Previously, I wrote a post titled “Destinations Are More Than Just Lists of Resources,” which questioned what the role of Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) should be in the tourism industry. In summary…
Relevance = Answering Visitor Needs
Creating Context = Editorial Perspective
Thinking about the role of DMOs/CVBs as the organizations whose main purpose is to increase visitation by inspiring the undecided traveler to visit their location, how can they also provide value to their members?
How can DMOs/CVBs provide more value for members than just creating multi-page lists of businesses and directing site visitors to member pages within the DMO’s site? By focusing on being content publishers and relationship makers, not resource aggregators.
There are any number of websites that are already acting as resource aggregators. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and OTAs like Orbitz and Travelocity are already providing listings of businesses for any destination. These platforms contain both long lists of search results plus ratings and reviews, providing searchable resources based on a number of interests, availability, and peer opinions. Add to these sites all of the efforts individual members do to promote themselves: their own sites and social media profiles, where members control their own information and brand experience. If the goal of the DMO website is to help people make a decision on where to travel, members are better served by having visitors come to their own sites to make reservations, find more information, and get in contact.
This means the way DMOs and CVBs present member information must be different from all of the other channels to provide value to members. So how can a DMO or CVB represent members differently than the information you can find elsewhere online?
The primary role of the DMO/CVB is to inspire and convince potential visitors to come to their destination: communicate the sense of place and shape the perception of the destination, and do this through the creation and curation of content that supports this brandview. By recommending itineraries, trip ideas, the “best of” their destination, and experiences unique to their area, the DMO moves beyond simply being a resource aggregator and into the role of content publisher and inspiration provider.
Publishing content that inspires and convinces people to visit isn’t independent of the attractions, restaurants, hotels, and activities in an area. In fact, these members play a large role in what makes a destination unique. The opportunity DMOs and CVBs have to provide value to their members is through a holistic representation of their destination and the relationship between members. Members can attract more visitors through their relationships to one another than they can on their own; there aren’t many attractions, restaurants, activities, or hotels that can attract someone by themselves. A travel experience is made up of a number of interactions with all a destination has to offer, which means the interactions with numerous members. If these associations can be presented through the DMO’s website, they can tell a richer story that is more likely to inspire visitors.
Look at an example like the “36 Hours In…” series in New York Times. Each article is written to inspire people to visit a location through the activities and attractions the writer has experienced. What it isn’t is a simple list of attractions and activities. Each article has personality and creates a narrative thread for why a traveler should visit. And each of what we could imagine as the “members” mentioned in these itineraries benefits more from being called out in this editorial format than it would if it was in a long list of related resources.
The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
Each member becomes more important as a part of a larger story than they are on their own. Have pages and pages of member listings been perpetuated on the format of print guides from years past, when members relied on DMOs/CVBs to distribute these guides as one of the only ways they could get their information in front of potential visitors? It’s not news that the internet has completely changed how people research and find information. And this completely changes how DMOs/CVBs need to promote their members. Lists of members no longer provide the value they once did; contextual relationships between members is what provides value. By doing this, DMOs and CVBs not only provide more value to members, but they provide more value to potential visitors by inspiring them to travel to their destination.