4E: Marketing to Business Tourism
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Much of the general material on destination marketing applies to both leisure and business tourism. But there are a few things to be aware of specifically about business tourism. This section looks at categories of business visitor, and gives some ideas for specific marketing activities for business tourism.
There are two clear categories of business visitors - sometimes referred to as "non-discretionary" and "discretionary". These are defined as follows.
|Table 1: Discretionary and non-discretionary business tourism|
|Non-discretionary business tourism||Discretionary business tourism|
|Sometimes referred to as "individual business travel" or "transient"||Sometimes referred to as "MICE" (Meetings Incentives Conventions Exhibitions) and/or "business events"|
- Trips away from home or away from their normal workplace made by individuals to carry out their work
- Conventions, Conferences
- Meetings, AGMs, Away days
- Team building
- "Live marketing" events
- Product launches
- Corporate hospitality
Both are extremely valuable to destinations. They provide the highest-spending visitors a destination can have, and visitors who come to destinations almost year round and during the week – exactly complementing leisure visitors’ travel patterns.
There is little that a destination can do to influence non-discretionary business visits (as the name suggests), although suppliers such as hotels will work closely with corporate travel managers and agencies to secure this valuable business. But discretionary business tourism can be helped by specific public-funded intervention and support.
The world of discretionary business tourism is specialist, quite complex, and constantly changing as the market changes.
The target market is the organiser – either in-house or a third party "intermediary". In-house organisers may be a specialist events team but are more likely to be or the marketing or human resources department, or possibly a senior person’s PA.
Business tourism intermediaries range from convention organisers, incentive travel planners and venue finders to destination management companies and party planners. As well as the hands-on organisers, there may well be other key influencers such as committees and boards, who could make the final decision.
When it comes to marketing, the public-funded agencies can support discretionary business tourism by:
- branding and promoting the destination as a place for business events
- providing suppliers with marketing support and marketing/sales opportunities
- strengthening industry partnerships
- co-ordinating destination bids, and organising the support infrastructure for large events
- funding market research to identify potential markets
- running "ambassadors" programmes to support local academic and industry specialists bidding to stage sector-specific events
- providing expert first-hand authoritative and impartial advice for buyers.
Specific marketing activities for business tourism include:
- destination print, websites and videos
- destination PR to trade media
- stand space at specialist exhibitions
- CRM activity including e-zines, familiarisation visits, and promotional events for buyers.
Most of the focus is on the primary target market – the key decision makers who can each bring hundreds or even thousands of bednights and substantial visitor spend to a destination.
But once an event is won, there are further opportunities to increase the economic impact of a business tourism event by working with organisers to target the individual business visitors, for example:
- helping the organiser to promote the destination to potential delegates in order to boost numbers attending an exhibition or conference
- helping to arrange and promote social and partners activities
- promoting the destination to business visitors at planning stage, to encourage them to extend their visit
- promoting the destination to business visitors while they are there, to encourage them to return as leisure visitors, and/or to recommend the destination to others.
Business Travel by Rob Davidson and Beulah Cope, published by FT Prentice Hall, 2003, provides an excellent introduction to the specialist sector of business tourism.