Friday, October 25, 2013

Passive Passion For Palma

There has been a good deal of criticism of the promotion of Palma since the forming of the city's tourism foundation, Palma 365, and the launch of the "Passion for Palma de Mallorca" slogan and logo. I have been critical, especially of a slogan that is passé and of a logo that looks more as though it is marketing a medical service than a city. But Palma is stuck with both, so it may as well get on and do the best it can. Or rather, better than it has been doing. This is where the principal criticism comes in. What actually has the city and the foundation been doing with its 365 promotion?

One of the oddities of the foundation is that, as it consists of representatives of both the public and the private sectors, it brings together precisely the interested parties that should, working together, make for a more integrated and hopefully more professional approach to marketing. It may well be that the foundation will reveal itself as a sort of benchmark for public and private sector tourism promotion co-operation, but it has thus far hidden whatever promotional light it has under a bush of indeterminate action.

There is to be one notable change of tack, though. Palma is to drop its concentration on travel fairs and focus instead on direct promotion with four countries, or with the capital cities of four countries at any rate. Tourism emissaries are to be sent to London and Berlin in 2014 and also to Stockholm and Moscow in 2015 in order to meet with and speak directly with tour operators, airlines and the media. Palma town hall, which doubles as the co-ordinator of the Palma 365 campaign, will open to tender contracts to the value of 40,000 euros for agencies in the different cities to set about communication plans to promote Palma.

Well, I don't quite know what you get for forty grand but I can just about understand the change of tack. The foundation will be talking to the same sort of people it would talk to at a travel fair, but perhaps a travel fair isn't the right environment as there are too many others wanting to do some talking. A more focused approach makes some sense, especially when it comes to promoting out-of-season tourism. The town hall's tourism councillor, our old friend Álvaro (Sporting) Gijón, says that fairs are basically about sun-and-beach tourism, therefore summer rather than winter.

He does also admit that what will be done will be fairly basic stuff, and while there is nothing wrong with getting some basics right, it doesn't really inspire a great deal of confidence, and so one comes back to the criticisms. Palma has its campaign, it has its foundation, it has its slogan and logo. Now what?

There is also apparently going to be a new portal. Costing sixty grand, this website will bring together all the relevant information about the city and a bookings system for hotels, hire car and what have you. It remains to be seen what it will actually entail but I fear that it might end up as just another example of essentially passive marketing.

The contracts for the agencies in the four countries will, one imagines, be aimed at getting increased media coverage for Palma. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, but it, like many a website as well as other forms of promotion, such as TV advertising, is too passive for a contemporary market. Yesterday I looked at the ambitious project for Calas de Mallorca. This is essentially an approach which is far more in keeping with how tourist and user behaviour has changed. It is an active one. Through social marketing it engages with the tourist, learns about him or her, can adapt to what is said, know more about motivations and interests. Palma's approach, on the other hand, appears stuck in passive mode.

Palma 365 gives all the impression of a campaign that has been undertaken completely the wrong way round. Its starting-point has been the PR kudos of sloganising and logo-making, public relations which appear to have been performed more in order to demonstrate that something is being done rather than something being thought through. The starting-point is now much easier than it ever used to be: genuine engagement with the market and the tourist. Does Palma 365 really understand that this is how it can now be? It seems to have allowed passive passion to have got in the way of active attachment.

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