7 Dec 2009

Cluster Development

Left to their own devices Tourism Providers will not develop their own clusters nor will they promote other businesses - even though it would benefit them to do so.
Successful cluster development is usually reliant upon the proactive participation of the businesses that are meant to actually form the cluster. The reality however of getting businesses to work together is fraught with difficulties. Business owners are busy running their own business, do not properly understand the benefits, are sometimes wary or unsure about other cluster participants [particularly their competitors] or personalities get in the way - they just might not like someone!

With iVisitor Guide we have developed an option that removes these obstacles, has very few technical barriers to entry and is now proven to be a service that is of real value to the participants.

The programme devised was a unique and new approach and the catalyst to enable active participation within the cluster was the development of a consumer facing brand. For iVisitor Guide to work we had to create a solution that successfully combined the following:

1. Consumer brand
The brand that was developed was iVisitor Guide – together with a logo that would open up a ‘Guide’ for ’Visitors’ that was full of very useful ‘Information’ to help them make the most of their stay [see above].

Cluster members were asked to display this logo prominently on every page of their own website together with explanatory text detailing that consumers should click the logo if they wanted ideas on where to stay, what to do etc. Clicking on the logo would open up an online visitor guide that had been personalised on behalf of the business to reflect the target market of the Tourism Provider.

2. Access to up to date relevant content
Your regional tourist board has invested time, resource and money in a Destination Management System that holds comprehensive data on virtually all known tourism stock in the area. By linking this data to an Enterprise Content Management System [eCMS] upon which we built the cluster sites, we now had the basis upon which this data could be shared amongst all of the Tourism Providers who would form our original pilot cluster.

3. Online distribution strategy
Once the brand was created and we had access to content we then needed to create a range of websites that could ‘bridge’ the gap between a Tourism Provider website and the tourist board’s data. The strategy of creating a link directly from the Tourism Provider website opened up the opportunity for us to reach a whole new segment of online consumer that typically was not going to the tourist board website for this type of content.

Our partner for this pilot was Visit Chester & Cheshire [VCC] and at that time VCC only really had the opportunity to reach volume consumers via its main online channels – www.visitchester.com and www.visitcheshire.com. These websites provide compelling content and market all tourism across Cheshire but Tourism Provider websites do not typically ‘link’ to a tourist board website – mainly for fear of losing their hard won online prospective customer to a competitor. This leaves VCCs main channels operating in isolation of the Tourism Providers they are promoting.

Tourist Boards also always operate in a very crowded market place, where very many businesses are competing for the same audience. Research on the volume of online bookings indicates that tourist boards typically reach less than 1% of the available market. The major travel brands – Lastminute, Expedia, Laterooms etc collectively account for c20% of the same market. This leaves more than 79% of all online bookings taking place directly on Tourism Providers own websites i.e. the vast majority of online traffic is generated at provider level on Tourism Providers own websites.

The iVisitor Guide service enables us to rapidly deploy marketing led websites that enable a Tourism Provider to give the consumer up to date, relevant visitor information [with very little effort] and opens up the opportunity for tourism board generated content to be accessed by significantly more people. It also generates much more interest for the businesses themselves.