• U.S. Travel names Visit the Santa Ynez Valley’s “The Place To Be” advertising campaign top digital campaign in the country

    VISIT THE SANTA YNEZ VALLEY’S “THE PLACE TO BE” ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN RECOGNIZED AS THE COUNTRY’S BEST DIGITAL CAMPAIGN AT THE U.S. TRAVEL ASSOCIATION’S DESTINATIONS COUNCIL DESTINY AWARDS

    (SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, Calif.) — Visit the Santa Ynez Valley’s “The Place To Be” advertising campaign has been recognized by the U.S. Travel Association as the nation’s top digital tourism campaign, receiving a Destinations Council Destiny Award in the Digital Campaign category at the annual ESTO (Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations) Conference on Tuesday, Aug. 17 in Los Angeles.

    Visit the Santa Ynez Valley was selected as one of three finalists from among all entries in the category, and prevailed over Visit Savannah and San Francisco Travel to take home top honors as the nation’s best digital campaign focused on tourism.

    “The Santa Ynez Valley wouldn’t be ‘the place to be’ without the people who live and work here, and who support the tourism industry and visitor experience in every way imaginable,” said Shelby Sim, President & CEO of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley. “They provide daily inspiration from which award-winning campaigns like this can emerge, which makes this award as much for our community as a whole as it is for Visit the Santa Ynez Valley specifically.”

    The campaign was conceived and executed between Visit the Santa Ynez Valley and DVA Advertising & Public Relations, a full-service destination marketing agency based in Bend, Ore. that has served as the agency of record for the organization since 2013. Creative assets that were developed in support of the campaign included paid and organic digital and social advertising, video content, and campaign-specific website landing pages. The Place To Be campaign ran from Nov. 1, 2020, through May 31, 2021.

    Entries were judged based on creative and innovative use of multiple digital marketing channels, including (but not limited to) website, digital ads, email marketing, social media, etc., as well as the results each campaign achieved through web analytics, paid impressions, click-through rates, social media growth, and more.

    “I think what set ‘The Place To Be’ apart from the competition was not only the creativity and the subjective nature of the campaign itself, but also the critical results it achieved,” said Danielle Laudon Ruse, Visit the Santa Ynez Valley’s Vice President of Marketing. “To see clicks to our lodging partners up as much as 200 percent or more year-over-year, particularly at a time when travel was still very much in recovery mode, is a true testament to the power of the message and its ability to resonate with our target audience.”

    To view a copy of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley’s entry and creative samples, please visit the finalist gallery page HERE. For more information on the Santa Ynez Valley, please visit www.visitsyv.com.

    About the Santa Ynez Valley:

    Barely two hours from Los Angeles and a scenic four-hour drive from San Francisco, the Santa Ynez Valley is home to six distinct towns each with its own culture, vibe, and menu of experiences. Blanketed with fruitful farms and vineyards, the California Central Coast wine region’s temperate weather allows for year-round activities of all sorts, spread throughout the historical communities of Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Solvang. Destination dining and world-class wines await, accompanied by lodging at every level, all painted into atmospheric backdrops that colorfully mesh Old World and Old West. Visit more than 100 wineries, feast on chef-driven cuisine, and enjoy festive events and design details from Victorian-era to mid-century to modern Danish. For more information, including a listing of wedding venues, restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms, and events, go to VisitSYV.com.

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  • DMO Insights – August 26

    In this edition:

    For the first time since we started working remotely at DVA on March 12, I took a day completely off work last week. And by taking the day off, I mean I put my phone into airplane mode at 7 a.m., headed up into the mountains, and didn’t turn it back on until 7 p.m. This is also one of the reasons why, for the first time since April 6, we didn’t send out an issue of DMO Insights last week. 

    As for taking a day off work, it was strangely calming even if it was only for 12 hours. Though I would be lying if I said it didn’t also give me a little bit of anxiety, particularly when a day’s worth of emails flooded my inbox upon “re-entry.” But it was a much-needed break and a way for my wife and me to celebrate our anniversary by focusing our efforts and our energies where they needed to be – on each other and without distraction.

    My point is not that I took the time off, or that it was my anniversary. Rather, it’s that the lines between work life and home life are as blurred right now as they have ever been. 

    Like it or not, I am not as important – or at least not as mission-critical on an hour-by-hour basis – as I often think I am. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a valuable and very involved role to play daily at DVA, and have actually been busier over the past six months than I have been in recent memory. But when you hire people who are smarter and more talented than you, and you empower them to make decisions and do great work, the results are both humbling and gratifying as a small business owner.

    So, while it was my first day completely off work in five months, I plan to make more time for doing things outside of work that help make me more productive, more motivated, and more focused at work. In fact, maybe it’s time for me to actually put my money where my mouth is and take one of those work-cations we wrote about in the August 12 issue of DMO Insights and remain bullish on for our clients.

    Thanks, as always, for reading, and we hope you continue to find value in this newsletter. If there is a particular topic that you’d like us to explore in-depth, please drop me a note at justin@dvaadv.com and we will be sure to work it into an upcoming issue.

    LATEST RESEARCH FINDINGS FROM DESTINATION ANALYSTS

    In this week’s survey findings from Destination Analysts (PDF available HERE), Americans report feeling safer in many areas that affect their travel behaviors and sentiments. Health and financial concerns related to the pandemic dropped to levels not seen among travelers since mid-June. More than half of them also feel comfortable going out in their own community, and their decreasing sensitivity to tourism within their own communities is likely a result of that. The perceived safety of travel activities has increased, as has holiday travel optimism, and almost 30% said they would be comfortable getting on an airplane in the next month. 

    Optimism gap continues to grow: The number of American travelers who think the pandemic will get worse in the next month dropped 6.4% to 42.7% last week, while the number who think it will get better over that same timeframe increased 3.8% to 22%. While the number of Americans (20%) who believe the situation will be resolved by the end of the year is a bit surprising, the number who feel comfortable undertaking leisure activities (40%) is not.

    Travel in 2020: Among Americans with leisure travel plans for the remainder of 2020, more than 70% say those plans involve traveling to a previously visited destination, an increase of more than 10% since mid-June. Additionally, 53.9% say they will be taking regional trips for the rest of the year, with almost half of those travelers (45.5%) indicating that regional trips will be their only form of travel in 2020. Likewise, a third of travelers plan to take at least one staycation before the end of the year. All of this reinforces the belief that local, regional, and drive market audiences hold the most promise for destinations, with some incremental opportunity to be had in direct flight markets.

