2017 Tourism Marketing
In this episode we discuss some of the tourism marketing activities and highlights from 2016 and look towards 2017 planning with Isaac Mizrachi Director of Tourism for the destination of Tel Aviv. 2017 Tourism Marketing.
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HollyG: Welcome to episode 72 of Tourism Upgrade, the podcast unpacking marketing trends from travel, tourism and marketing leaders. I’m your host, HollyG and today we welcome Isaac Mizrachi, who is Director of Tourism at the City of Tel Aviv in Israel. We will be discussing 2017 tourism marketing. I met Isaac about four years ago and I think you were speaking at SoMeT Conference in Wollongong?
Isaac Mizrachi: Yeah, that’s right. What a great experience it was.
HollyG: Now what we wanted to talk about today was, I guess, get a bit of a sense of 2016 and also look at 2017. I know that you’ve been in sort of planning mode, so I thought it would be great if we could have this conversation and turn it into a podcast. Yeah, maybe we could start off by telling us a little bit Tel Aviv and tourism and maybe what are some of the things that you’ve been doing in 2016?
Isaac Mizrachi: Sure. To be begin with Tel Aviv as a destination, just because not many people know Tel Aviv, I’ll just say that it’s the biggest city in Israel. It’s in the Mediterranean Sea, not too far from, about one hour flight from Greece, Cyprus, three hours flight from Italy, so quite a central destination. It’s 52 square kilometres, so it’s a tiny city. Most tourists that come here do that because of the ocean, because of the beach life, because of the urban lifestyle. We have excellent bars and pubs and a great food scene. Lots of vegan restaurants. Tel Aviv apparently is the friendliest vegan city in the world, which is new to me as well.
Isaac Mizrachi: Yeah, there you go. It’s a very cool city, very different to most cities around it in the Middle East. It’s very liberal, very open. We have a very strong LGBT community, so LGBT tourism is quite strong here too. Roughly one million tourists a year, so not a lot. It’s growing though. That’s Tel Aviv on a nutshell. What we did in 2016? Well in 2016 we launched our biggest ever campaign, which is a collaboration with the City of Jerusalem, which basically invites tourists to discover two cities in one break. It’s a $10 million campaign that targets our European markets only at this stage. It was a bold decision because we basically said, “Let’s bring another brand into our offering and go to the end consumer with a single message.”
Combining these two cities it’s not something that we did before. I’m not sure if I remember any similar campaigns that took two different destinations and try to sell them as one. Yeah, we hope it will bring good results, we’ve started a couple of months ago. So far impression wise and click-through wise and interaction wise it’s going really well, but we would like to see some more bookings and some more tourists and we’ll be able to measure that probably after the current winter. We’ve just started our winter season, so in about two or three months we’ll know if it did well.
HollyG: Yeah and what markets?
Isaac Mizrachi: Well our top five markets are Russia, Italy, U.K., Germany, France and Spain. The U.S. is another big market for us, but this particular campaign, as I said, only targets Europe at this stage. In the U.S. we’re doing different things. Yeah, these are our big markets. China is also fairly new to us. We’ve started doing smaller activities, mainly in social, Weibo, WeChat. We have a representative in Beijing and in Shanghai, so we’re doing some little activities there, but it’s an emerging market so I can’t say we’re putting everything that we have there at this stage.
HollyG: I love that idea of partnering with another destination, two cities in one break. Are the destinations, like how close together are they? How do people travel to both?
Isaac Mizrachi: Oh, it’s only a 40 minute car ride, so that’s basically why we decided to combine the offering.
HollyG: Oh, so close. Very close.
Isaac Mizrachi: I know, it’s like if you’re in Melbourne you just drive to Mornington Peninsula and it’s just it’s out there, you know? The difference between these two cities is so immense you get all the modern lifestyle and the beach and the beautiful people in Tel Aviv and then you want something different you go to Jerusalem and experience 3,000 years of history and these amazing palaces and churches. It’s the birthplace of the three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in one city. You really get a good value for your holiday, for your buck when you combine these two destinations. Yeah, we hope it will do well.
HollyG: Yeah, we should do a follow up one in about a year’s time and see how the campaign went. What are some of the main sort of mediums you’re using in your marketing activities?
Isaac Mizrachi: Well in this particular campaign it’s all the traditional channels, so obviously TV ads and print and online. We started experimenting a little bit more with Snapchat in the past few months. In Tel Aviv we actually have this new initiative that we call inclusive tourism. Perhaps I’ll talk a bit more about it later when we talk about 2017. In general it’s all about involving residents in tourism planning, in our tourism work, because we feel that residents are those who control … Well, they’re the real bosses of the city, not DMOs, not us. With Snapchat we allow our residents to run it for us. We select different residents every week and a different local and we give him or her the password and they just post whatever they want, they tell the story of the city through their eyes.
