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Tourism is poised to come back, is there a marketing dogfight ahead?

As the pandemic begins to ease, anxious Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO's) may be heading for a marketing dogfight.

As the pandemic eases and tourism officials look for some return to normal, many DMO's have been waiting for these days to relaunch their marketing efforts, new ad campaigns, and brand at the ready crafted by ad agencies and creatives designed to reacquaint consumers with their favorite destination. As if they may have forgotten.

As DMO's get ready, two important factors are driving this scenario. The first has to do with messaging, and the second the focus on feeder markets.

As one might expect, the next ninety days will see DMO's across the land tell everyone in shouting distance they are open for business. In every creative way imaginable, DMO's will remind consumers their favorite destination is open for business and welcome back.

A second important consideration is the focus of those marketing efforts. Without a doubt, most DMO's will focus their marketing efforts on their primary feeder markets, those with direct access and close proximity to the destination. It makes perfect sense. The challenge is every competitive destination will be doing that same thing. Each destination thinking their messaging and marketing efforts will win the day.

In a survey of California DMO's, when asked where their marketing efforts will be focused, 72% indicated they would be focusing on their feeder markets, at least in the short term.

Budget Allocation Comparison by Geo Market 2019/2020 vs. 2020/2021

Source: Travel Analytics Group DMO Tracker Study 2020.

Given destination will be competing heavily in core markets with competitor destinations. It might reconfigure a destination's target segment. The insights collective Tourism Think Tank and resource center has developed a helpful typology for destinations to consider as they re-energize their marketing efforts

According to the Insights Collective (Insights Collective, 2021), "while all three visitor typologies demonstrate strong marketplace demand for travel, - the wellbeing and compatibility with their destination community residents their Visit Fit Factor- varies widely and so should be their priority as resort leaders determine who, when and how to re-start tourism promotional efforts as we advance. At stake is not just the ability to defend against a spring 2021 spike in the short term, but longer-term local sentiment about the future of a tourism-based economy down the road."


Source: Insights Collective, Drivers on the Road to Recovery: Vaccinations, Vacations, and Visitor Values:

DMO's should consider that while everyone wants the visitors, not all are the same. To avoid the dogfight DMO's might consider the following:

1. What segment are you targeting? In the next thirty, sixty, ninety days or longer, who will you be talking to? The haves? The have nots? Or the don't/won't segment?

2. Think about that message and what it will need to be able to breakthrough. Remember there is going to be lots of competitions for the consumer's attention. Creativity does matter.

3. Think about the timing of your message right back to your core market. Does it make sense to consider the timing of your destination's messaging? Maybe it is better to pick the right time so your message does not get lost with your competitors?

Be smart, be strategic, outthink your competitors, avoid the impending marketing dogfight.

"It is best to win without fighting."

Sun Tzu

Carl Ribaudo is President and Chief Strategist with SMG Consulting and a Principal with the Insights Collective Tourism Think Tank and Resource Center.

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