It may start with a love for your location or trust in your brand, but many more will choose to travel for an event or festival. We’re always thinking of ways to attract more bums to your beds, more travellers to enjoy your products. Happily, the rising fear of missing out on whatever parties are happening all over the world, is playing right into your pockets. Let’s take a look at the events in your destination that are luring travellers from all over, to see how to manipulate these opportunities to your advantage.
Good for all destinations
They happen all the time, throughout the year: in some cases, depending on seasons like harvest or rugby time, religious or cultural celebrations; in other cases, it’s because someone decided to host an event during low tourism season precisely to draw out-of-season business. Cherry blossom trees bloom in spring – let’s have a festival! Time is no deterrent. This trend is good for tourism to all destinations.Developed around a special interest, hobby, something to learn and share, or simply a fabulous excuse for a party, events and festivals are a celebration of life. They’re a draw card for the culturally-curious, a medium for renewal and spiritual upliftment, that little boost needed to transform our jaded selves into children of the planet and of the global community. The desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves might not be the outward reason many travel the world to attend festivals, but I believe it runs beneath as a powerful motivation. It sounds niche and within the character of each event, yes, it will appeal to a specific interest group; but where demographics are concerned, your market here spans across ages, nationalities, and traveller types.
Identify the event, its appeal and whose attention it’s likely to attract, and you’ve got something super valuable to add to your base offering.
For some travellers, the event will be the entire reason for visiting your destination. Use it as a source of inspiration and tie your brand to it in a way that suggests you’d make the experience easier to access.
Provide information, logistical support, score some freebies or a discount to sweeten the deal; then up-sell your clients with additional options that show them a different perspective on what they already expect.
Other travellers will choose your destination for different reasons but if you can identify a potential match, add an event or local festival to supplement your offering and make it more attractive than your competitor’s.
Another way to benefit your destination (and your client) is by collaborating with local tourism partners in the community. Market the destination jointly and provide holistic solutions for the traveller. Communicate the offer well and they will trust you to know your destination well, and appreciate that you have their back.
One destination wears many hats
Some destinations are better at this than others, but there are new events and festivals added to the traditional all the time, everywhere. A flourishing agricultural location will likely have food festivals in different seasons, focusing on different produce. A strawberry festival here, a cheese festival there, with some trendy slow food events scattered between. The whole of Thailand, for example, is already a prominent food destination. Bangkok hosts the World Gourmet Festival Asia but you won’t lose out if you’re in Phuket because the Nine Emperor Gods Festival (vegetarian food fest) is held in October. It’s a bit gruesome in nature, but it’ll teach your visitors plenty about the locals, their beliefs and lifestyle. If you’re based around Pattaya, you can incorporate the Wonderfruit eco-friendly art, music and crafts festival into your offering for added interest.
The mesmerising spectacle of Loy Krathong takes place in November, with a sea of lanterns floating on air and water. In April, visitors participating in Songkran festivities can get doused in flour and water anywhere in Thailand, but Chiang Mai takes first prize for the way locals celebrate, a really special occasion for your guests to feel part of.
Festivals are a great way to teach the world about the different faces of a destination.
South Africa’s image as a wildlife paradise with a tumultuous political history is not all there is to this multifaceted country.
Events planned around the less attractive winter season play to the strengths of different regions.
Visitors can enjoy the Hermanus Whale Festival down South, head up along the West Coast for Wildflower season, and end with a 4-day music festival in October, called Rocking the Daisies. Not just about the Big 5 then!
Equally, other destinations, including yours, can benefit from events like that showcase the lesser-known attractions.
An event in every destination
Events and festivals cover interests as broad as sport, religion, culture, film, music, fashion, food, nature and wildlife. According to the Pollstar 2018 Global Festival and Events Calendar, there’s been 15% increase in international events since its 2017 issue, with a record number of 2,325 confirmed festival events listed this year across 70 countries. The stats don’t lie about sales opportunities for travel brands. Conduct some research into millennial interests in versus what piques the silver-haired traveller’s curiosity. Ask questions, monitor purchasing behaviour and listen closely.
Engage your prospective audience where they seek travel inspiration and events and festivals are marketed. Establish a social media presence and follow the social chatter, get involved, observe what gets shared and liked in the travel community. Then incorporate popular options into your offering as specials or value adds. Poll and survey your audience to gauge what’s hot and what’s not. Locally-based staff will have insider info about cool, funky and alternative events, whatever’s creating buzz in the community.
Travellers aren’t just interested in mainstream events – there are some weird and wonderful tastes to cater to… as long as you’re comfortable aligning your brand with them. There are some fine collaborations between travel suppliers and events organisers. Mantra Hotels, for example, collaborate with the Noosa International Film Festival, offering 10% discount to festival goers who stay with them during the event. Become the preferred supplier of accommodation, transport or activity for an event in your area and give it some social media love.
Lure of sport and religion
Sports and religious pilgrimage both have the power to elicit strong passion and fervour in their followers. If yours is a good winter or summer sport destination, the devout will migrate naturally, to observe and participate – in that sense, the very season becomes an event.
The global sports calendar features plenty of tournaments and international competitions to attract passionate fans following their teams. Similarly with religious events. In fact, religious celebrations are often done differently in different destinations – it creates curiosity in the cultural lives of our global neighbours without necessarily being spiritual first. The interest is in local living, pageantry and solemnity.
First-hand experience is an opportunity to learn, grow and share the education back home.
Lure of the arts
The cultured palate has a plethora of established global film, fashion and music events to choose from. Much of it is driven by pop culture and #FOMO. There are groupies following favourite bands, hardcore hipsters promoting beloved brands, even mainstream travellers needing temporary escape into a relaxing, stimulating entertainment bubble. Promote the event in your destination and use trending hashtags to make your own brand look lit!
Jazz festivals attract a regular following, classical music too – both genre fit the bill for luxury travellers. The Cartagena International Music Festival offers classical music and master classes, not the first thing one imagines doing in Colombia. That unique spin on traditional offerings will give you the edge over competitors.
What do you know about Manga? No, it’s not a pair of baggy shorts. The Kyoto International Manga and Anime Fair draws thousands of fans and plenty of curiosity. You don’t have to get it or even like it to promote an event. Support it, capitalise on it and develop a reputation for great destination knowledge.
The lure of local living
Based in Ottawa, you’d know what the average traveller doesn’t: that there are great choices for live music and craft alcoholic beverages available. In mid-May an entire festival with cooking demonstrations, eating contests, music and wine bars takes place at its PoutineFest. It’s an invitation for visitors to participate in the city’s lifestyle and you could connect your guests with this opportunity. Visitors to locations of natural beauty and wildlife don’t always know the best time of year to witness, for instance, turtle hatching. Again, that’s where your expertise saves the day. Being the one to provide the necessary info on events of natural significance and relevance to your clients, gives your brand a competitive advantage.
Can you add value with activities like a guided tour or a talk by a marine expert? That’s gold! Create the sense that sense of exclusivity for your guest to be part of a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Whether they prefer to observe, spectate or immerse and share, there will be festivals in your area to get travellers in celebratory mode. Keep in mind returning festival goers that will bring their friends along next time. Add some inspired promotional content to your marketing mix – the potential is all yours to tap.