100 Years of Advancing Destinations

Top Destination Marketing Trends To Look Out For In 2016

Author: Jim McCaul
Posted: January 07, 2016
Blog Topics Covered:
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We've leveraged the amazing brain trust of resources available to us by our partner DMO's and agencies to identify destination marketing trends that you should be on the lookout for in 2016. The thoughts and insight below are from some of the brightest minds in the destination marketing industry so be sure to take notes! 

And be sure to take a look at our 2015 predictions to see how they worked out.

Justin Bresler, VP of Marketing & Business Development at Visit Denver

Expansion of social media advertising. We can no longer look at Facebook as an organic channel (they said so themselves at eTourism Summit). We spent the last few years growing our page Likes by organic methods and now we’re crying into our drinks that Facebook has choked off access to them with their throttling practices. Well, get over it! Smart marketers realize with a modest investment that their Facebook audience can be activated for engagement and site traffic. Add to that the new accessibility to Instagram advertising and marketers should be hitting up their bosses for more money. And if the sleeping giant of Pinterest ever truly encourages big ad investments then even that won’t be enough!

Bill Geist, Chief Instigator at DMOproz

2016 will be the year that the need to explain DMO relevance becomes irrelevant…at least for those DMOs that successfully employ the Longwoods research findings regarding the “Halo Effect” of Destination Marketing. When a DMO’s value can include the notion that Tourism is the "First Date” for potential investors, community and governmental leaders will be hard pressed to ignore the impact of Destination Marketing on their communities.

John Lambeth, Founder and President/CEO at Civitas

We have seen tremendous growth in tourism improvement districts in the last five years.  In just the last two years, three states (Kansas, Tennessee and Louisiana) created their first TIDs, and the concept has even spread internationally with two districts now in Scotland.  We believe this stable funding source for destination marketing efforts will continue to grow both nationally and internationally.  As destinations are experiencing funding cuts and a more competitive tourism marketplace, TIDs are a powerful solution that allow destinations to maintain a reliable, predictable, growing source of revenue.

Peter Yesawich, Vice Chairman at MMGY Global

According to the results of the 2015 MMGY Global Portrait of American Travelers®, DMO websites play a far more influential role “inspiring” prospective visitors than converting their interest to bookings.

As our research revealed, travelers cite destination websites as the fourth most influential source of “inspiration” when considering possible destinations and travel suppliers (after “Friends/Family,” “Search Engines” and “Magazine Articles”).  DMO websites fail to make the “top five” list in both of the next two steps leading toward “making reservations,” yet rise to the fifth most influential source when travelers make reservations (cited by 14% of active travelers). Hence, destination websites should be designed and marketed primarily to inspire prospective visitors, as travelers are much more likely to default to other options when actually making reservations.

Greg Oates, Senior Editor at Skift

On the convention services side, DMOs are promoting their local knowledge base more aggressively to differentiate the attributes of a specific destination, above and beyond the meetings and convention infrastructure. This shift from promoting "urban hardware to intellectual software" is being driven by planners and attendees seeking a higher value proposition and greater business outcomes for traveling to large business events. Marketing a destination to planners based on space inventory, hotel rooms and tourist activities will always be a part of marketing a city to groups, but the next generation of attendees place a higher priority on connecting with local business, academic and cultural thought leaders to develop their social networks, both personal and professional.

Greg Evans, VP of Sales & Account Services at Simpleview

Integrating and automating user-generated content (UGC) platforms. We're seeing more and more clients not only utilizing UGC, but utilizing systems to moderate and measure consumer engagement to ultimately boost their impact.

Anita Mendiratta, Founder and Managing Director of CACHET CONSULTING

January – a time to define trends for the year ahead. Many ‘Top 16’ lists are already emerging outlining new opportunities for growth in 2016 – more tourists, more spend, and therefore more investment and more jobs. Underlying these trends will be, I believe, an evolution in how destinations express not just what they are as place-based experiences, but who they are as people, getting more personal in invitation to travellers. Why? Because of how poignantly crisis in 2015 revealed, especially via social media, a growing feeling of global community. With that, exposure of just how important travel is to inspiring greater understanding, and therefore harmony, among people from different geographies, ideologies and identities. ‘Connecting’ in 2016 will be about hearts & minds, not just mobile devices.

Gathan D. Borden, Vice President of Marketing at VisitLEX

Content over Campaigns. Campaigns are clever, but content is compelling. Campaigns are usually time-sensitive with starting and ending dates, and in order for them to work, they have to be really really good in order to break through the clutter. But the problem with campaigns is that consumers see right through them, and they add no value. Content, on the other hand, can add value. It actually works in all phases of the travel cycle, and is more likely to be consumed and shared. The key to being a good marketer is to always add value to the end user, so allocate your resources to create more content versus more campaigns.

Daniella Middleton, Vice President, Tourism at Development Counsellors International

Cultivating Digital Influencers for Your Destination: More than ever, consumer loyalties belong to influential online personalities. It takes time and energy to identify an influencer whose coverage aligns seamlessly with your destination’s messaging, but the resulting endorsement is invaluable. While academics and experts remain the most trusted source of information about companies, trust in “a person like me” has increased significantly since 2009 and will continue to gain importance in 2016. DMOs’ marketing and communication strategies for 2016 should certainly include collaboration with digital influencers, who are considered in the “people like me” category.

Elena Prostova, Vice President, miles

Technology and travel are becoming even more closely intertwined. In fact, technology is revolutionizing the way consumers access information and travel by allowing for an enhanced vacation experience. More travelers are becoming comfortable adopters of technology (largely due to the growth of mobile) regardless their age or income level. As a result, there’s a big opportunity for brands and travel organizations to benefit from understanding technology, content channels and the travel planning cycle to influence travelers when, where and how they access information.

Steven Paganelli, CDME, Head of Destination Marketing, Americas at TripAdvisor

The debate about digital marketing attribution will heat up as DMOs continue to focus more attention on accurately measuring the outcomes of their marketing efforts.  Arrivals in-market are what matter most to DMOs and their stakeholders, but when it comes to driving interest, not all impressions are created equal.  Wading through the various attribution models – and ensuring legitimacy and objectivity of the source – will be key to understanding the relative impacts of paid and earned impressions.

Annette Rummel, President/CEO of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitors Bureaus

A top trend to look out for in 2016 is the incorporation of higher levels of technology interventions (or communications to personal devices) prior to, during and post visit the experience with travel destinations.  This activity impacts every customer sector (from the convention delegate to the general visitor and every person in between).  These interventions will be sought out by the visitor as well as generated by vendors.  Interventions come in use of trip preparation, research in planning, during the reservation process, through social media and during travel time to the destination.  These interventions occur while people visit the destination with such things as navigation alerts, beacons, proximity notices and real-time “discount offer” notifications, etc.  It doesn’t stop there, post visit thank you notifications, surveys, repeat customer incentives and rewards, etc.  And many more not mentioned above.  As the professionals within the industry, DMMOs must be aware and respectful of this trend when communicating with our customers to ensure meaningful relationships are built.  Be aware, be respectful and make your contacts meaningful to the customer.