Going Global: Increasing Your Share of International Visitors
With the sagging dollar and struggling economy, many foreign visitors are seeing the United States as an affordable vacation option. Last year there were 47 million international tourists that traveled to the US, spending over $131 billion.

How do you increase your destination’s share of this audience without breaking the bank? Consider these quick website enhancements:

1) Multiple Languages—Not only will this make it easier for potential visitors to learn about your destination, it will also help to increase your SEO. For example, if you have a French language page, when someone searches for “American Beach Destinations” in French, your website is more likely to rank high in their search engine. Most destinations are not offering--let alone optimizing--their websites in other languages, making it a ripe opportunity. Which languages should you consider? Spanish should be a standard second language to accommodate the many visitors coming from Mexico, Spain, Columbia, Venezuela and other Spanish speaking countries. Research also shows an uptick in visitor travel from France, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, and Germany.

2) Currency Tool—Make it easy for international visitors to plan and budget for their trip with a currency conversion tool. Besides the convenience factor, such a tool has the potential to increase word of mouth buzz and increase loyalty to your website.

3) Videos—Many destinations have videos highlighting their area and its features, but few have them in multiple languages. If your video currently has a voice over, it would be fairly economical to change or add another voice over in a second language or implement captioning otherwise.

4) Travel Provider Integration Tool—These tools, such as Travelocity, can give potential visitors a quick way to check the prices and availability of your destination. 5) Offer “American-Culture” Packages—Many tourists come to the US seeking to learn about our culture and heritage. Why not put together an “All-American” or “American-Culture” package? This will not only lure potential travelers but spotlight your partners as well.

Conventions: Budget Proof? Recession Proof?
Many experts and CVB officials say that conventions today are a mixed bag and it’s too early to predict the economy’s effect on them. For example, San Francisco had 841,000 rooms already booked in January for 2009 convention-goers. That figure is down from the 992,000 rooms in 2008, but up significantly from 2007 numbers. At the same time, public perception and media attention plays a part in areas like Las Vegas, where the numbers are declining more rapidly due to public backlash for businesses spending lavishly during this tough economic climate. What does this all mean for destination marketers that rely on the infusion of spending from convention-goers? Continue to position your offerings as value-driven. Proactively offer counsel to planners to help them control costs and expand value. Create team building elements or extra excitement that will keep attendees buzzing and the value of such future conventions evident. As long as conventions provide value to convention-goers and business, people will continue to attend.

Thinking Differently: Promotions that Pop in a Down Economy
The same packages and promotions that you once thought of as ‘tried and true’ are now ‘out of touch.’ It’s time to think differently.

What are some of your area’s features that are attractive to today’s cost conscious travelers?

: No matter where you are, you surely have outdoor landscape that can be promoted. Whether it is mountains, rivers, lakes, beaches or National Forests, getting out into nature is either very inexpensive or free for travelers. Look into putting together marketing efforts or packages that center around these fairly inexpensive outdoor activities.

Public Attractions: Zoos, museums, public parks, and historical attractions are examples of publicly funded places that can provide a day’s worth of activity for a small price. Combine a few of these in a budget-friendly package with some dining options and you’re well on your way.

Vice: Liquor and tobacco sales rise actually rise in a down economy. Do you have a district or street filled with pubs and other late night stops? Now is the time to put a little more focus on it.

Economical: Shopping, dining and dressing economically is THE hot thing right now, and for good reason. People are looking to cut back on where they dine out, what they wear and what they buy. Feature your local outlet malls, your more budget-friendly restaurants and other stores that are a little easier on the wallet.

Promote Green: Travelers are showing a propensity to spend their green on green. A survey by the Hartman Group shows that 75% of consumers consider environmental aspects in deciding what to buy and about one-third are willing to pay more for those benefits. Do you have green focused initiatives, tours or packages? If not, now is a fantastic time to consider them.

To Blog or not to Blog: That is the Question
Nearly one-third of U.S. leisure travelers who used a DMO website in the last year have turned to travel related blogs for information and reviews. What does this mean to your marketing efforts? To start, a travel blog is a unique, personal narrative of a person’s adventures and experiences in relation to a certain destination. They are powerful because they offer honest opinions and insight from “regular people.” Blogs can also lead to increased web traffic and SEO benefits. While the openness and real insight is what attracts people to blogs, they are also the attributes that blog-detractors point to. Yes, blogs are subjective and you will find critiques of you or your partners that may not be favorable. Rather than a cause for alarm, these communications should be looked at as valuable feedback and a line of open communication. Further, the negative comments and posts are almost always heavily outweighed by positive experiences.

When considering adding a travel blog, evaluate:

• Who will maintain, update and monitor the blog?

• What will be the blog policy—will we allow all posts and comments and if not, what are the grounds for removal?

• Are we prepared to deal with questions we may receive from partners or other stakeholders who may be the target of harsh critique?

Travel blogs that are properly maintained can be a great asset to a destination’s website, but addressing the above questions and consulting experts familiar with the blogosphere can give you a better idea of policies, direction and useful functions.

Social Media: The Two Key Elements
**A comprehensive look at the topic of social media will be provided in simpleview’s next whitepaper, scheduled for release to coincide with the simpleview CVB Summit, held April 26-29th in Tucson, Ariz. The whitepaper will be available for download at simpelviewinc.com. Whether you are overwhelmed, confused, or energized by “social media,” one thing is for certain: it’s here to stay. Of the 19 million online US leisure travelers who use DMO and CVB websites, two-thirds are already engaging in some sort of social media activity. Increase your destination’s visibility with social media by taking into account: 1) Strategy: Should we use Twitter, Facebook or include podcasts on the website? Don’t just sign up and create usernames for the latest application. Instead, look at your targeted demographics and choose social media outlets that are the best fit. For example, the average user age of Twitter is older than you may expect with 41% falling into the 18-34 age range, 31% falling into the 35-49 age range and only one percent falling from the 12-17 range. In contrast, myspace.com has 29% of users who are 12-17. The next step is determining who will be charged with creating and maintaining your social media efforts. Who or what department in your organization has the bandwidth to handle such duties? Is it more prudent to hire an outside source to handle your social media activities? 2) Diligence: Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind with social media is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Really, it is exactly the same as business networking in the offline world except with more outlets and people to touch. However, once the ball gets rolling, it can snowball. One example of this is Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation’s (GPTMC) blog promotion, in which it sponsored “First Fridays” art crawl. At the events they started on-site blogging for participants. While early response was low, after a few months it has surpassed 1,000 postings and has forty regular community contributors. From this effort they were able to host a two-day conference called “Blog Philadelphia,” which has led to people both in Philadelphia and around the globe to continuously blog and broadcast about the area.