According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, today travel and tourism supports one in
10 jobs worldwide and generates 10.4% of the world’s GDP - valued at $8.8
Much of the responsibility for attracting those
travelers to a community or region - and capturing some of that economic
benefit - falls to destination marketing organizations (DMOs), also known by
other names such as visitors bureaus and tourist boards.
DMOs have existed in various forms more than 100
years, initially with a focus on convention travel management and later expanding
to encompass leisure travel as well.
But the work of these entities today is much
broader than just drawing in visitors.
“The idea that you are just driving heads in
beds is no longer good enough,” says Jack Johnson, chief advocacy officer and
foundation executive director for Destinations
professional organization representing destination organizations from nearly
600 locations in 13 countries.
“Every visitor is a potential connection to
expanding your economic base. Once you get people to pay attention, once you
get people to visit, what follows is businesses and then customers come and
investment comes and talent comes.
“And we will argue that every destination, every
community is competing with every other community in the world, thanks to
technology, thanks to the internet, thanks to cable TV, airlines."
One of the most important tools in that
competition, he says, is a strong brand, supported by both engaging, shareable
content and by stakeholders and residents that support the mission.
And increasingly, destinations are developing
their brands through global search and social platforms, such as Google,
Facebook, Instagram and WeChat.
“What we argue is destinations
have to increasingly think about partnering with these big platforms rather than
trying to go it alone,” says Chris Adams, head of research and insights for
“There is some degree of
discomfort from some DMOs that they are no longer completely in control of
their destiny - that their own website is becoming perhaps a less important
part of the whole ecosystem. But broadly once people get involved, there is an
understanding that the reach and the opportunities are pretty compelling.”
In the second piece in our series on destination marketing,
we take a closer look at these opportunities and find out how destinations are
using them to their advantage.
In 2017, Google launched its DMO Partnership
Program to improve the quantity, quality and accuracy of destination content it
offers, particularly through Maps, Street View and Google My Business.
For destinations, the program provides DMOs free access
to tools to improve their visibility and that of local businesses on the
platform, easy-to-use interfaces to capture and post images and videos directly
to Google and attribution and reporting data.
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Adams says this opportunity is particularly valuable
since destinations are starting to see a slowdown in organic traffic to their
“Typically around 50 to 60% of traffic is coming
from organic for a DMO website, but now year-on-year growth has stalled. And
this last year it has slipped slightly into reversal,” he says.
Miles Partnership works with DMOs - about 85 from
around the world - to facilitate their participation in the Google DMO Partnership
Program. Adams says it begins with an assessment of the destination’s current
visibility on Google, followed by content development and then education to
help local business owners learn how to use the tools.
The Bermuda Tourism Authority is one of Miles’
clients that has embraced this opportunity. Since late May 2018, the DMO has uploaded
360-degree video of the entire island to Google and has taught more than 100 local
business owners how to add video to their listings.
To date, Bermuda has had more than 23 million
views of its images and Street View contributions on Google – free advertising with
For all DMO clients it is actively tracking on
Google, Adams says there have been more than 226 million views of content and most
have total views that are equal to or much larger than total views on their own
But there is still substantial work to be done. Adams says 80 countries – including popular destinations
such as India, Costa Rica and Nepal - have no content in Google Street View at
all, inhibiting both the visitor experience and the opportunities for economic
And those that are getting involved still face
challenges in investing time and budget in content development.
DMOs have to do is to demonstrate their value to Google as key content partners,”
think it’s fair to say that even though several hundred DMOs are involved, it
hasn’t scaled sufficiently yet to really capture the complete attention of Google.
So DMOs have got to demonstrate value in terms of quality content at scale, not
only initially to capture content but to keep contributing.”
Outbound Tourism Institute says 89
million Chinese citizens made outbound trips in the first half of 2019, up
nearly 13% year-over-year.
Spending is up too. According to the Phocuswright
Online Travel 2019: By the Numbers, Chinese citizens spent about $165 billion
on travel bookings in 2018, and that figure is expected to grow about 10%
annual through 2022, when it will reach $239 billion.
So of course tourism organizations around the
world are vying to capture the attention and interest of those travelers, and
one of the most effective ways to do that is through one of the country’s
dominant social apps, Tencent-owned WeChat.
