, updates-though a much more dynamic approach.Since you may publish some static informations (about your company, …) you’ll want to publish a page (instead of post)… And opt for a theme that allows to easily show your pages

second step: begin networking

Alllow users to subscribe to your news/feeds. An easy way to to this is to subscribe to feedburner.com and associate your blog to this service. Feedburner is an easy way to provide a subsciption to your news via RSS or by e-mail.

Comment, give feedback on some other blogger’s weblogs that share the same interests as you.

Third step: add some fun

Want to add some Google map that will help people find you, or want to add the latest video  of a trip you are offering, upload it on youtube.com and insert it on your blog. For photos, even though you have a 3Gb of photos that can be uploaded to your wordpress.com account, you may also want to consider uploading your photos on flickr.com and use them to illustrate your blog posts

How to give an online life to your printed brochure?

This article will show you a way to cheaply distribute online your brochure. In fact, it will only cost you the time you spent uploading the brochure on scribd.com

You’ve designed and printed a brochure for your tourism-activity and you are trying to do your best to distribute it. You can distribute it during face-to-face meetings (tradeshows, walk-in visits to your office, …), and sometimes you tried to send the electronic version by e-mail (knowing how painful it is to send a 4Mb file by e-mail from Madagascar, you can be reluctant to repeat this exercise often when potential clients/partners is requesting an electronic copy of your brochure).

There’s plenty of solutions for you to distribute these brochures. Today, I just want to highlight one (that is obviously leveraging one Web 2.0 concept: taking advantage of established communities and social bookmarking features). How to proceed?

First, you have to be ready with an electronic (preferably on PDF format) version of your brochure.

Next, you can upload this file onto your own website hoping that  few visitors will download it

OR

– try to find an online community that will help you distribute it via social bookmarking, upload your document there under the right category (though a much-targeted visitors/downloaders).

One interesting solution is scribd.com: the good part is that you can use it even if you don’t have your own website.

You can create an account there, then upload your PDF file on the right category and that’s it.

But the best is yet to come. In fact, the most interesting part is only beginning once you uploaded the file since:

– you can have the stats of the number of viewers of the document (which you usually don’t easily have access to on your own website)

– the viewers can contribute to make your document popular by “social bookmarking” it on popular websites like digg.com, reddit.com, stumbleupon.con, del.icio.us, …

– you can even keep the old “e-mail it” way as there is a form for you (or for other viewers) to e-mail the document… So, you only upload it once, then you can go to scribd.com and send by e-mail your brochure as many times as you want without having to suffer from low bandwidth each time you have to e-mail your brochure

– visitors can also download it (though, if you don’t have your own website, you can still go on with this solution)

– other people can embed your brochure on their own website a

Todays’ financial turmoil… does it actually affect tourism?

I am actually wondering if tourism in Madagascar will be affected by the current financial turmoil.

In times of general crisis, it is expected that most potential tourists will adopt the  “staycation strategy” (which is staying at home on holiday in a bid to save money),

On the other hand, knowing that most of DMO like the Office National du Tourisme à Madagascar mainly fills its budget gap from donor’s fund (main income is generated by taxes, out of which 50% is shared with regional tourism offices), and since the currently affected countries are also some of the main donor countries, it is expected that their contributions will lower.Does it mean that marketing efforts from our national DMO will also lower for 2009?

What’s your view on this?

What matters most: exposure or targeted customers for Madagascar?

Reading one of the many stories behind the coming out of the second Madagascar cartoon movie [fr] I can’t help but question myself about what Madagascar is really expecting from all those exposures. Is it only about branding and expecting that someone will decide to come, or can we turn it into a more target-oriented marketing effort.

Let’s consider three major events that are expected to drive exposure for Madagascar.

–  Madagascar-escape 2 africa: the soon-to-be a major hit … Every tourism operator is expecting a lot from this movie. But expecting what? Everybody agrees that it will give a huge coverage for Madagascar. Lot of people also think that the cartoon does not depict the actual Madagascar. I am not sure the second cartoon will try to “correct” this. In fact, I am not sure what kind of tourist will be attracted by this cartoon to come to Madagascar: is it the kid who barely wants to explore more about Madagascar than what is depicted in the cartoon (and who will assimilate Madagascar to all the marketing goodies that goes along with the promotion of this cartoon: figurines, playing cards, T-shirts, games, …). Is it about the journalists- and their readers- that will give their critique about the movie? …  Frankly, I’m a bit lost when I want to find a answer that goes beyond “that’s a huge publicity for Madagascar”. I am even tempted to ask, if this cartoon will give a good coverage for the “Madagascar (the name)”, will it reflect what Madagascar tourism operators wants Madagascar (the island) to be perceived as?

South africa 2010- football world cup: yes, that’s a huge opportunity, and Madagascar is only 3 hours flight from Johannesburg. All the aficionados of football will come to support their team and have fun.  At least, this time we have a clear profile of the tourist that will possibly come , we also have a rough estimation of  journalists that will cover this event (2000)… We also know that the national tourism office is negotiating to have South-African tour operators to include Madagascar in the circuits they propose.That seems to be a more target-oriented approach and I personnaly think now is already the time for TO to seduce those probable customers.

– African Union summit 2009 hosted by Madagascar: yet another exposure opportunity for Madagascar. Although this is not about tourism, we expect to have a lot of journalists covering the event, and also making special reports on different aspects of Madagascar- the hosting country. I personally think that Madagascra definitely need to leverage on one part of Web 2.0 (user generated content) in order to give different (or same) point of view of what is going to be reported during this event. But this time again, from the tourism perspective,  do we have a clear idea of who are we targeting? Is it the delegations that are going to come here? Or is it only about brand (Madagascar) management

Now the question is: how to get the most out of those events to attract tourists?

New look

Looking at search terms that visitors of blog use, I found out that you need to dig deeper in order to find relevant information. Although the old theme I used on this blog is good, I needed a more structured theme where I can highlight some topics …

More columns, a feature to emphasize on the most popular post, and widget-ready sidebar makes this theme an interesting one for my wordpress.com

I’ ve also made some changes with regard to the category names as some were still in French.

Blog vs website: case study

I was looking for an information on ORTANA Madagascar and did it the “usual internet user-way” via google with the following keywords “ORTANA madagascar”.

The result was amazing (and yes, it was also flattering for me)… the first two results given by Google send back to wordpress tags (ortana and business traveller) referring to posts on my blog. In fact, they were referring to two posts of my blogs

Now when I look into ORTANA’s website, I find it awesome that they have published so much information on their website but those are not correctly indexed by search engine. On the other hand, I am publishing small pieces of my thoughts on my personal blog and my blog got more exposure- mainly because of my tags.

In fact, I think the main difference is that:

– even though I did not a marketing campaign for my blog, WordPress is doing it on my behalf. Which means: integrating and using a well established platform (community, because wordpress bloggers is a community) gives more exposure

– Tags are interesting, and very useful concepts to integrate into any website.

Although this small case study does not make the case for a rule of thumb, tourism players that already have their own website might want to consider blogging (they surely have more to say than me on some topics 🙂

And yes, I’ll still tag with “ortana” this post 🙂

I’ll try to post about another “marketing-killer” tool (publishing to social bookmarks) for any website in another post

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