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Influencer marketing has impacted all industries, including travel and tourism. Many Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) are lever- aging the influence of online personalities for diverse purposes, including attracting visitors to their destinations. This paper sheds light on the use of social media influencers by DMOs, reveals the inner dynamics of influencer marketing for tourism destinations, and discusses the impacts of this practice. Relying on interviews with destination representatives, social media content analysis and data from internal reports, this research expands the scarce knowledge on influencer marketing in the travel and tourism domain hitherto, and provides valuable insights for destination managers.
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Influencer Marketing for Tourism
Destinations: Lessons from a Mature
Destination1
Francisco Femenia-Serra1 and Ulrike Gretzel2
1 Tourism Research Institute, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain
paco.femenia@ua.es
2 Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism,
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
gretzel@usc.edu
Abstract. Influencer marketing has impacted all industries, including travel
and tourism. Many Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) are lever-
aging the influence of online personalities for diverse purposes, including
attracting visitors to their destinations. This paper sheds light on the use of social
media influencers by DMOs, reveals the inner dynamics of influencer marketing
for tourism destinations, and discusses the impacts of this practice. Relying on
interviews with destination representatives, social media content analysis and
data from internal reports, this research expands the scarce knowledge on
influencer marketing in the travel and tourism domain hitherto, and provides
valuable insights for destination managers.
Keywords: Influencer · Influencer marketing · Social media influencer ·
Destination marketing · Tourism marketing · Social media marketing
1 Introduction
Influencer marketing is a marketing practice that takes advantage of well-followed
online users, who are able to influence consumers’ attitudes and decision-making
processes in favour of brands or ideas [13]. This burgeoning method was initially
applied to fashion, beauty and style, but has permeated almost every economic activity,
with travel and tourism being one of the sectors in which influencers have become
especially prominent. In tourism, influential individuals can be used to attract more or
different type of tourists to a given geographical area and to shape the perception of the
destination, among other purposes [4]. However, while there is an increasing use of
influencer marketing by tourism organizations and many social media influencers
(SMIs) can be specifically classified as ‘travel SMIs’, there is a lack of research on
influencer marketing in the travel and tourism domain [5]. In line with this, Xu and
Pratt [6] call for a better understanding of SMI practices in destinations and the
adoption of complementary perspectives to clearly depict the power influencers exert.
There is a need to portray how decisions related to the selection and employment of
influencers are made [2, 3]. Little is known about how DMOs proceed when selecting
____________________________
1Citation: Femenia-Serra, F. & Gretzel, U. (2020). Influencer Marketing for Tourism Destinations: Lessons
from a Mature Destination. In J. Neidhardt and W. Wörndl (Eds.), Information and Communication
Technologies in Tourism 2020 (pp. 6578). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
these partners [7], and few studies have focused on factors affecting influencer mar-
keting decisions or campaign design and performance [8, 9]. Moreover, as Glover [4]
argues, apart from looking at persuasive effects, research also needs to focus on ana-
lysing the content of endorsers’ campaigns. Considering this, the objective of the
present paper is to better understand why and how tourism destinations apply influ-
encer marketing. We aim to: (i) unveil destination marketers’ views on influencer
marketing; (ii) depict how DMOs manage influencer marketing campaigns; and, (iii)
contrast practitioners’ perspectives and objectives with the real content of campaigns as
well as their actual impact. To fulfil these objectives, the paper focuses on the case of
Benidorm (Spain), a well-known mature mass destination striving for innovative
strategies to maintain its competitive position [10]. The ndings shed light on the
dynamics of influencer marketing and illustrate how destinations can properly leverage
this flourishing marketing practice.
2
Literature Review
2.1
Influencer Marketing in Travel and Tourism
Social media influencers are ‘vocational, sustained and highly branded social media
stars’ who ‘exert influence over a large pool of potential customers’ [11 pp. 7172].
Generally, influencers possess attributes such as a high number of followers or a
targeted, otherwise hard-to-reach ‘audience’, a privileged position in social media, and
enjoy public recognition, which translates into influence on other people’s decisions
[1]. SMIs are a new type of online opinion leader and brand endorser [12] with a great
power to influence their followers, which has made them the focus of influencer
marketing strategy [3, 7, 1315]. Hence, influencer marketing can be described as
industry efforts that attempt ‘to promote products or increase brand awareness through
content spread by social media users who are considered to be influential’ [2 p. 2].
