The Digital Tourism Think Tank brought together at this year’s World Travel Market in London world leading experts on digital strategies for destinations to discuss the main challenges and key trends in destination marketing. Supported by our partners Yahoo, TripAdvisor, ECM, IFITT and ETC the audience put challenging questions, trying to understand what it is a DMO needs to do to continue to make an impact on the visitor economy.
Some of the biggest challenges for DMO’s in this hyper-connected digital area lie within the field of measurement. DMO’s often apply the wrong measures for success. Traditional measure such as Newsletter sign ups do not reflect o wether a DMO has performed well within its key tasks. In this regard the panel established that the main criteria for success should be advocacy, as this measure provides a strong indicator wether a tourist had a memorable and positive experience at a destination. The problem of applying the wrong measures is often related to another key issues, namely that DMO’s set the wrong aims and objectives in the first place.
ADDRESSING ALL STAKEHOLDER NEEDS
DMO’s as public institutions or public-private partnerships are subject to various pressures from different stakeholder groups. Therefore they run the risk that by attempting to satisfy political stakeholders, the needs of businesses and tourists get neglected. In particular tourists benefit from DMO’s that engage with visitors extensively during their stay and not abandon the contact after the travel planing stage.
ENGAGEMENT AND CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS
In this regard the value of brand engagement was questioned critically. DMO’s are faced with the challenge that, in contrast to other travel sectors (e.g. Airline, hotel), it is difficult to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with their customers. Retention rates are generally low, and traveller re-visiting a destination often do not get in touch with DMO’s, because at this point they already have personal insider knowledge. Therefore, DMO’s must focus on providing authentic and relevant content to consumers, rather than focussing primarily on delivering marketing messages.
BOTTOM UP BRANDING
This is particularly important because destination marketing poses specific challenges to the branding process. Destinations as a living construct cannot be branded successfully by deploying a top down approach. Successful destination branding alway requires the brand to be developed bottom up. Thus only brands that are authentic and lived by the stakeholders in the destination will establish themselfs successfully.
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