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This is the story of an underdog done good. We all love an underdog, seeing the little guy succeed. And that’s why I enjoyed hearing about how visitwales.com helped turn Wales into a holiday destination to rival Cornwall and the Lake District.
Once upon a time (last week) I attended Sitecore Digital Trendspot and heard from Richard Shearman, Head of Solutions Analysis at Sequence, talking about how they turned visitwales.com into a digital storytelling success story.
Let’s be frank. When you think ‘relaxed holiday fun with plenty of things to do to keep it interesting’, Wales is unlikely to be at the forefront of your mind.
Visit Wales had a big job on its hands – appeal to a diverse audience about a place that’s probably more famous for curry and chips than it is for its glorious beaches or outdoor adventure.
But appeal to them it did. With a target of contributing £150m in additional value in a year, Sequence and visitwales.com got to partake in some high-spirited merriment after they managed to hit £200m.
With quality content forming the basis of Visit Wales’ strategy, creating a consistent brand message across multiple channels (both on and offline) was key. Content was used to reinforce the brand but, just as the glass slipper can only fit one maiden’s foot, it was also aligned with relevant people, devices and time periods.
In a landscape where content is king (and the travel industry has plenty to boot), what is content without the cooperation of a range of other disciplines? Social, data and user experience all had to work in-line with each other to ensure the diverse audience was getting the information and inspiration they wanted, when they wanted it.
So – what did Visit Wales actually do? To start, user generated content played a large role – actively creating conversations. In the run-up to Valentine’s Day, social conversation combined with recommendations for hotels and restaurants suitable for loved-up couples helped to push visitwales.com up the organic search listings for ‘romantic breaks’.
Additionally, their ‘Share Wales’ project on Flickr invited people to upload and tag pictures that other organisations could use. The result was a wealth of free photography and a campaign reaching far beyond their typical audience.
In Autumn 2011, Visit Wales launched its 'Piers Bramhall' campaign combining content, PR and social along with TV advertising in a quest to lure all-inclusive resort junkies to try something new. Bramhall became the unsuspecting hero of the campaign when his girlfriend applied to Visit Wales to experience a different type of holiday.
After being doorstepped by a traditional Welsh choir, Piers (and the public) were presented with 196 videos from Welsh businesses explaining why he should visit Wales. The campaign generated 19,000 new Facebook followers, an uplift in brochure requests of 37,000 and an estimated reach of 34m adults.
In early 2012, Visit Wales launched its new site, again centering on quality content in the form of a daily updated blog and curated content from local businesses and engaged users.
The site needed to compete with high value content elsewhere (think National Geographic Traveller and Lonely Planet) but insights into visitor behaviour also helped Visit Wales to mould the site around the needs of the user – again – aligning content with relevant people, devices and time periods was built into the process. The initial launch saw a 75% increase in traffic.
Six months later, traffic had increased by 120%. And with a 5% conversion rate on brochure downloads and sign ups, additional revenue hit £200m.
So that, my friends, is the story of how content became the King of Wales and the hoteliers, B&B owners, restaurateurs and tourist attraction owners were able to live happily ever after, in the knowledge that Visit Wales was flying the flag for the realm.