We all know the industry suffering the most from the global pandemic is tourism. You can imagine most businesses struggled to survive and restart their business. Globally Cool was able to help a group of Zambian SMEs get back on the saddle. In this case study, we reveal the key success factors of the programme to re-work their marketing strategies and translate those into digital marketing plans.
A year of webinars and one-on-one coaching
Digital marketing has become a valuable tool for reinstituting and repositioning Zambian tourism businesses and attracting more visitors to the country. As a part of CBI’s long-term programme for the Zambian tourism sector, Globally Cool has successfully assisted 19 tour operators and 6 hotels and lodges in enhancing their digital marketing strategies all throughout the year 2021.
Are you curious to learn which factors have contributed to our success? Below, you will find the core steps to take to elevate the marketing of business post-COVID:
Step 1: Strategic approach – a blended way of learning
The Zambian tourism digital marketing project is an interactive online promotion training for tourism operators and hoteliers. In that light, the objective was to conduct an integrated e-learning intervention and build capacity for the tourism operators. We decided blended learning – virtual training combined with self-guided learning – would have the most lasting and largest effect. Why this is? The method has proven successful in providing sustainable learning – that sticks. Looking at the aiming – helping companies improve their online presence, develop and implement effective digital marketing plans – this moreover is a perfect fit.
First phase: structured necessity analysis (November 2020 – February 2021)
For the first phase of the programme, a structured necessity analysis was executed based on a set of criteria for websites and social media. To get more insight into each company’s skills and knowledge, an additional questionnaire was developed. These analyses allowed us to identify the needs of each company and – based on the results – the tourism businesses with similar needs were combined into various subgroups, accompanied by a specific learning plan.
Second phase: online training, blended learning (February – June 2021)
Analysis done and learning groups formed? Time for phase two, which consisted of preparing and conducting the online training sessions. For this part, an e-learning platform in the Globally Cool Academy and content for nine webinars were developed. This is where our blended learning approach came in! Our approach consisted out of a combination of (live and recorded) online webinars, e-learning tasks and quizzes for the participants to execute from home as well as individual feedback/coaching sessions to discuss progress and assignments – focussing on subjects ranging from website usability to social media planning and digital marketing strategy. In turn, all these assignments bundled formed the fundament of the digital marketing plan.
Third phase: make it happen, distant guidance (June – December 2021)
In the final project phase, all participants received additional hands-on coaching. In small group training sessions, the most important challenges and solutions were discussed. Knowing Globally Cool, you will understand this was not all! Having analysed the various businesses, we were able to identify more recent needs. To help the Zambian tourism businesses further develop and implement their digital marketing plans, extra one-on-one coaching sessions and workshops were organised.
Step 2: managing online presence of the destination
It’s clear the pandemic had a great influence on the tourism businesses. Managing market presence was suddenly impossible, just like bringing their digital marketing strategies to the next level. It goes without explaining: all businesses had to adapt and make necessary changes – such as producing localised content to cater to and attract the local market.
Our digital marketing workshops and one-on-one coaching focused on keeping the tourism efforts in Zambia alive, in the spirit of the #dreamnowtravellater campaign worldwide. Based on the assessment and survey done by Globally Cool, the main topics for the tourism businesses course concluded:
- Website enhancement
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Technical improvements
- Updating Google Business profile
- Optimising company profile at Online Travel Agencies (OTA)
- Activating email campaigns
- Regularly updating social media channels
- Activating LinkedIn personal profile and company page
- Facebook page
- Instagram for business
- YouTube channel
- Social media advertising
- Monitoring and evaluation: Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Social Media Insights
Step 3: consistent communication is key
Clear, concise, and consistent communication is an essential aspect of a digital marketing strategy becoming successful. The pandemic has changed customer behaviour in such a manner that engaging online is a primary source of communication now – especially for tourism businesses. This allows companies to use social media and other digital marketing channels to stay in regular contact with potential and loyal customers.
Success story in the making
Consistent and persistent communication through various digital platforms has proven to be a success factor for tourism businesses in Zambia. We assisted these companies with highlighting and correctly communicating their unique selling propositions on various digital channels. By doing so, we created the perfect opportunity for these businesses to speak directly to their audiences and establish themselves as destination experts. These efforts have proven effective, shown through the following results:
- 20 out of 25 companies have seen website visits increasing over 150%
- One company gained 350% website visits in 2022 compared to the previous year
- All companies have received more direct bookings through their social media channels, such as Instagram and Facebook
Lastly, an extended programme for selected companies is on the run – starting in 2022. The goal is to further improve their social media presence and effectively communicate their sustainable tourism practices, optimise product pages and convert lookers into bookers.