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EXPLORING ECOTOURISM

Marketing Ecotourism on the Web
by Ron Mader

MARKETING WIKI

What sort of conversation do we want?
- Language Notebook

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If you manage an ecotourism business, the most valuable piece of real estate you will own is your website. Successful tourism marketing requires an understanding of how to make effective use of the Web.


INSIDER TIPS

Planeta.com's role as an online facilitator/clearinghouse for ecotourism/sustainable travel features, directory listings and conferences has provided numerous examples of how stakeholders can collaborate successfully.

Travelers tell me they want the names of local guides and hotels that strive to be eco-friendly. Travel agencies and journalists ask for reliable contacts. Simply put, those promoting ecotourism, adventure travel, rural tourism, community-based travel and who do NOT use the Web are at a serious disadvantage.

STRATEGIES

Contacting travel agencies, hotels and guides is easier than ever thanks to the Web. No expensive, long distance phone calls. No phone tag. That's the good news.

The bad news is that many of the entrepreneurs have yet to learn how to make effective use of the Web. (Tip: Register for our Web Seminar)

What's the problem? For starters, many people refuse to answer email in a timely manner.

The result: no response = no business.

Potential travelers want to know what kind of tours, accommodations, services are available. The Web provides direct contact to services that are off the beaten track. If it's easy enough, travelers will use the Web to make reservations. They may choose not to commit to a specific tour until they arrive, so they comb the Web for updated phone numbers and addresses to be used during their trip.

Unfortunately, some businesses don't seem to grasp these needs. If email responses are tardy or do not provide direct answers, clients simply choose someone else.

Travel agencies may say they don't have time to answer individual requests, but if I call them up, I can get specific answers on the phone. Why are email queries different? What it comes down to is that if a business cannot provide a timely and informative response, can they be counted on for their service?


During the research of my book, Mexico: Adventures in Nature, I asked a hotel that was touting its environmental programs if they could be more specific. "Look at our website." I did and after five minutes, I couldn't find any details about how this hotel is "eco friendly."

Adventures

Another time a travel agency in Oaxaca said it offered trips to coffee farms. The site was so graphics-heavy, I got bored after a few minutes. Such poor website design is responsible for the criticism of the web as the "World Wide Wait!"

The adventure should be the journey -- not the quest for information used to plan the trip.


WEAVING THE WEB

Via the Web we see people making connections, regardless of distance. Likewise, ecotourism's success lies with its cooperation among chief players -- travelers, travel agencies, conservation groups and government offices. In many ways, the Web and ecotourism are evolving together -- providing information and ways of active participation to people around the globe.

Communication needs to be improved, among conservationists and tourism leaders within regional and international spheres. Ecotourism is not just a niche or a fad, but a model of where all tourism must progress. The chief question -- how do we get there?

I can't say whether it's because we're beginning a new century, or because global communication has expanded exponentially in the last generation, or whether environmental awareness has matured, but what is emerging tends toward a union of common interests.

Via the Web, we relate to each other by affinity rather than vicinity. And when we do travel -- across town or to the ends of the world -- we simply need the right information at the right time to make our journey successful.

WEB 2.0

Viral marketing refers to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness, through self-replicating viral processes. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet.


AUTHOR

Ron Mader is the responsible travel correspondent for Transitions Abroad and host of the award-winning Planeta.com website.


ABOUT THIS GUIDE

This Planeta guide is part of our professional 'How2' series featuring practical, multi-player tips on press trips, media releases and media kits. We also have suggestions on greening events and improving signage.


FEATURES

g Exploring Ecotourism
g Ethical Marketing of Ecotourism
g Improving media coverage of ecotourism
g Tourism Marketing Survey Results
g Strategies for using Web 2.0

FLICKR

g Marketing
g Marketing Lessons
g What is the value of attention?
ONLINE FLICKR

WIKI

g Marketing
b Viral marketing
ONLINE WIKI

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