From another perspective [3], influencer marketing is seen as an exchange between
brands and well-followed content creators who endorse products or services by
interweaving these promotions with their personal life narration.
As reported by Gretzel [5], influencer marketing in the travel and tourism domain
has been mainly used by international hotel firms, while the use by destinations is
increasing but still lagging behind. Influencer marketing is in this field a solid alter-
native to direct endorsement of destinations by DMOs, and has been proven to be more
effective [4]. In the context of global competition, DMOs can use influencers to reach
more people, as they normally do not have as many engaged followers [7], and to
attract demographic segments that seem more influenceable via social media, such as
women [16] and digital natives (i.e. millennials, Gen Z) [17]. Additionally, influencer
marketing can enhance a destination’s image [4], thus forming a critical part of des-
tinations’ branding strategy [5]. Effective management of social media by DMOs,
including influencers, can also fight destination stereotypes [18], and despite being one
of the potential instigators of overtourism in given locations, influencers can also be
used to drive behavioral change and redirect tourism flows to less saturated areas [19].
Additionally, because of information overload, saturation of marketer-consumer direct
relationships on social media and ad blockers, destinations need to adopt new strategies
and adapt to social media affordances [5]. In this context, the right influencer strategy
can deliver many benefits to DMOs. Initial findings show that practitioners seem to
take into account several factors in their influencer selection, including fit between the
brand and SMIs, number of followers, type of created content, reliability and com-
municative style [14]. Recently, emphasis has been placed on ‘microinfluencers’ as
grassroots online celebrities who exert influence on a smaller scale but in a very
effective way [5].
2.2
Destinations and Social Media Marketing
Social media have become the preferred marketing channel for tourism organizations
and have been extensively adopted by tourists across their whole customer journey [20,
21]. The empowerment of tourists on social media has led to the production of ‘user
generated content’ (UGC) on a massive scale, which has had deep implications for
DMOs [22]. UGC is the most prominent form of electronic Word-of-Mouth (eWOM)
[23] and has critically stifled DMOs’ control over messages about their destinations
[18]. Consumer-to-consumer communication is becoming ever more prevalent while
traditional information sources (including DMOs and mass media) are declining in
popularity [24]. Although destination image formation has always been dependent on a
combination of organic and marketer-induced images [25], co-creation of destination
images now happens on a much larger scale [22, 26]. According to Hays et al. [24]
DMOs find it hard to adjust to this situation. They face difficulties in projecting the
desired destination image in the overcrowded information space [27] and in managing
the many forms and sources of UGC [24, 28]. Therefore, the marketing mandate of
DMOs is increasingly difficult to implement. In this context, influencer marketing
emerges as a viable option for DMOs to recapture tourists’ attention, differentiate from
the rest, and potentially take back part of the control over the online dissemination of
destination-relevant information. Importantly, SMIs have proven to be more effective
than traditional advertising practices [3, 14].
3
Methods
This paper employs a case study methodology, which allows to investigate influencer
marketing as a “contemporary phenomenon, in depth and within its real-world
context” [29 p. 16]. Benidorm was chosen for being a successful mass tourism
destination based on an allegedly obsolete ‘sun and sand’ model which in fact has
avoided decline over time and reversed the tourist area life cycle through a series of
renewal and innovation initiatives, the latest example of which is the incorporation of
cutting-edge marketing strategies as part of its global smart destination project [30].
