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A real experience

Apr 26, 2007 | Blog

Here is a story that should provide an important lesson for anyone marketing a destination, venue or the events that take place in them.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a representative of the convention bureau of a famous UK city.

They had called me to invite me on a fam trip to the city that was taking place the following week. As it turned out I was unable to go owing to my already having the date booked for a meeting. They were disappointed but agreed there wasn’t much we could do about it.

A few days later they phoned me again to see if there was any way in which I could postpone my original booking and come instead on the trip. I managed to get out of them the fact that there hadn’t exactly been the most enthusiastic uptake for the trip which meant they were now phoning round in a desperate bid to drum up numbers.

For me, the major problem was that they had completely misunderstood what they were supposed to be doing. Certainly they recognised the need to bring journalists and prospective clients to the city, but what they were planning to do to show off the destination fell wide of the mark.

All they had lined up was a seemingly endless tour of hotel and conference facilities and had left no time for visiting any of the city’s major attractions of which, if I revealed the name of the place, you would know there are many. All we were expected to do was trail from venue to venue and look at empty conference rooms and hotel bedrooms all of which, with all due respect to hotel chains, look and feel more or less the same wherever you are.

This made the trip fail for two main reasons.

Firstly, although buyers are clearly going to be interested in the sort of facilities their events will have they also want to know the attractions of the destination. While no amount of historic buildings or smart bars can make up for a dud conference, the fact remains that if the delegates have a great time at the event as a whole they are going to remember it fondly.

Secondly, they had singularly omitted to include any ‘wow’ factor. Whether we like it or not we live in an increasingly ‘experience’ driven world and looking at hotel bedrooms, although a key component part, doesn’t constitute a ‘wow’ fam trip. Let’s face it, we live in the age of supermarkets trying to make a customer experience out of the simple purchase of a tin of baked beans so for a destination not to take advantage of its many experiences in order to provide its guests with one is poor, short-sighted marketing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all you have to do is pack your marketing activity with extraordinary experiences and everything will be OK. You still have to make the content as relevant and pertinent to your guests as possible.

One thing is clear, however, the days of landing an event in your destination just through showing the organiser a breakout room and a couple of hotels are long gone. That’s assuming they ever existed in the first place.

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