With more than 1.1 billion monthly users, WeChat
is a super app, combining shopping, photo sharing, messaging, bill paying, food
ordering, transportation, gaming and much more in one app.
Since early 2017, WeChat has offered brands the
opportunity to create mini programs, cloud-based apps that live within the
WeChat app, meaning users don’t have to download anything else to use them.
To prove the value of mini programs for tourism, Tencent
partnered with Helsinki Marketing, the city’s DMO, to develop its WeChat mini
program to assist Chinese consumers visiting Helsinki.
The mini program is powered by the MyHelsinki Open
API, an open interface that provides current, curated information about events,
activities and places of interest around the city. Content and recommendations
are provided by hundreds of local residents, “tastemakers that these Chinese
visitors can trust,” says Tia Hallanoro, director of brand communications and
digital development for Helsinki Marketing. Design strategy has been provided
The mini program also includes payment services
through WeChat Pay and ground transportation booking through integration with
Maas Global and its app Whim.
“Now you can plan, commute and pay within the
same service,” Hallanoro says.
There is some degree of discomfort from some DMOs that they are no longer completely in control of their destiny - that their own website is becoming perhaps a less important part of the whole ecosystem.
Chris Adams - Miles Partnership
“We are aiming for an end-to-end customer journey.
But it doesn’t have that many extra things – sometimes good design is making
things as simple as possible. The focus is having good content as we do on our
Edinburgh Tourism Action Group also has a WeChat mini
program, and the organization’s Chinese social media manager, Alice He, agrees
content is essential.
“We create it all in-house. We know our audience,
we know the destination, and we learn from experience what kind of content
works,” she says.
For Edingburgh, He says stories from Chinese
students studying there and photos showing the city’s beauty and also the filming
locations for major motion pictures such as Avengers: Infinity War are very
popular with Chinese travelers.
WeChat is also an effective tool for
destinations to communicate with travel agents. Dragon Trail
Interactive’s China Travel Academy is a WeChat-based course used by DMOs
such as Visit Sweden and the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board to teach Chinese
travel agents about their destination.
“From my perspective, I think it’s
important to understand that WeChat is really useful not just for B2C
marketing, but also for B2B, which is still very relevant for the Chinese
outbound tourism market,” says Sienna Parulis-Cook, communications manager for Dragon
Facebook & Instagram
nearly three billion monthly users across Facebook and Instagram, these two
platforms capture a large portion of digital ad spend for all travel verticals,
general manager of tourism, Richard Black, says these platforms provide a way
for destination marketers to do what they’ve always done, but much more effectively.
“It’s always been about reaching people in the moments that matter,” he says.
would love to have this consistent volume of web traffic, but the reality is
they are now realizing that they need to have their content distributed
wherever people are during that path to purchase.”
to Sojern’s 2019
Report on Facebook and Instagram Advertising for Travel, travelers spend
five times more time on Facebook than on travel-related apps, sites and searches,
and 96% of travelers go to Instagram as they think about destinations to visit.
it’s no surprise that Sojern’s survey of more than 600 travel marketers,
including 117 DMOs, found Facebook and Instagram captured 23% of their digital ad
spending in 2018, and more than half plan to spend even more on those sites
The platforms are recognizing that interest - and improving the tools they
March 2018, Facebook introduced Trip Consideration, which presents targeted ads
to users that have browsed travel-related pages.
really provided an opportunity for DMOs to maximize that space ... to reach a broad
audience of people that have intent to travel,” Black says.
are using machine learning in delivering ads to somebody who’s really likely to
book a trip.”
tandem with the targeted marketing, digital tools now provide sophisticated
data capture and analytics to understand how those campaigns are performing –
and whether they ultimately influence what a person does in-destination.
provides attribution insights using anonymized, aggregated mobile phone
we find as much as 60, 70, even 80% of [a DMOs] marketing could be better
targeted,” says Arrivalist CEO Cree Lawson.
with advertising, Black says destinations are getting savvier about using
Facebook as an instant, direct communication tool. He cites examples of DMOs in
Amelia Island, Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina that recently used
Facebook to let people know their communities were not affected by Hurricane
are that first line of defense of getting tourists back into town when tragedy
happens to maximize economic impact,” he says.