10 things DMOs need to consider in their destination marketing recovery strategy

Updated: Jan 16

As DMO's begin to consider what it will be like to get back to some semblance of normal business in the future, SMG Consulting has developed the following recommendations.

Our ideas are formed from a strategy perspective to increase the long-term competitiveness of your organization and destination.

The tourism industry is changed; there is no going back question. How it has changed and what will be short term changes and long-term changes that will remain as a result of consumer legacy behaviors will become apparent over time.

But there is another way to consider the crisis. DMO’s should view the COVID-19 crisis from an opportunistic perspective in order to improve their competitiveness as the crisis subsides? Our suggestions consider the new competitive environment as well as strategy initiatives to take advantage of our new reality.

A Changed Market

1. Social distancing will play a big part in very different visitor experience. No matter when the tourism economy returns, social distancing will continue to play a role with visitors, and this will fundamentally change the visitor experience, from attractions to restaurants and public places. The energy that a bustling downtown created in which visitors had a memorable experience will be different. Destinations are going to have to tap into community creativity to create that distinctive vibe in an era of social distancing.

2. Safety and hygiene will become more critical now more than ever. These issues will not lead you advertising but they have become more important. More than ever, visitors are going to be concerned with issues of safety and hygiene. Who is making my food? How is it being handled? Who is cleaning my hotel room, and how is it being done are all going to become more critical in visitor decision making? Those businesses that take this issue seriously and are transparent about how they do things are going to be addressing consumer needs. Those destinations that can collectively work together will give the DMO an essential element to communicate with potential visitors.

Strategy and Implementation

3. The strategy you had is not the one you need and is no longer viable. A successful DMO will think through what the short-term strategy is and how it evolves. Most likely, your longer stay destination business will take a while to return and will depend upon airline industry recovery. As such, most every DMO will focus their efforts on their feeder markets with shorter stays and less revenues on a visitor market that will take time to recover, with more competition. It is different, so be different.

4. Less marketing resources with a soft visitor market means you need to be creative. Every DMO will have fewer resources than they had both in the short term and the medium term it will take a while to generate more Transient Occupancy tax or Business improvement funding to fuel tourism marketing efforts.

5. Focus on the only those things that will make the most difference for your destination. With reduced funding, DMO's will have to focus on their top priorities. The most effective tools need resources -- everything else can wait.

6. You may need to adjust your organization's structure to meet the reality of your marketing strategy. Based on what your priorities are, your organizational structure will need to change, and change can be hard. Don't miss the opportunity to evolve your organization's structure to implement your strategy best.

7. Horizontal alignment with regional partners and vertical alignment with your destination stakeholders is more important than ever. Given most DMO's will have a reduced budget, it's essential to get as much alignment with other regional destinations to leverage your marketing resources and have them go further. Additionally, alignment within your destination with the lodging industry, attractions, restaurants, and others is also essential. Many will need to develop and offer promotional pricing, and that be coordinated with a DMO and regionally. The goal is to leverage as many resources from within your destination and from outside your destination as possible.

8. Your message should be much more than telling your visitor you are open again. Very simply, every other destination will have a similar message. Be creative.

9. Special events may not be one of your marketing tools. One of the most effective tools in generating visitation during a recession probably will not be available. Given that changing marketplace as a result of social distancing, it is maybe a long while until events return in the way they were. DMO's will have an increased marketing challenge without this critical tool.

Looking Ahead

10. Plan scenarios, not one outcome. Your recovery strategy is a bridge strategy to your ultimate long-term strategy. How long it takes is not known. Based on that, consider a variety of scenarios and align your resources accordingly. Don't bank on what industry consults and forecasts are saying develop your scenarios based on how you see the market evolving. Consider whatever you do from a perspective of a transition to ultimately the long-term strategy that best fits the needs of your destination.

Make no mistake, this is the biggest challenge to the tourism destination in our lifetime. The most valuable assets you have are not the attractions, special events, and cool ad campaigns you had. Instead, smart thinking, the collective wisdom, and creativity that is found within your destination.

Think of your DMO as a platform and catalyst to harness THOSE assets into changing the COVID-19 disaster to a strategic transformational opportunity for your organization and destination.

About SMG Consulting SMG Consulting, located in South Lake Tahoe, is a strategy consulting firm specializes in the tourism and recreation industry. For more information www.smgonline.net. How has COVID-19 changed consumer outlook, preferences and priorities? SMG can help you with those answers. Contact us for more information.

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