Among the many challenges facing destination marketing organizations is the task of moving tourists beyond the gateway attractions that have been historically used as the primary motivators for visitation and spreading the economic benefits of tourism more equally throughout a destination. But as the consumer mindset changes and travelers seek authentic experiences rather than ticking sights off a list, promoting these areas outside of the main tourism hubs becomes a distinct advantage for DMOs.
Gateway cities and major attractions remain a useful selling point for destinations, particularly when targeting first-time visitors and visitors from emerging markets. But even the Chinese market, stereotypically known for large tour groups following a guide with a red flag through sightseeing spots and shopping malls are changing their mindsets.
Destinations are quickly realizing that by promoting local perspectives, they allow travelers to share the experience of living like a local. Visit Philly’s “Philadelphia Neighborhoods” campaign and NYC & Company’s “Neighborhood x Neighborhood” campaign are two great examples of this. And DMOs have a unique advantage of accessing this local knowledge over competing sources of information.
These local experiences open destinations to potential new markets and offer previous visitors to the destination a reason to return. This is particularly important for mature destinations on the verge of reaching a stage of stagnation in its tourism life cycle, as is the case with France, who is promoting events and activities outside of Paris to combat predictability.
Spreading tourists throughout the destination also benefits the communities that DMOs represent. Visitors who travel outside traditional gateways cities often stay longer in the destination and spend more, driving revenue to small and medium enterprises.
It is important to remember that tourism takes place with the "permission" of the community. Various stakeholders are going to have different perspectives on the carrying capacity of a destination and DMOs need to monitor and manage those concerns. This has become a major problem in Indonesia, where mass tourism has sparked protests amongst the local residents. The country is now focused on developing a “beyond Bali” tourism strategy, though it may be too late. This is why Tourism Vancouver surveyed local residents when creating their Tourism Master Plan that incorporated neighborhoods.
Finally, these local communities and their voices are exceedingly important to the local politicians who have influence over DMO budgets. Turning local residents into advocates of tourism by providing them a platform to share their stories and improving the benefits they receive from this industry should be a priority for any destination marketing organization looking to delve into neighborhood tourism.