How digital marketing can revitalise tourism in EgyptNewsBy Viewpoints | April 1, 2011Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a guest article by Dilesh Bhimjiani from VIVA Aspire, a UK-based marketing agency covering travel and tourism which includes Amadeus as one of its clients.Many countries in the Middle East have, in the past few months, seen their tourism sectors trembling at the knees, with visitor numbers impacted by instability, civil unrest and political tension.But is there hope to be found in today’s equivalent of knights in shining armour - the web, social media and mobile technology?Does the "recommendation" or "Like" from your average Joe sway the opinion of those looking for a real adventure? Or have they become a force of destruction for those who are unfamiliar of its power?When tourism is the single largest employer and contributor of international income, many countries like Egypt cannot really afford to withstand a sustained loss in visitor numbers.There is no hiding, no escaping; everything is instant, searchable and scalable.The battle doesn’t end there. The scale of the conversation is vast, as was seen throughout the Egypt conflict where the hashtag #jan25 received over 200,000 mentions a day.The new authorities responsible for tourism, post-"revolution", have to counteract the force of negativity that is present across the array of social media channels and restore confidence in prospective visitors.This begs the question, has the definition of "crisis management" changed with the introduction of the digital footprint?Most organisations do not realise the importance of understanding their digital footprint, when it comes to effective crisis management.Even though we have seen many tourist boards embrace the beauty of web 2.0 and two-way communications in their marketing, we are yet to see the effective understanding and use of these channels in times of crisis.So what should tourism boards do in a time of crisis?1. Strengthen or build an effective search engine optimisation (SEO) strategyFor the majority of people online, Google is their first port of call. Leading people to critical blogs and news pages or sites which you don’t control can have a detrimental impact on people’s perceptions.By implementing a SEO strategy which is focused specifically on preserving and restoring reputation you can control what content people read about you.As part of this, keyword density and placement is fundamental, you need to make sure Google is recognising your sites/profiles for the right reasons.2. Keep the information on your site relevant and up to dateBy keeping the communication going with your audience, you are able to provide constant reassurance to prospective visitors.You should build a strategy that has multiple points of contact and presence (e.g. blogs, article publication, forums, social media), where you can get as many positive messages out as possible.This will strongly compliment your SEO strategy, as the more current the content on your site – the higher it goes up in rankings. More importantly this is a ‘trust’ building exercise, it shows you are confident and have control over the situation.3. Give people the opportunity to talk to youIf you are meant to be the body that provides tourism guidance then make sure you are available in the good times and the bad.Use social media to your advantage and respond to people’s thoughts and queries. Consider setting up a dedicated twitter feed, or a Q&A section on your website where people can ask you questions rather than finding the wrong answers in a newspaper column.4. Cracking the digital codeThere is no one set way of effectively executing digital crisis management, but it all comes down to two key elements; understanding and planning.These two elements will give you the foresight that you need, whilst providing people within the organisation a clear direction to move forward.ConclusionSo to sum up, if you have areas of religious interest or beaches lined with white sand, keep talking about them but make sure that you embrace the changes that surround it.The conversation hasn’t really changed, it’s just the way we talk and listen.NB: This is a guest article by Dilesh Bhimjiani from VIVA Aspire, a UK-based marketing agency covering travel and tourism which includes Amadeus as one of its clients.