    Cities still have opportunity: While it remains true that destinations offering less crowded and more rural setting, or an abundance of outdoor recreation and activities, stand to benefit from shifting traveler behavior, larger cities are not as “off-limits” as once feared. While beaches, small towns, mountain destinations, and National Parks remain popular destinations, 37.8% of respondents indicated that a city would be the first trip they will take when they begin feeling it is safe to travel again for leisure.

    Fall & family travel bump: In our August 5 edition of the DMO Insights, we talked about how Fall Family Travel is Poised to Surge with so many schools making the switch to distance learning for the upcoming term. Now, we have the research to back that theory up. When asked whether uncertainty about in-person education made them more or less likely to travel this fall, 37.2% of respondents answered ‘more likely’ (20.2%) or ‘much more likely’ (17%). It’s another indication that Labor Day won’t serve as the usual bookend to the travel season this year, and that more families will be extending their “summer” travels into fall.

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    ALREADY POPULAR PRE-COVID, MULTI-GEN TRAVEL EXPECTED TO SURGE 

    From a psychological standpoint, human interaction – or the lack thereof – is one of the biggest mental hurdles many people have had to face during the pandemic. Don’t get us wrong, there are many hurdles ranging from unemployment or working from home, to child care, homeschooling, travel restrictions, and so much more. But after spending so much time apart from our loved ones and family, the yearning to reconnect with those closest to us is as strong as ever.

    Multi-gen travel was already among the top leisure travel trends prior to COVID-19. According to the Family Travel Association, multi-generational trips account for more than a third of leisure travel. In their 2019 Family Travel Survey, the FTA found that 53% of respondents have taken a multi-generational trip in the past, and 65% of parent respondents plan to take, or would consider taking a multi-gen trip in the future. And that figure doesn’t include another popular trend, skip-gen travel, which involves grandparents taking their grandchildren on trips while the parents stay home or travel elsewhere.

    Given the already strong trend of multi-gen travel pre-COVID, it’s not surprising that the notion of extended family travel is emerging as a top post-COVID trend as a means to reconnect with family and make up for lost time. In fact, it’s among the biggest travel trends that experts expect to see toward the end of 2020 and into 2021, particularly as more people return to air travel. 

    According to the research from Destination Analysts, more than 68% of American travelers identified “spending time with loved ones” as one of their top travel priorities for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. Many travel agents, tour operators, and other experts including Jessica Griscavage, director of marketing at McCabe World Travel in Virginia, foresee a big surge in family and multi-generational travel once people are willing to book trips again. 

    “They didn’t get their spring breaks, they’re unsure of their summer trips, or maybe they didn’t get to go to mom and dad’s 50th anniversary or grandma’s 80th birthday,” said Griscavage. “All of these families haven’t been able to be together, so I think we’re going to see a lot of family and multi-gen travel but in a different way, a safer way.”

    Making up for lost time, canceled vacations, and missed celebrations aren’t the only driving factors. The uncertainty of what lies ahead is also contributing to the increased interest in multi-gen and skip-gen travel. 

    That’s not to say that extended families should start making plans for a large destination reunion, but it does mean that destinations should be prepared to market to the multi-gen and skip-gen audiences with specific messaging, itineraries, and advice and expectations for visiting safely and responsibly. 

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    UGC, TRAVEL SHAMING, AND COVID CALL OUTS

    If you subscribe to the Scott’s Cheap Flights newsletter as I do, you’re used to receiving weekly travel deals and inspiration delivered to your inbox. This week, founder Scott Keyes took a different approach and addressed a topic we have been hearing and reading a lot about lately from clients, media, influencers, and travelers: the rise of travel shaming

    One of the biggest appeals of social media is as a platform that allows us to share our personal accomplishments, activities, travels, and so much more with others. And when it comes to travel specifically, user-generated content is often cited as a leading source of trip planning inspiration and motivation. Which is one of the reasons why the authenticity, objectivity, and credibility of UGC is so important, and why companies like Crowdriff have been quick to bridge the gap between destinations and the individual travelers who are generating content for their personal feeds. 

    But during a pandemic, at a time when travel remains frowned upon by some, widely discouraged by many, and in some cases is still prohibited, sharing posts and stories from our travels can do more harm than good when it comes to backlash on social media. It’s being likened to peer pressure but on a much larger – and even global scale.

    From an individual traveler perspective, travel shaming, COVID call-outs, and other negative outcomes from posting travel related content, as recently reported in the New York Times’ “Shhh! We’re Heading Off on Vacation” story, have many who are already traveling or are ready to return to travel doing so in stealth mode. In fact, the act of shaming people who are choosing to travel right now has transcended beyond social media to in-person call-outs, confrontations, and even notes left on cars with out of state license plates lambasting people for choosing to travel right now. 

    “It may feel productive to castigate one another for being too cautious or not cautious enough, but shaming is often counterproductive because it leads to defensiveness. Being shamed does not change behavior and in fact, may exacerbate it. Before we cast shame on someone taking her family on a weekend getaway, ask yourself if she’s truly being irresponsible in her travels or if our objection is that it seems like she’s looking for joy during a dark time.”

    Scott Keyes, founder, Scott’s Cheap Flights

    For individuals, one of the joys of social media, particularly as it relates to our personal travels, is the ability to share our experiences with others. Removing that portion of the experience for fear of backlash can, in turn, lessen the psychological benefits we derive from the experience itself. The simple act of posting a current travel-related photo or story runs the risk of eliciting negative feedback from friends and followers. Add in a searchable hashtag or geotag, and all of a sudden that sphere of influence and potential criticism has expanded by magnitudes.

    For destinations, while the situation is different from state to state and from destination to destination, the backlash can be even worse. Merely encouraging travel to your destination right now often results in negative comments and shaming from residents and locals. It’s something we touched on from a destination’s perspective in the last DMO insights, where we talked about managing your social reputation. But whether it’s your own paid or organic social content, or reposting or repurposing user-generated content specific to your destination, the line between love and hate is razor thin and is very much black and white at a time when it really shouldn’t be. 

    We’ll dive deeper into this topic in next week’s DMO Insights, particularly as it pertains to utilizing a content-forward approach to generate awareness, inspiration, and conversion without a strong call to action, but until then we’ll leave you with one more piece of advice from Scott Keyes.

    “Those who are comfortable traveling right now shouldn’t accuse critics of wanting everyone to lock themselves at home until there’s a vaccine, nor should travel critics assume that travelers are taking no precautions,” said Keyes. “We’re all stressed out, and a bit of generosity towards one another can go a long way.”

