Custom Brochures Offer 9 Million Ways to Visit Bermuda

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Competition from cruises, European vacations and Caribbean islands has changed the Bermuda Department of Tourism's approach in responding to vacation inquiries.


Instead of sending a generic mailer, the tourism authority now acknowledges requests by sending an assortment of personalized brochures based on the inquirer's stated dining, lodging and activity preferences.


"It's not like something you received in the mail and where you look at it and 'they lasered my name on it,' or 'they represented something that I'm interested in,'" said Kate Gilmer, management supervisor at Euro RSCG 4D, Baltimore. "The whole thing is based on eight data elements they gave to us, not just one."


Euro RSCG 4D, the Bermuda tourism department's direct marketing agency for six years, contracted with APT Digital Marketing Solutions, Moonachie, NJ, to handle variable printing on demand.


The printer gets to work once inquiries come in via bermudatourism.com, 1-800-Bermuda or a direct sales interface. Alexander & Tom, Baltimore, collects the data daily from these three channels and e-mails it to APT.


Inquirers answer a range of questions, including how they heard of Bermuda, whether they have visited the island and how long ago and plans to travel next. They state their primary reasons for visiting, with 22 options, and other secondary activities that may interest them, in this case 18 options.


Inquirers also are asked how they wish to receive information about accommodations and restaurants. They can opt in to receive a Bermuda tourism newsletter, too.


With that data, APT produces a brochure customized with text and images to reflect the inquirer's stated preferences for lodging, dining and activities.


APT's technology enables a full-color, 26-page, saddle-stitched brochure that can be customized into millions of versions. There are 22 primary interest options, 18 secondary interest options, five calendar events, 11 gateway cities, 22 dining choices and 19 accommodations options. This does not include the random selection possibilities.


"That comes out to more than 9 million permutations," said Keith Lifschin, manager of the solutions group at APT. "It's possible that 9 million people can have different brochures."


A typical package includes a cover letter with the inquirer's name; front cover brochure based on primary interest; and a table of contents based on the variables. It has five pages on primary interest including a center-spread map; a page for secondary interest; and a getting-around brochure that does not change with stated interests. Two pages cover accommodations; and there's a page each on dining, the event calendar and the gateway city including vacation-booking details.


APT sends the personalized packages via First-Class mail twice weekly.


Gilmer said the tourism department averages 40 inquiries daily through its three channels. There are spikes in peak seasons like spring and rainy weekends. Television commercials calling attention to the site and toll-free number typically cause the most spikes. But inquiries taper off in the winter.


"There's not as much money spent on marketing in the winter," Gilmer said. "And although it's warmer [in Bermuda] than here in the States, there are lots of places further down in the Caribbean that are a lot warmer and cheaper [in the winter]."


APT, which replaced Moore as printer, fulfills U.S. and Canadian requests. The company charges Euro RSCG 4D a program management fee monthly as well as remuneration per request fulfilled.


"It's definitely cost-effective," said Joyce Whitney, senior production manager at Euro RSCG 4D, Baltimore. "We've gone from this pick-and-pack operation to on-demand, and it's a cheaper cost per piece."


APT's automated brochure production process cut request fulfillment to 72 hours from seven days. As a result, the tourism department reduced the number of printed brochures by 30 percent and lowered its creative services budget last year by roughly $500,000.


Nicholas Brusco, president of APT Digital Marketing Solutions, is confident that his company's technology addresses a need.


"It's the ability for us to speak directly to the prospective traveler and to meet that need within the purchase decision period," he said. "If you send the personalized brochure two months after they called, they'll have chosen another destination."


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