return Home

How the tourism sector thinks about storytelling, platforms

Content ()

You would expect “emotional” storytelling and content marketing to feature high on the agenda at a publishers’ convention. But in the tourism sector? Yes. At the world’s largest tourism expo - ITB in Berlin last month - these topics were central themes. Visit Finland set the scene, explaining why they have created their own new digital magazine, in German, for content marketing. 

Reading through the ‘key topics’ at this year’s Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB - ‘international tourism market’) in Berlin, those who are mindful of challenges in the publishing industry could easily be excused for thinking they had arrived at the wrong convention.

Under the title ‘Disruptive travel: The end of the world as we know it', organisers welcomed visitors with the words: “we are experiencing the full force of a new phenomenon, the digital transformation... this new technology trend has the potential to undo established value chains and create a completely new order”.

Topics like “digital transformation”, “augmented reality”, “virtual reality”, “dynamic content creation”, “social media as a sales channel”, “content marketing” and “emotional storytelling” featured in dozens of the workshops presented over three days. To a publisher, all of these issues will sound eerily familiar.

Finland’s tourism authority seems to be leading the pack. They argue that the challenges being experienced in the disruption of attracting tourists to their country are similar to the disruption experienced in the publishing industry. Consequently, they have come up with a solution vested in both.

Jyrki Oksanen, director for Central Europe at Visit Finland told ITB conference goers, they realised that conventional advertising and marketing were not achieving desired results any more. It kick-started the search for alternative solutions.

Oksanen explains that it all started when they realised the practice of translating their own travel ideas into a foreign languages to use in marketing ceased to be effective.

This led to a vision to activate bloggers from other countries who visited Finland “to honestly write about their own experiences in their own languages”, says Oksanen. 

“We also realised we needed to provide these bloggers and contributors with their own channel or platform to publish their work, which could then be integrated with social media platforms.”

The first initiative in achieving this was to collaborate with a German agency - Intensive Senses - who is now responsible for facilitating and creating content specifically aimed at German consumers. Intensive Senses created a publishing platform for this: the digital magazine ‘Dein Finland’, which Oksanen says not only “raised enthusiasm for travel” to Finland, but also proved to raise additional income from travel bookings.

Finland ()

Director of Intensive Senses, Joachim Schmidt, told hundreds of tour operators at the convention’s eTravel Lab the answer to content marketing in the tourism industry is similar to promoting products in publishing. The success hinges on good storytelling, and when it comes to selling tourism destinations, storytelling that appeals to emotions. 

But similar to brands that would like to see immediate sales on the back of content marketing, many marketers in the tourism industry lack vision, he says. “The way we need to tell stories is not to advertise bluntly...The discrepancy we see is that tourism marketers think in terms of selling products. But (potential) travellers think in terms of emotions.”

He says the days are long gone when travellers need to be bombarded with information such as to do lists, opening times, menus and a run down of conveniences. “That’s what TripAdvisor is for…” 

Neither do they need more information. “People are already overwhelmed by messages. Their senses are saturated.”

He compares the abundance of neon banners on New York’s Time Square with what the internet is doing to consumers. “People are blinded by the sheer volume of messages on websites. They have unlimited access to information to the point that they now selectively choose what information they want. People consciously choose to ignore advertising. They know where the banners are and have stopped reading them.”

Get stories like these delivered in you inbox every week. Subscribe to our FIPP World newsletter.

In this environment, consumers warm to inspiring content, or in Schmidt’s words: “Stories they do not recognise as advertising.”

He offers five tips for creating content marketing in the tourism domain that finds engagement with readers:

1. Logical structure. No matter how important emotional writing is to readers, every good story must be well planned, focused and written to target each potential market grouping.

2. Stories must be authentic. Tell real stories about real people and real places. Adhere to this rule and real people will not only relate to it, they will share it.

3. Create passion. Stories that evoke sympathy and interaction with places, issues and characters always have a viral element. These are the stories that get shared on social media.

4. Objectivity. Writers who are honest cannot always only praise destinations. If an experience is bad, it needs to be said. “Otherwise you will be ridiculed on social media”.