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    Recent News

    Shhh! We’re heading off on vacation – New York Times

    Multi-generational trips will appeal to the whole family – USA Today

    Interesting new trends in travel – Travel Pulse

    Riding the second wave: creative marketing ideas for destinations during the pandemic – Hermann Global

    Useful Links

    Key Survey Findings – Week of August 24 – Destination Analysts

    Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report – Destination Analysts

    COVID-19 August 10 Travel Insight Report – MMGY Global

    Coronavirus and Travel: Everything You Need to Know – Conde Nast Traveler

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  • DMO Insights – August 12

    In this edition:

    My alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m. every morning during the week. On weekends, it’s a different story. Though, with a five-year-old in the house “sleeping in” still means no later than 7 a.m. This past weekend, while our son stayed with the grandparents for a full day and night, it was different. 

    To avoid the crowds that are flocking to our lakes, rivers, and trails these days – many of them in direct conflict with the city’s administrative order discouraging tourism through Labor Day – we woke up before 5 a.m. to increase our chances of having the trails to ourselves. We took the Jeep up an unmaintained 4WD road to further distance ourselves from others. And we opted for the longer (and more scenic, but most people don’t know that) of two trail options to get to our ultimate destination, which shall remain unnamed.

    That’s what needed to happen last weekend if we wanted to get a popular hike in before the trails were over crowded and the parking areas were over-filled. 

    My point is two-fold. First, that being a tourist (or a resident, for that matter) in your own town can be frustrating at times, but it can also be very rewarding. It’s a reminder to me why I chose to visit and eventually establish roots here more than 20 years ago, and why others still want to do the same. 

    Which leads to my second point. No matter what we ask or tell visitors to do – whether it’s to avoid traveling to a destination, requiring a quarantine for out of state visitors, or something else altogether – many are ultimately going to do what they feel is in their own best interests. 

    And it’s not specific to tourism. The same individualistic mentality, as opposed to a collectivist approach, that brings visitors to a destination when perhaps they shouldn’t be there, is the same mentality that has failed to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

    I don’t blame others for wanting to visit, particularly right now. But right now might not be the right time, and I do wish others would be more respectful of that request. 

    After all, part of me still wants to have my cake and eat it too.

    Thanks, as always, for reading, and we hope you continue to find value in this newsletter. If there is a particular topic that you’d like us to explore in depth, please drop me a note at justin@dvaadv.com and we will be sure to work it into an upcoming issue.

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    LATEST RESEARCH FINDINGS FROM DESTINATION ANALYSTS

    With more than half of Americans still feeling the pandemic will worsen in the next month, and many fears and concerns expected to extend over the next six months or longer, this week’s survey findings from Destination Analysts (PDF available HERE) show a shift among younger travelers in particular to prioritize their psycho-emotional needs like relaxation and escaping stress. Excitement for near-term travel and openness to travel inspiration are back to early June levels. Airline, hotel, and restaurant discounts are becoming increasingly appealing to travelers, although “bargain hunting” right now is a little unfortunate to hear given the hardships these industries in particular have faced. And once again, our society’s propensity for short-term memory loss appears to be evident as now less than half of American travelers say the pandemic will impact the types of destinations they choose.

    Travel activities & safety: The perceived safety of all travel activities improved slightly this week, and has generally been trending in the right direction over the last month. This chart says a lot about the pandemic, peoples’ mentality toward it, and the notion of pandemic fatigue. Back in mid-April, when the country’s case count was less than 750k but stay at home orders were widespread, fear was extremely high. Those fears dropped sharply over the next month, bottoming out around Memorial Day. The post-Memorial Day spike sent fear back up, where it remained at around 60% for several weeks before starting its current, gradual decline. 

    Wellness still a priority for all: Staying safe from infection continues to be the top priority for all Americans, but as we discussed way back in our April 27 DMO Insights, wellness (along with slow travel, staycations, and private travel) and activities or behaviors that promote wellness are an increasingly prominent trend that will likely be with us for a long time. With lifestyle priorities shifting in general, and society’s mental health and wellness being tested perhaps like never before, many of the activities that contribute to overall wellness have become increasingly important to travelers.

    Travel & happiness: Back in the May 26 DMO Insights we wrote about how Planning Your Next Trip Can Make You Happier. This week, when asked whether planning a vacation for sometime in the next six months would bring them happiness, only 19% of travelers said it would not. Which leaves 81% in the neutral or better category, including 57.3% who agree or strongly agree that planning a trip in the next six months would make them happy. 

    Top destinations for travelers: When asked what three U.S. travel destinations they most wanted to visit in the next 12 months, some of the places that were most impacted by COVID-19 (whether by case numbers or related closures) were at the top of the list including Florida, Las Vegas, Hawaii, California, New York, Orlando, Arizona, and Texas. Keeping more in line with many of the trends we are seeing related to outdoor and less crowded destinations, Colorado, Alaska, and Montana also showed strong interest among travelers.

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    THE EMERGENCE OF “WORK-CATIONS”

    There’s traveling for work, which is something many of us used to do on a regular basis pre-COVID, and there’s traveling to work, which involves going somewhere other than home to work in a different environment or setting and has been increasing in popularity over the past several months. Just ask the tourism folks in Barbados, where the recently-launched Barbados Welcome Stamp program provides the equivalent to a 12-month visa for those who want to work remotely for up to a year while calling Barbados home.

    Call it whatever you want. A work-cation. Tele-zoomuting. Bleisure travel. The past five months have taught us that for the most part, the ability to accomplish work successfully and remotely is not mutually exclusive. 

    It’s one of the reasons why for many companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Square, Slack, Shopify, and ZIllow, a permanent remote work option for employees is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, Brett White, the CEO of global commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, predicts that the permanent remote workforce could double to nearly 10% as a result of COVID-19. 

    Exactly how that plays out over the long term remains to be seen, but for now, at a time when many if not most of us are still working remotely and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, the idea of a work-cation is increasingly appealing.

    Personally, the thought of working poolside in Palm Springs or Sedona, or on a deck overlooking Lake Tahoe or the Pacific, sounds pretty good right now. And there’s really nothing (aside from maybe a little guilt) holding me back from being able to accomplish everything I need to in Hawaii, Arizona, Montana, or even Mexico, as opposed to from the “comforts” of my home-office-in-a-bedroom in Oregon.

    So, what does that mean for destinations? First and foremost, it means there is an opportunity to motivate and incentivize this audience – particularly younger, affluent urban professionals – to take a much-needed break from the monotony and routine in which they are currently stuck. 

    It also means the opportunity to capture an audience that is likely to visit for an extended period, may bring other friends, coworkers, or family members with them, and contribute to the local economy in many of the same ways a traditional leisure or business traveler does. 

