The quality of tourism marketing often angers me. This article tells you why I got upset about how Portugal tries to attract tourists through an advertisement in the UK version of National Geographic.

So it was around 4:15 am on Saturday morning at the Cavendish Hotel in London. I was there to speak at EADIM (about how to find customers online). Too tired to open the computer, I decided to browse through the pages of the National Geographic to kill time while waiting for my 5 am ride to Heathrow Airport.

And much to my surprise I saw this advertisement for the country of Portugal. Have a good look at the advert below and then tell me if you think this is a good way of “selling” Portugal to the Brits? (or more precisely; to the British readers of National Geographic)

Portugal upright

As you may know I am not a branding expert. I am more of a direct marketing and direct advertising kind of guy.  But if I were charged to help a destination attract more tourists, I would focus a whole lot on little things like differentiation, real and unique USP’s (Unique Selling Points/proposition), creating an emotional connect, offer real benefits and such. Not to mention the actual user engagement across all channels.

Tourism marketing in Portugal is not up to par

Now before you read on, you should know that I have spent a great deal of time in Portugal and continue to do so (see Markedu Lda) Although I have not traveled to all corners of Portugal (yeah! Shame on me), I do believe I have a bit of insight. And I frankly think that those who have yet to discover Portugal are in for a big treat when they do.
But here is what rang my bells that early morning in London;

First of all, the picture does absolutely nothing for me. In fact it doesn’t even remotely resemble anything I have seen in Portugal. What’s more it is outrageously boring, stirs no emotions and – what’s worse – doesn’t show anything that is unique. In fact that picture could have been an advertisement for Greece, Cyprus and so many other places.

Secondly, there seems to be not one, but three strap lines. At least two of these are – in my opinion – absolutely useless

one strap line says “the beauty of simplicity”; what does that mean and – pardon me – how does that relate to Portugal? And who is looking for simplicity when choosing a travel destination anyway?
another says “Europe’s West Coast”; are you kidding me? Is that a hint for the ignorant reader as to where Portugal is located, or is it merely another useless sentence which has no value what so ever?
The third strap line; “history in every corner” – now that is something I can relate to. Because I happen to know that Portugal has a lot to offer for the tourists who want’s a trip down memory lane while enjoying the sun, the food, the hospitality, the golf, the Ginga (pronounces Ginza) etc.

Waste of money in tourism marketing is common

In summary, this advertisement is a complete waste of money. And what’s more, I think, it fails to understand the reader demographics of National Geographic. I refuse to believe that anyone will become hugely interested in a trip to Portugal after eyeballing that advertisement.

And, by the way, why doesn’t the advertisement invite the reader to interact on the web?

Sure they put “” in the add. But don’t you think that would have been a hell of a lot more powerful if the advertisement had invited the reader to “plan your perfect vacation in Portugal on” ?

The sad news is that tourism marketing often seems to be of lesser quality than marketing from other industries. In particular I often wonder about their media choices, the spray-and-pray approach and the lack of localization and customization in tourism marketers’ messaging strategies.

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