How Destination Southern Tasmania honed their storytelling on their website to achieve year on year growth in visitor engagement through a global pandemic
Published on November 6, 2020
In the last quarter of 2019 we worked closely with the team at Destination Southern Tasmania (DST) to develop a Destination Marketing Strategy to help them drive demand from their key visitor personas.
Just last week we caught up with Chelsea Bell, the Marketing Manager of DST, to see how her year has been, and to our surprise (and hers!) she had achieved some sensational results given the tricky climate she was operating in.
Her results were so good, that we asked whether she'd be kind enough to share them with our readers, and also share some of her key takeaways!
Tell us a little bit about Destination Southern Tasmania, and your role.
Destination Southern Tasmania (DST) is the peak tourism body for Tasmania’s southern region, stretching across the municipalities of Hobart, Glenorchy, Clarence, Brighton, Sorell, Kingborough, Huon Valley, Derwent Valley, Tasman, Central Highlands and Southern Midlands. DST is one of four regional tourism organisations in Tasmania.
I’m the Marketing Manager for DST, managing Hobart and Beyond as our main consumer channel, as well as sub-regional channels Southern Trove and Heritage Highway.
Before COVID19, can you share the core components of your destination marketing strategy?
Pre-covid, the destination marketing strategy was centred around social media (Facebook and Instagram) (inspiring visitors to dream and plan a trip to the south with dispersal as a core component) and our website, which had a heavy focus on blog content.
When the initial lockdown began in March 2020, what part of your Plan did you adapt immediately?
Almost everything in our plan was adapted on a daily basis. We conducted extensive social listening across media platforms and pages, and monitored trends, sentiment and comments (daily) and planned content around this. We were hyper-sensitive to consumer sentiment and the stages of restrictions being posed on different states, the barrage of content and information being thrown at them (restrictions, flight cancellations, “doom and gloom”), and the overwhelming confusion being experienced by consumers.
Given travel stopped almost overnight and sentiment was a fickle beast, we had to be incredibly adaptive. Rather than things to do in Tasmania, we focussed on nurturing and supporting our audiences in how to experience Tasmania at home. We recognised that content needed to be thumb stopping, relevant and engaging if we were going to have any chance of success. Every piece of content needed to have a strategic focus and be able to cut-through, or it didn’t go up and out.
Rather than playing in our typical planning space with granular level of detail (encouraging people to travel), we adapted to a solely consumer first approach (very minimal push messaging) and tailored content based on consumer trends and progression.
When working from home and bingeing Netflix became the “new normal”, we wrote blog articles on exploring southern Tasmania from your couch (movies and TV shows). When travel stopped and socialising was limited and restaurants were closed, we wrote a blog around getting Tassie goods delivered to your front door (eat, drink or enjoy some Tasmanian goodies in your own at home). When events were cancelled, we started writing about other things to do to escape the crowds.
When restrictions eased in Tasmania, we were presented with a challenge in that our social media channels had a fairly clear split (40% Tasmania/60% mainland) and our website traffic was only 24% Tasmania. So, while we were enjoying eased restrictions and mobility, our mainland audiences were still in the thick of it.
We focussed our blogs on storytelling and inspiring consumers with evergreen content that would cognisant of what our audiences/visitors were going through, but still relevant for when they planned a trip. We put up content about: things to do with your kids, dog-friendly walks and travel, insta-worthy sunrises and sunsets.
When national parks reopened, we wrote content around walks and hikes out in regions, cafes to start your day (but first, coffee!) and tapped into the local travel market and desire to get out of the home with seasonal content focussing on best places to see the snow, winter waterfalls and things to do in spring.
Every piece of content we wrote and pushed out was strategic, aware of our consumer needs and the stage of restrictions they were in, and aimed to give them an opportunity to use it to plan, or travel now (where relevant).
What were some of the results of adapting your strategy in this way? Did it pay off?
Our results surprised us. Despite navigating the difficult social environment and messaging through Australian bushfires and a global pandemic, our web traffic was higher overall, our referrals were higher to operator sites, engagement on blogs ranged between (on average) 2:10 and 12:15
Website traffic for the year – despite the impacts of bushfires, Covid-19, and global events: our website traffic for the year was up 17.88%. Consumer first approach saw organic website traffic increase by 27%, while social referral from our digital channels has increased by 18%. Page views through to blogs is up 82% (from 58,000 in 18/19 to 106,000 in 19/20).
On our social media platforms, we had 12% increase in followers on Instagram for the year (even though audiences had a “purge” of pages no longer relevant throughout the pandemic). Maintained reach of 3 million individuals for the year (despite the challenging year navigating travel in social media). Facebook became our primary channel for referrals on social.
What is the biggest learning or takeaway so far in marketing Southern Tasmania throughout this pandemic?
Our consumer is at the heart of what we do. We want to give them the answers to the stresses of life, the questions they have and make it as easy as possible for them to plan a trip to Southern Tasmania.
You can’t have a set and forget approach to marketing. You need to be always on and adapting and finding ways to be relevant to the consumer.
Industry needs and consumer needs are not mutually exclusive. While saw we couldn’t get visitors to Tasmania, we set up blogs around export (goods) market to support operators to still get sales. Members with a product that could be shipped were included and anything fit for audience was referenced. We encouraged visitors to postpone, not cancel, or buy experience vouchers for friends and family with (in some cases) 5 years to use them.
Final Note: Nobody cares what you have to sell. They want to know how it’s going to improve their life or their reality at this point in time.