    Not to be lost in the benefits to the destination are the benefits to the consumer, which are the primary motivators for this hybrid-travel and can be modified or tailored to your destination’s unique selling points. These include:

    A change of scenery: Let’s face it, we’re all stuck in a routine that as we have mentioned previously in this newsletter, resembles Groundhog Day. Changing up the routine, simply by changing up the setting or environment around us, can provide a much needed boost to our motivation and morale. 

    Productivity: The structure of working from a home office can be, well, a little unstructured to say the least. And that impacts our productivity through daily distractions ranging from kids and pets, to laundry, mowing the lawn, cleaning, and more. When our home is our office, and our office is our home, the lines between the two often become blurred. When that gray area is removed, it’s easier for productivity to fill the void.

    Wellness: We don’t have to leave our work behind in order to find relaxation, escape stress, or improve our emotional well-being. In fact, the opposite can often be true in that dropping everything and going offline for a few days, a week, or longer can actually increase the stress we feel related to the work that is waiting for us back home. Combining the emotional benefits of a vacation, with the satisfaction of knowing the work is still getting done, can have a greater impact on our overall wellness right now.

    “Me” time: If you’re like me, between work, owning a small business, parenting, and all the various responsibilities mentioned above, there’s not very much time left over at the end of the day for “me.” 

    Whether they have already announced extended remote work plans into 2021, or have made the option of permanent remote working a part of their corporate culture moving forward, companies like Google, Microsoft, and others have established a model for other businesses of all shapes and sizes to follow. Along the way, they have created a new traveler profile, one that destinations would be remiss not to target.

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    AS TRAVELER OPTIMISM RETURNS, LOCALS DIG IN THEIR HEELS

    We mentioned this topic briefly last week, and have touched on it several times including in our July 21 DMO Insights piece about The Moral Dilemma Of Tourism During A Pandemic

    As optimism among travelers increases, and as popular leisure destinations throughout the West and beyond continue to experience high visitor numbers given the current circumstances, it’s not surprising that the anti-tourism cries among concerned locals are also growing.

    It’s a collision course that nobody wants to see, but if travel activity picks up further in the coming months, and locals dig in their heels in defense of their community’s health and safety, the two are bound to meet head on. 

    We’re already seeing signs of this in several destinations, and three examples come immediately to mind.

    In Taos, NM, where the state of New Mexico has a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine period, tourists are still flocking to this artistic adobe community in a manner that has created Tourist Trouble in Taos.

    Jackson Hole has its own problems. Thanks to Jackson’s proximity to Yellowstone National Park, combined with the popularity of road trips this summer, surging tourism is straining this Yellowstone gateway town with upwards of 40,000 people per day passing through this town of 7,000.

    And in Bend, Ore., one of the country’s top destinations for outdoor recreation, the city of Bend issued an administrative order discouraging tourist, recreational, and discretionary travel through Labor Day that has done little to slow the pace of travelers to Central Oregon.

    The research from Destination Analysts clearly indicates that a large percentage of locals are opposed to seeing tourism ads promoting their destination right now, and by extension, don’t want to see visitors in their community. 

    Last week’s findings indicated that only 29.1% of respondents would be ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ to see an ad promoting their community as a place for tourists to visit when it is safe. The key words here being not today, not tomorrow, but when it is safe. For the 37.5% who said seeing an ad promoting tourism in their community when it is safe would make them ‘unhappy’ or ‘very unhappy,’ seeing visitors around town or out of state license plates on the streets right now is like nails on a chalkboard.

    Despite the efforts of government and tourism officials to encourage otherwise, visitors continue to flock to Taos, Jackson Hole, Bend, and other destinations. It’s a classic example of the individualistic mentality we discussed in the opening, whereby as a society we tend to prioritize our own unique needs or desires, or feel as though the rules don’t apply to us, as opposed to acting with a collectivist mentality that prioritizes the needs and goals of the group as a whole.

    So what can destinations do? Short of an outright ban on travel, it would seem like our hands are somewhat tied and therein lies the moral dilemma. Tactics such as mandatory self-quarantine and orders discouraging visitation have been met with marginal success, and continue to divide three of the key players in the room: tourism officials, visitors, and locals. 

    At the root of the issue is the notion of the Interdependence Economy that we discussed in our DMO Insights back on May 11.

    The basic premise of this theory is that many of the businesses, services, activities, and more that residents enjoy, cannot be sustained by local patronage alone. In a recent Skift article, the author shed light on the Interdependence Economy by describing it as follows:

    “It is unfortunately lost on many residents in any given city that the restaurants, retail establishments and attractions they all enjoy are supported by both visitor and resident dollars. And if the visitor dollars go away, so will many of the things the residents love. I call that the ‘interdependence economy,’ and it could well be one of the silver linings that comes from this crisis — a better understanding, appreciation, and respect for the value DMOs deliver to the vibrancy of local experiences, and the local economies.”

    If visitors to your destination are coming in direct disobedience to city, county, or state restrictions, that’s another story. But if travel is allowed, as it is to some degree in many destinations, then the DMO has a role to play as a mediator of sorts in the situation.

    Though it’s a delicate topic and must be carefully crafted, an op-ed or guest column written for the local newspaper, or some targeted outreach to broadcast media, can be a good way to tell the whole story, on your terms. 

    And because messaging that comes directly from the DMO itself may sometimes fall on deaf ears with a local audience, consider enlisting your stakeholders – the business owners, managers, and even employees whose very livelihood is tied largely to tourism – to tell the story for you. The power of their voices can help locals view the issue from a broader and more relatable perspective, one they might otherwise miss.

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    MANAGING YOUR SOCIAL REPUTATION AMID BACKLASH

    Everyone, and everything, is under a microscope these days. And perhaps nowhere is that more evident in the tourism industry than the scrutiny that social media content is subjected to, and the growing number of negative comments and feedback being left on stories and posts.

    The fact that people are spending much more time on social media during the pandemic, combined with the razor thin wire that destinations are trying to navigate between awareness, inspiration, and call-to-action, makes the situation even more delicate.

    Whether it’s as simple as someone not wearing a mask or maintaining proper physical distance in a post, a story that doesn’t portray any People of Color, or a geotag of an overcrowded trailhead or recreation site, users have a keen eye for the obvious and subtle elements of each and every piece of content. Just ask Tom Brady, who was recently called out by an observant Twitter user for still clinging to his old iPhone 6+ despite his new $25 million per year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    There will always be those who take it upon themselves to call out your errors or mistakes, try to make you upset or angry, speak from a position of entitlement, exaggerate the facts or truth, or make personal attacks on your destination and the people responsible for promoting it. If you have spent any time on the Nextdoor app reading the posts and comments in what is supposed to be a community of friendly neighbors, you know exactly what we are talking about.

