Digital marketing in gastronomy tourism

Digital and social media are the results of technological advancement and the impact of the rapid expansion is clearly evident in both consumers’ lives and in those of service providers’. It is used for various purposes such as information searching, evaluating alternatives, accessing the consumer generated media, and to market and advertise the product/services to the consumers. This led to a shift in the way marketers communicate (Stephen 2016) with their consumers, particularly via digital platforms. Studies have recorded the use of social and digital marketing in various contexts such as destination marketing (Li, Robinson, and Oriade 2017; Kotoua and Ilkan 2017), touch points in marketing (Kannan and Li 2017), mobile social media (Hew, Tan, Lin, and Ooi 2017) etc. Digital marketing tools are websites, online video, e-mail, blogs, social media, mobile ads and apps, and other digital platforms to directly engage consumers anywhere, anytime via their computers, smartphones, tablets, Internet ready TVs, and other digital devices (Kotler and Armstrong 2016: 538). This study will only focus on the websites used to promote gastronomic tourism in Malaysia. The website is widely used for seeking pre-travel information related to the destination, tourism products and services, and online procurement (Pan and Fesenmaier 2006) which shapes the perception of gastro tourists (Shiu et al. 2015). No and Kim (2015) stated that it is difficult to provide customized information on a public website which is created by the local, state, or national organization (Sorum, Andersen, and Vatrapu 2012). The case study provides an overview of the extent to which information on food is available on the official tourism board and state websites.

Thinaranjeney Thirumoorthi and S. Moghavvemi

Case study 36.1: Analysis of websites on gastronomic tourism in Malaysia

The official tourism website of Malaysia is www.tourism.gov.my/ which is managed by Tourism Malaysia. In addition, it also maintains YouTube channel, Facebook, and Twitter account. Tourism Malaysia stated that Malaysia is a food paradise, thus this case study focuses on how Malaysia has been promoted as a gastronomy destination via the official website of both promotional board and the state websites.

For the purpose of the analysis, the websites of Tourism Malaysia, Singapore Tourism, and five Malaysian states were analyzed. The official website of Singapore Tourism Board is used as a benclunark and nine inventory of items was generated for the content analysis: (1) links that promote local food on the first page; (2) links to the states (restaurant) that promote local food (dining by states); (3) local dishes; (4) images of cuisines; (5) list of restaurants; (6) videos: (7) dining recommendation testimonials by food bloggers, celebrities, artists, reviews; (8) food fes- tival/exhibition; (9) food tour. The websites were evaluated based on the presence (1) or absence (0) of the items listed on the coding sheet and calculated each website’s sum total and percentage (see Table 36.1).

Table 36.1 Results of the website analysis

Websites/Criteria

Singapore

Tourism Malaysia

Penang

KL

Perak

Johor

Sarawak

Links that promote local food on the first page

1

0

1

1

1

1

0

Links to the states (restaurant) that promote local food (dining by states)

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Local dishes

1

0

1

1

1

1

1

Images of cuisines

1

0

1

1

1

1

1

List of restaurants

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Videos

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

Dining

recommendation/ testimonials by food bloggers, celebrities, artists, review

1

0

1

0

0

1

0

Food festival/ exhibition

1

1

1

0

0

0

0

Food torn

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

Total

9

3

8

6

5

6

4

Percentage

100

33.3

88.9

66.7

55.6

66.7

44.4

Generally, the Penang state website (88.9%) fared better than Kuala Lumpur and Johor which represent 66.1% respectively, followed by Perak (55.6%) and Sarawak (44.4%). Tourism Malaysia only scored 33.3% in terms of promoting gastronomic tourism.

Singapore

On the main page of the website, there is a tab for ‘Eat and Drink’ with a tagline ‘Taste Something Different, in New Atmosphere, and in New Ways’. The visitor will be able to obtain more information pertaining to local dishes, dining out, a Halal guide, and night life in the city. The website contains information on Michelin-starred chefs, information and pictures on types of food, testimonials and dining recommendations. The dining recommendation was categorized based on the neighborhood and those with Halal certification. In addition, the nightlife section provides information on entertainment and dining including night festivals, club, and bars. Based on the website, it can be concluded that gastronomy tourism is one of Singapore’s tourism products offered to tourists. The website is complete with all the information and the interactive features makes it user friendly.

