Turkish Airlines sent six bloggers and editors on a five-day trip to Istanbul – a city that made headlines this summer for anti-government protests – to generate some positive buzz about the airline.
From July 29 to Aug. 3, the company hosted editors from Elle Canada, Travel and Escape, Toronto Standard and Kenton Magazine, as well as two bloggers from ChicDarling.com and DaintyGirl.ca, all with large social media followings.
Tarkan Ince, director of Turkish Airlines Canada, said anti-government protests that took place in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and Gezi Park earlier this summer did not affect tourism numbers. “We haven’t seen any cancellations,” he said. “Taksim Square where the protests took place, yes, it’s the heart [of Istanbul], but it’s only a small region… I think it was overstated that it was dangerous.”
In fact, four million foreign travellers visited Turkey in June, a 5% increase from the previous year, while Istanbul posted a 2% rise despite the protests.
While free trips are usually done for travel and tour operators, the airline sought to get travellers’ stories out to the masses. “Bloggers share their own experiences directly to their own followers, so we said this is very valuable,” said Ince. “We wanted to make sure they reflected their own point of view without any interference from our side, and try to share something authentic.”
The group of travelers documented their trip using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blogs. On Twitter, the #TotoTurkey hashtag received nearly 5.5 million impressions on Twitter from July 28 to Aug. 4.
While Turkish Airlines would like to do more marketing campaigns, it’s keeping a relatively low profile as it’s restricted to five flights out of Toronto per week. “We are actually facing a big problem of doing marketing because even if we do that, we won’t be able to increase our flights here,” said Ince. “The load factor is [already] crowded and then it will be even worse. We would be advertising something which we cannot deliver.”
For more on Turkish Airlines’ unique marketing challenge and how closer ties between Turkey and Canada would be a boon for the airline, check out Marketing‘s upcoming PR Filter column and PR Filter newsletter.