Inclusive tourism: residents are the real bosses of the city, not DMOs.
HollyG: Oh, I love that.
Isaac Mizrachi: Snapchat is something where … Yeah, it’s going well. It’s nice. People love it. We get lots of interactions from that initiative.
HollyG: I can say that it’s been such a common theme in the last six months or so of relaunching this podcast and talking to people about the impact that locals have on a destination and how to get them involved in marketing. I love that you’ve brought that up, because, yeah, it’ll be great to talk about it. When you’re looking, I guess, I know that you’ve just been in planning mode for 2017, planning out your activities and what you’re doing. What does sort of your planning process look like?
Isaac Mizrachi: Well we ran a series of meetings with the different stakeholders that we work with, whether it’s the hotel association, the ministry of tourism, Airbnb that we work a lot with, and many others, and we try to synchronise everyone’s thoughts and needs and insights on tourism in Tel Aviv and based on that we’re currently developing the marketing calendar for 2017, media planning, new initiatives, more traditional stuff, like choosing trade shows to attend and so on and so forth. Basically that’s the essence of our planning process. I really believe it’s all about involving all the relevant stakeholders rather than to work in isolation.
HollyG: Yeah, and I like what you said there, it was about understanding their needs and what they want, but also getting their insights and their intel.
Isaac Mizrachi: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean we all know that marketing is all about data and insight and we never do things without asking our tourists and our stakeholders and all people involved what exactly is it that they need, what exactly is it that they feel about trends in tourism and so on? It’s always about learning from real life and then improve based on that.
HollyG: Yeah. How do you get feedback from the visitors that are coming into the destination?
Isaac Mizrachi: We try to mix traditional and nontraditional ways. We hand out surveys on our information centres to begin with. That’s a bit old fashion, but you know what, it helps us a lot. We get plenty of responses and then we analyse the data, the responses, and come up with a monthly summary. Exactly. We learn from that and we change things. Another thing that we do is we conduct particular … Well we choose particular events and we conduct research works around these events. Let’s say the gay pride parade last year, so it’s a one week long event, we have plenty of tourists, LGBT tourists coming from all around the world and we wanted to make sure that we’re running a proper event, that people feel safe and that they’re happy and that the content is right for them. We worked with a couple of researchers, university researchers from the University of Jerusalem and we drafted a survey and we conducted interviews and focus groups and there were lots of research activities around it.
Just one example, we put a research stand right at the LGBT beach in Tel Aviv, so basically that was the focal point. All the gay tourists that came to Tel Aviv participated in that research and we came up with some really interesting insights, like most visitors felt that Tel Aviv was very safe for them. The perception of safety that we sometimes have problems with apparently wasn’t an issue for the LGBT tourists. We also learned that most of them thought that Tel Aviv is a pricey destination and so for this year’s event we’re starting to work with many hotels on creating more affordable packages for LGBT tourists and try to make it more affordable for them.
These are the more traditional options for research and for measuring user satisfaction. Other than that, we use all the digital tools, whether it’s Facebook insights. We try to learn about our demographics, where people come from, what did they say, how did they respond to our posts? Yeah, so digital tools that are available. Nothing that you haven’t heard of before, Holly.
HollyG: Yeah, but it’s interesting, I think, to just … I think especially hearing it from a bigger destination, such as yourself, to any sort of smaller destinations, is getting that continual feedback is really part of, helps in your planning and that constant improvement all the time and it’s you need to make sure you’ve got that system of feedback setup. Yeah, you can monitor what you’re doing and also really help with your planning when it comes to sort of planning time.
Isaac Mizrachi: Absolutely. We have to. We can’t isolate ourselves from what our tourists are saying. It’s essential. It’s an essential part of the work of any DMO, I think.
HollyG: Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. Now, what are some of the key projects or opportunities that you have identified that you’re going to be looking towards actioning for 2017?
Isaac Mizrachi: We learned about the problems that some European cities are facing with their residents due to the crazy number of tourists they have, let’s say in Barcelona or Amsterdam and Venice in Italy, so the lack of control and so on, so following that and in effort to reduce the risk for something like that to happen in Tel Aviv we decided to launch a project called inclusive tourism, which basically says that the city belongs to its residents and therefore we should involve them more often in tourism planning.
That’s why we invited locals to participate in writing our tourism master plan. That’s why we promote local travel tech startups and integrate them into the tourism infrastructure of the city. That’s why we work a lot with Airbnb and help current people who host in Airbnb to become better hosts. Inclusive tourism is definitely a key project for us in 2017.
HollyG: I love that idea so much. I haven’t really heard it termed like that. You mentioned about the travel tech startups, can you talk a little bit about what’s happening there?
