The DMO Download

A weekly digest for those who market and manage destinations.

Not All Tourists Are Looking for Sunshine


Don’t Be Scared, We’ve Got Some Great Resources for You!

Happy belated Halloween! We’ve got a collection of interesting stories for you this week. Read about dark tourism, holiday travel projections, Australia’s new brand ambassador and so much more. Check it out!

‘Dark’ Tourists Ditch the Beaches for Gloomy and Spooky Destinations

Not all travelers are looking for sunshine and happiness. Some travelers, called “dark” tourists, prefer visiting locations associated with death, tragedy and the macabre. While it might sound like sensationalism, many of these tourists choose these dark destinations as a way to better understand the “harsh realities of current political turmoil, climate calamities, war and the growing threat of authoritarianism.” Tired of a “sanitized” perspective on the world, these tourists aren’t afraid of coming face-to-face with strife and death.

Jodie Joyce, who handles the contracts for a genome sequencing company in England and has visited Chernobyl and North Korea, puts it this way: “When the whole world is on fire and flooded and no one can afford their energy bills, lying on a beach at a five-star resort feels embarrassing.”

People’s interest in the dark side of the world goes as far back as the Colosseum and Salem witch trials and it hasn’t faded. While destinations don’t need to feed into fear and paranoia, offering a transparent, informational perspective on the more challenging times in your destination’s history might be a great way to attract this type of tourist. Even tourists who aren’t looking for this kind of experience might be willing to engage in a ghost tour or cemetery tour around Halloween.

While it’s important to be honest about your destination’s role in history, it’s even more important to be sensitive to the families and survivors/victims of these tragedies. Make sure you are mindful of how this information is presented to visitors, being sure to find the line between entertaining and ethical. Despite the challenges, offering opportunities for visitors to engage with the darker side of history can also be immensely rewarding. Tours and exhibitions about these difficult periods of history can present important questions about right and wrong, provide insight into the human experience, offer ways to prevent similar tragedies in the future and cultivate empathy for victims.

Only 30 Percent of Americans Planned Holiday Travel: What Does This Mean for Destinations?

Despite 2022 being heralded as travel’s return to normalcy, a survey from Deloitte reports some concerning data for holiday travel. Only 30% of respondents said that they will be traveling between Thanksgiving and mid-January, which is down by 12% compared to 2021. On top of that, 40% of respondents who are not traveling said their financial situation is worse than last year.

“In-person interactions are still a high priority for many this year, but certain households are being more challenged by rising inflation. That paired with service disruptions that occurred over the summer has a heavy influence on demand for this holiday season,” said Deloitte Vice Chair Mike Daher.

While this does sound like discouraging news, it also reveals some opportunities for DMOs to show empathy for their audience. Knowing what your travelers are going through puts you in a unique position to offer them some understanding in their situations. Acknowledging travelers’ difficult financial situation this year and offering alternatives can make your destination’s marketing tactics stand out from the crowd. Offering special giveaways, discounts or even tips on how to make the best of a staycation can make your message resonate with your audience.

Don’t be afraid to provide helpful travel information, even if it’s not explicitly promoting your destination. Offering a helping hand may not provide an immediate conversion, but can lay the groundwork for a loyal visitor moving forward.

Check Out Australia’s Newest and Cutest Brand Ambassador

Australia is launching its first global campaign in six years and this time, the country is introducing a new brand ambassador: Ruby. This CGI-animated kangaroo is exploring all of Australia’s hidden gems and iconic landmarks with her toy unicorn Louie, showing the world everything the country has to offer.

“Using a CGI character as a brand ambassador was a deliberate move on our part to cut through the clutter of destination marketing. Being an animated character, Ruby is versatile and able to live across all marketing platforms and channels, and across all languages,” explained Brent Anderson, regional general manager of South & Southeast Asia, Tourism Australia.

Ruby is a cute addition to Tourism Australia’s strategy, but she also serves a deeper purpose. This campaign will also promote more of a focus on Aboriginal culture and history. More visitors are looking for the real, authentic stories of the destinations they’re visiting, giving Australia a unique opportunity to highlight the special heritage of their Aboriginal people. In addition to iconic amenities such as the Sydney Opera House and coral reefs, Ruby will be stopping by key Aboriginal locations and cultural sites to shed light on all the immersive, educational experiences they can offer the world.

While Australia is a large destination with an abundance of resources, that doesn’t mean smaller, more rural destinations and heritage areas can’t learn from their new marketing approach. Tourism Australia leaned on basic branding techniques when creating this campaign. Using visual cues, the destination’s brand was re-established by introducing Ruby. Kangaroos are a huge part of Australia’s brand identity, allowing them to capitalize on this perception and create a character that will continually be associated with their destination. Read more about destination branding basics in our on-demand webinar.

These 5 Heritage Tourism Website Elements Increase Your Digital Presence and Elevate Your Brand

Having a digital presence with an effective website is essential to attracting visitors to your destination. A good website lets you build credibility and showcase the unique aspects of your destination. There are five ways to make your heritage tourism website stand out from the crowd:

  1. Understand and communicate the unique selling points of your destination.
  2. Develop a clear brand for your heritage area.
  3. Work on creating a good user experience.
  4. Use high-quality photography to showcase your destination.
  5. Connect your heritage site to the community.

Having an informative website is a vital part of your marketing strategy to communicate your destination’s brand. This is where curious visitors will first be introduced to your community and what it has to offer, so it’s important your website hits all the right notes. Implementing these five elements will help wow visitors long before they arrive at your destination. If you’re interested in learning more about branding and why it’s important for your destination, check out our on-demand webinar or read more about destination websites here.

Tips for Maintaining Positive Stakeholder Relationships

Whether your destination is a small town or a heritage area that covers multiple states, building and maintaining positive stakeholder relationships is vital for a successful organization. Engaging your stakeholders correctly can form them into champions of your heritage and tourism initiatives. Check out a few key steps we pulled from this helpful article:

  • Identify and prioritize the relationships that are essential. These are stakeholders who have a vested interest in the project and will be affected by the project’s outcomes.
  • Clearly communicate the project scope to stakeholders. Tell them how you will communicate the project’s progress and be clear about how your stakeholders’ input will be considered.
  • Meet personally with stakeholders who are resistant to change. Take time to listen to their concerns about the project and, while some things may be nonnegotiable, explore where you can compromise.

Transparency, clarity, and trust are staples of any successful relationship. Make sure you are finding ways to exercise these values with your stakeholders frequently, not just because you want their support, but because you genuinely want to know how you can serve them better. Your role as a DMO or a heritage area is to make sure your community is connected, collaborative and profitable. Don’t forget this mission as you navigate your community relationships and plan your projects.

  • 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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