    It’s how you deal with those individuals in a respectful, professional, and timely manner that can make the difference between shutting down a potential landmine, or having it blow up in your face. This TED Talk from Meteorologist and social media maven Emily Sutton, titled “Don’t Feed the Trolls: How to Handle Jerks on Social Media” is a good place to start. Here are a few other good rules of thumb:

    Report policy violations: If a comment is a violation of your social media policy, or the policies of the platform to which they are posting, notify the individual and report it if necessary.

    Acknowledge valid concerns: If they have a valid point, reinforce it, thank them for bringing it to your attention, and let them know what you are doing to resolve the issue.

    Correct misinformation: If they are misinformed or wrong, respond with the facts. Politely. And use it as an opportunity to further educate them, or others who might read the comment.

    Ignore trolls: For the most part, it is wise to ignore them as eliciting a reaction is typically their primary objective. Continue to monitor their comments and behavior on the site, as others might not ignore what they have to say. 

    Avoid being baited: Similar to ignoring the trolls referenced above, try not to feed them either. 

    Diffuse with humor: Easier said than done, humor as a response needs to acknowledge the customer, recognize the problem, apologize, and mirror the criticism with a witty reply. When done right, humor goes a long way toward humanizing your brand and diffusing the situation.

    Any or all of these tactics will help in the handling of negative comments, criticism, and other backlash on social media. That being said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By making sure your social media plan is well formed and aligned with your overall strategy, your editorial calendar is thoughtful and diverse, and your content is immune (or as close as possible) to criticism, your destination will be better positioned to avoid comment conflict and will be better prepared to deal with it when it does arise.

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    Recent News

    As some Americans avoid travel, others visit COVID-19 hot spots anyway – USA Today

    COVID-19 and the Travel Industry – Bloomberg (video)

    Trend Insight: The New Ways We Will Travel – Forbes

    How COVID-19 is Reshaping Consumer Behavior – Skift

    Useful Links

    Key Survey Findings – Week of August 10 – Destination Analysts

    COVID-19 August 10 Travel Insight Report – MMGY Global

    COVID-19’s Impact on American Travel – Destination Analysts

    Weekly COVID Impacts on Travel Expenditures in the U.S. – U.S. Travel

    Coronavirus and Travel: Everything You Need to Know – Conde Nast Traveler

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  • DMO Insights – August 5

    If you read one thing this week (other than this newsletter, of course), please take the time to pore over Destination Analysts’ in-depth findings related to COVID-19’s Impact on American Travel (link available in the Useful Links section below). It’s full of a ton of current and historical data from their research, including how we feel about travel, the pandemic’s continued impact on travel plans, travel states of mind, those traveling in 2020 vs. those not, school reopening, and the pandemic at home. Now on to this week’s news…

    In this edition:

    I went back through some old emails and found one from March 18 – the earliest days of the pandemic – in which my partners and I discussed the notion that “the work we are doing right now is some of the most important work we will ever do.” 

    For many destinations, there are just too many moving parts for them to navigate alone right now, particularly at a time when every move is carefully orchestrated, closely scrutinized, and critically important. 

    As an agency that specializes in helping destinations thrive, we take great pride in our work and the close relationships we have been fortunate to build with clients over the years. And while the work we do is important on any given day, it’s our ability to provide sound strategic guidance, act as a careful steward of resources, and serve as a trusted partner that is equal parts cheerleader and adviser, that provides the most value particularly during times like this.

    It’s a testament to the team we have slowly but deliberately built, and it’s why we are proud to say that at a time when many agencies are reducing staff or disbanding altogether, our public relations team grew by 50% this week with the addition of a third PR account manager, Nina Braga. Some of you may already know Nina, as she spent the last decade as the director of public relations and communications at the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole. It’s a position that took us six months to fill, certainly not due to a lack of interest, but because of the deliberate approach we take to the work we do and the people who do it.

    Growth during a time of widespread contraction can be a scary thing. It can also provide reassurance and validation that what you’re doing is, in fact, demonstrating value, being well-received, and making a meaningful difference when it is needed most.

    Thanks, as always, for reading, and we hope you continue to find value in this newsletter. If there is a particular topic that you’d like us to explore in-depth, please drop me a note at justin@dvaadv.com and we’ll be sure to work it into an upcoming issue.

    LATEST RESEARCH FINDINGS FROM DESTINATION ANALYSTS

    It’s starting to feel a little bit like Groundhog Day in this week’s survey findings from Destination Analysts (PDF available HERE), as we relive some of the same sentiments from travelers and residents that we saw more than a month ago.

    Optimism among travelers is increasing, but so too are the anti-tourism cries among residents. Stay tuned, as we could be on a collision course if travel activity picks up further in the coming months, and locals dig in their heels in defense of their community’s health and safety.

    We’re already seeing signs of this in several destinations, and plan to dive deeper into the topic in next week’s DMO Insights.

    Stuck in a holding pattern: People’s concerns that the pandemic will get worse over the next month improved 7.8% this week, with 53.7% now saying it will get worse or much worse, down from 61.5% last week. At the same time, the number of people who think the situation will stay the same increased 6.5% to 30.3%. Only 16% believe the situation will get better or much better in the next month, up slightly from 14.7% last week. This would indicate that while a decreasing number of respondents think things will get worse, they aren’t getting much better, either.

    Locals still wary of tourism messaging: Not surprisingly, the number of locals who would be “unhappy” or “very unhappy” with seeing a tourism ad for their own community jumped to 37.5% in July, an increase of 6.2% from June. At the same time, the number of people who said they would be “happy” or “very happy” seeing one dropped to 29.1% in July, down from 35.8% in June. Further evidence that the moral dilemma of tourism during a pandemic that we discussed in the July 21 newsletter is still very much real and relevant.

    If school’s out, travel is in: As we discuss in greater detail below, the increasing likelihood that many schools will not reopen in the fall has parents scrambling to make plans. Among those plans, 34.5% of parents with school age children say they are more likely to take more family trips this fall as a result. Another 37.7% are neutral on the subject, while only 21% are less likely to take part in family travel this fall if in person school is cancelled. 

    Travel in 2020 is split 50/50: About half (48.5%) of respondents have at least one leisure trip planned in the remainder of 2020. The other 51.5% have no plans to travel this year. Of course these numbers will fluctuate due to cancellations, last-minute decisions to go somewhere, and short planning and booking windows that are so prevalent right now. 

