Destinations Are More Than Lists of Resources

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”
– Susan Sontag


Experiences are created through interactions with a destination, not through a listing page that shows every restaurant. Stories are written and memories are created from the experiences people have, not from pages of search results.

I travel for work since much of our work has to do with travel. Sometimes these trips are around the corner or across the river, sometimes these trips are hours away by plane, crossing mountain ranges and thousands of miles. Most of these trips involve research, not only for what makes our clients’ destinations special and unique, but in researching the things we should do and see, the places we should eat, the local coffee and brewery scene, where we should stay… Personally, I research potential running routes to get both a bit of exercise and the opportunity to see a destination in a different way than you can from behind a windshield.

Don’t let organizational politics create a poor visitor experience for your site.

With the proliferation of sites and apps like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Orbitz, it’s never been easier to find a comprehensive list of restaurants, lodging, and attractions in an area, rated and reviewed by visitors. Even in member-driven destination marketing organizations (DMOs), the role of the DMO has changed significantly to needing to be more than a list of places to eat, drink, see, and stay. So what should the DMO’s role be in the tourism industry?


Relevance = Answering Visitor Needs

Think of what people are searching for when researching your destination…

“Best places to eat in _________.”
“2 days in _________.”
“Fun things to do in _________.”
“Where should I stay in _________ with kids?”
“_________ running trails.” (Or am I the only one who does this search?)

Is your site answering what people are searching for? Qualifiers – best, fun, number of days, with kids, running – add relevance to the visitor stories your site should be answering. There are plenty of places for people to find “places to eat” and “places to stay” online. And while many DMOs have an obligation to showcase their members, the visitor doesn’t know or care about this obligation; they simply want a manageable, curated list of the best your destination has to offer. Don’t let organizational politics create a poor visitor experience for your site. This is where DMOs must balance content relevance with visitor needs AND organizational requirements. No one resource lives alone in the overall travel experience, just as every resource may not meet all visitors’ needs. Create stories that target the subjects that travelers are searching for and highlight the best resources in your destination to answer those specific queries.

Creating Context = Editorial Perspective

What DMOs can offer over review sites and OTAs is the creation of context. Contextualizing resources like attractions, restaurants, and hotels in comprehensive trip idea stories is the editorial perspective that DMOs can apply to their destination. Long lists of results with little hierarchy lack a point of view on a selection of resources which meet specific visitor stories – the point of view is one of the primary ways DMOs can differentiate themselves from all the other online resources available. Where other online resources offer an firehose of information, DMOs create context to these data points – the emotional hooks on why people should care.

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