Isaac Mizrachi: Yeah, sure. The idea is that we as a DMO shouldn’t develop new technologies to improve visitor satisfaction, but rather to use what’s out there and help it grow faster. Now Tel Aviv is well known for its startup scene. There are more startups here than almost any other place in the world, except for Silicon Valley, of course. Lots of entrepreneurs, lots of cool different projects. Sorry. Many of them belong to the travel industry. Many of them are travel startups. We as a municipality basically can offer these startups the support they need in the early stages, so we give them a free working space and we give them exposure to global media and we introduce them to potential investors.
In return we get their product. Now when I say, “We get their product,” it sounds bad, but in other words it’s we embed their products in the local tourism infrastructure, so if I, for example, if I have a startup that allows users to book hotel rooms faster and for me, embedding my product into a hotel is a great, because then I could test my product, I could validate it, I could see how real users use it, get their feedback. We have, just a real example, a startup called Artbeat that is made in Tel Aviv.
It allows you to when you visit a museum you can scan in any artwork that you want and it gives you all you need to know about the artist, about the artwork, about similar artworks from the same period and so on. It improves visitor satisfaction in a museum. We took this startup, we helped it grow and then we introduced it to various galleries and museums around the city and now they all use it.
Isaac Mizrachi: It’s great for the tourists because it improves the visit. It’s great for the startup because it allows it to learn and get real time feedback from visitors and it’s great for us as a city, because we are able to offer visitors a better experience and market ourselves as an advanced destination. That’s smart tourism in a nutshell.
HollyG: Yeah, that’s great. It’s really looking at quite different partnerships than what we would’ve traditionally looked at five or 10 years ago looking down this path, do you think?
Isaac Mizrachi: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. We strongly believe in that. The tourism industry can be very old fashioned and very anachronistic, but with all these emerging travel tech startups and with Airbnb, step-by-step, becoming a huge travel company, you just have to work with these stakeholders. You just have to identify them and try to connect with them despite those voices that say, “Hey, work with us because we know tourism. We are the traditional stakeholders and you should focus on us.” I keep saying that it’s best to just stick with the new powers of tourism, plus it’s what the market demands.
You see all the millennial tourists, they expect you, as a DMO, to offer these services, they expect you as a DMO to work with companies like Airbnb to talk about the sharing economy, to offer amazing apps and improve the visitor satisfaction using those digital tools. It’s a tourist’s expectation, so you can’t just ignore it.
HollyG: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, very, very true. You’ve mentioned Airbnb a couple of times, what sort of relationship do you have with them and how does that work?
Isaac Mizrachi: In Tel Aviv we have about 8,000 Airbnb listings, which is-
Isaac Mizrachi: Yeah, that’s exactly similar to the number of hotel rooms that we have here. It’s big. It’s big in Tel Aviv. We get lots and lots of tourists that wouldn’t have come here otherwise, because Tel Aviv hotels, although they’re great, they tend to be a bit pricey, so Airbnb helps in that regard. We get many budget conscious travellers and we thought we can’t ignore it, like most DMOs unfortunately do, and so we decided, we approached them last year, they were happy to work together.
We started with creating an online neighbourhood guide for Tel Aviv neighbourhoods. They produced it, they sent photographers and writers and we suggested all the shooting locations and we helped with content writing. It was a real collaboration between us and them. The end result is phenomenal. We love it. You’re welcome to check it out, Tel Aviv neighbourhood guide. It’s really cool.
HollyG: Yeah, I’ll put a link in the show notes as well. I’d love to check it out.
Isaac Mizrachi: Fantastic. Fantastic. Other than that we’re currently working on, as part of that inclusive tourism initiative that I was talking about, we’re working on [inaudible 00:20:34] workshops that will allow current Airbnb hosts to learn, sorry, to teach potential hosts how to join Airbnb, how to play the Airbnb game. We’re going to do it in a speed dating format that will have different potential hosts and different current hosts just switching tables and helping each other to become better hosts. That’s another thing on our plate. We’ll do some things in the MICE industry, so the meetings and events industry. We’ll see how Airbnb will fit into that, because once we have those massive conferences sometimes the hotels just don’t have any rooms to offer and so Airbnb may help. These are all planned for 2017. I hope that some of them will become a reality, but to be honest they are great partners. I strongly encourage DMOs worldwide, in Australia and worldwide, to work, to collaborate with Airbnb, they can bring a lot of value to the destination. Of course that doesn’t mean that we support Airbnb regulation. We feel that the phenomenon that is the sharing economy should be regulated, there should be a fair competition between hotels and Airbnb and other rental providers. That doesn’t contrast one another, you can still work with them and on the other hand still call for proper regulation.
HollyG: Well interesting to, yeah, to hear your thoughts on that, especially given that you’re in that relationship at this point. Yeah. In last last week’s episode, episode 71, we talked a lot about opportunities for tourism destinations in relation to Airbnb and the sharing economy and it is a little bit of a changing of the mindset, but, as you said earlier, it’s what the visitor expects now. They want that person-to-person contact. They want a more personalised experience. They want to meet locals and immerse themselves in the destination. Is that what you’re finding as well?
