Social Media in Tourism in Germany – Diving into the Social Web with my morning coffee – Interview with the Director of the Oberstaufen SpaAutor des Artikels: Matias Roskos
Dear Frau Keybach – a few weeks ago I interviewed Bernhard Lingg & Benjamin Buhl about the marketing strategy "Du bist Oberstaufen" and about the multi-faceted social media activity coming out of Oberstaufen. Today I have a few questions for you as the person with most recent overall responsibility for the marketing of Oberstaufen.
The online marketing offensive initiated by Oberstaufen Tourism Marketing Ltd has received a great deal of attention over the last year, at least on the German Web 2.0 scene. Did you expect this when you started?
No. We were one of the first tourist destinations that ventured into Web 2.0. At first I questioned the necessity for it and its relevance to our target groups. Most of our guests are over 50. 15 months ago no-one foresaw that this was exactly the age group that in the meantime would discover Web 2.0 and would take to its use in some cases as passionately at any `Digital Native`. People in our target group tend also to be in the middle and high income brackets. This raised the question whether busy managers would ever find time for Facebook and the like and so whether we would be able to reach them through this new marketing tool.
Thanks to Benjamin Buhl we were able to get early experience, optimise our web presence and our activities there and hence now have a noticeable advantage over many other tourism centres and regions. There are probably now more residents of Oberstaufen who are proud of this advantage than were ever open to Web 2.0 before.
Taking as many as possible along with us
How long did it take Herr Buhl to convince you to agree to such a radical social media strategy?
Herr Buhl didn't convince me, he ambushed me! As with many new ideas, it is important to get people used to things, to give them time to come to terms with the new material and then to decide whether you can go along with it or whether you can identify with it at all – and in my case whether it makes sense in your area of responsibility. Our social media strategies had to develop.
As the Schroth Spa Director I always have to look at the big picture and that's very complex in our area of interest. There are so many partner groups, from guests to accommodation providers, the local population, the political decision makers right down to the hairdresser and the baker. Everyone is involved in tourism and everyone knows something about tourism having been on holiday themselves. When you are dealing in revolutionary areas it is very important to take as many people along with you as possible.
Were you already familiar with social media?
I had a Facebook profile when Herr Buhl was still in driving school! At that time the platform only existed in English. I was an Au Pair in Canada for a few years and stayed in touch with friends and acquaintances there through Facebook. But at that time it was a purely personal interest of mine.
There are no business hours in the social web
Do you use social media platforms yourself?
Of course. As Kur-Direktor in Oberstaufen – THE social media resort – Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Holidaycheck etc are a must and not just from a professional view. Social media are also taking on an important role in daily private life - there are no business hours in the social web! My morning coffee no longer comes with a newspaper – instead I dive into the social web. In the same way my facebook and hootsuite apps are my daily bedtime reading.
Questions about the use of Social Media Marketing are more and more common. Valid questions, I think. As the person responsible for the marketing budget how to you balance costs against usage? How much are social media worth to Oberstaufen?
Neither the costs or the usage of social media can be really described in monetary terms – just as true hospitality and service quality cannot be quantified in Euros. The deciding factors are passion and authenticity. You can't count social media, it can only be experienced.
What was the reaction in Oberstaufen – within the council as well as in the hotels and guesthouses – to the new building blocks for marketing ? Did these ideas really fall on open ears and receive positive feedback? And has there perhaps been a change in acceptance and use over time?
Reactions were across the whole spectrum – from enthusiasm through critical observation to keeping eyes and ears firmly shut. But as the people of Oberstaufen are generally curious and open to new ideas, some local people and businesses started using the social web relatively quickly. Regular information on the issue through the local newsletter was definitely helpful, as were above all the information sharing meetings led by Benjamin Buhl.
Of course there are still a few tourism services today who want nothing to do with Web 2.0 – there are even a few who as yet haven't even embraced Web 1.0. That is, and must remain, a decision for each individual. And each individual must be responsible for their decisions in the long term. We can only make recommendations and offer support.
Can you give some examples of how regional tourist organisations discovered the social media themselves thanks to these measures?
All of Allgäu took on these ideas following the social media activities in Oberstaufen. A current example is our neighbour Bad Hindelang, which has just in the last few weeks dived enthusiastically head first into Web 2.0. In our area there are, of course, many accommodation providers and restaurants such as the Wellnesshotel Bergkirstall, the Landhaus Nagelfluh, Bubis Bar or the Restaurant Silberbühl.
Building up our social media with passion and conviction
What happens now that the decisive ideas lead, Benjamin Buhl, has left? Will social media lose its significance in Oberstaufen?
The social web has, of course, become very important in Oberstaufen in the meantime and an important tool in the marketing mix. But for Benjamin it is his destiny, his life's work and his greatest passion. For this reason there was only really one way forward for him, namely to specialise in internet communication. In Oberstaufen we will carry on working with passion and conviction to build on out social media expertise. It has to be part of an overall business philosophy and cannot be dependent on any one person. We are THE Schroth spa in Germany, although the founders of this natural healing process have not been active here for a long time.
I understand – Oberstaufen has more to offer than just a great social media strategy. So as a final point, tell us why people should especially come and see Oberstaufen.
Oberstaufens three faceted countryside is unique – offering so many ways of enjoying nature on wide open plains, hilly terrain and high alpine features. As the touristic centre point of the Nagelfluhkette Nature Park, we stand for sustainable tourism in harmony with nature. The things that make us really stand out, however, are first and foremost our Schroth Spa – a natural healing process for detoxification and de-stressing, - our widespread gastronomic specialities based on drinks, and our top value "Oberstaufen PLUS" scheme. Guests in over 300 Oberstaufen PLUS providers enjoy free bus and mountain railway travel during their stay, free entry to museums and swimming pools as well as free skiing and golf. That's what we see as good service to our guests!
Thank you for this interview Frau Keybach. I wish Oberstaufen continued success an all things to do with social media marketing and success to the whole region in the coming years. Perhaps I will finally manage to come and see you myself. As a passionate social media reporter it really should be a must-do!
And I hope that one or more tourist destinations in Germany open up to the possibilities offered by social media channels of communication - as a tool for linking to guests and internet marketing.
- Eintauchen ins Social Web zur morgendlichen Tasse Kaffee – Interview mit der Kurdirektorin von Oberstaufen
- Gelungene Social Media Kampagne im Bereich Tourismus: „Du bist Oberstaufen“
- Interview mit den Machern von „Du bist Oberstaufen“ – Teil 2: Benjamin Buhl / Verantwortlicher Online-Marketing Oberstaufen
- Interview mit den Machern von „Du bist Oberstaufen“ – Teil 1: Bernhard Lingg / silberstern.tv
- Hotels und Social Media – ein Interview mit dem Rheinischen Hof in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
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