The DMO Download

A weekly digest on economic development and cultural, heritage tourism news.

Rural America’s Population Is Growing

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This week, we’re talking about rural America’s population increase, how TikTok is coming out on top as an influencer for travel, the latest American traveler sentiment data and how to market to value-based visitors. Check it out!

Rural America Is Growing Again According to Latest Data

Census population data indicates that populations in rural areas of the United States are increasing. An article from the University of New Hampshire reported that one third of “nonmetro counties” gained more residents from 2020-2021. The source of this growth? Net migration.

Rural America has been experiencing a significant drop in population since 2010. This natural decrease, which means there are more deaths than births, was exacerbated during the pandemic with a 20% increase in rural deaths and a whole 5% drop in births. But, net migration (more people moving to a region) is preventing many areas from experiencing a drop in population since 2020. Instead, the population grew by 77,000 residents, growing even more than urban areas.

With the availability of more remote work, the low cost of living in small towns and a plethora of outdoor amenities to enjoy, rural towns and regions are holding a strong appeal to those who are used to paying exorbitant costs in urban areas. According to some experts, seasonal visitors are more likely to have contributed to population growth in these areas. While it still remains to be seen if this trend will continue, it’s important for rural economic development authorities and DMOs to take note. Hopefully the trend will continue, but if tapers off, then now is the time to act.

TikTok Chips Away at Google’s Dominance in Travel Discovery

TikTok was all the rage last year in tourism, and in 2023, it’s back again for an encore… especially now that more users are turning to TikTok for travel inspiration than Google. Now, as the 3rd-largest social media platform with 750 million users, it’s even harder to turn a blind eye to the promotion possibilities. Approximately 34% of travelers were influenced by TikTok last year, which is an increase from 2021, according to an annual survey by MMGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing agency.

“Early decision-making is where a lot of our respondents talk about how TikTok influences their decision of where to go and where to stay, whereas Google […] has moved down in some ways,” said MMGY Global CEO Clayton Reid.

TikTok’s algorithm rewards creativity and innovation, allowing videos from even small accounts to go viral. The video format also creates a sense of authenticity which, paired with appealing visions of your area, can persuade the viewer to plan a visit to your destination. Learn more about the benefits of TikTok from this DMO Download. With short video content as king for consumers, it’s important to set time and budget aside to take advantage of these digital opportunities.

Cities Are Back On Visitors’ Trip Plans and More

In light of the new year, Destination Analysts released a new report on American travel sentiment. Cities have historically been the most visited places by tourists, second only to beach destinations, but were largely avoided due to Covid-19 concerns. Now, they’re back at the top of visitors’ trip plans. Despite cities getting back on the must-visit list, there are some concerns over safety and crime that urban DMOs should note.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistics:

  • Twenty percent of all travelers feel that American cities will become more dangerous and unmanageable places to visit this year. The segments that reported this includes:
    • 24% of Boomers
    • 22% of those living in rural areas
    • 24% of those with disabilities or travel with someone with a disability
  • Thirty-nine percent of Americans rated their excitement to visit cities as an 8 or higher on a 10-point scale
  • Twenty-six percent of travelers say they will prioritize visiting large cities in the next 12 months

This is important data for urban DMOs. Your visitors want to explore your city, but are concerned about their safety. Think about what efforts you can make to encourage a safer environment within your city. How can you promote your safety measures through marketing? Keeping this at the forefront of your marketing strategy this year can put you ahead of the competition.

DMOs Have Opportunities to Market To Value-based Travelers

Value-based tourism has grown in popularity since the pandemic, making it important for DMOs to learn how to market to this segment of visitors. This audience wants to see value and sustainability built into their travel experience. This means DMOs need to consider the environmental, economic and community-wide effects of tourism in the area and how they can best market to potential visitors. Here are 3 opportunities DMOs can take advantage of when it comes to planning value-based marketing campaigns:

  1. Understand what value-based tourists prefer to do. Someone interested in the local economy may prefer to shop local over shopping at a strip mall. By connecting with the specifics of this audience prefers, DMOs can best communicate the offerings and activities that fit.
  2. Make sure everyone is included. Communities are wonderful and diverse places, so make sure you’re highlighting all of the ways that visitors can enjoy and learn from your destination.
  3. Feature the local culture and heritage. Value-based travelers want to know about your community and look forward to having an authentic experience. Be strategic and creative about how visitors can experience what makes your community unique.

Value-based tourists want real experiences. That means DMOs need to use marketing to build a story that tells exactly how visitors can get up close and personal with your destination.

  • 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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