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On working with online influencers: what Tourism Boards all over the world can learn from Indonesia

In 2015, the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia woke up with the brightest idea: “What if we try working with online influencers?” The question was triggered by the results they were not getting from investing money in third party advertisers. When they put a Wonderful Indonesia ad in one of the roaming tourist busses in London, did they get the results they have? Is it still a good investment? Did they know if the PR company they paid used 100% of the allotted budget?

Whatever the answer was, they pushed through the idea of working with online influencers. In 2015, I received an e-mail to be one of the first influencers to come visit Indonesia, at the expense of the Ministry.

“But I am coming from  Peru,” I said.

“No problem. We want you to come and we will shoulder the airfare.” the representative said.

Okay, they have a budget. I thought. To fly me out of Peru to Indonesia cost $1,300 USD (one-way) and if they were willing to pay for that, they must’ve really liked me. Together with 34 other International travel bloggers and social media influencers, I flew to Jakarta to participate in a 12-day trip that took us to different stunning islands of Indonesia. And man, I was shocked. I didn’t expect Indonesia to be such a beautiful country. On top of that, I was in one trip with the people I really admire (Larry Marshall, Iain Mallory, Juan Jerez, among others) and was able to see some familiar faces who are very big in the travel blogging industry.

want-to-know-how-to

But I was really curious about is why they were investing so much money in social media influencers. What was in it for them? The batch I was in was asked to use the hashtag #WonderfulIndonesia. During the first days of the trip, we were the only ones using the tag and come second week, everyone who were traveling and traveled Indonesia suddenly used the hashtag.

At first, I got really confused because I knew the tag was exclusive for us. When I started seeing posts from other people, I asked, “are there people in this trip that I didn’t know about? I thought we’re the only ones!”

“It means the campaign is working, Trisha. If other people who are not part of this influencer trip is using the hashtag, then we are doing it right.” Our tour manager explained.

I witnessed that hashtag on Instagram go from 10 posts (when I first participated in the trip) to 1,464,363 posts at present. And these are not just from the many bloggers they invited. This is a result from people visiting Indonesia from all over the world. It was an unconscious effort. They needed not to shove the hashtag to tourists’ faces. They only needed the bloggers to post a picture on Instagram and the effect went domino.

 
2015
2016
Number of tourists (January - August)
6,786,906
7,356,310
Total Number of tourists
10,406,759
No data yet but increasing
Growth from previous year
10.29%
8.39% (until August 2016 and rising)
Total number of International bloggers invited
43
305

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I just realised a lot of differences and also tallied the results of Indonesia’s growing tourism and these are the things Tourism Boards from all over the world can learn from Indonesia in terms of working with online influencers:

1. Audit of bloggers

They needed not to pay for an expensive tool to build their list. As simple as a Google file, that link was cross-posted in all blogger groups asking if they want to visit Indonesia. Thousands of bloggers signed up and I don’t even know how they are vetting such big list, but yeah, they really are good with huge lists. Going or not, new or old, they were able to pull off building a healthy relationship with bloggers and social media influencers from all over the world by keeping in touch on a regular basis. Everyone were in the loop in current events, Facebook groups were made, e-mail lists, Whatsapp — the ministry was very involved in the lives of these people they hope to work with in the future.

Whenever a new tourism campaign is up, they know the relevant blogger/influencer to tap to make their projects successful. To get someone to work with them is like watching a movie while eating popcorn at home — it was that damn easy for them because of the healthy relationships they built.

2. Knowing their audience

The Ministry have been very creative on how they select and invite influencers. Last year, I was in a group of bloggers/influencers from Spain, Italy, France, India, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. It was a very International group. This year, I was invited (last July) and was informed that I will be in a group of Southeast Asian Influencers only. It totally made sense for me. Putting together a group from the same area not only saves them money but also gives them the opportunity for double exposure. Imagine, if 35 Southeast Asian influencers (who have SEA following) will post a photo hashtagged with #TripofWonders at 15:00 on a Wednesday, the whole region will participate and see that these people they are following are all together in one trip and that they are seeing all the posts simultaneously.

Yep, they also changed their hashtag for 2016. It’s an endless experiment, you see. Again, being a part of the first batch of this year’s trip, I’ve seen #TripofWonders go from zero to 10,986 posts in just 4 months! Can you imagine the numbers a year from now?

3. Extensive itinerary


At present, Indonesia is the only Ministry of Tourism that is offering bloggers a 12-day trip. Most of the trips I’ve been invited to only lasts for 7 days max. Having an extensive itinerary allows bloggers and influencers to be able to create more content and know the country better. Though it can be tedious sometimes, this allows room for the invitees to market the country more.

Okay, in easy saying, one trip can only be 12 days but the effect of the online exposure is fantastic. The first 12 days, they are already posting live (as required by the Ministry) and after the trip, let us say they have more materials to post and a crazy hangover that can last up to 7 days, that is a total of 19 days in a month of endless social media posting for each influencer. It’s almost a month of everything Indonesia in everybody’s feeds, influencer or not! Not to mention there is also #ThrowbackThursdays which is pretty relevant to any social media campaign. Unconsciously, but yeah, it happens. Indonesia is ruling the travel hashtags on Instagram for every time they conduct a trip.

