Saturday, January 26, 2013

Less Is Less: Tourism promotion

The Balearics ministry of tourism and sport has released its plan of action for 2013. Fifteen pages long, it could probably have all been fitted onto one sheet of A4 or even the back of a fag packet. But as there are fifteen pages, what gems of promotional action do they reveal?

The first thing to be said about this plan is that it is one of six elements in the "integral plan of tourism", by which is meant the "route that will make the Balearic Islands a motivational, competitive and modern destination". One might ask, therefore, if the Balearics have previously been none of these things. Whatever, the strategic objective of the promotional element is to "adapt to new consumer behaviour" in positioning a different tourist destination. Note the word "different". Supporting this objective are three further elements - brand management, positioning and Web E.0 (or the Web as consumer experience). Which is all terribly interesting and might be more so if the action plan mentioned Web E.0 again. It doesn't, and by the way, if you are wondering what is meant by Web E.0, then we're talking social media among some other jargon (knowledge management on-demand, digital media relationship management). If you don't know what these mean, don't worry, no one does.

Instead, the action plan is concerned exclusively with trade fairs and visits of various sorts. A total of 107 separate "actions" will be carried out this year in promoting the Balearics, and the average cost of these actions will be around a fifth of what 60 "actions" in 2009 cost. This greatly reduced average cost is of course designed to impress: more for less, the mantra according to Delgado.

It is when you delve into these actions that you begin to form a rather worrying conclusion. Where, for example, are all the actions designed to capture emerging tourist markets? Even the Russian market, held up as the great saviour of Balearics tourism, gets a mere three actions. One of these is the Moscow fair in March. As for the other two, the plan doesn't specifically say. Brazil and India both get one unspecified action. There isn't a single one for China, the Middle East or other Latin American countries apart from the solitary action in Brazil.

Yet, the next great boom in international tourism will come from such countries. The predicted growth in Chinese outward tourism over the next 20 years or so is 30%; Latin America is 15%. Where also is any attempt to take action in Japan or Canada, both of them with good growth prospects?

Instead, which country will get the lion's share of promotional attention? Germany. Over twice as much effort as the UK. Far from being strategic in being forward-thinking, the plan looks like more of the same. The key markets such as Germany can't be ignored, of course they can't, but the architects of the plan seem not to appreciate how international tourism is developing and will develop over the next few years.

Then there is what is "different" for the "different tourist destination" that the plan envisages. What type of attraction do you suppose will get most promotional attention? If you say sun and beach, you wouldn't be wrong, just that the plan refers to it as "coastal". Nothing else comes vaguely near, which sounds in one way a sensible understanding of where Mallorca and the Balearics strengths lie - flat out on the sand, soaking up the sun. But in devoting, for example, 1% of actions to nautical tourism, 2% to cycling, where's the diversification, the drive towards low-season, winter tourism? About as hidden as the diversification into the new emerging tourism markets. Yet, the tourism ministry has boasted that this plan is all about ensuring improvements to low-season tourism.

That the plan says absolutely nothing about the use of social media and other so-called Web E.0 techniques makes one wonder if its inclusion is simply there for show. Does the ministry even know how it intends to exploit these techniques? The fact that the plan is silent and the fact that the targeting of the actions is anything but innovative leads me to conclude that this plan is just an exercise in window-dressing. The government wants to be able to make its more or less boast, but what it has ended up with is less for more; more actions but with less strategy and less clarity as to future needs. A plan for inaction. If they want, they can give me the 25 grand average cost of the 107 actions and I'll come up with something better.

Any comments to please.

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