A lot of DMOs are asking themselves, "how can we help our industry to pivot, to design new experiences and to prioritise sustainability in recovery?"
Defining the Ingredients of a Good Destination Brand Experience
Destination branding is driven by three main factors; reputation, identity and perception. However, the ultimate factor, the key ingredient that brings everything together, is the experience delivered and the connection created. It is all about creating a brand ecosystem that really resonates with your core audience, that will consistently leave visitors with a memorable experience and inspire a lasting relationship with your brand.
With the speed of change in protocols and regulations and the ever-changing traveller's behaviour, competition is higher than ever and the challenge is to stand the test of time to remain competitive, while still being innovative and agile when needed.
From storytelling to evolving with the times, DMOs are crafting their brand strategies in many different ways and continue to innovate to adapt to the changing consumer.
To see what really makes a good destination brand experience, we take a look at the key ingredients that are driving success and can help you be stronger in 2021.
Supporting Your Destination
Every DMO has a responsibility to their industry, to help them develop, connect the community and keep the destination competitive. Ultimately, this is the key to delivering the best possible visitor experience by being present at valuable touch-points in the journey and offering a range of experiences across the destination.
Travel Oregon has a very active role in the support and growth of its industry and destination as a whole, which is key to its success in delivering great experiences. The DMO offers a strong program designed to help support and guide local businesses throughout the destination.
The program offers a range of grants to develop tourism-related projects that help to benefit both communities across the destination and the visitor economy, with more than $8 million grants being awarded through Travel Oregon’s matching grants program in the past 11 years. It also offers grant writing workshops to further support businesses, who may not have the skills or resources to confidently apply, plus the Oregon Tourism Studios.
Travel Oregon works with communities to build tourism in a manageable and sustainable way, offering three types of tourism studios; Rural Tourism, Destination Management and Tourism Experience. The different training programs include workshop modules that are designed to help destinations in key areas of tourism development such as creating experiences, managing negative impacts of tourism due to higher visitation in certain areas and helping rural communities.
Signature experiences play a huge part in Destination Canada’s strategy for tourism development. Canadian Signature Experiences (CSE) are a collection of once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences found only in Canada. The program is designed to help eligible tourism businesses promote their product internationally and enables Destination Canada to deliver brand-aligned experiences from all over Canada. The Signature Experiences program is changing lives for small businesses - giving them opportunities they would never have had otherwise and the DMO is instrumental in managing and supporting this development.
Exploring Partnership Opportunities
Partnerships are a fantastic way to galvanise a niche product opportunity and reach passionate communities where they gather, creating unique and memorable experiences for visitors.
Visit Jersey was the first DMO to work in partnership with Strava, a social fitness network that is primarily used to track cycling and running exercises. Visit Jersey partnered with Strava to target the UK’s running community with a bookable experience, the Jersey Runcation, as its core brand values and emphasis on wellness and sports activities within the destination are perfectly aligned to that of Strava’s community. The network now boasts a global community of over 47 million athletes and 2.5 billion activities in 195 countries.
Together, this partnership provides the perfect platform for Jersey to reach a niche audience through the right distribution channel, acting as a catalyst for Jersey’s tourism development. Promoting this experience through a positive and motivating channel increases brand advocacy and completely enhances the visitor’s experience of Jersey, emphasising the ‘zest for life’ values that the Visit Jersey brand advocates.
Overall, the partnership succeeded through shared brand values and a great product/channel fit, creating something that felt authentic and inspirational to the core audience.
Visit California is a huge advocate of destination stewardship and believes this is the key to future sustainability in travel. By definition, stewardship refers to the ‘responsible planning and management of resources’.
For DMOs whose primary role is promoting a destination to attract visitors, there is now an increased level of responsibility to encourage travellers to plan and visit responsibly. DMOs have the power to influence collaboration across the destination and to leverage the visitor economy for the benefit of visitors, locals, the environment and the industry, and this is the basis of destination stewardship.
Which brings us full circle to supporting your destination and developing partnerships and collaborations throughout your destination in order to deliver a great visitor experience with collective benefits for all.
It is worth also mentioning the incredible improvement of an already well-designed website, executed during the pandemic. We consider Visit California website one of the best destination website. It targets digital consumers with a slick design and inspiring content and imagery, playing a lot with vertical formats and social media integration. Definitely worth a visit!
What are your key ingredients for a good destination brand experience that targets your domestic market?
One of the examples that stood out the most in the current situation is definitely Travel South Dakota. The destination has devolved its promotional efforts to bring the brand in the hands of people. The initiatives cater to the domestic market and perfectly adapt to what is possible and not possible in these circumstances.
Today's Lesson South Dakota engages with families - one of the strongest segments targeted during the crisis - providing them with resources to support homeschool and other educational material. A series of interactive Puzzles, learning guides and activities are all designed around South Dakota's core themes.
Furthermore, the DMO has created the South Dakota Road Trip Guide, which is a fun tool for planning and recording the trip across the state. It highlights some of the great places in South Dakota, provides directions for how to get there, space for listing the destinations that the traveller wish to see and things to do and simple and fun games and activities to do along the way.
This is the kind of content that can be considered simple for the DMO to create, but that shows how curated every step of the visitor journey is, the relevance of the brand and the great opportunities to engage with the audience that are out there despite the crisis.
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