Three different sources of data were employed to triangulate data and obtain a
higher consistency in the results [31], including data from interviews, social media and
an internal DMO report (see Fig. 1). First, face-to-face semi-structured interviews were
conducted with five experts from the Benidorm DMO, including its general manager,
chief data officer, digital marketing manager, project manager and external advisor. All
Interviews
Thematic analysis
Social media posts
Content analysis
DMO report
Descriptive statistics
interviews, with an average duration of over 1 h, were audio recorded and transcribed
verbatim. Explicit permission from the participants was obtained to report their opin-
ions. The transcripts were analyzed using Atlas.ti and following Braun and Clarke’s
[32] thematic analysis process: (i) familiarisation by listening, transcribing, reading and
re-reading, (ii) coding excerpts with emerging, initial codes, (iii) re-coding, collating,
and identifying themes, (iv) reviewing and refining themes, (v) defining and naming
identified themes and (vi) producing the report. Second, this paper examines a specific
influencer marketing campaign that emerged as a remarkable example during the
interviews. ‘The Other Benidorm’ influencer marketing campaign is analyzed using
two data sources: social media content (visual and textual data) and an internal report
facilitated by the DMO. As a first step, pictures shared by the SMI on Instagram,
Twitter and Facebook (total = 30) were manually gathered. Then, the main output of
the campaign, a video (https://bit.ly/2Y4p3bd), was dissected by extracting its main
features, examining its structure and summarising its content [33]. The clip was
decomposed into shots, scenes and sequences using “Video Analysis 4All”, an online
service developed by the Greek Information Technologies Institute. Representative key
frames (single pictures) [34] were selected and extracted from each scene, with a scene
being defined as “a series of consecutive shots grouped together because they’re shot
in the same location or because they share some thematic content” [33 p. 43]. In total,
35 frames were selected from 11 scenes, representing a summary of a narrative unit
that encapsulates a single spatiotemporal event and features the same characters.
Following this, a set of categories was inductively developed considering the features
of each of the 65 analyzed images (key frames plus pictures on social media) and the
functional attributes of the destination [35]. Each image was taken as a single unit of
content classifiable into up to four categories [36]. Moreover, textual data
accompanying pictures (SMI’s comments, captions, hashtags and mentions) and the
audio from the video were scrutinised. For this task, the video was transcribed
verbatim and analyzed together with the rest of the text using Atlas.ti. As shown in
Fig. 1, different sources of data and analysis were employed in order to obtain a
clearer understanding of the practitioners’ views (interviews), of the actual
development of influencer marketing campaign (posts) and its real impact (report).
Fig. 1. Research process. Source: Authors
4
Results
4.1
Practitioners’ Perspective
In this section, the main themes from the interviews analysis are presented, including:
influencer marketing ‘design and objectives’, ‘development and implementation’,
‘impact’, and ‘volatility and future’.
Design and Objectives. As a first step, participants emphasise that the destination
carries out an exhaustive research and monitoring of potential candidates to use for
their influencer marketing campaigns. They follow each candidate for long periods of
time and select them according to particular demand segments they target (e.g. mil-
lennials, families), specific products they aim to promote (e.g. MICE, gastronomy), the
destination image they aspire to disseminate (Benidorm as LGTB+friendly/green/
winter destination) or markets they expect to attract (France, Israel, Russia, etc.). If any
inconsistency appears during the screening process of a candidate, the DMO consults
with other destinations and brands that have worked with the influencer under study.
One of the DMO representatives argued Benidorm “has to be there and invest in this”
as a strategy to diversify its type of visitors, change the destination image, focus on
niche segments and be recognised as the perfect choice for almost every tourist.
“What we do is analyse which influencer is best for each product we aim to promote… it’s a
result of previous analysis and a long task of monitoring potential candidates” (Project
manager)
Experts particularly highlight the need to use young influencers to attract this
segment of tourists because of current predominance of seniors in Benidorm, partic-
ularly during low season. However, the objectives occasionally adapt to the changing
circumstances of the market and ad hoc campaigns are planned on the go:
“The airport of Alicante has launched two direct flights with Portugal. Following this, we
decided to bring four or five Portuguese influencers to start attracting families and people under
40 from this market. Influencers give you the notoriety you need” (Chief data officer)
Long-term monitoring and thorough assessment of candidates are seen as key to
avoiding poor results and fraud, including ‘fake influencers’. The chief data officer of
Visit Benidorm recalled a particular alleged influencer from Spain who made contact
with the organization, offering them an audience of 15,000 followers. When required to
provide statistics about her audience, it was discovered that more than 80% of followers
where located in India, which according to the interviewee clearly indicated these were
bots. Another relevant factor for the design of campaigns is that the specific objective
and target market shape the type of content about the destination to be created and how
it will be communicated by the influencer. Therefore, the objectives of influencer
marketing in the case of Benidorm range from attracting tourists from certain markets,
especially underdeveloped demand segments, to promote products and change per-
ceptions of the destination (image). Influencer marketing is moreover perceived by the
practitioners as an accessible and affordable practice that has higher credibility, reflects
authentic opinions, elicits deeper engagement with potential visitors and adapts to
current preferences of audiences, who value visuals over text:
“It doesn’t work anymore as a destination to tell the tourists: come visit us, our beach is great!
