The Yukon government is creating a new tourism brand-marketing strategy to help the territory stand out in a crowded marketplace.
This strategy will not be released until March or April this year, but Denny Kobayashi, the department of Tourism’s manager for North American marketing, told an audience of 50 business operators at last month’s health and wellness conference in Whitehorse that they are marketing to the right type of people.
“The synergy that this has with health and wellness tourism is absolutely amazing,” Kobayashi said.
The government has been conducting research for its new brand since last year.
More than 3,000 people who have a vested interest in the Yukon, either as residents, tour operators or as potential visitors, provided information that will be used to create Yukon’s new brand.
These stakeholders are now being consulted to determine if the new brand works.
What the research has told the government — that the stakeholders appreciate the open spaces and opportunities for spiritual connection to the environment — is a good start.
However, the brand has to be careful not to overlap with those of other similar destinations.
“We have to be careful what we take to the bank; research is only as good as those who interpret it,” said Kobayashi.
He showed the audience a graph of clustered circles — all destinations competing for a similar market.
Yukon was almost completely covered by Alaska and New Zealand.
Yukon’s new brand will create “white space” amongst the clustered circles in the competitive world travel industry, he said.
“The goal of branding is to try and find your unique space and move towards it.”
Competing against tourism giants is difficult but not impossible, he said, noting that it is okay to piggy back off of Alaska’s huge tourism industry.
Kobayashi noted that Mexico has successfully competed with Hawaii for American tourists by focusing on cultural heritage.
Mexicans “know that can’t compete with Hawaii as a sun destination, so all their ads show their culture and their history,” he said. “They’ve really found their own space there.”
The Yukon marketing will set itself apart by focusing on its natural environment for three specific market segments in North America, as well as to young German adventurers.
“Health and wellness tourism is exactly one of those sectors where we can do that, because our natural environment gives us such an advantage over other places.”
The travel market is split into six segments, he said: adventure challenge, scenic outdoor travel, cultural exploration, traditional values, easy thrills and, safe and warm.
The Yukon marketing efforts should be focused upon the last three segments, said Kobayashi.
Safe and warm travellers want to visit Hawaii or Disneyland.
Easy thrills travelers will blow their bucks in Las Vegas and traditional values travelers pack up the family sedan to visit grandma.
“There are some of them travelling here for sure, but generally they don’t know very much about us; they don’t know where we are and the products we offer don’t cater to them.”
The government is primarily interested in the other three markets.
“The scenic outdoor travellers in particular, love the Yukon. They love everything that the Yukon stands for. This is the place for them. These are the people that we want.”
These segments include Holland America package tourists who are now experiencing Yukon’s nature through Tombstone day trips or Klondike River floats.
They also include the traditional recreational vehicle tourists, who crowd the Alaska highway every year from May to September.
These people are already coming here on their way to Alaska, so marketing efforts should not be directed towards them, he said.
Ninety per cent of American RV tourists arrive here from California, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Florida and Arizona.
Only five per cent of them have seen the Yukon government’s marketing materials.
“Maybe we just have to sit back, for some of those people, and say, ‘We’re capturing those people. Our materials aren’t going to make a difference to a lot of those people.’”
A whopping 25 per cent of Yukon’s North American visitors come from Northern California, while most Canadian visitors arrive from British Columbia and Alberta, said Kobayashi.
So government marketing efforts will be directed at people from these states and provinces who have heard of the Yukon and are interested in nature.
“The task of marketing to somebody who doesn’t know the Yukon is really difficult; it costs a lot more money to convert those people,” he said.
“Clearly, the people who have some awareness of us or have an awareness of the products in Alaska that are of interest to them, are big targets for us.”
And that’s as much information Kobayashi will provide until the branding strategy is officially released.
However, he did say Yukoners should get on board with the government’s strategy so that all marketing efforts produce a larger, concentrated effect.
This means using similar imagery, logos and tag lines in the promotions.
“If we do that, it just means every advertisement and investment in marketing by everybody leverages to build equity in the Yukon brand. That’s the opportunity we want to see.”
And this effort will help Yukon compete against destinations that spend millions more dollars on their marketing efforts than the Yukon.
“Our budgets are so small compared to our competitors’ that we need to have everybody … having a common vision of what we are going to do.
“It’s the only way we are going to remain competitive.”