The European Cities Marketing spring conference is one of two yearly meeting held by the associaton, with the aim to evaluate and discuss recent trends, developments and challenges. Tourism marketing professionals gathered for three days in the beautiful Northern Irish city of Belfast to look at the chances and the current situation concerning sustainability within city tourism.
On behalf of Spotted by Locals I was invited by Synne Myhre, Director of the Tourism Information centre in Oslo and also the chairwoman for ECM, to speak about the local travel concept and present the case study of our recent cooperation with VisitHelsinki.
The Tourist Information Knowledge Group is a focus group within ECM, who specifically deals with issues regarding the actual Tourism offices in their respective cities.
So what is local travel anyway? Within the frame of my thesis work I researched the background and meaning of this concept. A quick summary of my talk:
- It is travelling off-the-path and around the conventional steps a tourist would go. Here, the local is taken as a benchmark as to how the traveller wants to perceive his trip – like a local.
- Why? Because locals know best. They know the best lunch deals, places to have drinks, the coolest new dinner spot. Especially in big cities things are constantly changing and evolving and it’s hard to keep up.
- People want to stand out. Most tourists don’t like tourists. They stand for an experience that is less authentic, staged and not individual. The modern city traveller wants a more independent, genuine and individual experience, customed to his personal preferences. Who could give better advice than a local?
- Meaning and significance plays a larger role for travellers. Again, standing out is a buzzword. In a world were the online and social image is important to many people, the intangible value of the actual travel experience is much more worth than it used to be. Instagramming a picture of the Eiffeltower like everyone else? Nah. Having coffee with fun French people in a cool café in an alley somewhere by the Eiffeltower, that’s the thing. Because not everyone does that.
- Discovery and experience is values higher than being given an impression you’re supposed to get. Of course people want to see their chosen destination, they want to visit the major landmarks and a few museums, but the feeling that you live and experience like a local makes the trip something more memorable.
- Travel has become more affordable, easier and more accessible to different kinds of people. And different kinds of people have different aspirations. In order to respond to new and less obvious traveller wishes, cities need to assess what they have and figure out how to market themselves using the infrastructure they already have. The local aspect is nothing new, and it has been done before, yet only few tourism offices have a permanent offer including local content, most initiatives are project-based.
- Power of engagement – involving the locals is a way to integrate both tourists and locals in a wholly new different way. People that live in your city live there because they love it (in the best case scenario!) – so who could be a better ambassador than “your own people”? A cities’ locals represent your destination in their own, individual way and different personalities attract different target groups.