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    RETHINKING THE LARGE EVENTS STRATEGY

    With events of all shapes and sizes being postponed indefinitely or canceled outright for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021, destinations are being forced to take a difficult and honest look at their events strategy moving forward. 

    There is no question that the pandemic will have lasting impacts on events and will in some ways forever alter their size and success, their positive impacts on the local economy, and their priority in a destination’s marketing plan. 

    As the manner in which events are executed becomes more complex, and the costs associated with doing so increase, additional hurdles are encountered. That doesn’t mean there will no longer be a place for them in the strategy, but it does mean that big changes are coming to an event near you.

    Looking for a silver lining among the chaos that has engulfed events, it is perhaps the fact that many of them have become complacent, stagnant, or in need of an injection of new life, direction, and purpose. Well, there’s nothing like a pandemic to give us a reason to wipe the slate clean, and plenty of time to do so. 

    Destination Analysts’ most recent research on the topic from July 12 gives us two primary insights into the future of events as the chart below indicates:

    The first insight is that events already rank low on the list of peoples’ leisure travel priorities and are largely not considered to be a primary travel motivator. Only 24.3% of respondents listed “attending festivals & events” as being of importance or high importance to their travels. This put it near the bottom of the list of priorities, ahead of only meeting new people, attending sporting events, and bragging rights.

    The second is that of all leisure travel activities, events have perhaps been hit the hardest. When asked which leisure travel priorities have been most impacted by COVID-19 for the remainder of 2020, “attending festivals & events” topped the list with 64.5% indicating that the pandemic “has significant effect or makes impossible.” The 40.2% gap between priority and probability was second only to attending sporting events (44.9%).

    Knowing that events have been devastated in the short-term, will be severely impacted for at least the next year, and will likely be forever altered in some way as a result of the pandemic and future health threats, what can and should destinations be doing right now to rethink, reimagine, and pivot their events strategy? Here are a few things to consider:

    Cost-benefit analysis: The first evaluation of any event should focus on the cost-benefit analysis. While some events barely break even and are used as a loss leader to attract visitors, others serve as a primary revenue source for destinations. For the foreseeable future, the costs associated with producing events – everything from staffing, security, and social distance monitoring, to health & safety checks, medical staffing, and even liability insurance – will likely increase. The question then becomes whether the investment is worth the return, or if those dollars are better utilized by being redirected toward other, more targeted efforts and initiatives to attract visitors.

    Quality over quantity: Rather than packing the calendar with a weekly lineup of events from Memorial Day through Labor Day, scaling back and focusing on the quality of a select few “anchor” events over sheer quantity can be more manageable, provide a better and safer experience for attendees, and drive demand during specific timeframes. It also allows you to dedicate more marketing resources toward a handful of initiatives, as opposed to spreading them thinly across dozens. 

    Reservations required: There’s no question we are moving quickly toward a more reservation-based economy for everything from the obvious activities like dining and wine tasting, to less likely candidates such as outdoor recreation and possibly even grocery shopping. Shifting events – even those that are free of charge or not typically ticketed – to a reservation basis is one way that destinations can still pull off larger events in a safe and enjoyable manner. This includes going as far as requiring attendees to choose a specific block of time for their ‘reservation,’ similar to the OpenTable concept for dining. While it may limit spontaneity to a degree, it will allow for better management of crowds, increase physical distancing and overall safety, and provide valuable information for things like contact tracing should any unfortunate health concerns arise. Not to mention there are the added benefits of allowing you to better forecast and prepare for attendance, and to capture valuable contact information for future marketing efforts. 

    Scale back & find a niche: Look at dialing back the size and scope of events as a whole, and consider smaller, more manageable events – particularly those that target a specific niche such as nature photography, private aviation, an automobile rendezvous, or other groups who might not visit otherwise. 

    Off peak: While many events are already seen as a way to drive visitation during the shoulder and off seasons, that trend will only get stronger. A summer festival or event when visitation is high might not be the right strategy to attract even more people during an already busy time. Shifting popular events to the shoulder and off seasons when appropriate, or creating new events during those timeframes, however, may help bolster visitation during slower months.

    Hybrid events: When people can’t (or won’t) attend in person, finding ways to give them the same or similar experience can be challenging but is another area where change is inevitable. Adding a well-produced live streaming element such as Facebook Watch or YouTube Live for iconic events can keep a destination’s awareness, sentiment, and engagement levels high. 

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    FALL FAMILY TRAVEL POISED TO SURGE

    According to a recent announcement from the United Nations, the current global pandemic has “led to the largest disruption of education ever.” With U.S. school closures extending into fall in most states, Labor Day does not signify the ceremonial end to the travel season that it typically does. 

    For parents, extended school closures mean once again having to balance the demands of work, childcare, and family life. But somewhere in between remote working and online learning lies an opportunity that, as stated above in the research findings from Destination Analysts, might help fuel a fall and even winter boon for tourism.

    Looking at the same chart as the previous story that weighs travel priorities versus the realities of COVID travel, many of the top criteria are well-suited to family travel this fall and beyond.

    Focus on drive markets: Most travel-related decisions being made right now in general, including those that might involve planning around work schedules and online or home schooling, are being made at the last minute. The current popularity of spontaneous travel would imply that focusing family travel messaging on drive markets is the way to go. 

    Don’t dismiss day trips: While day trippers do nothing to line the lodging tax coffers most of us rely on, they do bring much-needed revenue to other local businesses and create a reason or incentive to return in the future. 

    Midweek & long weekends: With the added flexibility many of us have in our schedules right now, many families have the ability to travel midweek and visit during slower times. They also have the valuable ability to extend weekend stays by a night or two on either end.

    Edu-tourism: Incorporating new or promoting existing educational elements of your destination – such as history, geology, cultural, or other subjects – can provide a real world learning experience for both children and families while breaking up the monotony of learning from home and allowing them to turn your destination into their own personal outdoor classroom for a few days.

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    ARE 250,000 BIKERS REALLY HEADING TO STURGIS THIS FRIDAY?

    This one seemed too crazy to pass up. The good news, I guess, is that event organizers aren’t expecting the typical 600,000 attendees when the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally kicks off this Friday in Sturgis, South Dakota (pop. 7,000). The bad news is that they are still expecting upwards of 250,000 attendees for the 10-day festival, despite local outcry for what is being described by some as a “huge, foolish mistake.” Did I mention that the event takes place in South Dakota, one of only two states in the country that has no government mask-wearing requirements in any circumstances?

