Digitalisation of the travel industry has led to a huge shift, allowing more people to travel by giving them unlimited access to a plethora of information from all kinds of sources. What this means for DMOs is that their traditional role as an information provider to customers and as a destination marketing organisation to buyers has shifted out of their hands and into the hands of the internet and its many platforms.
It is now possible for clients and customers to bypass DMOs to arrange a trip or organise an event, effectively cutting out the middle-man for cheaper and more efficient alternatives. And this is only the beginning.DMAI suggests that DMOs begin to carve out a new path for themselves to stay relevant in the travel industry. But before they jump the gun, consider these ways in which technology has altered the role of DMOs.
New channels and platforms provide easy access to information
Now that travellers have easy access to a lot more information about a destination, the infrastructure and the tours and activities available at the destination, it can seem like the role DMOs once had as "knowledge gatekeepers" has become a thing of the past.
Although this might seem like the case for holidaymakers, this isn't necessarily the case for event and conference planners.
For event and conference planners:
In an interview with Skift, Bruce MacMillan, former CEO of Meeting Professionals International and Tourism Toronto said: “I think increasing the trend is shifting towards planners saying, ‘Help us grow our business by doing things like introducing us to your intellectual capital and assets. That’s a transformational opportunity for the DMO because that’s not what they’re used to doing very often. They’re used to selling and marketing.”
So, consider this: What can your DMO do to create meaningful partnerships and connections that can drive the business outcomes for conferences and events?
Destination marketing and branding is more important than ever
Today's travellers are on the hunt for authentic experiences, which explains Airbnb's catapult to success. The opportunity to live like a local and experience the destination like a local is what holidaymakers are after, which is also why 4 in 5 TripAdvisor users will “usually” or “always” reference reviews before deciding on an attraction to visit. Travellers want authenticity and will go through countless customer reviews to find it.
The good news is that your DMO can now post highly relevant content on TripAdvisor through their Premium Destination Partnership and have the destination's page linked to your DMO website.
When it comes to bringing authenticity to your destination's brand, experiential marketing is key. DMOs should focus on showcasing the experiences that travellers are looking for, not what travellers should be looking for. They need to provide an edge to travellers, and use their local knowledge and expertise to do so.
Some ideas include:
- Showcasing more than just popular tourist attractions on your website. Add recommendations to parks, restaurants or local markets where locals enjoy going to as well.
- Need good ideas for content? Why not look at what people are asking on TripAdvisor and create content to address those questions.
- Keep your social media profiles updated with gorgeous imagery that inspires people to travel to your destination. Find out which tourism boards have the best Instagram presence here.
- Turn your website into a platform that connects travellers with local small businesses that run interesting tours and activities.
- Let visitors book bed nights, tour and activities directly from your website.
For event and conference planners:
In a survey by DMAI, DMO leaders ranked “brand identity for destinations becoming more critical for meeting-planner perceptions about value and experience” as the seventh most important trend. Maura Gast, a Fellow Certified Destination Management Executive (FCDME), highlights that the key for successful branding can be found in the Destination Management Cycle.
If we take London & Partners as a case study, we see that this is the case. They've not only effectively marketed London as a leading destination for business opportunities and events, but have also enlisted the help and support of the local community to support initiatives like Traveltech Lab.
In Denver, an army base was converted into the Anschutz Medical Campus for the University of Colorado Health Science Division. Denver's conference services team met with the medical faculty and department heads, many who also serve on national boards of medical associations. They made valuable connections with the faculty who also happen to be international speakers in their own fields.
A result of that strategy was that the World Conference on Lung Cancer was held in Denver last September, which according to Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver, “was a collaboration of our office, the economic development folks, and the campus to bring that business together.”
DMOs should craft a Tourism Masterplan and take the lead
According to DMAI, 56% of DMOs saw opportunities for additional revenues from these destination services:
- Destination brand and experience management
- Local event producer and manager
- Tourism data analyst and intelligence curator
To fully make the most of these opportunities, DMOs need to take the lead in creating a master plan for the destination, taking into account how it might change over time, and deciding on a clear and unifying vision for the destination. It should highlight everything unique about the destination, and emphasise the unique experiences that sets their destination apart.
DMOs also need to get involved in developing incentives for people to visit the destination and this requires the buy-in of the local community. To get their buy in, DMOs should highlight the economic impact a boost in tourism can bring to local businesses. Incentives that attract visitors could take the form of innovative business programmes or creating out-of-the-box solutions that make the most your destination's unique selling point.
Finally, DMOs need to make sure that the plan also outlines recommendations for infrastructure that local government bodies can work on. They can also provide tourism product and service recommendations to local tour and activity operators and provide workshops to improve the destination's visitor experience.
How else can DMOs seize the opportunities afforded to them by technology? Let us know in the comments below!
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Written by Nicole Kow
Having graduated from the UK, Nicole travelled around Europe before joining TrekkSoft's marketing team. She is now based in KL and regularly blogs about her travels at Next Train Out.