Do you remember your last vacation?
Whether it was Disney World, Aspen, Paris, New York or wherever, chances are you probably heard a recommendation before you went. That recommendation more than likely came from friends, family or co-workers. Someone whose opinions you trust.
Do you remember the last time you vacationed somewhere because a politician suggested it to you?
So, you can see the problem in this story – South Carolina taxpayers are funding a trip for German politicians to visit Myrtle Beach this Fall. At a cost of $100,000.
These politicians will then return home, spread the word, and the German tourists will come flocking to the Grand Strand, eager to spend some of their hard-earned Deutsche Marks. Or, at least, that’s the theory.
Now, maybe I’m overly cynical, but try thinking of this in reverse. Imagine one of your state’s senators is given a free trip to somewhere in Germany. Dusseldorf say. He (or she) then comes back with a glowing report about what a wonderful time he had. Would you be booking the next available flight?
I started thinking about this after another blogger, Jacob Morgan, had tweeted (Twittered?) about an upcoming trip to Turkey. I lived in Turkey for a short time and loved it. Any time anyone mentions going, or thinking about going, I try and convince them that they won’t be disappointed. And no-one in the Turkish government has had to pay me a dime to do this.
This is the kind of advertising that is truly effective. Not paying politicians to say nice things.
So, how could that $100,000 have been better spent?
Well, in 2006 over 17,000 Germans came to South Carolina as their primary destination. If each one of them went home and told their friends about the great time they had had, wouldn’t that have some impact? How about if the SC government spent $100,000 to make it easier for those people to share their stories, videos, photos and so on.
Many tourist destinations are already doing this. For instance, Aviemore in Scotland, a popular skiing resort, already incorporates Flickr streams, Youtube videos, blogs and more on a website aimed at attracting more visitors to the area. New Zealand actively solicits travelers’ blogs for “straight talking thoughts and opinions about our places, people and adventures”.
The most frustrating thing about this waste of money is that it’s so close to being a good idea. Word of mouth works. We all know that. The state government obviously knows it, which is why they want the German politicians to spread the word. But the beauty of word of mouth is that it’s cheap!
Wouldn’t that $100,000 be much better spent creating a central location to gather the experiences of people who are already coming? Of course it would!