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This past April at our Simpleview Summit, the first one in three years we’ve been able to hold in-person, I kept asking our clients the same question: what is your destination doing to recover? It was inspiring to finally get to spend time in person with so many brilliant tourism marketing minds, and at the end of the conference, one thing was clear. Business as usual isn’t going to cut it anymore.
Again and again, I heard stories of reevaluation and reinvention, of goals, metrics, and strategies shifting to meet the new needs of the new normal. One thing that kept coming up was the increasing importance of digital marketing. Travel organizations spent 63% of their budgets on digital advertising in 2020 and are expected to spend 70% by 2023. With people spending more time online than ever, digital promotion is one of the most important ways to reach potential visitors.
So what are the brilliant new ideas your fellow destination marketers are using to reset and improve their digital marketing efforts? Here are six ways DMOs are enhancing their digital marketing toolkits:
- Everything is up for grabs. Don’t assume your pre-pandemic goals, metrics, messaging, and targeting still apply. Start by looking at the data. Who are your web visitors, and how are they interacting with your content? Maybe there’s a new demographic segment interested in your destination and you need to rethink your visitor personas. Perhaps you need new messaging to emphasize your sustainable travel amenities or to account for local ordinances and restrictions. Or maybe it’s time to expand your geographic targeting beyond the drive market or internationally. Act like everything is up for grabs—because it is.
- Be post-pandemic appropriate. Exactly what that means will be different for every destination. Review current regulations and restrictions in your area and be considerate and compassionate, but don’t forget to project a sense of optimism and hope. Our data shows that images of people enjoying themselves outdoors do very well, while pictures of people in masks do less well. And it seems no one has the energy for faking it after these past two years, because travelers are responding better to authentic, casual, and personal messaging than ever before.
- Give the people what they want. The data is in, and it confirms what we all suspected. After a long pandemic, people are so excited to do things, eat things, attend things. Anything that gets them out of the house. The smart destination marketing organization (DMO) is making sure their things to do, dining, and events-related content is engaging and up to date, so their paid and organic web traffic will be more likely to convert into actual irl visitors.
- Cater to new ways of traveling. We all know travel will never be the same, so neither should your digital marketing efforts. AirDNA predicts the short-term rental industry’s revenue is projected to rise to $20 billion in 2025 and $113.9 billion by 2027. Why not take advantage of the increased interest in short-term rentals and set up a web directory with targeted Google Search ads? Or write a blog post full of staycation ideas? Or launch a display campaign targeting the new “work from anywhere” crowd? Take a look at Google trends for your area to gain insight into the new ways people are engaging with your destination, and then create a plan to reach them.
- Explore new channels. There’s no better time to branch out. By experimenting with new marketing channels like YouTube, Connected TV, and TikTok, you can reach potential visitors you’ve never reached before at a time the whole world is excited to start traveling again.
- Never rest on your laurels. The secret to any successful digital marketing strategy, now more than ever, is to continue to adjust your goals and tactics, and test ideas constantly. If we learned anything from the past two years, it’s that adaptation is key to survival. So keep a close eye on your key performance indicators, looking out for year-over-year and month-over-month changes that can help guide your DMO forward.