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Experience economy necessitates new marketing
The marketing drivers of the past are no longer relevant to today’s traveller. Instead of product, price, place and promotion, today’s marketing drivers are customers, connection, conversations and content.
This was the message Emeritus Professor Ernie Heath shared with members of the tourism industry and representatives from the Department of Tourism attending a policy discussion last week.
Heath said in today’s new era, dubbed the ‘experience economy’, the emphasis was no longer on products, but on customers. He said these customers were driven by the desire for experiences, authenticity, family travel and a seamless travel experience.
While the tourism winners of the past were iconic attractions and big marketing budgets, Heath said today’s winners were experiences and differentiation. He quoted James Gilmore, one of the authors of The Experience Economy, who said: “Today, consumers increasingly desire neither goods nor services but sensation-filled experiences that engage them in a personal and memorable way.”
Brands should position themselves around the sum of experiences they offer, said Heath, adding that destinations that had done this successfully included New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
According to Heath, South Africa is well positioned to cater for the desire for authentic and local experiences. He said the country’s rural and open spaces should be regarded as assets, adding that developing routes was an important tool to open up these areas for travel. He also emphasised the need to empower communities and to promote products in smaller towns as well as local experiences, or “hidden gems”.
He questioned whether it still made sense to split markets according to geography and demographics and emphasised increased air connectivity and the use of online marketing to reach travellers. He also suggested that South Africa should look to niche tourism to grow its arrivals. He highlighted cycling tourism, in particular, as an area with a lot of potential in South Africa.
Finally, Heath emphasised the need for a policy framework that prepared the industry for the future.