In the two years since Solimar started working in Namibia, the landscape of online marketing has changed dramatically, both in Namibia and abroad. Instagram and Pinterest, two platforms not included in our original strategy from 2011, have become central ways we track conversations and engage with potential travelers. Meanwhile, in Namibia, introduction of 4G internet, made our lives much easier!
But some things haven’t changed, travelers are still seeking value and turn to the internet for inspiration as well as research and planning.
In 2010, traditional source markets for Namibia were declining. European arrival numbers were lagging due to economic recession and market saturation. The Namibia Tourism Board (supported by donor funding from the Millennium Challenge Account - Namibia) decided to double up online marketing efforts and Solimar International has been implementing this project since early 2012.
Our task in Namibia was leveraging all online assets to create a competitive presence online for Namibia. We wanted to provide value to the traveler at every step of their journey – our job was to keep Namibia top of mind with travelers from initial awareness phase down to the booking. The key to closing the loop was linking interested travelers with those in the travel industry (tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers, airlines) who could facilitate their experience.
We recently handed the project over to the newly created online marketing unit in March 2014, who is continuing to explore new platforms and campaigns for creating an online buzz and inspiring more travelers to visit the land of endless horizons.
Snapshot of Key Results
Over two years, Solimar:
- Increased inbound links to the website by 1685%.
- Consistently kept 170 keywords in the top ten
- Increased the online community size from 109 to 38,055
- Facebook community size increased from 109 to 35888 over 26 months
- A total of 1015 highly visible Facebook posts were created over two years.
- 1.2 million viewed or interacted with Namibia Tourism content on Facebook (not including advertising)
Here are five key lessons that we learned during the implementation of the Online Marketing Campaign:
Lesson One: Content Really is King
If you are a frequent reader of the Solimar blog, you’ll know that we truly believe content is one of the best marketing tools available to destination marketers. Our experience in Namibia proves this to be true. We saw website visits and engagement increase as we created niche content pieces, targeted at specific interests, like destination weddings or photography. We created 248 blogs posts in 2 years, with valuable info that was easy to find for travelers in the planning phase. Because we knew that search is #1 source for leisure travelers (and in fact, 58% of leisure travelers “start my travel booking and planning process with search.”) we made sure the blog posts were easy to find, including strategic keywords and optimizing each post.
We also made significant efforts to always have fresh content by sending our team out on content collection trips around the country. There are some experiences, some hotels and some amazing guides that just can’t be found by trolling the internet. We found some of our most popular stories through strapping the tent on top of the car and traveling around Namibia.
We also published seven planning guides as free downloads available to travelers. The guides focused on special interest activities, like wildlife, adventure, photography or family travel.
Lesson Two: Partnerships Will Take Your Message Further
We knew that if we partnered with influencers, we could take our message even further than the reach we had through our own platforms. Over the course of the campaign, we partnered with various content providers including World Nomads, Virtual Tourist, the delegates who attended the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit in Namibia as well as media.
Examples of NTB Content Partners
Lesson 3: Keeping Up with Facebook is Worth it
Throughout the campaign, Facebook remained one of our most useful tools to inspire and help community members out through direct messages or through wall posts, sharing Namibia pride and sparking conversation. However, one of our challenges was keeping up with their frequent changes to its interface and functionality. We stayed up to date by reading the Facebook blog and other online influencers to stay up to date on how to use the platform to ensure maximum engagement.
Lesson 4: Rich Media Portals Can be Used for Trade and Travelers
During the campaign, we built up the Namibia presence on Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. The rich media on these sites can be an inspiration to travelers as well as a marketing resource for the travel trade who promote the destination.
Snapshot of Rich Media results:
- 3959 copyright-free images on our Flickr account
- 38 Boards on Pinterest
- 17 videos on YouTube Channel
Lesson 5: Campaigns Drive Engagement
Over the course of the campaign, we launched four thematic campaigns. Each campaign required greater “engagement” from our community. The table below shares the four campaigns and their results.
Conservation Destination: Four endangered species were brought to life with their own Twitter feeds, which shared stories about their fight against extinction. Facebook users could enter to win a trip to Namibia by submitting their email.
Share My Namibia: The stories of 11 regions of Namibia were shared by local residents of those places. Facebook users could select three regions on an interactive map to create their “Dream Namibia Trip”
Landscape Escape: Facebook users were invited to submit a picture of the “landscape they want to escape,” and then encourage their friends to vote. The most votes won a trip to Namibia.
Go Big Namibia: Designed to create content about adventure and distribute it within a wide network, we worked with 4 online influencers who went on an epic Namibian adventure. The Facebook app traced their journey.
During these campaigns, we implemented what we had learned:
- We developed a lot of unique, thematic content for each campaign. We collected content from relevant partners and used awe-inspiring images as much as possible.
- Facebook was the main platform for each campaign, because of the large existing community.
- Using our partners helped us reach exponentially bigger audiences. We syndicated customized Facebook applications to tour operators and other interested stakeholders who had an interest in promoting tourism in Namibia to their communities. During the Conservation Destination campaign, reach through the NTB platforms was 1.6 million, but the combined reach of all our partners was 20 million.
- One of the most valuable activities we undertook was regularly tracking a series of indicators to monitor the progress of our work. Although time consuming, monitoring and evaluation helped the project re-evaluate our strategies in the ever-changing online environment to ensure that our messages were resonating with the people who were looking for them.
Solimar has really enjoyed sharing Namibia’s amazing stories with the world – and we look forward to continuing to follow the story of this amazing country online!