Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror William Bakker of Destination Think tells those assembled at the Maritime Heritage Centre Wednesday that any successful tourism marketing strategy must have the people visiting doing the bulk of the heavy lifting in terms of social media promotion.

Visitor Information Centre situation to be dealt with within two weeks, then on to digital marketing

Destination Think is taking community feedback on how to best market Campbell River to the world

If this is going to work, we need the whole community to buy in.

That was the overarching message of William Bakker, chief strategist for Destination Think – the marketing firm that has been chosen to reinvent Campbell River’s tourism marketing strategy – on Wednesday at the Maritime Heritage Centre.

Bakker’s presentation went over who Destination Think is, their ideology, what they’ve done for various other clients – including tourism boards in Australia, Europe, Africa and closer to home in Banff/Lake Louise and Vernon, among many others – and explained the keys to successfully marketing a community on the global stage.

The first and most important of these, Bakker says, is getting the people who visit to maket the place for us – both while they are here and when they get home.

People used to rely on travel books and television shows to tell them about places in the world they may like to visit, Bakker says. These days, however, “you have access to all the information you could ever want, anywhere, all the time,” on your smartphone, so people use that, instead.

What has not changed, however, is that the main driver behind tourism is still, as it has always been, reccomendations by friends and family. It’s always been about word-of-mouth.

The difference is that now people get those reccomendations not from conversations around living rooms – although those still happen – but from posts to social media platforms.

“Digital marketing is increasingly important, as we all know, and when you combine word of mouth from friends and relatives with the Internet, you get social media.

“Everything that everybody does from a travel perspective is shared instantly with their friends. This is a massive opportunity.”

But as much as Bakker wanted to talk about digital marketing strategy and ways to leverage social media to the community’s benefit, the main concern raised – repeatedly – at the meeting was much more physical in nature.

People wanted to know what’s going on with the Visitor Information Centre. It’s currently housed at the Museum, which tourism operators say is a terrible situation.

And they were promised that would be the first thing that gets figured out.

“I agree that’s not the ideal location. I think every stakeholder knows this isn’t the ideal situation, and in the next two weeks, if not sooner, we’ll make the decision about what we’re going to do, at least for this summer,” Bakker says, and then implement that plan immediately so there’s somewhere for people to go – and to be directed to – for information which works for everyone.

Once that part of the process is figured out, Bakker says, the next step is to create an identity for the community.

“We have to determine what it is that makes Campbell River different from everywhere else on the Island.

“What makes it different from everywhere else in B.C.?

“What makes it the only place in the world like it?

“Then we need to tell people about that efficiently and effectively.”

Bakker’s first impressions of the place, he says, tell him that it’s not only about the physical, natural beauty of the area – though that will surely be a huge factor in their marketing plan – but also the people themselves.

“I’ve traveled all over the world, obviously, and I don’t think I’ve ever met a friendlier group of people in my life than the ones here in Campbell River. This is a really, really special place.”

Another key will be to listen to those people, so they have shortlisted a few candidates for an on-the-ground manager to communicate with stakholders and will be hiring that person shortly.

They have also created an email account where people can raise concerns, offer suggestions, “or create fake gmail accounts to anonymously yell at us,” he says jokingly.

That email address is campbellriver@destinationthink.com