5. Presentation. Choose the right medium for the right target market and make sure the quality lives up the platform. A video platform demands quality video productions, a photo platform demands quality images, each social media platform demands its own style.

As Schmidt points out, meeting the above criteria demands long and hard hours of work. However, “In our experience it’s time well invested and I assure you, it pays off,” he says.

More like this

Media technologist Ben Kreimer on storytelling from the air

How a young digital entrepreneur turned around the fortunes of a Finnish magazine icon

An Award-winning filmmaker, a TV CEO and a magazine editor in chief on storytelling in today’s America

Winning with digital innovation, with Kommunal Rapport and City Magazine

[Expert view] How to best engage audiences with 360-degree video storytelling

  • Millennials no more: The Week Junior and AwesomenessTV on engaging younger audiences While the industry continues its pursuit of ‘millennials’, the generation of media consumers coming up behind them is still to a large extent being overlooked. Here, Kerin O’Connor from The Week Junior, and Kelly Day from AwesomenessTV, give us their take on how publishers can better understand even younger audiences.  28th Jun 2017 MagWorld
  • Building superior brand experiences through a multi-channel approach Deepak Lamba, CEO of Worldwide Media (WWM) in India, explains how the business is embracing multi-platform media campaigns to boost the reach and impact of its brands – with exceptional results – and says WWM has its eyes set firmly on becoming India’s leading entertainment and lifestyle content creators for every available platform. 26th Jun 2017 MagWorld
  • Building a subscription-driven business from the ground up Geoff Ramsey, co-founder and chief innovation officer of eMarketer started his working life as a magician. Here he explains how eMarketer found its magic formula – how a traditional ad house was transformed into the research and data giant we know today, the tricks it deployed to survive some turbulent times, and how the business plans to continue coming up trumps in the future… 26th Jun 2017 MagWorld
  • Four industry experts share insights on innovating live events Live events are a rapidly growing revenue source for publishers, but as the field becomes ever more competitive event organisers need to be nimble, creative and innovative to remain on top of the game. Here, we combine the insights of four leading industry experts on developments within the sector. 25th Jun 2017 MagWorld
  • How Aller Media Finland unlocked the value of data-for-profit In less than three years, Aller Media Finland has become the leading company in Finland to harvest consumer data as an income asset. Sami Lahtinen, director, data and digital solutions, and Sini Kervinen, head of business operations, data and digital solutions, explain how the establishment of the Aller Refinery data unit managed to place data at the heart of their business’s growth. 19th Jun 2017 MagWorld
  • How Marie Claire is embracing a more diverse range of voices Focusing on social and political issues, giving readers current events news in context may sound more like a news magazine than a Marie Claire, but women’s magazines have been producing this kind of content since creation, according to Kate Lewis, Hearst Digital Media’s SVP/editorial director in the US. There is good reason why it is now more noticeable... 21st Jun 2017 MagWorld
  • Nine steps to rapidly transform your legacy teams No amount of tinkering at reorganisation will work. Tinkering has failed. New business models and new editorial models require new thinking, new roles, new workflows, and new organisational structures, writes INNOVATION Media Consulting senior director John Wilpers. 19th Jun 2017 Insight News
  • Four industry experts share insights on innovating live events Live events are a rapidly growing revenue source for publishers, but as the field becomes ever more competitive event organisers need to be nimble, creative and innovative to remain on top of the game. Here, we combine the insights of four leading industry experts on developments within the sector. 25th Jun 2017 MagWorld
  • Reuters Digital News Report 2017 highlights lessons for publishers across multiple markets Growth in social media for news discovery is flattening out, ad-blocking on desktop has stalled, brand recall on social is low, voice-activated digital assistants are emerging as news platforms in some countries and regions. If the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017 makes one thing clear, it is that the digital revolution is full of contradictions and exceptions, for the simple reason that countries and regions across the globe started this revolution at different times and places and aren’t progressing at the same pace. 22nd Jun 2017 Insight News


Visit our Youtube channel



FIPP newsletters allow you to keep up with industry trends, research, training and events across the world



Get global coverage of your launches, company news and innovations

Go to Full Site