Tourism Malaysia (www.malaysia.travel/en/my)

There are two tabs on Touiism Malaysia website, namely ‘Corporate’ and ‘Holiday in Malaysia’. The former does not contain any information on gastronomic tourism except for pictures of food and food blogs, while the latter has a link to the state tourism sites. Homg and Tsai (2010) reported that the content of government tourism websites is very impoxtant for promoting a tourist destination’s exciting cuisine and food culture. Gastronomy was not even listed as one of the niche tourism products by Tourism Malaysia. It is interesting to note the Singapore Tourism Board’s emphasis on restaurants with Halal certification which has been disregarded by Tourism Malaysia, despite being the global Halal hub.

Penang (www.visitpenang.gov.my/portal3/home.html)

Penang state website is very engaging and the visitors will be able to find information pertaining to the local food, list of restaurants, food festivals (e.g., Penang International Food Festival) etc. recommended by food bloggers. It is a very comprehensive website and it is easy to navigate. One can decide whether to visit Penang for food based on the information available on the website. The state which is known for ‘hawker food’ met all the requirements, except for food tour.

Kuala Lumpur (www.visitkl.gov.my/visitklv2/index.php?r=column/ ctwo&id=79)

Kuala Lumpur’s tagline ‘The City of Contrast and Diversity’ does not only reflects the people, but also the food. Cuisine and dining have been listed on the things to do in Kuala Lumpur and it was categorized into homegrown, local cuisine, Asian, international, street food, and indoor food court. However, there is no recommendation from celebrities and bloggers, unlike on the Penang website. The food trail provides detailed infonnation pertaining to dining expeiience in selected areas such as Brickfields, Jalan Alor, Kampung Baru, and Old Kuala Lumpur which is the center for Indian, Chinese, Malay, and fusion cuisines. The Malaysia Halal Guide link is broken, thus the visitor will not able obtain the list of Halal restaurants in Kuala Lumpur.

Perak (http://tourismperakmalaysia.com/)

Ipoh, the capital of Perak and known as Hipster Town was ranked 6th best in the Asia is home for local dishes such as Nga choy kay (beansprout chicken), Ipoh curry mee, Hakka mee, Sar kok liew, Hainanese chicken, Nasi Kandar,Ipoh White Coffee, Soybean Milk and Tau Fu Fah, etc. The cafes and restaurants was listed under The Ipoh Food Trail Project provides information on the types of food and the location of the restaurants. However, there were no videos and testimonials by others. It is clearly evident that Ipoh is promoted as the main gastronomy town in Perak as the website does not contain information on other town or cities in Pei'ak with regards to food.

Johor (http://tourism.johor.my/)

On the main tourism website, the visitors can access the information on food and beverages in each city (Batu Pahat, Johor Bahru, Kluang, Kota Tinggi, Kulai, Mersing, Muar, Pontian, Segamat, and Tangkak). The categorization of tourism elements (accoimnodation, agro-tourism, history and culture, island and beaches, leisure and entertainment etc.) based on each destination will be convenient for the visitors to plan their trip. Only photos of the restaurants and local cuisines are available; there is no video.

Sarawak (https://sarawaktourism.com/)

Food and nightlife were listed as one of the tourism products offered in Sarawak. Similar to Johor’s website, the local delicacies and cuisines were presented based on each city/town. For instance, the Kuching food trail listed the different types of local dishes and the location of the restaurants. The information on the Pineapple Festival was included in the events category. In addition, the website also provides information on international cuisines while the photo gallery presents the Sarawak local delicacies. There were no blogs on food as the main focus was on the places of attraction.

Conclusion

Singapore has a comprehensive website which reflects that the Tourism Board has successfully positioned the gastronomy experience utilizing digital marketing, particularly the website. It is clearly evident that even though some of states in Malaysia focus on the gastronomic tourism, there is a lack of overall promotional strategy under the big umbrella of Tourism Malaysia. Merely providing the links of each state in the Tourism Malaysia’s website is not sufficient to attract gastro-tourists’ attention. It is high time for the board to consider gastronomic tourism as one of the tourism products as Malaysia is known for the variety of local cuisines that represents the multi-ethnic society. This should be one of the unique selling points in promoting Malaysia. As stated earlier, Tourism Malaysia should streamline the overall strategies with all the states, even though each state has its own tourism board. Standardization in terms of the website would be convenient to the visitors as some state offer more detailed information than others. Collaboration with the tour operators, tour agents, hospitality industry, food bloggers, airlines, and other relevant parties will boost the gastronomic tourism besides crafting the local cuisine which can be the competitive advantage. However, without the right marketing strategy, this cannot be achieved. The value must be clearly and consistently communicated in order to position the gastronomy product in the mind of the visitors/tourists.

 
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