    That’s a quarter of a million people descending on one corner of a state that has a total population of less than 900,000 and whose largest city, Sioux Falls, is home to less than 200,000 people. While the state only has 9,079 confirmed cases as of today, the average number of new cases per day is up 37% from two weeks ago. 

    According to one local Sturgis business owner, “It’s the biggest single event that’s going on in the United States that didn’t get canceled, and a lot of people think it’s going to be bigger than ever.”

    The biggest concerns, which are also the biggest question marks, are just how many people are actually going to show up, whether and to what extent COVID-19 might be prevalent at the event, and how many people are going to bring the virus back home with them to their families, friends, and communities.

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    School’s out: How the pandemic could change the way your family travels – The Points Guy

    More than half of Americans willing to fly domestically for next vacation – Travel + Leisure

    Afraid of airlines? There’s always a private jet – The New York Times

    Surging tourism is straining this Yellowstone gateway town – National Geographic

    The push to open schools is guaranteed to fail – The Atlantic

    Useful Links

    COVID-19’s Impact on American Travel – Destination Analysts

    Key Survey Findings – Week of August 3 – Destination Analysts

    Coronavirus and Travel: Everything You Need to Know – Conde Nast Traveler

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  • DMO Insights – July 21

    In this edition:

    This week, there’s a very real chance that our country’s social and physical distancing behaviors over the Fourth of July weekend – or the lack thereof – will really begin to rear their head much like they did in the weeks following Memorial Day weekend to kick off our current upward trend in new cases. 

    With the holiday weekend starting on July 3, and factoring in up to two weeks of incubation plus a few days to receive test results, we’re sitting on the precipice of when cases transmitted over the Fourth of July weekend should present themselves. 

    Applying that same logic to Memorial Day, when you factor in that the holiday weekend began on Saturday, May 23, add two weeks for incubation and another three days for testing results, you arrive at June 9 as the date when cases should have begun to really spike. And spike they did, as the number of new cases in the U.S. on June 9 was 17,376. According to the CDC chart HERE, no single day has been that low since. In fact, since then the 7-day average daily number of new cases has more than tripled in the U.S., from 21,590 on June 9, to 66,022 on July 18.

    The big question now is whether all of this will result in another broad shutdown, which seems to be the direction we are headed unless the situation somehow quickly reverses course.

    We’re already seeing restrictions tighten further in many states and counties, and in the absence of broad change such as the polarizing implementation of a national face covering mandate (during an election year, no less), states, counties, and even cities will take it upon themselves to protect their citizens.

    Except maybe in Georgia, where the Georgia Governor is suing the Mayor of Atlanta over her recent order requiring masks in public. 

    Thanks, as always, for reading, and we hope you continue to find value in this newsletter.

    DESTINATION ANALYSTS’ WEEKLY SURVEY FINDINGS

    Not surprisingly given the current state of affairs with regard to new cases in the U.S., the wearing of face coverings, and their requirement (or not) among destinations is a primary focus of this week’s survey findings from Destination Analysts. Along those lines, there are signs of hope – among travelers, at least – that the use of face coverings combined with an increased emphasis on social and physical distancing, and other safety measures implemented in an effort to stem the tide of rising case numbers, will result in an improved situation over the next month and well beyond.

    Optimism gap sees a slight correction: Maybe they are being too optimistic, but for the first time in more than a month the gap narrowed between those who believe the situation will get better in the next month, and those who think it will get worse. This week saw that gap narrow by 5.5%, as 59.8% of respondents currently believe the situation in the U.S. will get worse or much worse (vs. 62.7% last week), while 16.4 percent feel it will get better or much better (vs. 13.8% last week).

    Declining excitement to travel: Despite the slight narrowing of the optimism gap, the number of people who are ‘excited’ about the notion of taking a trip in the next month declined for the third straight week. Only 41.1% of respondents indicated they would be excited if a good friend or close family member asked them to take a weekend getaway in the next month, down sharply from a high of 57.7% at the end of May. Making things worse, only 36.6% feel open to travel inspiration right now – the lowest level since mid-April.

    Read my lips – (most) people support face coverings: Get what I did there? Read my lips? Hard to do unless you’re one of the 7% of respondents who ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ with the statement that “in this environment, people should wear face masks when they are in public.” Almost three quarters agree that face masks should be worn in public, while two thirds say they always wear one while out. Side note: face masks are kissing lipstick goodbye.

    Mask mandates widely welcomed by visitors: When asked how they would feel if a destination they wanted to visit required visitors and residents to wear masks while in public, 67.4% responded with ‘very happy’ (41.3%) or ‘happy’ (26.1%). When you also factor in those who are neutral on the topic, 90.5% have neutral or better feelings about the requirement of face coverings by destinations. Of the 9.5% of respondents who indicated such requirements would make them ‘unhappy’ or ‘very unhappy,’ just over half indicated that this requirement alone would be enough to keep them from visiting. And I’m okay with that.

    Pandemic etiquette won’t go away anytime soon: Over the next six months, and likely longer, 68.8% of travelers plan to wear a face mask during trips. While we’d like to see that number much higher for the safety of our communities and those who visit, the number continues to increase and will likely keep doing so. Social distancing (63%), avoiding crowds (61.6%), and carrying hand sanitizer (59%) are some of the other top pandemic etiquette behaviors that travelers stated they intend to practice over the next six months.

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    THE MORAL DILEMMA OF TOURISM DURING A PANDEMIC

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That’s what it can (and does) feel like for many destinations right now. After months of zero or near zero visitation, leisure travel has returned in earnest, and in some instances, it feels like the floodgates have been opened. How, then, do destinations balance the urgency and pressure to generate much needed revenue and economic recovery, with the responsibility of protecting the health and safety of the community and its residents? It’s a moral dilemma that is being debated across the globe, including at some of the country’s most popular leisure travel destinations.

    Moral or ethical dilemmas are not new to tourism, with sustainability and overtourism often being at the center of the debate. According to the American Psychological Association, “moral dilemmas are challenging because there are often good reasons for and against both choices. For instance, one could argue that it is okay to kill one person if it would save five, because more people would be saved, but killing itself is immoral.”

    While we’re not talking about killing people – at least not willingly or knowingly – the predicament we find ourselves in is extremely challenging nonetheless.

    At DVA, we are fortunate to call one of the West’s top leisure travel and outdoor recreation destinations home. Right now in particular, Bend is proving to be a strong case study – or test tube, if you will – for tourism and recovery marketing during the pandemic. In response to an extremely high influx of leisure travelers over the past several weeks, and compounded by rising case numbers in Deschutes County, the City of Bend recently issued an administrative order strongly encouraging visitors to stay away until Sept. 7. 