4. Allowance


Some of us make a living out of our blogs and Indonesia understands that. Aside from the free airfare, hotel, food, transpo aka ALL EXPENSE PAID, Indonesia also offers an allowance of 1,000 USD for every blogger/influencer who will participate in the trip. We didn’t really need the money while we were in the trip because everything was paid for. Most of us even forgot that we have the allowance (in Rupiahs) we went home with it! You know, the currency is not that easy to exchange once you are outside of Indonesia but we just didn’t have the chance to spend it while we were there because… Come on? What else do you need when you are given everything? Some used it for buying gadgets and additional toys for their visual composing escapades. Lenses, camera accessories, new cameras — you know, things that are essential in a blogger/influencers life. It was actually a win-win. Everyone was happy with the arrangement.

5. Generous investments

You will never hear anyone in Indonesia mentioning prices and talking about money. You want coffee, you get it. You want a massage, okay you get that, too. Whatever you need, as long as they can afford it and it fits their budget, they are willing to give it. Without knowing their financial status, I have seen that all the money allocated for each trip go in the right channel. You will see that they are after maximising the advertising budget 100%.

The generosity leads the bloggers/influencers to be really careful with their demands. Come on, they are too kind. If you are one of those bloggers/influencers who abuse their kindness, then screw you.

On top of that, they also offered a “Win a trip for 2 to Indonesia” for all the followers of the participants. They are not only thinking about bringing online influencers in but they are inviting the rest of the world to come witness the beauty of this stunning country.

6. Accessibility

Happiness ☉ #TripofWonders #WonderfulIndonesia

A photo posted by Cia Wardhana Roesman (@ciawardhana) on

Indonesians are known to be the kindest people of Asia and I proved that to be true when I had the chance to meet the fantastic team of the Ministry. Believe me, I was a pain in the ass. From losing my luggage in-flight, to losing my phone (in-flight again), the staff were always there to help and assist in everything that I needed. Prior to arrival, I also had a lot of questions and my messages never gets ignored. They answer so swift sometimes I don’t think they are even sleeping. They are like superheroes — always on the rescue when a blogger/influencer needs something.

Seriously, Mr. Minister, you are so freaking lucky to have such amazing staff. I have no words for the kindness of these people. The things they have done beyond their means deserve a lot of recognition and appreciation.

7. They are after long-term results

They are very aware that bringing bloggers/influencers to Indonesia will not give them 100% of the result they want overnight. Endeavours and campaigns like this take a lot of brewing, simmering, cooking before getting a grand result. They are very patient and this makes the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia one of the top thriving Tourism Boards not just in Asia & Pacific but in the world.

8. Maintenance of familial relationships

Missing these smiles! @psimonmyway @btara555 @the_sigit @tinorenato #tripofwonders #wonderfulindonesia #banyuwangi

A photo posted by Kenneth Ephraim Surat (@kennethsurat) on

Almost two weeks traveling, eating, living together and doing the same things, the tour groups of Indonesia have developed a very deep familial relationship. It all starts with a simple Whatsapp group from each tour that delved deeper after each trip. Everyone seems to be updating everyone. You can see people seeing each other in different countries, swiftly answering questions (travel-related or not), being updated in their lives (like getting married and having babies), giving honest and genuine support to each other’s ventures, etc. It has become a dynamic group of bloggers and influencers who consider themselves as a family unit who will be there for each other, whether one needs anything or not. I joined two trips in Indonesia and up to now, those 2 WhatsApp groups I belong to are still very active it’s been hard to keep up!

But I promise you, I will do anything and everything for these people because of the unconditional love and support they have given me.

9. The whole country is participating

I believe one of the biggest factors in the success of Indonesia’s Tourism Board projects is the outpour of support they receive from individual companies and establishments in Indonesia. It is so easy to tap hotels/restaurants for partnerships because they’ve seen the effect and importance of working with online influencers through the Ministry’s efforts. Can you imagine in the course of the 12-day trip, we were always in 5-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants? I have not seen any country in the world who gives the same support and positive energy as the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia receives. The whole country is participating towards a better tourism economy and it is all paying off not just for one entity but as a whole.

We should follow Indonesia’s lead and be smart in our advertising investments. I am pretty sure they also lose some but in the end, they win some. It’s not an easy road to take but the risk will be worth it.

© Cover Photo by Debbzie Leksono


Are you one of the bloggers invited by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia? How was the experience? I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Sher

Saturday 31st of December 2016

amen trisha! I was on a trip with them earlier this year and it was FANTASTIC. they understood everything about the power of influencer marketing and in return I did my best to promote the heck out of them because it's a beautiful country and they really deserve more tourism. Great recap post - this is what all tourism boards should aspire to!

Charles McCool

Tuesday 29th of November 2016

Iain Mallory was there? Awesome. Perhaps I will meet him IRL one day. I hope to visit Indonesia in 2017 (my first visit) and, of course, hope it is to professionally cover the place.

Anita Hendrieka

Wednesday 23rd of November 2016

I went on a trip with Indonesia Tourism and I think it may have been one of the first ones they did so there was definitely room for improvement but they are on a really good path to success. They have now worked with so many bloggers it's really incredible. Other tourism boards should be taking notes from them for sure! :)

Karla

Sunday 20th of November 2016

This is such a good post. Indonesia definitely did something right. This was a very nice read Trish and I hope that others do the same.

Kaaya

Sunday 20th of November 2016

Wooow, it's so great to see how the Indonesian tourism board doesn't underestimate travel bloggers/influencers.