The DMO Download

A weekly digest for those who market and manage destinations.

Community Surveys Strengthen Tourism Marketing Plans


This Month’s Heritage Tourism News

In this month’s edition of the DMO Download, explore key tourism marketing predictions for 2024, learn how community input can strengthen marketing strategies for rural communities, discover how one DMO leveraged heritage tourism to economically boost a whole region, and more. Check it out!

2024’s Marketing Insights for DMOs

This article showcases Sojern’s “State of Destination Marketing 2024” report, providing insights into industry trends and challenges. The report, produced in collaboration with Digital Tourism Think Tank and supported by organizations like Brand USA, Destination Canada, and the European Travel Commission, sheds light on destination marketing strategies based on insights from nearly 300 DMOs worldwide.

Key findings include the impact of economic factors such as uncertainty, inflation, and the cost of living on marketing strategies. The report emphasizes the increasing role of artificial intelligence (AI) in content creation and marketing, with DMOs anticipating significant impacts in various areas. Challenges related to data and privacy, especially with the impending deprecation of third-party cookies by Google, are addressed. DMOs are taking actions to mitigate these changes, with a focus on social content and obtaining more first-party data.

The report also explores how DMOs are adapting strategies to align with sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion trends. European DMOs lead in prioritizing environmental sustainability, while various DMOs prioritize social diversity and sustainability goals. Co-op marketing, where DMOs collaborate with local businesses, is identified as a prevalent strategy. Motivators for co-op campaigns include boosting overall marketing investment, expanding audience reach, and cost-sharing.

Rural DMOs can draw several valuable lessons from the insights presented in this article:

  1. Rural DMOs should be aware of the impact of economic factors such as uncertainty, inflation, and the cost of living on marketing strategies. Understanding the economic landscape is crucial for effective planning and resource allocation in promoting rural destinations.
  2. Rural DMOs can benefit from investing strategically in paid media, with a focus on channels that offer the most visibility and engagement. Understanding the importance of social media advertising and search engine marketing can guide rural DMOs in reaching their target audiences effectively.
  3. Rural DMOs should assess the relevance of different social media platforms for their target audience. While Instagram and Facebook remain important, rural destinations might explore niche platforms or channels that resonate better with their specific audience, considering the unique appeal of rural settings.
  4. Rural DMOs should anticipate and address challenges related to data and privacy. The impending changes in data privacy policies, such as Google’s deprecation of third-party cookies, require rural destinations to plan for alternative data collection methods and prioritize obtaining first-party data.

Given the focus on sustainability and inclusivity, rural DMOs should actively engage with their local communities. Involving local businesses, promoting economic diversity, and addressing accessibility concerns can contribute to a more holistic and community-driven marketing approach.

In summary, rural DMOs can learn from the broader trends outlined in the article by tailoring strategies to their unique contexts. Embracing technology, being mindful of economic factors, and aligning with environmental and social priorities can position rural destinations for success in the evolving landscape of destination marketing.

Community Surveys Strengthen Tourism Marketing Plans

Destination Ann Arbor launched a new initiative to create a comprehensive marketing plan aimed at strengthening public awareness of Washtenaw County as a travel destination. This effort follows an online public survey conducted by the tourism nonprofit in partnership with MMGY, a destination marketing firm. The survey, available to residents and workers in several communities, explores local travel experiences and preferences.

Chad Wiebesick, Director of Public Affairs at Destination Ann Arbor, highlights the importance of gathering insights from the survey responses. He references a previous community survey in 2017 that informed the organization’s strategic promotional strategy. Tourism is identified as a significant economic driver for Washtenaw County, ranking as the third-leading industry for jobs.

The article emphasizes the economic impact of tourism, with over six million visitors annually supporting thousands of jobs and contributing millions to the local economy. The timing of the survey aligns with changes in community dynamics influenced by events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Destination Ann Arbor aims to understand and highlight the strengths and unique offerings of each community within Washtenaw County. Wiebesick emphasizes the importance of promoting each community differently to showcase its distinctiveness, contributing to the overall appeal of the county as a travel destination.

