Maya Lange transforms tourism marketing in B.C.

The CMA's 2018 Marketer of the Year leads a powerful network of tourism brands that have evolved with the times.

Canadian Marketing Association-Destination BC-s Maya Lange Named

Maya Lange has faced a lot of obstacles in her four years at Destination B.C. that other marketers can identify with, such as shifting consumer behaviour and budget limitations. But on the other hand, most marketers don’t have to contend with wildfires.

As VP of global marketing for the tourism brand, Lange has led efforts to solidify British Columbia as a travel destination. And that’s despite those unique, uncontrollable challenges (see: wildfires) that pose a threat to the province’s $17-billion tourism market. Lange has been a unifying force at Destination B.C., bringing together disparate stakeholders under a common brand and transforming the organization into a modern, digital-first enterprise.

That “ingenuity and resourcefulness” is what John Wiltshire, the president and CEO of the Canadian Marketing Association, says led the organization to name Lange its Marketer of the Year for 2018 at the recent annual CMA awards gala.

Lange led an effort to unite individual marketing organizations from the three largest tourism markets in the province — Vancouver, Whistler and Victoria — to create the Powerful Marketing Network. Lange called the process “difficult at times,” but under the “Super, Natural British Columbia” position, the partnered organizations not only presented a united front, but maximized their spending as well.

Before the network formed, “we were, at times, bidding against each other in search, for example,” Lange told strategy. “Coming together eliminated that kind of overlap and saved everyone some budget.” By networking, the regional groups were also able to pool the money allotted to each from hotel taxes, which freed up more funds to augment the budgets granted them by the province. So as hotel visits increased, so did available cash for marketing.

“It ended up being a bigger pool than the budget itself,” she says.

Lange also ensured this budget was being more effectively spent. From the time she joined Destination B.C. in 2014, Lange oversaw its transformation into a digital-first brand. Rather than competing with the digital platforms that consumers use to help make travel plans, Destination B.C. partnered with Google, Facebook and WeChat to leverage those platforms and deliver targeted messaging.

The gorgeous shots of rivers and mountains that used to populate its TV spots now more frequently appear in online video. Social and search spending became bigger priorities as well, and an investment in a data management platform last year has been a “night-and-day” transformation in identifying consumer behaviour for online ad relevance.

“We’re far better now at identifying who’s a skier, who’s looking for a good place to eat,” and delivering ads to serve those needs, Lange says. The process has meant training in data management practices for both her and her team mates, but also led to the creation of an executive position to oversee data operations.

The results have shown this approach is working. Last year saw increases in international visitor arrivals from all measured markets (including key target markets in the U.S. and Asia Pacific) and a total of 5.7 million overnight visitors (an increase of 3.3%). There was similar growth in restaurant visits (7.7%) and hotel stays (8.1%). Full stats for this year aren’t available yet, but YTD numbers for January to July show this positive trend has continued into 2018.

According to Destination B.C., the province’s tourism industry is growing twice as fast as the province’s economy. That’s despite the province’s wildfires and record flooding.

Lange is now working with tourism bodies beyond Vancouver, Whistler and Victoria, trying to get smaller regions to join the Powerful Marketing Network she helped build to find even more efficiencies. And looking ahead to 2019, Lange says Destination B.C. is exploring the “next evolution” of its branding.

It’s current platform “Super, Natural British Columbia” has been a very effective umbrella positioning, she says, “but we like to think we push the envelope. ‘Super, Natural’ was cutting edge for its time, but it’s time to find the next evolution, find the thing that will keep us in our leadership position.”