Our latest TrekkSoft research report has just been published: "Making experiences the cornerstone of destination marketing: How DMOs are remaining relevant in 2017".
With this study, there are several questions we wanted to answer. Firstly, how are destination marketing organisations (DMOs) responding to an increasingly digital world? If they are feeling the pressure to evolve, what hurdles are they facing? What opportunities are they seizing?
We also wanted to dive further into experiences. Although experiences are cited as a top priority for many DMOs, they are often underrepresented online and lacking real-time online booking functionality (as cited in the upcoming Phocuswright Special Report).
Here are some of the key findings from our report, which is now available as a free download for you to explore the data, insights, and best practice case studies in more detail.
Section 1: The purpose and focus of DMOs in 2017
Among the 61 organisations who participated in this study, 56% of respondents focus their program budget on digital activities – and a majority expect more attention here in 2017. North America is 7% ahead of Europe when it comes to digital spend.
For 49% of organisations, the planning stage of travel is the most important time to reach consumers. Yet the online space is crowded, and DMOs can struggle to stand out from the industry giants, OTAs, and metasearch engines in the travel customer journey. Less organisations view these as competitors than perhaps expected, however.
The top goal of digital programs in 2017 is improving brand identity and awareness – a goal aligned with every stage of travel, but especially the dreaming and sharing stages (which received less weight as priorities for digital strategies).
A key part of building an inspiring and emotional brand is content. Visit Skåne are a best practice example of investing in and curating content, seeking to “do what the global giants cannot do” by providing “inspirational information about the best places in our region” and “custom-made lists and tips”.
- - - - -
Section 2: The challenges of today’s organisation
Despite the ever-increasing shift to online, 73% of organisations say that "a lot of effort" is required to stay digitally-relevant. The main challenge to the digital strategies of organisations in 2016 was lack of time, followed by staying relevant to the consumer. Lack of time is also predicted to be the main challenge to organisations in 2017, but – perhaps optimistically – to a lesser extent than in 2016.
- - - - -
Section 3: Staying relevant with experiences
For TrekkSoft, there’s one word that comes up again and again when discussing how DMOs can remain relevant to visitors: experiences.
56% of organisations consider experiences to be “a vital part” of their destination marketing. 37% say that they are “somewhat important” and a USP for their region. No organisations considered experiences to be “not very important”.
65% of the organisations in this research say they enable some form of bookings on their official website. Accommodation and activities are more likely to be bookable, while activities and restaurant bookings are most likely to be considered funding sources.
Consumers continue to seek experiences, not things when they travel. In 2017, we can expect this to be reflected in DMOs supporting their suppliers to get online and, for some, reselling local activities on their destination website (only 15% of DMOs currently offer real-time activity bookings, our research suggests).
One of the case studies in the TrekkSoft report, Fjord Norway, is a powerful best practice example of educating and empowering suppliers and collaborating at a local, regional and national level.
- - - - -
Section 4: Adapting to challenges, reacting to opportunities
Or, learning from the best!
What we’ve learned in this research we’ve picked up from the best, or those organisations that are actually putting plans into practice and...
- Using experiences to strengthen their destination and their brand
- Educating suppliers
- Getting more involved with product development
- Treating content as king.
These organisations are using a digital-first strategy to build an emotional and inspirational brand instead of focusing the majority of their efforts on broadcasting information. Rather than informing visitors, they are engaging and inspiring them with a content- and experience-rich approach. We explore these DMOs, like VisitOSLO, in more detail in the report.
Get your copy of the full 50-page digital report for more data, insights, and best practice case studies:
Published by Lucy Fuggle
Lucy is Head of Content Marketing at TrekkSoft. She tries to read a book a week, travel solo every month, and share ideas on lucyfuggle.com. You can usually find her in Switzerland's Berner Oberland.