Tourism Kelowna spent over $800,000 on a marketing campaign spotlighting the Central Okanagan in 2014 but says it was able to leverage that money into nearly $3.5 million dollars in advertising exposure through a strategy that included the use of freelance journalists, social media as well as targetted online marketing.
The advertising strategy leveraged ways to add value to the dollars spent through traditional marketing avenues like television and print while getting its message out with online campaigns that interacted with potential tourists.
“Our external advertising creates that urge to visit the area,” said Nancy Cameron, president and CEO of Tourism Kelowna. “We’re trying to convince people to book their trip here and once they get here we have in-venue guides to get people to visit more attractions.”
Cameron laid out Tourism Kelowna’s marketing strategy and the results of it to Lake Country council this week in an annual presentation. Last year was the third year Lake Country joined the regional marketing group and Cameron said many Lake Country attractions are popular with tourists, including one of the most popular in the entire region, the Kangaroo Creek Farm in Lake Country.
As part of its marketing plan Tourism Kelowna spent $150,000 to bring 100 journalists to the Central Okanagan to write travel and tourism stories in a variety of different magazines. Two full-time tourism staff members work to attract travel writers to the area throughout the year.
“We bring those journalists here and they write stories about the area,” said Cameron. “They wrote 129 articles with a circulation of over 25 million. If we had to purchase that advertising it would have cost over $2 million.”
Cameron said the evolution of online marketing is also allowing the group to be able to create more engaging content such as ads in online magazines or web sites like theweathernetwork.com where visitors would click on an ad and be sent to a video on the Tourism Kelowna web site.
Cameron said the advertising with web sites such as the Weather Network allows for a targeted approach that went after people living in places that might not have the same weather patterns as the Okanagan.
“The (Weather Network) ads are cued to show up with viewers who are located in city’s or places with temperatures of minus-10 or below,” said Cameron. “It’s been quite effective.”
Advertising online also allows Tourism Kelowna to quickly change its focus if a certain message doesn’t appear to be working, added Cameron.
“We can see how our advertising resonates and if the pickup is not strong then we will shift it,” she said. “Because it’s digital we can shift very quickly. We test and we are watching every ad. If it doesn’t get any response we will try to move that money around fluidly so we are not wasting money.”
Other strategies Tourism Kelowna continues to use is marketing its golf partnership that is into its fourth year, marketing the region as a golf destination with 12 championship golf courses involved in the partnership.
Not surprisingly, traffic on Tourism Kelowna’s social media platforms is also growing rapidly with traffic on Facebook (27 per cent increase), Twitter (up 32 per cent) and You Tube videos (up 37 per cent), all showing significant growth.