Virtual Visit Tours (VVT) is Ireland’s number 1 tourism website in terms of visits and website impressions. It offers 360-degree panoramic tours of hotels, bars, restaurants and tourist locations to support their marketing efforts and generates high-quality content for its own web-based publishing platform. Having had reasonable success launching the service in Northern Ireland, VVT struggled due to a lack of human resource to expand beyond Northern Ireland in signing up new properties and expanding its content portfolio.
Declan Barry was engaged to map out the market potential to expand in the Republic of Ireland and the key steps required in expansion, ultimately to be followed by the execution of that strategy.
Declan Barry was required to deliver a 12-month program to identify and recruit an agreed number of 100 new properties onto the VVT platform. Declan was also required to identify marketing and partnership opportunities to expedite the process, key responsibilities include:
- Understanding the Irish tourism market in terms of attractions and hotel locations around the island.
- Identifying the key decision-makers, often owners of the specific locations.
- Planning the approach to the Irish market and launching a campaign on behalf of VVT.
- Securing contracts with properties to be part of the platform.
Progressing this project required an understanding of the tourism market as well as the emerging digital technologies which the VVT platform would have to adapt to such as integrating with platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Declan also had to be capable of factoring in peak times of year versus hotel refurbishments to identify the ideal times for photography per individual facility.
In researching the market, Declan was able to identify all the required attractions and locations using existing tourism resources, however, individual research was required for each establishment to identify key decision-makers, it was also then possible to divide the territory into regions in order to balance efforts and ensure an even spread of content around Ireland rather than clustering around population centres such as Dublin, Galway or Cork.
A market entry plan was put in place consisting of e-mail marketing, followed by postal promotions of the service and finally a telephone campaign which was organised by Declan to be outsourced to a telesales provider. Understanding the market, it was essential to have this variety given the mixed generations owning these locations around Ireland, a digital-only approach would not have been successful.
The first quarter of the project was spent on the initial research, planning and the development of marketing resources and materials for the campaign. Declan contributed to and was responsible for final sign off of the content and sales messaging on behalf of the client.
The second half of the programme was the structured and planned outreach around Ireland focused on the previously identified territories, understanding the client company meant that when a deal was done a photographer had to be dispatched and post photo editing had to be carried out to get the product ready for publication, so sales efforts had to be geared to match the processing capability of the business, and geographic targeting was essential to ensure the efficient use of client resources.
During the entirety of the project, the target was exceeded by more than 25% with the website now enjoying the single largest visitor numbers for a tourism website in Ireland. Since then and following recommendations from our project they have expanded into sports events & stadia as well as commercial property development photography.