Marketing is continually in a state of flux with new tech, devices, platforms, and an ever changing set of consumer expectations. It’s no different when it comes to marketing destinations and attractions. We asked several destination marketers about the opportunities and challenges they face. How do they reach the right people? How do they differentiate their destination? Below is a summary of the top 5 things destination marketers should focus on in 2016.

  1. Tailor Content

“While we all have websites and certain social media channels, the task before us is setting apart our destination from all the others by providing tailored, engaging content that speaks right to our visitors at the time they demand it,” said Lynsey Beasley, Interactive Marketing Manager, Panama City Beach. “Channels like Facebook and Instagram allow us to serve videos to specific groups and targeted audiences.”

Social media lends itself to delivering personalized, relevant content to groups within your target audience. For example, target by geography to encourage potential visitors from nearby states to take advantage of last minute weekend deals or an upcoming festival. Or target by interests to promote more adventurous activities like whitewater rafting or bungy jumping to people that partake in similar outdoor activities. This doesn’t necessarily require you create more content, it simply means you identify who the message is really for and promote accordingly in order to maximize results and stretch those precious advertising dollars.

The same can be said for email. Instead of sending every email to everyone in your database, segment your list into groups to yield better results and avoid email fatigue.

  1. Be Adaptive

Many uncontrollable, and sometimes unforeseeable, events can impact your ability to market your destination. From transportation challenges in smaller communities to cheaper international travel increasing competition for domestic vacations, destination marketers must be highly attuned to these outside influences and stay one step ahead.  

Several DMOs described these challenges as opportunities to be creative and find new ways to reach their audience, educate them and ultimately turn them into visitors. A great example of this adaptive spirit came from Banff Lake Louise Tourism. Realizing the Canadian dollar is at its lowest in 13 years, Senior Manager for North American Consumer Marketing Allison Gendron, said, “Canadian DMOs have an opportunity to drive U.S. visitation via the favorable exchange rate for Americans, while also encouraging domestic travel amongst Canadians – as vacations within Canada will cost significantly less vs vacations in the U.S.”

  1. Be Authentic

To reach millennials and centennials (ages 11-18), the need to be authentic is paramount. They’ve largely grown up with social media and expect a real connection with both the brands and destinations they care about. “Using UGC platforms allows us to show our destination as authentic and real to those seeking information or affirmation,” said Beasley.

One way to create an authentic digital presence (both through your social channels, as well as emails and website) is to use real travelers’ photos and videos highlighting your destination from their perspectives. This has many advantages:

  1. It gives you the opportunity to reach out to a visitor and build a 1:1 connection when you request permission to use the photo (and yes, always get permission)
  2. Tapping into visitor photos expands your library of available content exponentially and reduces some of the pressure to have fresh and updated photos of your destination (especially if your destination spans many miles)
  3. This very easily keeps all of your digital properties, including your website, fresh with a steady stream of visitor photos

Another consideration for being authentic, is monitoring trends on social media and joining relevant conversations (vs. creating a new conversation and expecting people to join you). An easy way to know what’s trending on social is using a tool, like Chute’s UGC Brand Trends which looks at the entire conversation surrounding travel on Instagram and allows you to search for your destination or competing destinations to see what other topics visitors are discussing, so you can join those relevant conversations or at the very least be aware of them.

  1. Tap Into (Local) Influencers

Many destinations and travel brands are turning to social media influencers to propel their marketing reach. “The use of social influencers will continue to rise as consumers engage with social media for their news and inspiration,” said Gendron.

While tapping into an established social media influencer and his/her network of followers is a great avenue to explore, don’t overlook your local influencers. Locals (or even frequent visitors) have an insatiable love of your community. From it’s history to the quirky things to do to the places to eat. Highlight your community from their vantage point to create unique stories and feature new experiences.

“Connecting to potential and current visitors through storytelling, photos and unique avenues of “what the locals do” receive high interaction results and drive web/social users to DMOs’ websites,” said Wesley Lucas, Communications Coordinator, Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau.

A great example comes from Travel Nevada. They let locals take over their Instagram account to highlight their favorite Nevada adventures. The state grew its Instagram followers by 25% in less than 3 months with its local influencer #NV10KTakeover campaign.

  1. Be Nimble

Technology is always changing. Had you heard of Peach a month ago? No. (It’s worth mentioning that with all new technology it takes time to grow an audience, so pay attention to what’s new, but don’t feel compelled to either jump onboard or discount entirely until some time has passed). It’s important to pay attention to where your audience is and test new formats, new content, and new channels to see what has the most impact at building awareness about your destination, and ultimately leads to more visitors. 

“The biggest opportunities for DMOs in 2016 will be the variety of new and unique trends available in the digital world. Whether it’s through web, mobile or social outlets, there is always something new that can allow DMOs to better market themselves to potential visitors,” said Lucas.

“Technology is rapidly changing the way we interact and reach consumers during the vacation planning cycle. Staying the course, yet having the ability to be nimble when needed is key,” said Gendron.

From virtual reality to the continued rise and influence of social video to programmatic ad and video buying, there are many potential opportunities for destinations to evaluate this year. Just don’t skip the evaluation part of the process – not every shiny tech object will work for every destination, so be thoughtful about what will work best for reaching your ideal visitor and test it.   

If we missed any must-do’s for destination marketers in 2016 please tweet them to us @getchute.

About The Author

Jody is a lover of animals, gardening, cooking (eating, obviously) and her two adorable kids. She's a bit marketing obsessed, but only in a really healthy and normal way.

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