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Authenticity, engagement is key in destination marketing

Destination marketing organisations are becoming sophisticated in how they identify and reach international students, both pre-arrival and onshore, by building strategies to attract and then retain them.

A video promoting English language study in the UK's Southwest funded by the UK's tourism body has reached 3 million views.

"We use real stories from real students"

“Authenticity is the new authority” said Jane Favaloro of Study Melbourne, revealing some of the international student-facing activities that her brand has undertaken to boost the appeal of Melbourne in Australia.

These include setting up a drop-in centre, the Study Melbourne Student Centre, and organising an “Ultimate Day Out” competition to ensure students get to see more of Victoria beyond its capital city.

Favaloro was one of a number of panellists sharing insight with other destination marketing organisations, at an event organised by Student Marketing and ICEF in Berlin on the fringes of the ICEF Berlin workshop.

From a DMO point of view, international students are considered to be a valuable category of visitor and acknowledged by government as an important contributor to economic development.

Favaloro revealed that 195,000 international students study in Melbourne, and that international education is the “single largest employer in the state”. From an economic development point of view, “the linkages that can be realised” between education and other tourism channels have been better acknowledged in the last 18 months, she noted.

“There’s a lot of [crossover] opportunity that can be realised, particularly between the visitor economy and international education.”

Citing pride in the fact that international students reported that Study Melbourne “did not feel like a government organisation”, Favaloro recounted that a 24/7 airport welcome desk project had become a permanent fixture, and a new Melbourne app has also been commissioned, in part to help welcome students during the “onboarding” period after being accepted to study in Australia.

Jane Favaloro of Study Melbourne explains what has worked well in terms of city-led student marketing. Photo: The PIE News

Guido Schillig, representing the UK South West and regional International Education Forum – which successfully bid for a grant to promote the region from VisitBritain – also emphasised the point that a student becomes a long-term tourist.

He shared the success story of a video, produced thanks to the funding, which has been seen by an estimated three million so far and was paid for by the UK’s tourism body.

From New Zealand, Ute Haug from Education New Zealand shared the country’s efforts to engage students via virtual reality goggles and social media, with an Instagram platform where students can post their own pictures of New Zealand, and with a Snapchat platform trial underway for a US audience.

“We use real stories from real students,” she underlined, echoing Favaloro’s comments that data is also important to support aims and measure impact: she observed that Education New Zealand had a “social community size” of 875,593.

The keynote speaker at the event was Eunji Tae from UNWTO, and she noted that DMOs also had a role to play in community engagement to ensure cohesion and to “sustainably retain” success in attracting high numbers of tourists, including student visitors.

Favaloro agreed, noting that since well publicised incidents of violence towards Indians in Melbourne a number of years ago, Study Melbourne now has an incident management plan in place and multicultural police liaison officers on hand, should future incidents occur.

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