Through numerous surveys, conversations with industry leaders, travel operators, traveler interviews, and focus groups, Skift has put together its Megatrends report for 2019. Although this report deals primarily with international travel, hospitality and information for accommodation providers, Destination Management Organizations can learn a lot from the insights shared in this report. Some of the trends that stood out to us as relatable to smaller destinations are:
“Wellness tourism is growing twice as fast as global tourism. And we now know that wellness tourists are spending between 50 percent and 180 percent more than their average counterparts.” — Skift 2019 Megatrends Report
Regardless of how big or small your destination might be, there are ways to take advantage of this trend and appeal to the wellness traveler. Start by taking inventory of what your community has to offer—consider both structured options (like barre, yoga or cycle studios) as well as natural attractions (such as trails and waterways). If feasible, bring stakeholders together as a group or matchmaker to facilitate conversations about how they could work together to create wellness offerings in your destination—like partnering with a local fitness instructor to offer classes at hotels or reaching out to AirBnB hosts about promoting a licensed massage therapist that will come to the property at the guest’s request. Highlight these wellness experiences on your DMO website, along with the best hiking spots, biking paths and other outdoor recreation opportunities. You can read more about wellness tourism here.
Travelers Have Control
“Having an increased level of choice and flexibility at the fingertips of travelers will lead to a new era as travel brands act as trusted guides and enablers of the rarest and most valuable travel phenomenon: serendipity.” — Skift 2019 MegaTrends Report
DMOs that are embracing the shift to destination management understand this better than anyone. Ensure that your DMO is helping to curate experiences and maintain resources for visitors that are up to date, available online (especially in mobile-friendly formats) and even geo-based to help them plan effectively and last-minute (as travelers are doing more and more often). Just like you plan your wardrobe to make the best first impression, your DMO should be actively monitoring and taking deliberate action to ensure that the attractions, restaurants and experiences that will make the best impressions on visitors are accurately reflected on TripAdvisor, Yelp, AirBnB, and Google Maps. That means accurate hours of operation, recent (and fair!) ratings, and images that accurately represent each location. Need an idea to help curate listings on these third-party sites? Watch this short video.
Look at this responsibility as an opportunity to establish your DMO as a trusted stakeholder partner to help their organizations succeed, and as a trusted guide to help visitors experience the best of your area.
From Destination Marketing to Destination Management
“The role of destination marketing organizations (DMOs) is evolving and expanding into destination management to elevate the customer experience more intentionally.” — Skift 2019 MegaTrends Report
As we’ve mentioned before in past blog posts, Destination Marketing is evolving into Destination Management. Some leaders are calling their organizations DMMO’s to encompass both. This is seen at all levels (local, state and regional) as destinations face a more competitive marketplace than ever before. Focusing on the total customer experience is what managing your destination is all about. VisitDallas is a pioneer in this shift as they’ve established a Customer Experience Department complete with a Customer Experience Director within the DMMO. Their focus is moving from an information curator to an experience curator. With every restaurant, attraction and hotel having their own websites in addition to all the travel blogs and travel review sites available, there is no shortage of information out there. Today’s travelers want to find the content that’s real, relevant and trusted—and to find that information fast to help guide their travel experience in your destination.
Convergence in Hospitality
Gone are the days when a hotel just promotes themselves as a place to sleep, the restaurant just talks about their food, and the tourism office just mentions their main attractor. The options for what to do, where to rest your head, and what to consume are evolving. From luxury hotels to hostels to AirBnBs to Glamping, the lines are continuing to blur among hospitality providers. The hospitality industry is experiencing major shifts, as well, in group travel categories from SMERF to business travel with both leading into more bleisure travel (with families in tow). And the best way to keep your destination as part of the consideration set is to not box all attractions and accommodations into one interest group. Make sure your tourism partners in the downtown business/financial district know about (and promote) the other offerings that might appeal to non-business travelers. Have information about public transportation above and beyond what’s available from a hotel for your visitors that are staying at a B&B or AirBnB. If you’re providing any education in an ambassadors program, consider inviting the AirBnB property owners along so they can help deliver the same message.
Midsize and smaller markets are focusing on public spaces and opportunities to bridge different communities and cultures. Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces in their community—strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. Placemaking provides excellent opportunities for destination management organizations to cultivate retail, dining, entertainment, and cultural experiences. Developing these visitor experiences helps smaller towns by highlighting neighborhoods, districts and spaces where visitors can experience unique cultural offerings such as food and art.
Partnerships with nearby communities can also allow for opportunities to host regional festivals & events and deliver a catalyst to support local business owners. These public spaces, if done right, can turn into new landmarks within a small town that are worth visiting or taking a photo in front of to share on social media. Finding out what’s unique about your destination will construct a path to success for meeting planners who want a destination of distinction.
These five trends should be of particular interest to destination marketing organizations working to create Marketing Action Plans to stay relevant and competitive as you work to grow tourism and travel in your town in the years ahead. Check out the full Skift report if you’d like to view their other Megatrends.
If you want to discuss your destination’s plans or challenges further, reach out to David Allred. He’d love gather the Stamp team to help you create a plan!