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BTA’s big return on $1.3m marketing spend

Great return: an image from one of the Bermuda Tourism Authority print ads used in a marketing campaign targeted at six North American cities. The campaign generated an additional 24,500 visitor trips and $17.1 million in visitor expenditure last year (Photograph supplied)

It is the million-dollar question, literally. How much did Bermuda get back from the $1.3 million spent on a nine-month tourism advertising campaign last year?

The answer is $17 million, or a return on investment of $15.30 for each advertising dollar spent. That is the conclusion of an independent assessment of the effectiveness of the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s campaign.

The study found that, by the end of November last year, visitors had made 24,500 trips to Bermuda directly as a result of one specific campaign, which focused on the markets of New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto.

Advertising was placed online, on TV, through social networks and in print publications.

Using per capita spending figures, the study estimated that an additional $17.1 million was spent by those visitors during a nine-month period. The expenditure yielded $3.9 million in new tax revenue.

The study was done by Longwoods International, a marketing, advertising and public opinion research company, based in Toronto.

Although intended for internal use by the BTA, which commissioned the report, the authority decided to go public with the results to illustrate the worth of such marketing strategies, and address the often-asked questions about how effective it uses its resources.

Kevin Dallas, chief executive officer at the BTA, said the effectiveness of online advertising can be monitored by “following the clicks”, but it is not so easy to quantify offline and out-of-home marketing efforts, hence the need to engage tourism ROI report specialists Longwoods.

Beyond the bottom line numbers, the study measured the impact of the advertising on people’s perceptions of Bermuda as a travel destination, and created a 10 to 15 per cent increase in the number of respondents who thought of the island as offering a sense of adventure, having interesting culture, unique local cuisine, and a mystique that set it apart as a unique location.

The campaign appears to have helped attract a younger generation of visitors.

Victoria Isley, chief sales and marketing officer for the BTA, said: “At the beginning of 2016 we created a new way for telling Bermuda’s stories, which is the brand platform, the brand strategy.”

She said it was a new way to talk about Bermuda and to reach new market segments, such as adventure seekers.

“It changed people’s opinion about whether Bermuda was a place that they would enjoy visiting; that improved from 59 per cent to 66 per cent.”

Last year, 52 per cent of leisure air arrivals were aged under 45. Ms Isley said it was great that the younger visitors the BTA was “trying to connect with emotionally to get them to think about travelling here, are actually showing up”.

While Mr Dallas, said: “The overall strategy of the BTA is to target a different, younger visitor who is looking for something more than just a beach holiday.

“Last year was a breakthrough year with more than half our visitors under 45. It is coming off the back of this rebranding and repositioning of Bermuda as a place with that sense of adventure.”

He also recognised that some people might question the validity of the ROI report, as the BTA had paid for it. But he said: “This is a research agency that has its own ethical standard, that is accredited and would jeopardise its market position if they were to tell us what we want to hear rather than what they found.”

This was underscored by Michael Erdman, senior vice-president at Longwoods International, who said: “We have had numerous instances in which we reported on campaigns that had zero impact, or less-than-stellar results.

“In our methodology, however, we have built in diagnostic tools that will help us guide those clients in identifying and fixing the problems, be they related to messaging, targeting, timing, creative and media choices.”

The BTA is likely to use such ROI studies in the future.

Mr Dallas said the results validated the course the BTA has taken. He said: “The big changes of last year are resonating and working. We are seeing that in this, and in our year-end numbers.

“What we are doing is working and we need to stay focused on that and doing it well.”

This afternoon the BTA is due to present its 2016 visitor statistics report.