What we have now is a society in which everyone has an opinion on social media and reviews
everything […] so if you don’t have someone else telling you how good this place is, we won’t
have any results” (Chief data officer)
“These people create high-quality content because they produce great videos, have good
cameras and spend hours editing the videos. But they also have thousands of followers and
subscribers. This means people interested in that topic will get a notification and will see the
video. That’s an amazing power” (Digital marketing manager)
Development and Implementation. Narratives show how the DMO acknowledges
that influencers have become much more professional, but also that DMOs are now
much more precise regarding campaign specifications. The DMO establishes the
number and types of posts to be shared, hashtags and keywords to be used, mentions to
collaborators, and even part of the content to be shown. All these elements are formally
included in a contract and organized along a timeline:
“People think we pay 1.000€ for a kid to come and take a couple of pictures… but we watch
them closely to ensure a good promotion. We’re very demanding. We don’t ask for a particular
picture or forbid them to do anything, but we control them a lot. But people don’t see that.”
(General manager)
In line with this control, Benidorm employs a tool provided by Brandmanic to
monitor influencers during and after campaigns. This platform additionally applies
algorithms to calculate the impact of each SMI in terms of equivalent monetary
investment in traditional media. Obtaining these figures helps the DMO to justify
expenses to the board members. Moreover, Visit Benidorm has designed and imple-
mented together with a local startup a platform (Visit Benidorm Analytics) to monitor in
real time the engagement influencers are rendering through each action on each plat-
form. Metrics from different platforms are obtained in a visual, filtered way and are
easy to interpret for managers, and therefore support a faster and more efficient decision
making. This tool includes an alarm system and a time-based analysis that allows
understanding how social media platform algorithms change and how to better leverage
them. Another relevant factor for the development of influencer marketing campaigns
is cost. Participants revealed that the DMO usually only remunerates the influencer’s
basic fee, but the rest of services are frequently covered by local partners. Agreements
and collaboration with the regional and national tourism authorities can also reduce
costs for the DMO, as the Ministry or regional tourism agency might co-fund transport
or accommodation if they consider the campaign relevant for the image of the whole
country or region. Visit Benidorm acts in any case as an intermediary between the local
service providers, the authorities and the SMI, getting all required permits, organizing
the route, accommodation and food provision, providing the SMI with full information
about the destination and hiring professional services if needed (e.g. professional sports
instructors, drivers, tour guides). Finally, when posting the content, the destination
managers make sure they comply with the contract and that the posts meet expectations
in terms of professionalism:
“Each post has many hours of hard work behind… people think they’re just having a free
holiday, but for an ephemeral picture on Instagram, the influencer needs to edit the photo with
professional software, create the perfect light and use the right filter, and then post it.” (Digital
marketing manager)
Impact. Another theme from the interviews is the impact of influencer marketing.
According to interviewees, the influencer marketing strategy is rendering Visit Beni-
dorm a high following on social media (verified account with more than 22K followers
on Instagram and 50K on Facebook as of July 2019, ranking second in the region just
after Valencia), and is granting the DMO a notable reputation among professionals in
the sector. However, backlash from traditional press (mainly criticism towards
expenses on influencers) has also been reported by two of the participants.
