Over the last year, destination organizations around the world have had to adapt and pivot in response to COVID-19. For many destinations, however, it has also been an unexpected – if not entirely welcome – opportunity to reassess their approaches and recalibrate their strategies. As the saying goes, adversity is often the catalyst for change. 

And while the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to shape and be felt by the tourism industry for years to come, we can make a few predictions for how the events of the last year will impact destination marketing in 2021. 

"When everything seems to be against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it."
- Henry Ford

DMOS will focus on smaller, more targeted campaigns.

Many DMOs have had their resources dramatically reduced, and these limited resources will influence how they execute their marketing activities in 2021. This is a year for efficiency and results, not big numbers that don’t drive the visitor economy. For most destinations, the focus will be on smaller, more frequent marketing campaigns that are more targeted and focused.  

Related to this, DMOs will evolve how they evaluate campaign success by shifting from big vanity metrics such as reach and impressions toward metrics that contribute directly to the visitor economy.

Increase in authentic and sustainable travel

The COVID-19 pandemic will change how consumers book and experience travel. The vaccine brings optimism of a return to our normal day-to-day lives and travel, however, travelers are still likely to be wary of crowded locations, destinations and attractions. 

The economic fallout of the pandemic has been widely communicated and this will influence travel behaviors. This will increase consumer awareness of how they travel and where they spend. This year, consumers will make small changes to their travel plans by choosing travel experiences off the beaten path and more intentionally supporting small businesses. 

DMOs redefine their stakeholder landscape

The pandemic has also made DMOs to rethink how they define stakeholders. As travel was reduced, DMOs had to pivot and find new ways to demonstrate value to their community. 

For example:
  • Some DMOs ran campaigns promoting local restaurants for take-out and delivery options.
  • Others such as Austin, Texas used their resources to provide a virtual platform for musicians and entertainers.
  • While other destinations like Irving, Texas shifted their focus from meeting sales to leisure. 

2020 forced DMOs to think beyond the traditional tourism models and find new ways of adding value to their communities. This type of thinking is contagious and we expect DMOs to continue to remain relevant by expanding their stakeholder definitions and working with new partners. 

Those are some of the predictions we have for 2021. Do you agree? We’d love to hear some of your predictions.