To be sustainable, a CBT operation requires an effective and appropriate marketing strategy to inform tourists of the existence of the destination and encourage them to include this experience in their travel itinerary. To ensure marketing efforts reach the right market with the right message, marketing strategies must be tailored to suit the CBT initiative and be attractive to the target audience.
Make a website promoting the CBT destination
If community managers have access to the Internet they may choose to create a dedicated website. If not, tourism authorities can assist in establishing and maintaining websites that promote CBT as one of a number of local destinations. In creating a website, be sure to include images of the destination and keywords that will appeal to the target market. A web designer or non-profit organization, or regional tourism body may be able to provide advice on website development.
Get listed in appropriate guidebooks
Contact guidebook companies offering the CBT site as a potential destination and inviting travel writers to visit the site when researching for the next guidebook edition. However, it is important to be selective about which guidebooks you choose and if they promote values reflected by your CBT venture.
Be clear about what is for sale and what visitors should expect
It is important that marketing material portrays the community’s culture in a respectful way and is clear about what the tourism product is. Marketing can be both honest and appealing. Marketing material ideally should inform visitors of what to expect from the CBT experience. This will ensure that the ‘right kind’ of the visitor is attracted to the destination.
Communities can employ creative branding and/or unconventional marketing to reach specific or niche markets.
Get online and network
Community managers or tourism authorities can list the destination on travel websites and make use of social networking and media sites to promote CBT (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr). Some more targeted travel networks include Trip Advisor, Responsibletourism.com, Lonely Planet, and Thorntree. It is important to recognize that anyone can post on these online travel networks and negative comments need to be addressed swiftly.
Offering a ‘package’ experiences
Packaged experience can include transport; meals, accommodation and activities, which can attract visitors by making the CBT experience straightforward and safe for travelers.
Tourism authorities can develop national and regional tourism awards that recognize CBT
In general, don’t expect tourists to come back for return visits, but do encourage visitors to share their experience with friends, family and via the Internet. Visitors pleased with the experience will likely recommend the destination to others. ‘Word of mouth’ can be a powerful marketing tool, particularly via the Internet where opinions and recommendations can be distributed far and wide.
Monitor how tourists hear about CBT initiatives
This can be done by undertaking informal surveys during visitor stays. This will help shape future marketing strategies.
Marketing and branding must be clear
A clear marketing strategy, which promotes the products through many avenues has also contributed to the success of the CBT venture,
• developing networks with other tourism operators, government organizations and community groups
• using certification and prestigious awards to promote the quality of the experience
• ensuring product and service matches the visitors’ expectation to achieve ongoing word-of-mouth visitations
• creating unique events to obtain free publicity and boost the local and international profile such as mud tug of war
• participating in tourism shows and joint ventures to create awareness
• diversifying the product base to target larger groups for education and convention purposes