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Photography Bans as Marketing Gold

It’s been said that marketing is a contest for people’s attention.  If that’s the case, at least for this one short moment, a small village in Switzerland may have won the game.  An article just out from The Independent tells the story of the small mountain town of Bergün/Bravuogn that has taken the extraordinary step of outlawing the taking pictures in its bucolic environs.  The rationale behind the new law goes something like this.  The town claims that it is “scientifically proven” that beautiful travel pictures on social media make those seeing them unhappy.  Therefore, allowing travelers to share the extraordinary beauty of their destination with friends back home is unkind, will make people sad.  So, the law was needed to promote general happiness.
 
It’s brilliant and all in good fun.  A bit of good-spirited (and quite effective) publicity grabbing.
 
But here’s the rub.  According to the story, the local DMO says it “has removed photos of the village from its Facebook and Twitter accounts, and has declared its intention to remove them from the Bergün website too.”  We don’t believe they’re serious, for as a long-term strategy this would be disastrous. We’ve studied DMO marketing campaigns for decades and from every point of view possible, and can say definitely and with no hesitation, that in terms of what motivates destination choice, photography is paramount.  Humans are highly visual creatures, and nothing excites interest in a place like beautiful, authentic imagery.  We hope Bergün enjoys the fruits of this smart PR work, but would gently suggest that they don’t ride this wave too long.
 
Why?  Word-of-mouth via social media has become extremely important to travelers.  Social channels are one of the most important places from which leisure travelers draw destination inspiration.  If you don’t believe us, check out page six in our latest The State of the American TravelerTM study.  You’ll see that word-of-mouth (via social media) is one of the more widely relied upon methods for getting inspiration for travel destinations.  If Bergün is really smart, they’ll use their clever new positioning as a way to get visitors to actually post their beauty shots of the town to social channels.
 
In a social climate where the words like “troll” and “hater” have quickly become ubiquitous parts of the American vernacular, it might be easy to believe the myth that people don’t want to see their friends and relatives’ travel pictures—that, in some way, this does make other people unhappy.  Don’t believe it.  Negative voices are often the loudest, but our research strongly shows that most people enjoy seeing and hearing about their friends and relatives’ trip adventures on social media.  Not only do they use social media for trip inspiration, they enjoy it.  The next time anyone tells you that people don’t want to see travel posts on social media, just refer them to the chart below.
 
Enjpoyment of others' travel posts

 

Destination Analysts

Record Travel Optimism as Summer Season Nears

In this most unusual of moments, there is a great deal of angst in the destination marketing world about the outlook for international visitation to the United States. Travel bans and outrageous rhetoric suggesting the possibility of “extreme vetting” for tourists from markets like Germany and France have analysts predicting that foreign demand for American travel product will fall sharply this year.  While this situation is an extraordinarily serious problem, signs from domestic travelers point in the other direction. Our recently finished Spring edition of The State of the American Traveler™ shows that, at least on the home front, the outlook for leisure travel is surprisingly positive. In fact, Americans are planning more trips and more spending in the upcoming year than ever before, pointing to a strong performance in the remainder of 2017.

According to our April The State of the American Traveler™ tracking survey, more Americans than ever are expecting to increase the number of leisure trips they will take in the upcoming year. Leisure travel optimism is at a record high, mirroring positive trends seen in more general consumer confidence indices. This enthusiastic outlook is illustrated by a record 39.7 percent of Americans saying they expect to travel more for leisure in the next year, up from 37.9 percent in January. Leisure travel spending expectations are also high, with 39.3 percent of American travelers expecting to increase their leisure travel spending in 2017.

The chart below shows this strong optimism, illustrating the share of American leisure travelers who (in the next 12 months) expect to travel more, less and the same as they did in the most recent 12-month period.

Travel Optimism on a Roll
(Percent of all leisure travelers)
 

Meanwhile, future travel sentiment across the country remains somewhat uneven, with residents of the West coast showing the highest levels of optimism for travel in the upcoming year.  42.4 percent of residents of the Pacific Coast region expect to travel more in the upcoming year, while 39.9 percent of travelers living in the Northeast and 40.9 percent in the Southeast expect to increase the number of trips they will take in the next year.

 Regional Expectations
(Percent of leisure travelers)
 

 

So, there we have it. Despite the fact that international visitation to the U.S. is predicted to decline, American leisure travelers are ready to go; planning to take more trips and spend more on travel compared to previous years.  One force pushing upward, and one downward. The specific impacts of these countervailing effects on individual destinations will, of course, vary. Whatever the ultimate outcome, it looks like we’re in for a very interesting year.