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European destinations must adapt to change

The latest WTO Regional Conference on Tourism Communications (TOURCOM) highlighted the need for both ‘new’ and established destinations in Europe to adapt their media relations to a changing scenario in which the East is gaining tourism market share at the
expense of the West and to the use of new information technology.
Among the main issues addressed at the conference were crisis and risk
communications, image building and cross-cultural communications, with
strong emphasis on branding, advertising, new information technology and
development of the airline sector.

Several speakers argued that the ‘new’ destinations of Central and Eastern
Europe needed to create and strengthen communication units at national,
regional and local level; to be more dynamic in the development of
communications know-how, respond faster and be more pro-active in their
relations with the press.

But traditional destinations such as Spain, Italy, France, Greece also
need to adapt their communications to the new scenario “if they do not want
to lose more tourists to new destinations in the East that are becoming
increasingly more attractive to the media and an ever growing number of
travellers,” said Rok Klancnik, WTO Chief of Communications.

“The case of the ‘Polish plumber’ advertising campaign in France” - based
on the character at the centre of the ‘no vote’ campaign in the French
referendum on the EU constitution - “showed, that a country needn’t be very
rich to get a witty, inviting and successful message through to an
attractive source market,” said Polish Tourist Organization representative
Kryzstof Turowski.

Journalists John Bell and Nick Easen recommended ‘new’ destinations not to
try to copy others in advertising and media relations, but “be original,
creative and distinct, show novelty and to focus on what is special.
Otherwise they face extinction from the tourist map.” The President of the
World Travel Awards, Graham Cooke, said destinations should try to provide
web-information in as many languages as possible, including Spanish and


Answering questions from delegates who argued that some, mainly western
media try to impose unethical methods of promoting their destinations,
Richard Baerug, marketing director of the Riga Convention Bureau said that
“Companies and destinations should only deal with media that make a clear
border line between advertising and journalism.” 

With several major terrorist attacks in the last two years and avian flu
now threatening the tourism sector in Europe, destinations need to create
response teams to handle crisis management and action plans. They should
also “be cautious about using words such as ‘safety’ as a selling point or
issuing categorical reassurances on safety,” said WTO consultant Deborah

Several speakers underscored the need for communications with the media
and consumers to be increasingly based on “emotions and experiences”,
looking beyond traditional tourism attractions to areas such as fashion and
sport to promote destinations.

The Riga event concluded the WTO TOURCOM programme for 2005, following one
held in Amman in September for the Middle East and North Africa. Further
communications conferences are scheduled for Africa, in Abuja, Nigeria, and
for the Americas in Rosario, Argentina in 2006.