Recently, several Middle Eastern countries – even smaller cities and towns – have been promoting themselves through destination marketing campaigns. Following the Arab Spring revolution, the Middle East’s tourism market took a hard hit and as the influx of tourists started dwindling, governments began to realize the importance of destination marketing to put themselves back on the map. Countries such as Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan – natural vacation spots for years – needed to remind the world of their Baalbek, Giza Pyramids and Petra. How does one do this successfully?
Location, location, location
One of the most important things that some tourist ads lack is picking the right spot to advertise. This spot, which will be a feature of all creative material, needs to be either an already recognizable area or a place that can easily become a recognizable one. The creative shouldn’t only encourage people to visit, but also excite them enough to visit the exact spot highlighted – so much so that it becomes the icon for all holiday photos. That means that a generic mountain picture, or a desert photo of people riding horses or camels is just not going to cut it. It shouldn’t look like any mountain or just any desert… it has to be specific. Only locals would know exactly the right selfie to take next to Burj Al Arab where the sun looks like it’s setting on the Burj’s helipad. Capitalize on that.
A tourist trap is typically a place set up to lure tourists to spend money on clichéd items. However, marketers often fall prey to this trap too, albeit in a different way. The easiest way to create an iconic scene for tourism purposes is to start with the obvious, such as Burj Khalifa to represent Dubai or the Giza Pyramids to represent Egypt. While it is important to pick a recognizable spot, it’s also important to remember that people often get tired of seeing the same old landmarks…at least from the same perspective. That’s why, even when you do use the same landmark, look at it from a different angle. For instance, Burj Khalifa looks really beautiful in the background of The Palace Downtown Dubai.
Feel the pulse
There is a reason tourism has plummeted in the Middle East and addressing that reason – even indirectly – makes for more honest advertising, which audiences love. For instance, Egypt Tourism Authority’s “Masr Wahashtoona (We Miss You)” recognizes that tourists and Egyptians have been away from Egypt for a few years following the revolution.
Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism started the “Live Love Lebanon” initiative to boost tourism in the country. Its campaign “As Not Seen on TV” presented a fun, vibrant side of Lebanon that’s usually not shown by the media. Addressing the problem and creating a marketing plan to fix it – or at least respond to it – creates a trusting bond with the audience. They know that you’re not denying the truth, but reminding them that there is more to the truth than what currently meets the eye.
Live, love, travel
One of the reasons that “Masr Wahashtoona” was so successful is that it went a long way in getting tangled in people’s emotions. People who were originally from Egypt loved it, people who had grown up in countries neighboring Egypt loved it and people who never even visited Egypt loved it. Because, through the simple phrase, “We miss you” in Egyptian Arabic (Wahashtoona), Egypt became a person. The country became a person with feelings and emotions and, according to that headline, the country was experiencing a most heartfelt emotion of missing someone.
Find out what people love most about your country and remind them of it. Vacations are about how a person feels, not about what they see or do.
As an account manager, I travel a lot when working on a tourism campaign – even if it’s the country I am living in. You never really get to understand the beauty of an entire country from behind your desk. Treat a country like a brand. Leave your phone behind and mix with the people, understand their language, immerse yourself in their culture and lose yourself in the excitement of discovering something new.
After all, as Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
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