Food, lights, camera… action: the new destination marketing

SIX degrees of separation, the 360-degree camera lens, transforming woefully clichéd events into fantastic spectacles – and even improving the quality of food – all play a part in creating stories to serve well in marketing a destination, a travel forum heard.

The forum – entitled The Future of Destination Marketing: Leveraging the Power of Storytelling and Creative Events – saw around 50 business event and travel planners gather at a side event during the International Travel and MICE Expo, at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, on June 15.

The event was organised by the Hong Kong chapter of the International Live Events Association and MIX – Asia’s Creative Meetings Magazine, and translation was provided by Cynthia Ng.

A panel consisting of Sam Shei, president of ILEA HK, Vincent Ng, ILEA education director for the city, and by travel filmmaker Brandon Li was moderated by MIX editor Martin Donovan.

After introductions, the event opened with a specially created compilation of Li’s work, which included Hong Kong Strong and Saigon Rising, both showing his personalised view of those cities. These contrasted with Project Vitality and 48 Hours in Abu Dhabi which veered towards the tourist marketers’ efforts to highlight the upmarket elements of their destinations before the reel returned to visceral authenticity with the Nomads of Mongolia.

Li, who joined the discussion in a live feed from Seoul, worked in reality TV after graduating from film school in the United States. He said a close affinity with his subject matter always made for better sequences in his films. In the case of Hong Kong, he credited family connections and what flowed from the “six degrees of separation” among friends and acquaintances in the city.

Sam Shei, who runs Showbiz Creations, faced the challenge of persuading clients in Xian and Shanghai to consider technology when creating a more creative engaging story to promote their venues.

In the case of Xian, Shei set about creating a dramatised dance production based on the legend of the seven dynasties when Xian was China’s ancient capital. The Chang An Banquet production encouraged the venue owners to break away from tired, well-worn approach to attracting tourists and gave them a visual spectacle that helped enhance the city’s potential to attract more visitors.

Shei and his team couldn’t help noticing that the food and service at the Xian venues was equally deplorable, so he set about improving the cuisine and used the opportunity to dramatise the serving of the dishes by making it part of the pageantry.

Vincent Ng (pictured centre), the founder of 1PLUS1 – a content and design house – and who was one of the driving forces behind TEDx Hong Kong, delivered a presentation on the changing tastes of travellers.

He said more technology was also being rolled out to leverage the art of storytelling when it came to travel and events, including the 360-degree camera, but as Brandon Li advised, authenticity was the best approach in portraying a destination as truly unique.

Ng also noted how more venues and destinations were embracing events ranging from TEDx and festivals. The success of these occasions also influenced how business events were created – all the more important when considering that research showed that the global MICE industry would be worth US$1.2 trillion by 2023, with Asia Pacific growing at the highest rate.


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