The DMO Download
A weekly digest on economic development and cultural, heritage tourism news.
These Are The Best Tourism Websites in the World
These DMO Resources Will Pique Your Interest
As you plan for 2023, it’s the perfect time to gain some insight into the latest trends and stories in the world of heritage tourism. This week, we dive into how one DMO demonstrated its regional value, what we can learn from Richmond’s new tourism improvement district proposition, a new bike trail that will span the U.S. and so much more. Keep reading!
Introducing the Great American Rail Trail
Once completed, the Great American Rail Trail will be the longest bike trail in the United States, spanning 3700 miles from the state of Washington to Washington, D.C. The long-term project, spearheaded by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, is already underway and 2000 miles are finished. The final trail will run through 12 states including the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington State. Currently, the trail will be 80% off-road and separated from vehicle traffic, but the ultimate goal is to transition the entire trail away from roads altogether.
Around 50 million Americans will be living within a 50-mile radius of the trail, not only making the trail accessible to residents but also making their communities accessible to the bikers. With biking becoming one of the most popular outdoor activities in the country, there is a lot of tourism potential for the communities in these states. It’s estimated that the trail will cost around $1 billion to complete, but the cost could be offset by visitors spending around the trail in just five years from completion. This presents very exciting opportunities for destinations along the trail and may offer paths toward economic development.
Oregon Heritage Organizations Show Economic, Social Value
The Oregon Heritage Commission released a report that it says demonstrates the significant economic value of Oregon’s heritage organizations and traditions. Using pre-pandemic data, the commission determined that heritage organizations and tourism support $343 million in total economic activity for Oregon each year. Heritage tourism also supported a total of 1,325 jobs for Oregonians.
According to Oregon Heritage Commission Coordinator Katie Henry, institutions and events present a social and cultural impact in addition to their economic benefits.
“Shared stories that bring the community together, preserving important stories and bringing forth important stories about our history,” said Henry. “Having difficult conversations together as a community and engaging the community. The volunteer-ship is pretty critical in heritage organizations,” said Henry.
This proof to heritage and tourism organizations that your value can be demonstrated. The roles these types of organizations play in their communities is an important one, leading to improved quality of life and driving economic growth. If your destination hasn’t taken the time to demonstrate its mark on the region, it’s important to start the process. Not only will this be proof to funders of your credibility, but also show stakeholders and your community that you are worth believing in. Learn more about demonstrating credibility here.
Richmond Proposes a Tourism Improvement District
Richmond, Virginia could see a Tourism Improvement District soon which would tack on an additional 2% fee on hotel rooms over the next decade. Richmond Region Tourism expects that the bed tax increase could bring in about $8.2 million in just the first year, allowing for more marketing efforts and could attract more high-profile events to the area.
The new district would affect all hotels and other lodging properties containing 41 or more rooms. For the plan to succeed, each locality in and around Richmond must agree with it. Richmond Region Tourism will propose the idea to each locality in hopes for approval. Once approved, the plan could give the area’s tourism industry a big boost in pandemic recovery.
“Our hotel community really sees this as an opportunity time to make a bigger investment. There’s still room to grow. There’s still space in the hotels,” said Katherine O’Donnell, Richmond Region Tourism’s executive vice president.
Since the pandemic, the visible economic contribution of DMOs was noticed by many destinations — particularly with smaller markets. Funding for DMOs in these markets is a constant challenge and destinations that aren’t funded by a hotel bed tax typically struggle the most. While ARPA funds are a great short-term help, it’s not a sustainable solution. While DMOs have already been exploring new revenue models before the Covid pandemic, more stable options such as Tourism Improvement Districts are getting more attention.
Learn From the Best Tourism Websites in the World
Keeping up with visitors’ digital expectations is no easy task, but having a reliable, attractive website can make a difference. It’s imperative that your website captures your brand and is easy to navigate, giving your users a positive and accurate first impression of who your destination is. If it’s time to reevaluate your destination’s website, take some time to look at other DMO websites for inspiration. A good place to start is with Skift’s list of the top ten best-designed tourism websites in the world. We listed the top four below:
1. Visit Iceland – Influenced by the clean, minimalist style of Nordic design, this website has dynamic features that make the website feel alive and inviting, while also allowing visitors to quickly navigate through their options.
2. Visit California – One quick swipe from the homepage and you’re smoothly redirected to a landing page that allows visitors to explore everything the state has to offer. Paired with unique visuals and user-generated content, this is a must in any DMO’s website research.
3. Zurich Tourism – This city in Switzerland is notable for its clever use of white space and simplistic layout. Another unique feature is its user-generated content landing page which acts as a social media feed, allowing visitors to easily access all its social coverage in one glance.
4. Visit Brazil – Full of highly dynamic visuals and separated into just four categories (Experiences, Destinations, Regions and Travel Information), this website keeps visitors engaged while making their content easily accessible.
Are You Ready to Start Building a New Website? Read This First
Websites are an essential component for DMOs. Your website is the first introduction that some visitors will have to your destination, so first impressions matter. Creating a website doesn’t always have to be a tedious process, it can also be rewarding and provide opportunities for you to establish your goals and brand. So, when do you know if it’s time to build a new website for your DMO?
Before writing the first line of code, there are some questions you need to ask:
- Is your current website bringing visitors to your destination?
- Does it represent the brand of your destination?
- Does it help prospective visitors find the information they need?
- Is your website running quickly and efficiently?
- Is the content up-to-date?
- Do you feel comfortable sending visitors and stakeholders to your website?
If you answered no to any of these questions, then it may be time to start considering building a website or updating your current one.
When creating a new website, it is important to take into account how much time will need to be invested in its creation. A typical website may take up to three months to create, but with DMOs it takes up to six months or more. This is because it is essential that the content on your website is relevant and enticing to your visitors, as well as the layout and formatting being easy to navigate. The length of time it took to create the website will directly translate into how curated your website will be to your destination and how much visitors will trust the content you are putting out.
The number one goal of DMO websites is to take their visitors through the visitors journey. Your visitors are looking for a platform that they can trust when it comes to planning their trip, which is why it’s essential to create a quality website that will work seamlessly for the benefit of your destination. To learn more about what to consider when building a new website, check out our interview with our lead web developer, Nuno Faustino.