There are many people writing blogs about their travels and their experiences within a certain destination. These blogs are seen as online diaries where people express ideas and experiences. These writers are called local journalists, who report freely without being hindered by any kind of limitation. This includes often good and bad opinions about a certain place. This makes that they can break or make a destination’s reputation and indirect a Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO). But is it truly like that, that indirect feedback via travel blogs would not be relevant for a DMO? I will describe some pros and cons and draw a conclusion at the end (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).
At one side, a DMO could say that the content of a blog is not relevant for them, because it is not addressed to them whilst a review on their website or a comment on their Facebook page is. A blog is often directly addressed to relatives and friends to inform them about their experiences. However, strangers can find the blog on the internet and read them as well. This off course will influence a person’s opinion about a destination based on someone else experiences. A DMO could also say it is time consuming and costly, because you need staff to evaluate the blogs and they need to get paid for that. Lastly, why would you need this kind of feedback when you receive reviews on your website and via social media? Especially, when it is time consuming and costly.
At the other hand, why should a DMO actually consider the feedback via travel blogs as relevant source of information? There are a few different type of answers available. The first one is that they could use the blogs to gain more insight in the following contexts:
- Task environment – to gain insight in travel behaviour and the actual purpose of the trip
- Social context – to gain insight in what they are doing at the destination and with who
- Physiological context – What is the person actually doing during its stay, what kind of efforts are made in order to be there and do certain activities
- Mental context – what is someone’s mood or attitude during his/her stay at the destination
- Spatio-temporal context – Is the person touring around within the destination, passing through, or just staying at one place? Within what kind of timespan?
- Environmental context – what are the physical locations visited within the destination? Where did they stay, near what facilities and infrastructures (Peelen & Beltman, 2013)?
This leads to useful information for A DMO, using it to adapt their information sources based on what people are interested in and actually do when visiting the destination. It is also an indirect way of receiving feedback in order to improve the services and information sources of a DMO. People will write about what they liked and didn’t like about the destination. A DMO could use this by promoting the good parts even more to other people and improving the not such good parts of the destination when possible. This off course depends if there were people involved (especially companies), and what kind of bad experience it was. Maybe it was with friends, but when it was with a tourism company providing accommodation or activities, a DMO could communicate with them in order to improve certain things to increase someone’s overall experience.
It also enables a DMO to post/share personal stories of people who visited the destination, like the DMO of Lanzarote did with a great blog about Lanzarote, written by Satanna.
People interested in Lanzarote can read about someone’s personal experience of Lanzarote. This results into a few benefits. It is word of mouth and people value this kind of information more compared to information that is available on a DMO’s website. This means that sharing a blog written by a visitor has a stronger influence during the decision-making process of other customers interested in visiting the destination. Furthermore, you create a feeling of proud by sharing a person’s blog resulting in engagement. Sharing someone’s story that will be read by other people will result in feeling proud on what they have written and increases the experience value. This could lead to returning to the destination and/or becoming a more knowledgeable person who helps other customers by answering questions or offering tips.
To conclude, indirect feedback via travel blogs is an interesting and relevant for a DMO in order to increase the personal touch of people’s experiences, word of mouth and to learn more about people’s interest and travel behaviour within their destination.