“Benidorm has become a reference. There are many professionals working in the world of
marketing talking about what Benidorm is doing, and how it’s doing it.” (External advisor)
Influencer marketing is perceived by practitioners as more effective and cost-
effective compared to traditional media. Participants highlight the low cost of influ-
encers taking into account their potential reach. They also underline how influencer
marketing is nowadays the best alternative given the immense difficulty to gain visi-
bility on social media. Each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages. For
instance, the durability of a video on YouTube, virtually available forever compared to
the ephemerality of an Instagram story, could be seen as a fundamental factor when
assessing impact and deciding an investment. Another positive impact of SMIs is the
benefit local providers who collaborate with the DMO get, as their visibility on social
media rises rapidly. Additionally, interviewees argue that influencer marketing impact,
thanks to the intermediaries and available technology, is easy to monitor, and also
acknowledge the advantages of using their own single platform to control multiple
results from different influencers acting across social media. This allows managers to
better understand the impact of each campaign, save time and effort, and direct their
future actions. Metrics are available for single specific actions, including number of
views/likes/comments/shares (engagement of each post) and also for followers
(country, age, gender). Metrics are therefore a basic feature of influencer marketing
from the very selection of the influencer to results assessment, conferring this mar-
keting practice an aura of objectivity. However, despite this data, the real impact of
influencers on overall objectives is still hard to assess:
“To calculate returns is very difficult, but it’s not an expensive alternative. There’s a strong
collaboration between Visit Benidorm and private operators. Someone pays for the flights,
another one offers a bed in a good hotel, another lowers his/her prices, another offers a tour
around the destination or arranges the food…” (External advisor)
“While it’s true that the tool we use tells us how the impact of each campaign is, they can’t
tell you the % of the influencer’s followers are going to come because of it. That doesn’t
exist.” (Chief data officer)
Consequently, one of the main challenges identified by experts is to assess the real
impact of influencer marketing in terms of arrivals of a given segment or image of the
destination.
Volatility and Future. A recurring theme in the interviews were the constantly
changing affordances of social media and the uncertainty about the future evolution of
influencer marketing. The DMO general manager acknowledged that working with
social media marketing nowadays necessarily requires understanding how platform
algorithms work and how to best adapt to them. Innovations are continually imple-
mented in social media (e.g. stories, lives, stickers), which makes tasks challenging for
DMO employees. The quick obsolescence of social media marketing tactics is therefore
a real burden for DMOs. Regarding the future of influencer marketing, experts high-
light different lines of improvement and development. One participant reflects on the
evolution of influencer marketing towards niche segments and micro-influencers, as the
fees of big SMIs are unaffordable to many DMOs. Influencers with 1,000 to 3,000
followers might be key for destinations in the forthcoming years. Furthermore, another
tendency forecasted by interviewees is a tighter regulation by authorities. Detailed
disclosure of commercial partners in every single post and shared content will become
a widespread practice. Almost all interviewees agreed about the existing hype around
influencers and were worried about fake followers. One participant emphasised how
detection of bot followers might get difficult in the future with the progress of these
technologies (which may be capable of creating bots that could engage through
comments in the future). Finally, the interviewed experts recommended collaborating
not only with service providers but also with social media platforms in order to allow
tourists to purchase services directly from the influencer videos they watch on You-
Tube, for instance.
4.2
Content of ‘The Other Benidorm’ Influencer Marketing Campaign
In line with their interest on attracting tourists from France, Visit Benidorm participated
for many years in fairs and meetings with French tour operators. However, it was learnt
that the local market perceived Benidorm as an unsustainable, overcrowded destination
with a congested beach as its only attraction. Based on this problem, the DMO made a
decision to engage in influencer marketing:
“We started looking for French influencers, with young followers, probably more women than
man, because we wanted to start working with this market from the bottom. Then we found this
girl, who has many followers, a profile based on sustainable travel. She has pictures in the
Maldives, in the middle of the African jungle working on conservation projects with Disney,
with Greenpeace… I don’t want to tell French people that Benidorm is sustainable, I want her to
tell it from her point of view.” (General manager)
The narratives of the DMO experts reveal the objective of this campaign was to
promote Benidorm in the French market to attract a higher number of tourists from this
country, particularly of a young age, and to change the destination image. Specific
objectives included: Promoting Benidorm as a sustainable destination and as a diverse
destination in terms of types of attractions, summarized by the slogan ‘The Other
Benidorm’ [37]. Following these intentions, Visit Benidorm selected SMI Léa
Camilleri, who has over 365 K followers on Instagram and 523K subscribers on
YouTube, and who describes herself as an adventurous full-time traveller who advo-
cates for sustainability, volunteers, and supports preservation initiatives on her trips.
Léa was formally invited to visit Benidorm for a week in the summer of 2017.
