By many measures, travel is one of the world’s largest industries that generates trillions of dollars in economic impact and supports millions of jobs. Yet, in many ways, it’s also a small and close-knit community that has learned time and time again how interconnected it is in times of crises and celebration.
Destination marketers know this sentiment all too well as they’re the connective tissue that ties every industry sector together towards a common purpose; sharing the joy of travel with those who want to explore and connect with the world. Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) don’t need another reminder of how the pandemic has made this reality exponentially more apparent, because many of them have used the pause in travel to support fellow organizations in their regions and countries.
It’s clear that showing a united front will likely be the biggest factor that will get travelers to clear the mental hurdle of a post-pandemic trip. DMOs marketing in a vacuum won’t get far – they need to work with other organizations to cross-promote each other’s destinations because that’s what helps make a trip more compelling.
For example, a family may have kids interested in a theme park in your area and beaches, but you may not have beaches to market. But a resort town a short distance from you may have popular beaches but lack family-friendly activities like a theme park. Why not team up to promote your strong suits to win over shares of travelers already planning to visit each destination that wouldn’t have known about your destination otherwise?
Still thinking of ways to partner with other DMOs to expand your reach and craft a new vision for the future of travel marketing? Perfect, because you aren’t alone and are in great company with bold, creative minds who understand that travel marketing needs to change to be more united to keep up with travelers’ expectations.
There’s more good news: when a group of international travelers were asked what type of content or person influences them to learn more about or book travel to a destination, 53% (the highest percentage of respondents) said they look to travel brands like DMOs, hotels or airlines, according to a 2021 survey by Skift and Brand USA.
Of course, there’s no match for the power of a recommendation from a close friend or family member, but this finding underscores the vital role DMOs still have to play in travel’s recovery and prosperous future.
Source: Skift and Brand USA
It’s time to get inspired and dive into ways your DMO can build camaraderie rather than competition among industry peers. Here’s how organizations can team up and show travelers why it’s high time they take that long delayed vacation.
1. Focus on regional markets
The pandemic led many travelers who felt comfortable planning a trip to avoid large cities with high concentrations of people. Rural destinations with ample outdoor space and nature were increasingly sought after.
That didn’t stop Ottawa Tourism, Destination Toronto, and Tourisme Montreal from believing that they had a different story to tell about why cities are still safe places to visit. They jointly launched the “City Friends With Benefits” campaign in 2021 – the first time the three cities worked on an initiative like this – to complement campaigns each city already had running. It also helped each DMO get better access to the 10 million Candians who live and travel between the three cities.
Each city knew regional drive and short-haul flight markets would lead the travel recovery in Canada and bet on travelers wanting to trade the rural environments they turned to in 2020 to the cosmopolitan experiences of big cities.
2. Make sustainability the star
The Oregon Coast Visitors Association is working with a climate scientist to develop a climate action plan for its partners. The organization is made up of seven county destination management organizations that represent Oregon’s 363-mile coastline, and its climate plan aims to support local coastal businesses including upgrading appliances, installing solar panels, and reducing waste.
One of the DMO’s big priorities is getting electric vehicle charging stations installed along Highway 101. Doing so would allow it to create a new itinerary for an emerging category of travelers while marketing trips that emit fewer emissions. And each member DMO along the coastal highway could be included = everyone wins.
3. Invest in each other
Nostalgia is one of the most popular sentiments felt by travelers during the past two years – nostalgia for travel but also for simpler times when life didn’t seem to involve as many logistics or health and safety considerations.
Those are the exact emotions that Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership was tapping into with its “Find Your Way Back” campaign. The DMO, which represents 14 communities in Shenandoah Valley, said the campaign was successful at attracting travelers from the Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia areas who were seeking to escape the stresses of city and pandemic life for the valley’s storied and quaint communities that still reflect what life was like in the old days.
Because the Shenandoah Valley is a collection of charming small towns, the tourism partnership between the 14 communities reinforces in the eyes of visitors that while each town may be small, together they form a trail of distinct culinary, historic, and other offerings that make it a more compelling trip idea.
Source: A screenshot from the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership’s promotional video for its “Find Your Way Back” campaign.
Final thoughts: remember you’re on the same team
Every DMO in the world now has a shared experience to motivate them to work together and get the industry back on track. No one said doing so would be easy, but it’s clear that the pandemic has resulted in a renewed, collaborative spirit among tourism organizations.
Within the next three years, survey data shows the most important collaboration priorities among destinations (place-based respondents in the chart below) are to develop more collaboration with nearby DMOs to create a regional identity (51%) and form marketing partnerships targeting a mutually important audience (63%).
No two destinations are alike, and that’s a good thing! Their differences are their strengths and using a collaborative marketing approach will only help increase appeal for your area or region. Travelers will see how your offerings complement those of another destination and together your region wins lots of tourist spending.
Source: City Nation Place
Want more ideas? Learn how you can team up with businesses in your area in this blog article, 8 Meaningful Ways You Can Uplift Black-Owned Businesses in Your Area.