Digital Tourism 2015: A Local Success…

Fresh from their recent announcement, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment have released their most recent quarterly tourism statistics …

As one business said to us recently “If statistics like these aren’t enough to get businesses thinking on how they can capitalise from our tourism product then I don’t know what will”. With Northern Ireland’s Tourism market hitting an all time high, Digital DNA are hosting their second Digital Tourism Conference, following their sell out inaugural event in 2014, aimed at helping businesses operating within the tourism and hospitality sector harness digital technology and attract visitors from all across the world .

There are hundreds of visitor attractions, publicans, restauranteurs, accommodation providers, tourism industry bodies and service providers already registered for this years event, to share ideas and ultimately help grow their businesses.

Ahead of the Digital Tourism conference, taking place in Titanic Belfast next week, we thought it would be a good idea to catch up with one of Northern Ireland’s  premier events that attracts thousands of visitors each year from all across the world. The Hillsborough International Oyster Festival, is in its 23rd year and has continued to go from strength to strength.  Not only does it contribute enormously to the local tourism economy, it has raised money for its nominated charities; to date of over £0.5 m.

As a Festival that is run by a committee of volunteers, one of their main challenges is ensuring that they bring in enough revenue, primarily through sponsors and government agencies to deliver the events to the standards they demand. However, in light of these challenges the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival deployed a social media strategy which was aimed at not only building awareness of the Festival but also giving sponsors the brand awareness and exposure that they required.

Through the harnessing of digital technology and the power of social media the festival has experienced great success and an increase in visitors to their annual event.  With advice from Des Mulholland at The Retail Consultant, they received focused guidance and support on creating awareness of the Festival to those who would find it of interest and directing potential visitors to the website and relevant e-ticketing pages.

As well as day-to-day content and press posts regarding the event, the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival used their Facebook page to engage with fans about other community events to create a more personable approach to their marketing strategy. Overall, this effectively increased their page engagement and opened up communication channels to potential visitors that did not exist before. By utilising social media advertising, their first time to do this, they were able to realise an increase in ticket sales across various events.

The main goals of the digital strategy was to increase the number of fans on social media pages includingFacebook and Twitter, and to increase engagement and overall awareness of the Festival with the specific purpose of increasing online ticket sales and footfall on the main day of the Festival. This is exactly what they achieved, On Saturday, 5th September, the main day of the Festival, over 12 k. visitors arrived. With this figure hitting an all time high knocking previous year stats out of the water, there is no doubt that the success of their social media campaign was a very important factor. In effect they reached over 112,000 people through Facebook on the day alone making the awareness of the event far and above previous years and any expectations of the committee. Utilising hashtag, #HIOFestival, they were able to communicate and interact prior to, during and after the event using this hashtag – further raising awareness with various demographics and providing increased value for their sponsors.

Do not look past social media! Its relevance is huge for any business but particularly for tourism; we have found that it has worked wonders. For example, if you see a friend on social media is ‘attending an event’ or communicating with a fan page it becomes a digital form of ‘word of mouth’. We feel we have only dipped our toe in the water this year and look forward to continuing to work on our digital strategy for next year’s Festival.

— Sean Hall, Chairman, Hillsborough International Oyster Festival

So with local success stories like this proving the impact that digital technology can have on your business why not come along to Digital DNAs’ Tourism Conference to witness first hand some of the world’s leading experts on tourism deliver key note speeches, demonstrating how our local businesses can keep Northern Ireland at the forefront of tourism by embracing digital technology to help your business grow.

Following last years sell out conference, Digital Tourism has moved to a new venue, Titanic Belfast which has the capacity for many more delegates. However, time is moving fast, ticket sales are rocketing and with just over a week to go to the event you really should book your ticket now.


Stephanie Geddis – Marketing and Content Specialist @ Digital DNA

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