The results from the social media content analysis (Table 1) reveal how the cam-
paign content addressed the DMO objectives. The category frequencies for the 65
analyzed images show a high prevalence of images representing people (more than a
third), mainly featuring the influencer and her team, followed by depictions of natural
spaces and outdoor activities (both categories together build up almost 40% of content).
This shows that the main focus of the campaign content is devoted to showing the
destination in terms of nature-based and active tourism, but also evidences the use of
the SMI persona to channel these ideas. In fact, presentation of the self is a key
characteristic of influencer marketing [38]. It must be noted how two iconic attributes
of Benidorm related to its mass ‘sun and sand’ model (the beach as the main attraction
and skyscrapers as its distinctive urban model) are hardly present on the content, which
unveils the intentions posed by the DMO when designing this influencer campaign.
Regarding emojis as visual communication tools, their use by this SMI reflects several
of the intentions identified by Ge and Gretzel [13], including: reinforcing arguments in
this case related to destination characteristics(e.g. ) , emphasising emotions
[e.g.
] or providing further information about a given activity (e.g. , ).
Table 1. Description and classification of visual content. Source: Authors
Category
Description
n
%
Nature and
natural landscape
Depicts all types of natural resources, acting as
scenery or main element of the image
39
24,07
3
1,85
27
16,67
7
4,32
2
1,23
Outdoor
activities
Depicts any activity or sport practised in natural or
urban landscapes
24
14,81
6
3,70
4
2,47
6
3,70
1
0,62
1
0,62
6
3,70
Urban landscape
Depicts buildings, architectural sites, human-built
elements
21
12,96
10
6,17
11
6,79
Transport
Represents different means of transport to get to
and move around the destination
11
6,79
5
3,09
4
2,47
1
0,62
1
0,62
People
Represents the own SMI, her team, locals, tourists,
etc.
59
36,42
34
20,99
17
10,49
4
2,47
4
2,47
Accommodation
Depicts any sort of accommodation or facilities
related
to it
5
3,09
Other
Promotional text, embedded images
3
1,85
162
100
Additional insights were derived from textual data, including the audio transcrip-
tion of the video. In this regard, the SMI based her discourse on her passion for nature
protection and adventure, but adjusted to the context of Benidorm. While acknowl-
edging the bad reputation of Benidorm in terms of land use and its urban model (“Since
the 50’s Benidorm is unfortunately known for its many constructions. I’m going to
show you another side of this city that you may not know”), the influencer highlights
how the destination has different protected areas (“All this area of the sea is part of a
reserve, it’s an aquatic and earthly reserve. And you can’t fish at all here, you just
admire the nature”) and emphasises the local sustainable initiatives (e.g. riding an
electrical bike around the destination). Moreover, the performed activities at the des-
tination fit with adventure as one of her core values and present Benidorm as an active
and diverse destination. It is noteworthy that the main attraction of Benidorm (the
beach) is barely mentioned. After allegedly discovering all the potential of the city, she
argues her image of the destination has changed and recommends a visit to her con-
scious audience (“I had many prejudices when I arrived in Benidorm. If you have
already been here or if you want to come, don’t hesitate and go out of the beaten tracks.
There are lots of pretty things, a great wildlife reserve, nice fauna and flora”). Addi-
tionally, this SMI interweaves destination marketing and sustainability as her brand
storyline with glimpses of her feelings and personal life (“This picture represents
everything you have allowed me to live until today. Everything that makes me try to be
a better, conscious and open person every day”). This is a common practice among
influencers, aimed at reinforcing a sense of authenticity and at connecting emotionally
with the audience [38]. In terms of communicative style, the analysis reveals the
constant use of humour in her posts, particularly in the video. This reinforces her
connection with her followers and permits intermingling ‘core content’ with enter-
tainment. Following DMO requirements, Léa includes in her posts the hashtag #vis-
itbenidorm, mentions the professional movie maker who is part of her team and all
service providers when applicable. Together with this, some space is also left for subtle
self-branding and promotion of partners. In these moments, Léa adopts a position of
naivety and alleged inexperience while introducing her message, thus reflecting a
practice coined by Abidin [11] as “calibrated amateurism”.
