Key Elements of a Destination, Part 2: Accommodations

By Victoria Belton

Key Elements of a Destination, Part 2: Accommodations

In the second installment of this series, we take a look at the role accommodations play in managing visitor expectations and contributing to the local economy of a destination.

This blog has been updated here.

Whether it's for business, leisure or bleisure travel, regardless of why visitors have chosen your destination for their next trip, tourism experts agree that there are fundamental expectations your destination must meet in order for visitors to recommend their experience to others and to return to your destination with friends or family. These key elements are often referred to as the 5 A’s: Access, Accommodations, Attractions, Activities, and Amenities. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will cover each element in full.

In the first installment of our five-part series, we discussed what it means for your destination to be accessible. If you would like, you can catch up on accessible tourism here before moving onto the second A — Accommodations.

Key Element: Accommodations

Being aware of the quantity and quality of the accommodation options in your destination is a pretty straightforward expectation of a DMO. Visitors often look to a DMO's website (and sometimes social channels) to assess their best options for overnight stays in your city and frequently follow up directly with accommodations-related questions. And in addition to visitors wanting to know where to stay, stakeholders, business leaders, members of local government, and residents should also be aware of how many overnight stays visitors generate per year and how much impact these guests have on the economy of your city.

What do visitors expect from your accommodations?

More and more often, visitors want to feel as though they are a part of your community when they visit, and accommodations play a big part in fostering feelings of belonging. Taking a page out of AirBnB’s book, hotels have begun offering insider tips intended to help guests feel like locals, contributing to the overall industry shift towards “authentic” travel experiences.

It’s not just younger travelers who are driving this trend. Older travelers are increasingly expressing interest in cultural immersion and escaping mundane routines. And visitors seeking unique experiences are often more willing to invest more in the accommodations they’re staying in throughout their trip for the promise of new and unique experiences.

However, keep in mind that travelers aren’t always looking for the local experience, and accommodations need to balance this deliverable with the needs and interests of their guests. Consider accommodations like The Greenbrier in White Sulfur Springs, Blackberry Farm outside of Knoxville or an ocean-view condo on the beach. Most visitors who stay in these accommodations aren’t seeking that “live like a local” experience. These accommodations are both accommodation and attraction in their own right.

Your destination may not have accommodations of this magnitude, but you likely have a vibrant downtown, a shopping-centric area or an entertainment district with multiple overnight options. Consider listing your accommodations based on location and what’s available in the vicinity to appeal to various travelers, and make sure to highlight options outside of the mainstream go-to’s.

Also pay attention to how you promote your accommodations, and make it as easy as possible for visitors to find what’s available in your area. This may seem rudimentary, but ensuring that the listings on your website and in your visitor guide are categorized by type, contain relevant contact and booking information, and are potentially grouped in areas or districts can also help visitors sort out the "where to stay" component of their trip.

Overnight stays contribute to your local economy.

One of the biggest frustrations we often hear from DMOs related to their destination management role is their inherent inability to influence the quality or management of the accommodations in their area. However, what the DMO can influence is the awareness that local stakeholders have related to the impact of tourism and travel in their own communities. A STR 7-year trend report is a great resource to calculate some solid, reportable economic impact metrics. One illustration can be computed with this formula: the total number of viable rooms within the geographic boundaries of the DMO X 365 (days in a year) X the average annual % occupancy rate. This will essentially give you the number of room nights that were sold in your destination for the prior full year. Then, if you multiply this number of room nights sold X the ADR (Average Daily Rate) those rooms were sold for, you will get the approximate amount of money that visitors spent in your community on just the accommodations portion of their stay. From there, the approximate amount of additional sales tax and accommodations taxes that visitors paid while overnighting in your community can also be estimated. All of these numbers are often MUCH larger than most stakeholders realize and are a great way to illustrate the economic impact that visitors to your community are having on an annual basis.

The 7-year trend report will also help you better understand your city's peak and shoulder seasons as well as occupancy by night of the week. Understanding these trends can provide invaluable insight into how to better market your destination to grow your overall annual occupancy levels.

In addition to these numbers, take some time to research what visitors are saying about the accommodations options in your city. Sites like TripAdvisor, Facebook and even Reddit can provide valuable insights into what accommodations providers in your destination are doing right and what they can improve on. In the event that visitors are sharing more negative experiences than positive ones, there are steps your DMO can take to reshape the narrative by encouraging more positive conversations about your destination. You can learn more about that here.

Taking all of what you have learned from the accommodations data and the visitor analysis, you can merge this understanding with information you’ve previously identified related to the target markets in your Marketing Action Plan to increase the number and duration of annual overnight stays.

And, if you’re not entirely certain how to do all of this number crunching and analysis, you don’t have a Marketing Action Plan to begin with, or you would simply like to carry on the conversation from the point where you are today, please reach out to me at