Isaac Mizrachi: Yeah, absolutely and you know what? You see that in all aspects of the visitor experience, not just the housing. We get to see more and more tourists now using tools and startups like EatWith … Have you heard of EatWith?
HollyG: Tell us about it.
Isaac Mizrachi: Yeah. Sure. It’s a startup that allows you to have dinner in someone’s home, but to have dinner with a local and you can ask them questions of their life and what they do and just to visit their house and to see how it is, to spend some time in a locals house.
HollyG: For the show notes for this episode head to hollyg.com.au. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast service. I was just going to ask, I guess, what you’ve been doing or what you see from a social media perspective, what sort of stood out for your for 2016 and is there things that you’ll be sort of keeping your eye on in 2017? Where do you think we’re at from a social media perspective?
Isaac Mizrachi: Well, I think video keeps growing. It’s a bit repetitive, but from year-to-year we see how popular video is and so we’ll be putting a lot of effort on creating cool, meaningful content on video, video content. I think that we should create videos based on the platform, so when we’re creating content for Facebook the videos for Facebook they have to be different than what we create for other platforms out there. Plus I think that it’s about time for most DMOs who aren’t doing it already to focus on Chinese social media, so whether it’s Weibo or WeChat, it’s super important to just hire those people who can run these platforms for you or if you can have someone in-house to do it for you. It’s just too late not to be there and not to work there in 2017.
HollyG: Now it’s time for our $1,000 bonus question. If you only had a $1,000 marketing budget what would you spend it on?
Isaac Mizrachi: Well with a $1,000 I would probably focus on one market that’s important to us, let’s say, China. I’ll invite a top blogger to Tel Aviv and make sure they spread the word on Chinese social networks. I think that $1,000 would cover the flight here, so that would be what I’ll do.
HollyG: Okay. Great. What if you only had a $100?
Isaac Mizrachi: Well then I’d probably buy a pair of jeans and go home.
HollyG: Speaking of influencers, are you doing much work with influencers in your marketing activities?
Isaac Mizrachi: Yeah. Yeah, lots of works with bloggers and other influencers. We put a lot of effort on choosing the right ones though. We really do extensive research and check the engagement levels and the post quality and the target audience that each of these influencers is working with and then of course we create a great itinerary for them once they’re here. We put a lot of effort on making the most out of these influencers just to make sure that we get a good return.
HollyG: Yeah. Yeah. I think there was talk that the influencer marketing might fade off a little bit, but I don’t see that happening and I see a lot of destinations getting some really good results. In terms of getting great stories from different perspectives out there online to their target market.
Isaac Mizrachi: I think it’s super important. I agree with you and I think it’s super important especially for destinations that are less well-known or destinations with image perception issues, like Tel Aviv, where many people think it’s not very safe to come here, so we really need to bring those bloggers to actually say, “Hey, it’s great and it’s safe and you can come here and feel great and go for a jog at 11:00 p.m. and that’s perfectly fine.”
I think it’s also important for some part of Australia, places in western Australia. I remember when I was working for Delaware North and I was their digital marketing executive for a while and places like the The Kimberley or King’s Canyon or Wilson Island not very well-known and with influencers you can spread the word faster and better.
HollyG: Just a final question, do you see any big challenges for 2017? I’m sure there’s quite a few, but is there any sort of on your radar that you’ve identified?
Isaac Mizrachi: Challenges in Tel Aviv or globally?
HollyG: Globally, I guess.
Isaac Mizrachi: Oh, sure. Well we see much more terrorism in Europe and things are becoming a bit unsafe so the tourism game is changing a little bit. People these days understand that travelling is not 100% safe anymore, unfortunately, so this may affect tourism numbers. Hopefully not significantly, but that’s something that DMOs should think about and talk about and make sure that the safety issue is a high on their agenda. It’s important to educate tourists about safety issues.
HollyG: Now where can people find out a little bit more about you and connect with you?
Isaac Mizrachi: Oh, well, just LinkedIn me, I’ll be happy to answer any questions and collaborate, in Tel Aviv we’re very happy to collaborate on anything basically. If you have an idea for a cool travel tech startup and you need some support or some introduction to a [inaudible 00:30:05] startup or if you’re a DMO and you wish to work with some of our startups and learn about our technologies or you want to do a joint collaboration with, I don’t know, Airbnb and I’m open.
HollyG: I’ll put your LinkedIn link in the show notes as well. You’ve just definitely moved Tel Aviv up on my travel bucket list.
Isaac Mizrachi: Great.
HollyG: It’s really good to talk to you.
Tweet me with any comments or feedback @hollygalbraith or email is good too holly (at) hollyg.com.au
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