The goal of this thesis research project was to develop ideas for an integrated e-marketing strategy, based on the principles of experiential marketing, to promote Europe on the Canadian outbound market. The research was conducted in cooperation with the European Travel Commission (ETC) and contributes towards the activities of ETC on the Canadian market.
Europe, as one of the leading destinations in the world, is a traditional all-time favourite. However, emerging countries and increasing global competition put great pressure on the continent to maintain and increase visitor numbers and gain access to new source markets. As highlighted by the UNWTO (2015), Europe needs to reposition itself. The image of Europe needs to be refreshed and communicated in an interactive and innovative way, so that its brand can be renewed in the mind of potential visitors.
This study focused on the outbound market of Canada. Canada is one of the main overseas source markets of Europe. In the past decade, however, the number of overnight trips has been continuously declining and Europe was losing Canadian visitors to destinations like Mexico, China, the USA and the Dominican Republic (ETC, 2015). Canada has received significantly less attention in terms of promotional and marketing activities than its „big brother” the USA, or other larger markets, such as Brazil or China. Despite its smaller size this market has a lot of potential. Canada is ranked 7th on the list of top 10 spending countries in the world and its outbound tourism has grown significantly in the past 10 years (UNWTO, 2015).
This study focussed on the design of an integrated e-marketing strategy and explored the application of experiential marketing. The resulting marketing strategy intends “to provide a competitive edge for Europe on the Canadian market [and to] increase visitation, enhance brand awareness, and destination image by stimulating the senses of potential Canadian visitors and shifting focus towards the experience side of Europe’s tourism supply.
The primary research consists of two parts. Part 1 is a netnographic study that formed the qualitative part of the research. Part 2 is based on a quantitative method, namely online self-completion questionnaires. A SWOT analysis was used as a tool to represent the marketing information and data, and to uncover the competitive advantage that a marketing strategy can be built on.
Findings and discussion
The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods led to a complex analysis that formed the basis of a new e-marketing strategy. For this strategy, a new target market is suggested: young Canadian adults between the age of 22 and 35. They represent the new generation of travelers and are the most active online, thus the most receptive to internet marketing. Furthermore, they have sufficient discretionary income to cover their travel costs, prefer multi-country itineraries and are eager to broaden their horizons. As experiential marketing intends to stimulate the senses and touch customers’ hearts, an experiential marketing campaign has great potential in this target group.
A blog analysis showed that backpacking is very popular amongst young Canadians. To capture the attention of this target group, the core message and the new image elements need to be built around a unique selling point that inspires the younger backpacker generation. Europe is one of the most traditional destinations in the world. Its diversity, history, excellent culinary arts, extensive artistic and cultural palette makes it an ideal destination for adventure hungry travelers to discover the old continent and to evoke their inner curiosity. The contrast between the old continent and new generations and the idea how well these two can work together needs to be communicated efficiently.
The conclusion and recommendations made for the marketing strategy integrate five strategic experiential modules (sense, feel, think, act, relate), motivational factors of visitors (enjoyment and relaxation, discovery of different new places, discovery of new cultures and ways of life, idea of a once in a lifetime experience), image elements (different, unknown, exploration, quality, adventure, excitement etc.) and tourism products (cultural tourism, festival tourism, heritage tourism, adventure tourism, rural tourism etc.) and proposes potential e-marketing tools and channels to reach and inspire young Canadian visitors:
• Social media marketing, including targeted Facebook advertisements as well as 3V (vertical video use) advertising on Snapchat – to distribute creative visual content
• E-WOM; involvement of personal travel sites – to engage potential visitors in communicating and sharing their experiences
• Display advertising with the help of high traffic Canadian travel related websites – to increase the visitation of ETC operated websites and social media platforms
• SEO – to increase the visibility of ETC platforms in Google
• Affiliate marketing – to leverage on the network and customer base of local organizations.
• Cross referencing – to maximise the exposure of the Destination Europe brand and to generate traffic to all ETC operated websites
To successfully implement a new marketing strategy for Europe close cooperation is needed from the 32 national tourism organizations (NTOs) that are members of the ETC and the ETC itself. The development of multi-country
itineraries, thematic trips across European destinations, could be the task of the NTOs. Promotion and marketing of these cross-border tourism packages in Canada would be the responsibility of ETC, being the official organization responsible for promoting Europe as a tourism destination. Efficient cooperation between the member states and ETC should refresh the image of Europe and present it as an exciting destination – while promoting complex experiences to the target market based on the concept of experiential marketing. The promotion of multiple European destinations together is challenging and requires extensive professional work to conduct research, develop package elements, and to build a marketing strategy around it.
Besides the fact that Europe needs to reposition itself in the battle with upcoming, new destinations, the continent has experienced serious threats and terrorist attacks lately, such as in Paris and Brussels. This has had negative impacts on the tourism industry and the image of Europe. It is thus important to reduce the safety and security concerns and to reassure potential visitors that travelling in Europe is safe. The new marketing strategy would be a great tool to communicate that Europe is still a safe destination full of diversity, culture and history. Using experiential marketing enables the ETC to directly influence feelings and emotions of the target market and create positive perceptions, a feeling of safety and security, and trust that it is most valuable and safe to visit European destinations.