Anthony Rawlins is the founder of Digital Visitor and has over 15 years’ experience in crafting digital and media strategies. In his opening day seminar, he’ll be discussing why marketing your tourism business as an experience is a key strategy for success, and, more importantly – how to do it (10.30am on 25 March).
In this new speaker Q&A, he shares his thoughts on the tourism trends to watch, the importance of sustainable tourism, who him inspires him, and why personalisation is best delivered in moderation…
How important is the British Tourism & Travel show to the industry it serves?
The value of tourism to the UK economy is £145bn. Our industry could always do with more support, so events like the British Tourism & Travel Show help massively and I feel travel and tourism businesses of all sizes will benefit from visiting.
What’s your favourite place to visit in the UK and Ireland (and why):
For me, it has to be St Ives. It combines the very best the UK has to offer — stunning landscapes, fantastic culture and history and great food. I especially like visiting in the winter when you avoid the crowds but it doesn’t lose any of its appeal.
Which domestic tour operators / travel organisers do you particularly admire and why?
I appreciate how offpeakluxury is helping tackle a large industry challenge. I have booked with them a few times and find them to be excellent value and a great business.
I also feel the unsung heroes at Visit Dartmoor are exemplary. With limited resources, they curate and produce fantastic content for one of our national treasures, and do the area justice.
What’s your favourite travel & tourism marketing campaign? – why do you think it was so successful?
The effects of over-tourism are an important issue for me personally and our industry as a whole. So when The Faroe Islands released their ‘Closed for Maintenance’’ campaign last year, I was fully on board. Instead of turning people away, they encouraged people to be part of the solution in exchange for an authentic experience. Genius!
What do you see as key travel / tourism trends in the coming year?
Sustainable travel, ‘good’ tourism and the dominance of targeted and contextual digital marketing.
Brexit 2020: What do you think are the implications for the domestic travel & tourism industry?
I think there will be a slight reduction in travel to Europe, which might be replaced by a higher frequency of domestic trips. Research indicates that more people will be ‘staycationing’ for the next few years, but it’s always tough to know as it will also depend on factors such as exchange rates, which are uncertain. I do however like to think there will be a boost in domestic travel due to environmental responsibility and people will choose to stay and explore the UK to avoid flying.
The rise of personalisation: What are the pros and cons for the travel trade?
Personalisation is fantastic if delivered in moderation. It is however essential not to over personalise, so you don’t miss audiences that you didn’t define, as they could also be customers.
In your opinion, how can the industry continue to become more sustainable?
Reduce plastic usage, encourage more domestic travel without flying, and do a better job at off-peak marketing to avoid over-tourism. I appreciate that the weather and school holidays are a major factor, but some trends can be tapped into, such as micro-breaks, that I don’t feel the industry is quite capitalising on. This trend is spearheaded by a millennial audience who are now up to 38 years old, so are a demographic with massive purchase power.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Working with clients who have a significant challenge to overcome or a new trail to blaze. I adore getting involved in these businesses and proving how effective digital marketing can be in driving visitors and customers.
And the most challenging?
Convincing people that the old ways aren’t necessarily the best anymore. Audience behaviour has seriously changed, even in the last five years, and so the way businesses communicate with their audiences and customers’ needs to change significantly as well.
What does the next 12 months have in store for your business?
We’re coming off the back of our most successful year to date with lots of impactful work delivered for our clients, so continued success for their business would be great. Partnering with UK Parliament and the Science Museum group were some of my personal highlights last year, so I’m looking forward to continuing our work with them.
This year I’m really interested in speaking with the travel and tourism businesses that are taking on ‘good tourism’ initiatives and allying with them to grow the marketplace and industry in the right direction.
Who or what inspires you to be even better?
I’m fortunate to regularly spend time with two industry figures whom I admire: Sir Tim Smit and Bernard Donoghue (director of ALVA). Between Tim’s vision and philosophies and Bernard’s breadth of knowledge about the industry, and his ability to effectively bridge the industry and government, I’m constantly exposed to new ideas and activities in the sector.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
There are no tough decisions. It’s either black or white, in which case you know what to do and it’s easy. And if it’s grey, then you can see relatively equal pros and cons for either path, so just make a decision.
See Anthony at British Tourism & Travel Show 2020
Marketing your business as an experience — a crash course: 10.30am in the Keynote Theatre on Wednesday 25 March
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to register for British Tourism & Travel Show, taking place at the NEC Birmingham on 22-23 October.