cracking the code: proven marketing tactics for Central Asia’s travel market
Country Manager, Action Kazakhstan
Promoting destinations and products in Central Asia’s travel market can be a challenging task due to the inefficiency of traditional PR instruments in the region. With the majority of media being general interest or newswire, lifestyle titles working mostly on a paid basis, a limited number of B2B travel media, and only a handful of B2C specialised titles, promoting travel products with traditional PR can be a real test for even the most seasoned PR specialist.
Drawing on the experience of Action Global Communication’s regional Central Asia & CIS team with leading travel brands and tourism organisations, here we look into the most effective tactics that can win over audiences and drive high ROI.
To engage Central Asian audiences and generate interest and demand, local knowledge and cultural understanding are imperative. Face-to-face gatherings and social events, for example, are highly valued in Central Asian culture and thus hosting such events can generate a significant impact.
Having represented Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism in the CIS for over five years now, every year Action arranges roadshows across the region which are then followed by elegant gala dinners with entertainment in the main cities of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Organising such gatherings provides an opportunity to meet with key experts in the travel industry who represent leading tour operators and agencies. These face-to-face meetings also serve as the perfect platforms for updates on the destination and its hotel offerings, as well as current promotional campaigns. They also encourage participants to explore new avenues of cooperation and foster relationships with industry stakeholders.
In fact, building strong partnerships with the sales force of travel agencies is crucial for effective destination and hotel promotional campaigns in Central Asia. Roadshows, gala dinners, business breakfasts, and regular face-to-face meetings are common formats of trade marketing used in the region because they align with the culture of big gatherings being an important part of the local lifestyle.
In addition to traditional trade marketing efforts, it is important to leverage the popularity of online travel agencies (OTA) and aggregators in the region. These platforms are widely utilised for purchasing air tickets, with about 90% of buyers using them for this purpose. Integrating travel destinations or hotels into the digital campaigns of OTAs can be an effective way to reach the target audience and generate interest. OTAs often have their own content pages with contributors and in-house travel editors, which serve as media channels in the absence of travel niche media in the region. Partnering with OTAs can provide additional visibility and promotion opportunities for destinations and hotels.
understanding local nuances in Central Asia
When targeting broader audiences beyond B2B, the starting point is a comprehensive content plan that connects the destination or hotel’s features to local interests, both consumer and media-wise.
As an example, in 2022, Action started promoting Lopota Lake Resort & Spa – a natural gem in the heart of the Georgian Kakheti region – in Kazakhstan. To engage local audiences and generate interest, the thematic plan we developed focused on the resort offerings that would be most relevant to the Kazakh end consumer and media. In this case, the press materials reflected those offerings linked to Nauryz traditions, family-centered services, and the Georgian fashion phenomenon. As a result, local editors and journalists are now booked to visit Lopota Lake and experience the resort to complement the press materials with their personal impressions.
Despite the challenges posed by the limited media landscape, there are ways to effectively promote travel destinations and products in Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan. Brands eager to successfully enter and grow in the booming Kazakh market need to take into consideration that Instagram remains the most popular channel, which, with its strong focus on the visual component, is an ideal platform for showcasing beautiful travel content. Inspirational Reels, photos of turquoise waters, and images of cheerful children tend to attract the most attention. The influencer industry is highly developed in Kazakhstan, with the number of people ’employed’ in this area showing steady growth in recent years. This has contributed to the emergence of niche and expert blogs, including dedicated travel pages, instamamas, foodies, and more, all of which can be leveraged for promotion.
Another effective way of attracting Kazakhstanis is gastronomy. In March 2020, soon after the pandemic had started, Thailand closed its borders for 1.5 years. In July 2021, the country’s Tourism Authority announced the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ – a programme for opening borders for vaccinated tourists under certain conditions. Action was tasked with reminding Kazakhstanis about Thailand and raising awareness of the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ initiative.
To do so in the most emotional and congenial way, Action’s specialised travel team came up with a gastronomy project involving local lifestyle influencers. Together with Alisher Yelikbayev, Dinara Satzhan, and Aziza Aibadullina, the chef of the Almaty-based Bangkok Café organised a cooking masterclass of Tom Yum Khung and mango sticky rice while also sharing their memories of visiting Thailand and announcing the reopening of the country with the new programme.
To reach broader audiences, an engaging four-minute video was created and promoted across various channels: social media communities, bloggers’ Instagram accounts, and the ‘Amazing Thailand’ Instagram page. Proving the power of video content on social media, the clip registered a reach of around 1.5 million with the number of social actions exceeding 30K.
the family factor in Central Asia
The most attractive target audience for tourism in Central Asia is big families. With a cultural emphasis on family and children, the majority of tourists prefer sun and sea destinations with hotels near the coastline, ideally with all-inclusive packages. Tour operators are the main providers of such options with blocked seats on regular flights or their own charter programmes. New beach destinations like Greece, Montenegro, Southeast Asia, and the Maldives are recently being developed on the market, clearly proving the above-mentioned consumer preferences.
While traditional advertising and PR efforts are important for brand recognition, it is essential to have more holistic strategies in place along with a thorough understanding of local peculiarities and traveller decision-making journeys in Central Asia. This will enable the effective promotion of travel destinations and products, to turn these into local travellers’ dream vacation options.
Discover more about our work in Central Asia. Get in touch with us: [email protected]