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On working with online influencers: what Tourism B...

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

Related Article: You won’t actually like how Israel responds to media people, journalists, bloggers and influencers

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

A trip to Gili Trawangan part 2 (look at the previous post for part 3) with @psimonmyway @kateyesphotography @[email protected] @karenkh0 @motulz @hellofirsta @william82sg @beradadisini @sarahtirona @btara555 and all #wonderfulindonesia #island #highonlife #observer #holiday #trippincreatives #holidayseason #holidays #high #islands #sun #follows #sea #islandofadventure #nature_perfection #sand #nofilter #wanderlust #travel #travelling #cool #awesome #leisure #sunsets #tripofwonders #gilitrawangan

A video posted by goldengoh (@g0ldeng0h) on


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! 

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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha also loves extremely spicy food, pineapples, plants and symmetry. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Follow her life adventures on Instagram: @psimonmyway

  1. Lakshmi

    10 November

    Fantastic post Trisha..Am sharing

  2. Mumun

    10 November

    So nice to hear a lot of good words from the campaign and how you see the campaign as a whole. Hi, I’m Mumun from Indonesia and accompanied the Asia Pasific batch. Hope to see you back in the country soon!

  3. Ambuj Saxena

    10 November

    Amazing post… thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Mike Huxley

    10 November

    I was on that same trip with you last year and loved it for all the reasons you said above and more. Like you said the Ministry of tourism just got it! They understood right from the start that we were professionals and treated us as such, they understood the power and influence we have as bloggers, photographers and SM professionals and knew how to leverage that and they understood how to tap into that to reach their audience. I always use our trip to Indonesia as a prime example of how other tourism boards can do it right. It was an amazing trip and I am really glad to see that the ministry of tourism is seeing a huge ROI from doing them. Hopefully we will cross paths on another one soon. 😊

  5. Well said Trisha!

    After wandering around the globe for a while, the Ministry of Tourism might well be the most pleasant DMO out there.

    From its hard working team on the ground ( Nila, Boelle, Fikri and many more! ) to the otherworldly places we were lucky to visit, we can’t wait to work with them again!

    See you next week in Israel!

  6. It’s really great to see that Indonesia’s tourism board recognize the advertising power of bloggers and social media influencers. We hope in the future, we will be invited the by the board. Ahihihihi!

    We are planning to visit Indonesia and climb Mt. Rinjani next year. 🙂

  7. Christine

    10 November

    Where is my invite? Just kidding.

    That sounds like a great opportunity!

  8. Nisha

    10 November

    Wonderful post Trisha. I have been to 2 Wonderful Indonesia trips but haven’t met you till now. Probably next time. And yes, like you, I have seen the hashtag growing. Whether I’m on the trip or not, I religiously follow it.

    May other tourism ministries learn a lesson or two from Indonesian and know the value of digital presence.

  9. Awww.. Nice post Trisha, but I thought I was your fav influencer… but I guessed wrong. 🙁 Such is life.

    Anyway, great post actually, nicely written too! Hope to catch you again on some other trip and stay safe!

  10. Mellissa

    12 November

    It certainly seems they know the value of bloggers and online influencers. I find the USA are very good too with bloggers whilst some other countries are clueless

  11. Great post, Trisha! I think you said it best when you said they are patient and include the whole country in their efforts. Results won’t happen overnight. That’s not a reason to skip working with bloggers and influencers. And how true it is, had you stayed in 5-star hotels and not really seen the beauty of the culture! It could have looked like just another pretty beach to visit.
    P.S. Which blogger group was that google list posted in! 😉

  12. Chrysoula

    12 November

    It’s nice when tourism boards and countries work with digital influencers with such good results. It seems that you had a great trip.

  13. Iyos Kusuma

    13 November

    Sure, Trisha. The tourism board of Indonesia is now trying to boost up the internasional tourist number seriously. I would say, very seriously. The infrastucture in Indonesia is not really good to support the good tourism industry especially in the eastern of Indonesia, I have to admit. But, we are now trying to build the adeqaute one now. The Minister of Tourism said once that tourism would me one of our top three biggest incomes in the future. Thanks for sharing, I’m glad you’re satisfied working with Indonesia 🙂

  14. Debbzie Leksono

    13 November

    What a lovely post, Trisha! I got goosebumps reading it (in a good way of course).
    Thank you for visiting my country and I am thrilled that you love Indonesia. It was an honour to spend the most awesome 12 days #TripOfWonders with you and the rest of the group.
    Hope to see you again in another trip next year or maybe sooner?
    Miss you! Please teach me more of Tagalog next time, ya. You are PAK!

  15. Christina

    13 November

    It’s good to hear that Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism is getting it right in the online space. Do you know if they pay larger bloggers and influencers separately negotiated rates above the $1000?

  16. Jimmy and Tina

    13 November

    wow, how very exciting and it sounds like the Indonesian tourism took good care of their bloggers. This is really a great story, We are pretty new to travel blogging and wondering what experiences will come our way in the future.

  17. Marlene Marques

    13 November

    Is so good to see tourism boards recognizing travel blogs as a good mean to show of their countries. This trip must have been wonderful, especially being able to live it with other fellow bloggers. How lucky!

  18. Indrani

    13 November

    Incredible experience for you! And a matter of prestige too.
    The experience very well described, only I am not able to figure out how to find myself in that list. 😛 🙂

  19. Brianna

    13 November

    I’m glad to see your overwhelmingly positive rela8 wirth the Indonesian Tourism board. It looks like they really understand how to work with bloggers!

  20. Wandering Carol

    14 November

    Indonesia is such a gorgeous country and how wonderful to be able to explore it like that. I’m glad the tourist board was so good to work with. I can imagine why you’d want to promote it.

  21. Christopher

    14 November

    This is a great reminder of how important us travel bloggers are when it comes to influencing travel. Not just amongst our followers but amongst other travel bloggers. My travel blog will be at that level in a few years…

  22. LeAnna

    19 November

    Bloggers can be a powerful marketing tool for sure! Do you know how the tourism board knew of you? I’d LOVE to get a trip of a lifetime where I could work so closely with the locals!

  23. Shobha

    19 November

    I’ve been following quite a few bloggers who’ve been visiting Indonesia. They did a comprehensive program which is why they are getting such good results. Here’s to hoping other countries realise the same thing.

  24. Drew

    19 November

    Such a great article. It’s refreshing to see a tourism board really investing in online influencers the right way, giving them the freedom to do what they do best, and really spread the word of a destination. It’s amazing how fast something as simple as the Instagram hashtag took off. Don’t underestimate the power of travel bloggers!

  25. mark and kate

    19 November

    Amazing post! It’s wonderful to read a post like this that shows how travel bloggers makes an impact. Indonesia is a really beautiful country. Also Instagram hashtags are a really powerful tool. Hopefully other countries will follow Indonesia and invite online influencers as well.

  26. Toni

    20 November

    It’s a beautiful country. The campaign seems to have been successful in generating articles and social content showing more than Bali to the world.

  27. Kaaya

    20 November

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

  28. Karla

    20 November

    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.

  29. Anita Hendrieka

    23 November

    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! 🙂

  30. Charles McCool

    29 November

    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.

  31. Sher

    31 December

    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!

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