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5 Ways to Promote Sustainable Travel: a Guide for the Small DMO

Sustainable travel entered the chat a long time ago, but it took a pandemic and myriad travel restrictions before destinations really honed in on exactly what sustainability can look like for them. 

In destination marketing, the goal used to be simple: get as many travelers to your shores and cities as possible. Today, it’s all about sharing responsible travel best practices, especially for small DMOs. 

Sustainability is about far more than planting trees or calculating your carbon footprint (though both are important!). It’s critical that small DMOs work smarter, not harder, to make their destinations more sustainable. 

Let’s talk about 5 ways small DMOs can continually promote sustainability efforts in their marketing. 

1. Lean on evergreen informational content 

If you’re a marketer, you would have heard this phrase enough times to give you a headache: “Content is king.” When it comes to sustainability efforts, however, evergreen content is king. 

As destinations change rapidly — shuttered businesses, new attractions, partners joining on the daily — your DMO needs a well-stocked arsenal of always-up-to-date content to power your organic marketing. 

Promoting your sustainability efforts through evergreen content might look like: 

  • Creating long-form articles and integrating best practices on sustainability in your pillar content

  • Blog content on sustainable marketing optimized for search engines

  • A directory of businesses and attractions in your area that engage in any sustainable practices — even if they’ve just switched to reusable cups! Small wins deserve celebrating

  • Sustainable camping and outdoor recreation guides (like how to keep campgrounds litter-free, or how build safe fires)

2. Promote an under-promoted area of your destination 

Another core tenant of sustainable destination marketing is having a good understanding of destinations ready for travel. An overrun destination — especially small communities going viral on platforms like Instagram or TikTok — that isn’t ready for travelers can be jarring for residents. These communities might not have the infrastructure to support so many visitors. With intentional marketing, you can create a grab bag of areas within your destination to evenly distribute visitors and show them under-promoted gems in your area.

Take, for example, a destination like Miami. South Beach, Downtown Miami, and Miami Beach are hugely popular to both domestic and international travelers. 

So, Miami began distributing its marketing efforts to other neighborhoods like Little Havana, Coconut Grove, the Wynwood arts district, and Brickell. 

Sustainable destination marketing is more than banning plastic straws; it also takes into account how we distribute people. What better way to create a spread of tourism dollars across the entire community?  

3. Interview locals 

Personalized storytelling makes sustainability feel more achievable for the everyday traveler. It establishes ground rules about what your destination values before a visitor even touches down on the tarmac. A few ways your small DMO can leverage local stories and existing partnerships in your sustainability marketing include: 

  • Talk to park rangers, firefighters, hospitality workers, and tour guides in a conversational interview series that highlights their take on how sustainability can positively affect their local area 

  • Record a virtual town hall with community members on the kinds of sustainable efforts local businesses are leaning into — and how you could be doing more 

  • Host a small business week where your destination highlights a new small biz or community member each day. This can help establish a personal connection to the people powering your community’s businesses 

4. Create a sustainability guide for travelers

Another evergreen content tactic for the small DMO is leveraging your partnerships to create an interactive sustainable travel guide. 

  • Promote state and national parks, or riding and hiking trails and include Leave No Trace principles

  • Leverage user-generated content like CrowdRiff Galleries to create an interactive “map” of your DMOs most sustainable attractions  

  • Share alternative travel routes to your area to promote local and interstate travel instead of air travel 

  • Highlight local vegan and vegetarian establishments, which generally have a lower eco-footprint 

5. Leverage Instagram Stories, Reels, and TikTok  

We don’t need to tell you how important social media is for your destination. When it comes to educating about sustainable travel on social, here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Repurpose your interview content and evergreen informational material into cut downs for social, like Instagram Stories or Reels

  • Turn your local sustainability guide into a TikTok series that promotes a different vendor or partner with each video 

  • Show day-in-the-life TikTok videos that show off under-promoted areas 

  • Use CrowdRiff user-generated assets to show real-time footage of your destination 

Want more? Learn how to drive conversions with Instagram Stories in our ebook.

Wrapping up 

Sustainable travel looks a little different for the small or rural DMO, but that doesn’t mean it’s an impossible task. Curious how other DMOs are bringing sustainability into their marketing?

Cozy up to our ebook: Sustainable Tourism: How DMOs Can Create an Inclusive Sustainability Strategy