    While the administrative order in Bend stops short of being an official travel ban, it’s a bold move for a destination and one that specifically asks operators of hotels and other lodging facilities to refrain from booking any new tourism or vacation-related reservations.

    It should be noted that this order was implemented by the City of Bend and not by Visit Bend directly, though Visit Bend supports the order, has been a strong proponent of safe and responsible travel throughout the pandemic, and issued a statement in response that read in part, “We fully support the reinstatement of travel restrictions, and we’re adding additional messaging to the website underscoring the importance of staying home and staying safe.”

    The order was met with mixed reactions from local tourism and hospitality industry businesses, many of which are desperate to make up for lost revenues through the remainder of the summer travel season, while at the same time protecting the health and safety of themselves and their families, their employees, and residents.

    Is this the case of one forward-thinking community sacrificing short-term gain for the long-term health of its community and its tourism industry? Or is it a sign of bigger things to come in the form of more widespread travel quarantines throughout the country for out-of-area visitors, formal bans or travel restrictions, fines for non-compliance, and other penalties and sanctions?

    In this case, we think both scenarios may be true.

    The destination marketer in us desperately wants to believe that travel and safety can coexist. But as residents of a tourist town, the realist in us knows that not all visitors share the same respect for a destination as the people who call it home. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that many local residents also struggle to practice proper pandemic etiquette. 

    It’s a difficult problem to solve even under the clearest of circumstances. These decisions are particularly challenging at the community level, and are much easier to follow (though no less difficult to swallow) when mandated by or handed down from state or federal agencies. Regardless, it’s a storyline that we have been helping several destinations prepare for and navigate as visitor numbers increase and case numbers show no signs of slowing down. It’s a textbook moral dilemma, and one that is coming soon – if it hasn’t already – to a destination near you.

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    INVESTING IN RESEARCH – WHY NOW IS A GOOD TIME

    When we see such an immediate and monumental shift in short- and long-term consumer behavior like the one we are currently in the midst of with COVID-19 and its impact on leisure and group travel, the initial (and often appropriate) reaction is typically to circle the wagons, survive the onslaught, reprioritize and regroup, and ultimately, recover.

    With budgets and resources stretched thin, it goes without saying that recovery marketing is a critical area that no destination can afford to get wrong. And that’s where research can be instrumental right now in helping to establish a new baseline, identify and hone in on changes to consumer behavior as it pertains specifically to your destination, and emerge more informed, efficient, and effective with regard to your audiences, their motivations, your competition, and more. 

    There is no shortage of research available about COVID-driven changes and trends related to travel in general, but that data is typically sourced from a vast audience and uses broad brush strokes to arrive at some pretty general conclusions. Case in point: the weekly Destination Analysts research that we regularly report on in this newsletter which, while valuable, tends to present findings on topics applicable to an entire industry as opposed to a specific destination – your destination.

    As an agency that relies on research and data to inform, advise, and market destinations based on the specific goals, challenges, and opportunities that are unique to them, we often find it difficult to apply general findings to individual circumstances. At least, not in any manner that is truly actionable.

    That’s where research specific to your destination, particularly as we hit the reset button on consumer behavior with regard to travel, can be instrumental in providing a clearer understanding of how your audience and their motivations may have shifted including:

    • – Awareness & perception
    • – Key destination assets, attractions & attributes
    • – Message priority and testing
    • – Consumer intent
    • – Audience demographics & psychographics
    • – Competitive landscape (new and emerging)

    If your current research is more than two years old, it’s definitely time to seriously consider allocating resources toward gaining new insights. Particularly with the changes we are seeing and will continue to see. You might be thinking to yourself that an expensive research project is something you can’t afford to pile on top of already strained resources, but at a time when every dollar matters most, it’s also a time when you can’t afford not to.

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    SUCCESS OR FAILURE? MONETIZING ROI DURING A PANDEMIC

    How do you measure the success of a DMO during the pandemic and recovery? It won’t be easy, as 2020 will forever appear as an anomaly in our tracking, reporting, and monetizing of the results of a destination’s marketing efforts. It will be impossible to accurately compare year-over-year numbers vs 2019, and the same will be true for year-over-year vs. 2021 and potentially even 2022 depending on the dent that COVID-19 carries into next year (air travel and group business being good examples).

    We won’t be able to rely on the usual metrics such as occupancy, RevPAR, TRT collections, and other metrics, as the data is too skewed. The same goes for indicators such as site traffic, impressions, and even clicks, as much of that data has been and continues to be situational-based and focused largely on maintaining awareness versus driving specific actions or conversions.

    While measuring and monetizing the ROI generated by marketing efforts may not be easy or even possible in an apples-to-apples way under the current circumstances, the biggest and best value of a DMO right now may very well lie in strengthening its role as the trusted leader within its community and among its constituents.

    Local businesses are looking for guidance, direction, and even hope. City and county leaders – the primary funding source for most DMOs – are looking for reassurance that dollars are being used wisely and appropriately. And entire communities want to know when an industry that drives so much economic benefit will return.

    These past several months and the months that lie ahead have been and continue to be the time for destinations to focus less on ROI and more on reconnecting and strengthening relationships with their communities, evaluating the type of destination they want to be, who they want to attract, how and when they want them to visit, and how they want to position or portray the destination. It’s also the time to shore up existing relationships with funding bodies, city, county, and state governments, and to strengthen your position of authority and confidence at a time when people are desperate for leadership.

    While generating a return on investment will always be paramount to a DMO’s success and longevity, now is not the time to be determining success or failure based on traditional metrics. 

    Rather, right now is the time when DMOs are proving their true – and in some ways their greatest – value. It’s an ROI that can’t be measured or monetized through TRT collections, on a spreadsheet, in a budget, or through increases in clicks, conversions, impressions, or site visits. But it’s just as important, and is one that will endure long after the pandemic is behind us.

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    Recent News

    Summer vacation plans stay the course in spite of COVID-19 spikes – CNN

    Virus upends tourism marketing, sparks idea of ‘safecations’ – Associated Press

    Poll: Who always wears a mask in public, and who doesn’t? – National Geographic

    Domestic U.S. tourists flout quarantine & face mask orders – Reuters/Skift

    Should anyone in the U.S. be traveling right now? – Skift

    Useful Links

    Key Survey Findings – Week of July 19 – Destination Analysts

    Marketing That Brings Meetings Report – Destination Analysts

    Expedia 2020 Summer Travel Report – Expedia, July 8

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