4.3
Impact of ‘the Other Benidorm’ Influencer Marketing Campaign
Data from the internal report [37] expose several important metrics of the ‘The Other
Benidorm’ influencer campaign (Table 2). These data demonstrate how the YouTube
video has been particularly fruitful, while Instagram has performed well, and actions on
Facebook and Twitter have had a modest impact. Considering the specialization of this
SMI in YouTube, the only post shared on this platform has had a high popularity
among her audience and has rendered the destination high visibility on this channel.
The overall impact in advertising equivalence terms is above 1 million of euros, which
is a massive return considering the low cost for the DMO, partly explained by the
collaboration with an airline (free tickets), accommodation offered by a luxury hotel,
and excursions (diving, jeep riding, etc.) offered for free by local providers. In
exchange for these services, the companies were tagged and named in the posts.
Table 2. Impact of ‘The Other Benidorm’ influencer marketing campaign. Source: Own
elaboration based on Visit Benidorm (2018)
Number of posts (total)
31
ROI YouTube
693.721,59€
Potential reach (no. followers)
1.041.110
ROI Instagram
77.992,54€
Total engagement (any form)
243.370
ROI Facebook
7.490,54€
Campaign cost for DMO
3.308,40€
ROI Twitter
2.469,73€
Return of Investment (total)*
781.673,94€
Cost per Interaction
0,013€
Return/investment
236 points
Cost per Visualisation
0,003€
*Calculated with Ayzenberg Group’s Earned Media Value Index 2.0 ([a]EMV Index).
5
Conclusion and Recommendations
Looking at the case of a mass coastal tourism destination, this research sheds light on
the content and structure of a tourism-specific influencer marketing campaign. By
focusing on the needs of the DMO, it introduces a perspective which had been
heretofore overlooked [6, 7]. The findings reveal that influencer marketing provides
DMOs with an opportunity to gain back control over branding and promoting a des-
tination while taking full advantage of the power of social media-based eWOM. The
case study illustrates that successful influencer endorsements occupy a new, advanta-
geous space at the intersection of paid, earned, shared and owned media. Through these
findings, this study widens our scarce knowledge of influencer marketing in the travel
and tourism domain [5] and adds to our understanding of contemporary destination
marketing practices.
While the specific findings from this case cannot be extrapolated to other desti-
nations because of their high dependence on a particular context [29], the way the
campaign was designed and implemented provides important practical insights. This
campaign can be considered successful because of the reported results but also because
of its focus on promoting sustainable tourism and alternative activities, leveraging this
way influencers to foster responsible behaviors [19]. On another side, results show that
influencer marketing for destinations needs to be part of a strategic vision and long-
term planning. Selection of the influencer must respond to specific objectives and is an
arduous process that entangles monitoring the appropriateness of each SMI and
negotiating the conditions of the engagement. Formal contracts and specific
guidelines should be given to SMIs beforehand and the process needs to be controlled
as much as possible by the DMO. In order to ensure a maximization of benefits and
reduction of costs, local service providers and external partners can be involved.
Additionally, metrics about the process ought to be collected, particularly to measure
the detailed results of each action within the campaign. Technological tools can assist
the DMO in this endeavour. The findings also show that the future of influencer
marketing is promising but also highly volatile, which requires that destinations keep
their influencer marketing techniques and decisions updated. The current research
represents a best practice case of a successful campaign implemented by an
innovative DMO. Future research can build on it by investigating approaches to
influencer marketing in DMOs with different levels of social media savviness. Also,
exploring similarities and
differences across campaigns with different levels of SMIs (from celebrities to
microinfluencers) and across different travel and tourism sectors could provide
important insights regarding the elements of tourism-related influencer marketing.
Moreover, this paper has analyzed the impact of an influencer campaign using mea-
sures that reflect the earned media value. However, these measures only reveal part of
the impact and need to be complemented with other types of data (e.g. followers,
quality of produced content, generation of website traffic, relationship with bookings,
users’ reactions and sentiment analysis…), which is in line with the results and rec-
ommendations from similar studies [39]. Last but not least, expanding the content
analysis to different tourism influencer campaigns could shed further light on the social
media-afforded rhetoric of influencers.
Acknowledgement. Work supported by the Spanish National R&D&I Plan, funded by the
Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness [Grant CSO2017-82592-R].
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