For rural DMOs, Destination Ann Arbor’s initiative is important to note as it underscores the significance of community engagement, understanding local strengths, and promoting the unique aspects of each area. By involving residents in shaping tourism strategies, Destination Ann Arbor aims to build a more inclusive and appealing destination, recognizing the diversity within the county and leveraging it as a collective strength. This approach can serve as a model for rural destinations seeking to enhance their visibility and attractiveness to visitors. For some more examples of community engagement, check out this article.

This DMO Utilized Heritage Tourism to Transform a Region

Rivers of Steel, a Homestead-based nonprofit, supported the economic revitalization of an eight-county region in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Established during the collapse of the steel industry, Rivers of Steel aimed to improve economic opportunities in former mill and coal towns while preserving the unique cultural heritage of these communities. The organization pioneered industrial tourism by blending economic and preservation objectives.

Rivers of Steel’s approach involves storytelling, interpretation, and industrial preservation to create a sense of place. The organization strategically focused on saving historic industrial sites, such as the Carrie Blast Furnaces. Over the years, it expanded its efforts, collaborating with partners to change how the region’s rivers were perceived and used, opening up riverfronts and building trails.

Rivers of Steel’s various initiatives, including Heritage Tours, use collaborative partnerships with artists for creative placemaking, and community-building projects like Murals on a Mission and Homestead Live Fridays. In 2023, the organization awarded mini grants to nonprofits and communities, hosted events at historic attractions, and collaborated on programs and exhibitions.

Rural DMOs can learn from Rivers of Steel’s approach to heritage tourism by considering these themes:

  1. Diversifying Strategies Beyond Preservation

Rivers of Steel’s evolution from a focus on industrial preservation to incorporating storytelling, arts, and community engagement showcases the importance of diversifying strategies. Heritage tourism DMOs should consider a holistic approach that goes beyond preserving historic sites. Incorporating storytelling, creative placemaking, and community events can enhance the overall visitor experience and contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of the region. DMOs can explore a range of initiatives that showcase the unique aspects of their heritage.

2. Exploring Creative Economy Initiatives

The introduction of Rivers of Steel’s “Partners for Creative Economy” program highlights the potential of integrating creative initiatives into heritage tourism. DMOs can explore opportunities to support local artists, designers, and creative projects that contribute to the region’s identity. Initiatives such as creative leadership programs, collaborative marketing efforts, and workforce training can enhance the creative economy and make towns more appealing to visitors. DMOs should consider creative collaborations that align with the cultural heritage of the region and contribute to economic sustainability.

Overall, the article emphasizes Rivers of Steel’s commitment to collaboration as a foundational element in achieving its mission. The organization’s multifaceted strategies, including storytelling, preservation, tourism, and creative partnerships, contribute to the economic and cultural revitalization of Southwestern Pennsylvania communities, marking them as pioneers in the field of collaborative regional development.

Market Your Whole Region, Not Just a Single Amenity

When visitors are planning a trip to a destination, there’s one simple truth: a destination with multiple attractions always sounds more exciting than a destination with one attraction. And with the right strategy, your destination can meet their expectations, too.

It can be easy for DMOs to fall into the habit of promoting only one attraction or amenity. But doing so isn’t the best use of your marketing budget because your destination has a lot to offer all kinds of visitors. By promoting your region’s historical attractions, you can open up a whole new demographic of visitors to your destination.

By marketing your restaurants, breweries, wineries and cafes, you can reach travelers who are chasing down their next flavor. Whatever you have to offer, there’s a visitor who is interested in making it a part of their getaway. Promoting your whole area offers the opportunity to market to all kinds of visitors so that your stakeholders and local economy will benefit.
Before settling on a marketing strategy with a limited promotions calendar, consider all your amenities and attractions and begin marketing them together as a whole experience. Your visitors will be blown away by how many things your area has to offer, coming back again and again in order to try them all.

  • Paige Schamberg

    Content Production Manager at Bull Moose Marketing. A lover of literature and a sunshine enthusiast who probably drinks too much tea. Connect with me on LinkedIn @paigeschamberg

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