For most destinations, a portion of bed tax revenue comes from visitors who are “just driving through.” We want to believe that the majority of bed taxes are being collected from people who set out to visit your destination and have made a conscious choice to stay with you. But for many DMOs, the percentage “driving through” is often higher than many DMOs realize. The opportunity you could be taking advantage of with this segment of visitors is to more fully leverage those “drive-through” visitors.
Let’s look at 3 drive-through visitor opportunities:
Capitalize on spending power
The shopping opportunities that usually appeal to the leisure traveler are often the local boutiques and businesses with limited hours. Drive-through travelers that plan to overnight are often not in town during regular business hours, but those retailers would likely appeal to them as well.
So, identify five to seven local retailers in your destination’s central business district (the area of town you want all visitors to visit). Network with these retailers to develop and curate a schedule so at least one of your signature retailers is open in your retail district until 9:00 PM each night of the week. Encourage them all to “dress” and light their front windows. Then work with your local accommodations providers (likely properties close to the main travel routes through or around your destination) to send drive-through visitors to this district. Once this drive-through visitor is exposed to all the opportunities to consume in your “cute” town, they are more likely to re-visit. Don’t forget your big-box stores which generally have longer and more regular hours as they may also encourage drive-through visitors to shop, which then generates more local tax dollars.
Convert into repeat visitors
Oftentimes, if someone is driving through, they are also going to be coming back through. Are you reaching out to every visitor with a “here’s some things you can do the next time you are in town” message? Develop a list of 5 to 10 (of your most compelling) reasons to visit your destination and use it as an invitation to come back again.
Create ambassadors for your city
If visitors have a great experience while they are in your city or if they think there is a lot to do, they will tell others. Revisit that list of 5 - 10 of your most compelling reasons to visit your destination (see above). Put that list into a beautiful graphic visitors can link to on their social media or forward from an email.
Make sure to also look at threats that may be facing these drive-through visitors. Become aware of issues that may be perceived negatively by visitors and then make efforts to minimize those threats. Is signage clear and easy to read? Even at night? Are the streets well lit? Is parking a challenge? Are panhandlers harassing visitors? These things matter
, because let’s face it, if they have a bad experience then they will have a negative opinion. Telling everyone they know how awful your destination was is quite the opposite of the ambassador you want.
if you have other ideas about how to leverage drive-through visitors, we would be interested to hear your thoughts.