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How VisitScotland is using Facebook to draw Spanish tourists

How VisitScotland is using Facebook to draw Spanish tourists

By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.

When the going get’s tough, then marketers need to think clever. This mantra has never been more true than today. The recession has impacted on industries across the board and the travel sector has been no different.

Tighter budgets and a need to demonstrate ROI to the CFOs who hold the purse strings means marketers need to think beyond traditional channels in a bid to reach new consumers.

Realising this fact, VisitScotland has been involved in an innovative blogger and social media campaign, charting the exploits of the charismatic Madrileno, Diego Ponti. The campaign has involved creating a wealth of content and the generation of a fanbase of thousands.

“Clearly there is a high level of competition as destinations fight it out for share of purse. In this climate we need to be focused, targeted and smarter with our budgets,” Chief Executive of VisitScotland, Malcolm Roughead (pictured), told UTalkMarketing.

“The staycation effect has certainly taken hold. But the media landscape has been changed radically by digital, forcing us to take a second look at the channels we target.”

According to the UK Tourism Survey, visitor figures for January - June 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, saw an increase of visitors from the UK of 6%. Meanwhile, Scots who decided to holiday at home were up 16%.

In terms of the North American market visitors saw an increase in value of 35%; and while the European market remains “fairly flat”, France and Germany are leading the recovery.

“The strategic pillars of our marketing strategy remain the same but our tactics change depending on the market. So we’re doing more with digital media, social media and PR,” explained Roughead.

“In the UK, we’re still investing in cinema and TV, but we’re then supporting this with digital for a more integrated approach. Ultimately it’s about understanding the market, consumer behaviour and their media consumption habits.”

The Diegeo blog and social media campaign was launched on the back of the already established pan-European ‘Meet the Scots’ marketing activity.

Spain is Scotland’s fourth largest market for leisure trips - with around 172,000 Spanish visitors bringing in more than £80million for the Scottish economy and bolstering local businesses all around the country with their love of touring holidays.

“We know Spain has a young profile; it’s a dynamic and growing market. On top of that more routes have opened up between Scotland and Spain,” said Roughead.

“There is a genuine thirst for knowledge for all things Scottish – the language and culture. There’s a great interest in storytelling in creating a more evocative experience and so we hit on the idea of the blog.”

VisitScotland had been using Facebook in Spain for sometime and used the platform to host a series of focus groups as part of its R&D. Sounding out the prospect of a blog driven project, the feedback was encouragingly positive with fans expressing a willingness to participate and get involved.

“Using Facebook for R&D was a pilot project, but one which definitely paid off. We didn’t have defined business objectives in terms of conversion. It was more about reaching new audiences,” Roughead said.

‘Meet the Scots’ aims to strike a chord with Europeans who not only want the heritage, history and scenery, but also the feeling of connecting with the Scottish people.

VisitScotland’s international visitor research shows that it’s the Scots’ character, humour and passion which are widely recognised and admired abroad, and through this campaign, all those attributes are harnessed to promote the country. 

“The concept was about real people and using Scots as ambassadors, telling Spaniards that ’You too can be a Scot’. So we decided to bring someone from that market to create a blog and create content,” Roughead added.

“The hope was that people buy-in to the project, pick up on the content and it would go viral.”

Spanish blogger, Diego Ponti, Diego was given the opportunity to tour Scotland and tap into the many experiences promoted by VisitScotland with his itinerary put together by the international marketing team.

His blog might be ‘virtual’ but the people he encountered were very much the real deal - B&B owners, a ferryman , a Loch Ness expert and a world renowned bagpipe player to name just a few.

Via Facebook, Diego created a virtual diary of his Scottish expedition including video content and photography. The resulting pages aim to serve as an innovative way of reaching potential visitors and whetting their appetite for a trip to Scotland.

“The Facebook activity was an integral part of our communications strategy – not just an add on,” Roughead explained.

“When approaching social media, you need to have an over-arching and integrated strategy – it can’t sit in isolation. You have to have the resources to manage it and be in a position to continue the dialogue.”

For VisitScotland, social media is used for four key areas: a communications channel, a research tool, a promotions channel and information channel. For each of these it’s about determining the aims – whether it be engagement or driving comments.

“Yes it can be fun, but it’s good for business too,” added Roughead.

So how has Diego delivered? Well, the Facebook page ‘Viajes a Escocia’ has over 6,500 fans. In addition the viajandocondiego YouTube channel has had 38,790 views.

“The campaign will come to its own natural end as the pan-European campaign comes to an end. We’ll look at the findings and learn what we can. There’s always something to learn,” explained Roughead.

“It’s key to remember to remember that you can’t force a narrative, you have to be part of it. This is why destination marketing in a way has an advantage over FMCG. As long as people have a positive experience on their travels they will want to share it.”

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