What Does It Take to Tempt Today’s Savvy Travelers?

A Few Simple Rules of Content Marketing for DMOs

As the economy slowly lurches forward in its recovery, it’s an exciting time to watch consumers get back to family vacations, longer-haul destinations, and more splurging on experiences. But just like in other industries, the travel industry’s “new normal” is a target market with a heightened sense of frugality and an emboldened DIY approach to travel planning.

And who can blame them – tools like Uber, Airbnb, HotelTonight, Kayak.com/explore, Google and many others have revolutionized the way consumers travel – and the way they plan.

Understanding that we’ve long since moved away from a traditional marketing funnel that views transactions as linear and finite, travel marketers today are scrambling to adapt to an environment that is complex, fast-moving and cluttered.

Destination marketing organizations and convention and visitors bureaus are learning that consumers won’t tolerate a something-for-everyone approach, and some simple rules resound for content marketing.

  • No Vacancy. Gone are the days in which a DMO’s primary goal was to organize and catalogue everything a city or state has to offer with very little emotional connection. Today, potential travelers don’t go looking for the vacant story of “what.” In fact, they hardly go looking at all. They expect to be found, entertained and inspired with stories tailor made to suit them, and stories that deliver the emotional “why.”
  • Trips Take People. Perhaps John Steinbeck said it best: “People don’t take trips. Trips take people.” As marketers, if we really believe that – and some of us do – our jobs will get easier as we shift our focus from being comprehensive and functional to being interesting.
  • Enlist (don’t create) influencers. With very few exceptions, influencers build their followings organically by being relevant, conversational and interesting in a way that promotional marketers can’t. Find influencers you can enlist to tell your story naturally without trying to pull any puppet strings. Today’s savvy consumers will know the difference.
  • Be a Change Agent. If your DMO’s marketing strategy looks similar to the strategy you had in place just five short years ago, you’re probably doing it wrong. Changes today are vast and sweeping, and in most cases, DMOs are chasing an invisible sale. If there’s something your website or CVB offers that can be eclipsed by a mainstream tool such as Google, Trip Advisor or a popular app…just stop it.
  • Help Wanted. Today’s travelers visit dozens of websites before they book a trip, and along the way they are constantly assaulted with marketing messages across various platforms. Many experts believe that traveler fatigue is contributing to renewed interest in travel agents, because human beings tend to “help” in a way technology cannot. Basic listening and answering questions across social channels is one of the most overlooked opportunities among DMO programs today.
  • Be Afraid. There has been a lot of chatter in the travel industry about the changing role and challenged relevance of the CVB. Maybe you’re confident in the value you bring and you laugh in the face of those who say DMOs will soon be obsolete. But you’ll probably produce better content and greater results if you believe that the cynics could be right.


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