This year has been unpredictable, and it has changed everything about the travel industry.
From traveler confidence to budgets to policies and procedures, 2020 has forced brands and destinations to pivot their strategies and offerings in new ways to accommodate traveler needs.
These changes have created a new normal for travelers and travel marketers alike.
For tourism boards this means finding new efficient ways to deliver results within limited budgets.
However, the biggest threat to destination marketing success in 2021 is outdated metrics.
It’s time to establish a new normal for digital campaigns to capture revenue in the coming year.
Most tourism boards allocate digital spend to direct response, or campaigns that inspire potential travelers to take immediate action. Direct response metrics include website visits, click through rates, and impressions.
As overall budgets continue to decrease in 2021 and travelers continue to be hesitant to book, destinations will likely need to consider more digital branding campaigns.
Digital branding campaigns are less expensive, more flexible, and easier to track. But these campaigns also require different KPIs and metrics, including customer lifetime value, advocacy, incremental searches, and more.
Here are four ways destinations and tourism boards can adjust digital metrics to drive success in 2021:
Learn from 2020
While 2020 was certainly an anomaly, there are a number of trends and key takeaways that will prove valuable in 2021.
Airlines have had to reinvent themselves taking a health and safety first approach.
More travelers are prioritising domestic travel over international journeys, and that won’t likely change for most of 2021. As a result, destinations should look at different data sets when determining a target market.
For example, combining 2019 flight data with current domestic hotel searches and bookings may help destinations prioritise ad spend.
In addition, domestic travel is putting greater emphasis on things like food offerings, with 36% of travelers saying they want to enjoy local fare in the coming year.
This gives marketers the opportunity to think locally and create interest-based campaigns to those travelers that are not getting on a plane.
Define performance in a digital world
A larger number of travelers are now hesitant to pack their suitcases for international travel - and that will likely continue into the coming year.
However, their current preferences have shifted towards lesser-known domestic destinations.
For smaller cities this is great news, and many are allocating advertising budgets for the very first time. But there’s a catch: competition has increased, putting pressure on destinations to maximise return on already small budgets.
These unusual market conditions mean many destinations are scrambling to learn more about the digital advertising market and associated tools to capture new visitors both now and in the future.
Branding will play a key role in recovery, and branding campaigns require long-term strategies.
For smaller destinations that are looking to compete, the best way to get the most value from their branding budget is Co-Op marketing.
Co-Op marketing essentially helps destination marketing organisations (DMOs) combine funds, messaging, and marketing with local stakeholders.
This helps to drive new visitors to the destination, ensure alignment in communications, and supports direct bookings for key partners.
Build sustainable business models
Now more than ever it’s important for destinations to build sustainable business models. This not only includes exploring more efficient marketing tactics, but also means working to build long term relationships with local communities and catering to traveler preferences.
In this market, local residents are often a DMO’s sole source of income, which means tourism boards must be vocal about the value they bring.
In addition, travelers are looking for more sustainable experiences, which include focusing on overlooked destinations, spending more time in one location, and traveling during off-peak times.
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These pressures and changing preferences are opening doors for smaller destinations to expand the marketing net.
By taking a data-driven approach, destinations can do more with less - and continue to improve results through optimisation and testing.
In addition to solo tactics, destinations can leverage DMOs and Co-Op marketing to broaden reach.
Co-Ops allow travel brands to collaborate and align KPIs to create “always on”, multi-channel campaigns.
For example, destinations can work with local attractions and hotels to encourage travelers to spend more time in one place and experience all the destination has to offer.
Create the right partnerships
The key to destination tourism recovery is collaboration, which includes partnering with entities like the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and European Travel Commission (ETC).
The UNWTO listed ‘partnerships’ as one of its key goals for achieving sustainable business practices. While partnering with organisations is key, it also includes partnering with previous competitors, such as neighboring cities, hotels, and more.
Currently, many DMOs are still leveraging public money as a main source of funding. These public-private partnerships with local stakeholders will be key to recovery and a sustainable future market.
However, it’s important to partner with a DMO that also has the right digital partnerships. DMO partners must provide the right tools to support data-driven insights to measure effectiveness.
Accelerating recovery means destinations must adjust to the new normal for travel. Destinations must take a multi-channel, data-driven approach to stretch smaller budgets and create a sustainable model for the future.
Now, more than ever, travelers are spending time online. By working with DMOs and capitalising on Co-Ops, destinations and tourism boards can broaden their online footprint, compete for market share, and solidify their place at the top of travelers’ lists.