For the last eighteen months, the tourism industry has experienced more changes than in the past decade and the new 2022 year promises to be much of the same thing ahead. Here are five things DMOs might want (should?) to consider by the end of the year.
1. Get a better handle on your market.
For much of the past two years, DMOs have been looking at the same national studies, and while they are a good source to provide you with a broad understanding of what has been happening, it’s time to look more closely at how significant changes are impacting your market and your destination. Not all destinations are the same and many are experiencing vastly different results. Many (several/most) gateway destinations still have not recovered because so much of their business was driven by meetings, business travel, and international travel. As a result, those destinations have been slow to recover. In contrast, destinations that are outdoor and recreation-oriented have recovered very quickly and continue to show (see) strong indicators of sustainable tourism success. Day visitation and leisure travel have led the way. The question for DMOs is, what is the impact on your destination? Do you have a good handle on your market?
Big-time trends have been in play since before the pandemic, including climate change and Overtourism. Those trends are not going away. Add to it the impact of Covid-19 and its variants, the airline industry is restructuring, different vaccination rates in different markets, the political divide in this country, and think about what that means for your destination. In many destinations, workforce housing has become a critical issue, and tied to it is the issue of employment. Many businesses in the hospitality industry can't find the employees to fill service-level jobs. The issues are complex. Pay and benefits and the availability of housing that employees can truly afford are all linked to each other and the ability of the destination to compete.
1. Build a fact base and understand how these trends impact your destination. Do this for not just today but think through 2022 and into spring of 2023. Understand what limitations you might have as well as opportunities you might find. You want to anticipate these changes not react to them
2. Understand your organization's limits and what you can impact concerning the changing marketplace and consumer travel trends. Know what your organization can influence and what it can't and stay focused on what you can influence. The key is to manage your market in the best way you can, and to do that it's essential to get a really good handle (to have a firm grasp/solid understanding) on your marketplace.
2. Understand the impact your local community now has on tourism.
Perhaps one of the most significant changes that have occurred in the last several years is the impact of the local community on tourism. The Overtourism trend that many destinations have experienced has created significant traffic crowding and congestion and issues with trash. The residents in many of these destinations are pushing back. This trend has been especially acute in destinations where tourism is a big part of the local economy. Local politicians have felt political pressure from residents. As such, the local community has a growing voice in tourism ordinances and policies. That change will not go away as residents begin to ask a fundamental question “what do we want out of tourism?” Tourism jobs alone are simply not going to be enough, especially in destinations that lack workforce housing and wage rates that are not living wage rates.
1. Harness community creativity and channel community frustration in a positive direction. One of the most significant opportunities you have is to harness community creativity to answer the question, "what does the community want from tourism?” Develop channels to tap into the local community to find out what they want out of tourism and understand how they see tourism issues and problems from their perspective. It's better to engage the community than to hear about it from city hall.
3. Be honest about destination management and what your organization can realistically do.
As a reaction to Overtourism and the traffic and congestion and crowding in the destinations that comes with it, some DMOs are shifting their focus to destination management. It’s a trend that is occurring on a national level. But it's important to understand you have to be realistic about what a DMO can do concerning destination management.
In an analysis conducted by the “Insights, Collective Tourism Think Tank”, we identified 23 destination management strategies, everything from trash management to seasonal closings and found that only six strategies were truly in the domain of a DMO, all having to do with communications. Most destination management strategies rest with other local agencies and not the DMO.
1. Know what you are getting into with destination management and be realistic with your organization.
2. Resist the temptation to lead the charge without coalition partners on developing a destination management plan only to have it fail in a couple of years because strategies that your organization has no control over implementing fell away. Also, you will need strong allies in this endeavor.
3. Manage expectations with your local community. Once your organization announces a new destination management plan, the community is going to have expectations that your organization will solve traffic, crowding, and congestion. Be careful what you communicate.
4. Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate
Here is a challenge. Pick any ten DMO websites and take a look at what you see. How many of those websites have a look and feel that is similar? I think you will find most are pretty similar, now compare yours. If your organization’s website is truly different in look, feel and information offered, then I congratulate you. If not, its time to take a look at how you are differentiating. Nowadays DMOs often promote very similar destination elements: special events (many are also similar) food, hiking etc…you get the picture. Think different and be different from the consumers perspective. Imagine they have looked at the same ten destination websites…
1. Find your own space in the market. A lot of times, a DMO gets focused on the things they want to promote. Spend some time, think strategically about how you want to compete. (Perhaps provide a few examples: “do you want to compete on outdoor recreation, food, events…”)
2. Separate destination strategy from brand strategy. It is wise to separate the brand strategy your organization has from your destination's competitive strategy. Brand strategy is about communications destination competitive strategy is about creating value.
5. Create a new narrative
Every destination has a narrative. What's yours? Is it time to rethink the story you want to tell consumers and how you want to tell it? These days, if you are not attractive, you are not going to be considered. Is your narrative connected to your destination beyond its attributes? Does it tap deep into your community culture, or is it superficial? The more interesting, the better.
1. Take a realistic look at your organization's narrative and ask yourself if your destination were a person would you find it interesting? If not, consider hiring an outside consultant to provide a fresh perspective about your destination from a consumer’s point of view. A simple research project could yield valuable information.
2. Consider hiring writers who are used to developing characters and plots to help create your narrative. Go beyond the just public relations professionals. Remember, tone, depth, and story matter.
For more insight to make your destination more competitive and your organization more effective.
Contact Carl Ribaudo: