• Campfire Hotel

    Canteen Opens In Bend, Oregon

    We recently hosted Forbes contributor, Liza Zimmerman, at the Campfire Hotel and as expected, she had great things to say about her experience. Click here to read the whole story.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    The fabulous folks behind the Jupiter Hotel in Portland and the groovy Doug Fig bar have given birth to another cool bar in their Bend Hotel. Canteen is the new fun, and inviting, dining and drinking spot at the Campfire Hotel in Bend.

    The hotel—ideally built for grownups—has a retro welcoming vibe as you drive by and see the “welcome campers,” sign. Upon check in you can grab some marshmallows with sticks, ready for roasting, in the hotel’s many fire pits. The hotel’s pens are also shaped to look like a log of wood!

    Click here to read the whole story.

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


    (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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    K2 Sports is in the middle of a blizzard of positive publicity for its Atlas and Tubbs snowshoe brands, both of which have recently received major national press thanks in large part to the PR efforts of DVA.

    When we traveled to Denver in January with K2 Sports for the 2020 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market tradeshow – back when tradeshows and business travel were still a thing – we knew it would be long-term play to successfully pitch and promote their 2021 product lineup. Following a successful tradeshow with more than a dozen face-to-face media visits, as well as subsequent outreach, pitching, and review/testing coordination over the ensuing months, our efforts are starting to bear fruit. 

    And if the recent coverage is any indication, you might want to get your snowshoe order placed sooner rather than later. Among the recent highlights, Outside Magazine, Backpacker Magazine, and leading outdoor product review site GearJunkie have all showered praise onto the Atlas and Tubbs 2021 product lineups including:

    The Outside Magazine 2021 Buyer’s Guide chose the Atlas Helium-Trail as one of only six snowshoes to be featured in their Best Snowshoes of 2021 category.

    Backpacker Magazine The Atlas Helium-MTN Best Stride in their roundup of The 3 Best Snowshoes of 2021

    In GearJunkie’s roundup of The Best Snowshoes of 2021, Atlas and Tubbs accounted for five of the 14 snowshoes honored including the Atlas Apex-MTN (Overall Runner-Up), Tubbs Xplore Kit (Best for Beginners), Tubbs Flex-ALP (Best for Alpine Ascents), Atlas Race (Best Running Snowshoe), and the Atlas Helium-Trail (Best of the Rest).

    These efforts, and the results that have come from them, would be impressive in any given year. But particularly this winter – as more people are expected to spend more time outdoors due to COVID-19 and outdoor activities that naturally lend themselves toward physical distancing such as snowshoeing – the publicity couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s the perfect (snow)storm, and we’re thankful to have played a big part in it.

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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.


    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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.


    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. 



    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. 



    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.



    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.


    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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    In this edition:

    This weekend I finally ate in a restaurant for the first time since early March. Well not actually in the restaurant – though many people seemed comfortable sitting in the dining room – but on their outdoor patio. I guess that makes me part of the “wait and see” audience who wanted to let the early adopters go first. Or maybe I’m just being too cautious, if there is such a thing right now. Either way, the decision still wasn’t easy. But I had grown tired of my own cooking, become desensitized to my fears, and I just really wanted some good Mexican food.

    The thought of eating at a restaurant seemed almost unheard of to me just one month ago. At the same time, my wife and I sent our son back to full-time preschool three weeks ago when his Montessori school was allowed to reopen, albeit with numerous restrictions.

    Something I have learned through all of this – and it applies to everything from dining and travel to grocery shopping and going to playgrounds – is that everyone approaches every situation with different levels of caution. We all have our own levels of comfort, and we’re all on our own timeline. And that’s okay. 

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


    Signs of improving traveler sentiment and pandemic etiquette showed up in this week’s survey findings from Destination Analysts (PDF available HERE). At the same time, pandemic induced stress, travel enjoyment, and travel morale appear to be suffering as COVID wears on.

    Travel excitement grows: Excitement for travel and openness to travel information both jumped this week, up 6.8% and 8.6% respectively. Now, more than 65% of travelers are neutral or better when it comes to their excitement to travel over the next month, and 65.4% are neutral or better with regard to learning about new travel experiences or destinations to visit. Looking at the number of people who answered “not at all excited,” to either question, it appears travel largely remains an either/or option for people right now. Either you’re excited or you aren’t, and there isn’t much middle ground.

    Mask wearing & social distancing improve: As mask mandates expand, and as the use of face coverings becomes less stigmatized and an increasingly normalized behavior, it’s not surprising that perceptions and compliance are both up this week. What is a little surprising, though, is that social distancing practices are also up. Often an increase in one of these behaviors (face coverings or social distancing) leads to a decrease in the other. But we’re seeing increases in both behaviors, which is a good sign that people are once again taking their safety and the safety of others seriously. Though my wife did witness a confrontation on a popular bike path this weekend that culminated with a masked walker confronting a group of unmasked bike riders with, “put some $!#&ing masks on or go the $!#& home!”

    The stress & travel chain reaction: Who isn’t feeling a little extra stress these days? If you’re like 44.8% of respondents, you have a higher degree of daily stress right now. It’s even stressing me out to think about the 55.2% of people who lied and said they weren’t feeling more stress right now than a month ago. Among those reporting the highest incidence of stress are Millennials, who not surprisingly also tend to be in the most extroverted life stage. This increased stress among Americans has a trickle-down effect on travel that plays out as follows: I am more stressed (44.8%). If I were to travel, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as a result (60.5%). Therefore, I have lost my interest in traveling for the time being (49.5%).

    Just how friendly are the friendly skies?: According to the 11.3% of respondents who have recently traveled by air, the friendly skies are actually pretty friendly these days. Almost three quarters (74.8%) of recent air travelers said they were satisfied (40.7%) or very satisfied (34.1%) with airline coronavirus safety protocols during their most recent flight, and a similar percentage (73%) felt the same about airports during their most recent flight. Airlines and airports have gone to great lengths to increase cleaning and safety protocols, and among the few who are traveling by plane, these efforts seem to be evident.

    Air travel still lags behind: Despite the increases in safety protocols referenced above, air travel still appears to be near the bottom of peoples’ preferred modes of transportation right now. According to the survey, air travel will continue to lag well behind automobiles through the end of the year and will track slightly higher through the winter. It isn’t until April 2021 and beyond when air travel appears to see demand return at any meaningful level. Or, this may be another case of letting the ‘early adopters’ be the current test subjects, with the ‘proof of concept’ and ‘wait and see’ audiences following soon after.

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    This week, we hosted a trio of media and influencers including a writer who helped Ariana Huffington found Huffington Post, an influencer who also happens to be Yanni’s daughter, and a photographer who accompanied them. We are in the process of actively planning another half dozen or so media visits over the next 2-3 weeks. And just yesterday we received an email that read in part, “We are starting to publish travel articles again and are looking for destinations and properties open to hosting media.” 

    There’s no question that following a four month hiatus, and with a few notable exceptions such as states with mandatory quarantines or other travel restrictions, the opportunity to host media, influencers, and bloggers has returned. 

    I was talking with the West Coast Editor of Conde Nast Traveler last week related to a story she is writing about destinations that have implemented visitor “pledges” or similar programs intended to help alleviate health and safety concerns among travelers. Not surprisingly, she told me that one of the most challenging aspects of her job during the pandemic has been finding new and unique ways to write about travel without actually traveling. 

    Throughout this pandemic, we have been maintaining regular communication with a core audience of media and influencers to keep them abreast of the situation in the various destinations we represent, provide timely and unique story ideas, remain top-of-mind for their current and future needs, and to remind them that once they were ready to travel again, they only needed to make one call. Based on the interest we are seeing from media and influencers looking to resume their travels, I believe that approach and investment is just now really starting to pay off.

    Whether or not your destination is actively recruiting media and influencer visits, there are a few important elements to consider when doing so:

    Prioritize drive markets: This likely goes without saying, but an emphasis on generating media visits from drive markets will likely yield the highest return on investment right now and for the foreseeable future. Consider expanding your efforts to markets within an 8-10 hour drive radius, as Americans are willing to drive further than usual for the safety of traveling in their own vehicle.

    Plant seeds for flight markets: Just because people aren’t flying, or flight schedules to your airport have been temporarily reduced, does not mean you can or should avoid targeting those markets. Investing the time and resources now will pay dividends down the road. 

    Target niche audiences: There’s a big difference between drinking wine and visiting wine country. RV travel and van life are seeing huge increases in interest and participation. Private pilots have the ability to travel greater distances by air without compromising safety. Family travel will continue into fall as ‘Roadschooling’ starts trending. And everyone could use a little extra wellness in their life right now. These are just a few of the many trends that represent opportunities for destinations to target specific media and influencers whose niches align with yours.

    Instant and delayed gratification: While public relations is most often a long-term play, there is a greater need to utilize PR to generate awareness and coverage right now. As such, a combination of instant gratification (social media, bloggers, broadcast, and digital/online) and delayed gratification (magazines, newspaper features) will allow destinations to demonstrate an immediate ROI while waiting for the long-term payout of larger feature coverage.

    Don’t sugarcoat things: If ever there was a time to underpromise and overdeliver, now is that time. As an agency, we would rather be honest and transparent and miss out on the opportunity to host a writer or influencer, as opposed to misrepresenting a destination and risking backlash from having the experience differ greatly from the expectation.

    Pay it forward: We often ask tourism partners within destinations to provide in-kind products and services as part of the broader itinerary for media and influencer visits. That’s an easier pill to swallow for some than for others, particularly right now. Being mindful of that, asking for a media rate as opposed to a comp, or offering to pick up a portion if not all of the tab will not only demonstrate a commitment to your tourism partners’ success, it will build long-term trust and equity with them as well.

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    Hospitality industry-affiliated businesses – particularly restaurants, hotels, bars, breweries, wineries, distilleries, attractions, and boutiques – are doing everything they can just to stay open and generate much needed revenue right now. If they are even allowed to operate at all, as is the case with many bars and restaurants that have been forced to close or greatly alter their operations.

    Having an employee test positive for COVID-19, as many businesses have already found out the hard way, creates a ripple effect that can reverberate throughout a community severely and quickly.

    Not only does it take a health toll on the infected individual, it taxes the broader system by triggering contact tracing, requiring others to be tested and to quarantine, and business shutdowns for an extended period of time. Further compounding the issue is the fact that many service industry workers hold more than one job, and a positive test could and likely would impact multiple businesses.

    While not 100 percent avoidable, instances of employees bringing COVID-19 into the workplace from outside are a good reminder that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    Although it still is not entirely clear in many places, the steps for what to do once an employee tests positive are more clearly defined. But what about the steps that can be taken before a positive test is ever received?

    DMOs should make it a point in their ongoing communication with members and tourism partners to discuss what employers can do to help minimize this risk before it happens. This can be as simple as a friendly reminder for them to continuously inform and educate staff about practicing safe and responsible social behaviors outside of work. Many, if not most employers are already doing this, but the importance of continuing to communicate this to staff cannot be overstated.

    These employees are at the front lines of keeping other team members, customers, and businesses safe, healthy, and open. Without their efforts and sacrifices, many local businesses simply wouldn’t be able to operate right now. That responsibility continues when they are “off the clock,” and are put into situations that may increase their risk of exposure due to social behaviors outside of work. 

    This largely involves encouraging staff to avoid situations such as social gatherings where physical distancing isn’t possible, but also extends to the CDC’s How to Protect Yourself & Others guidance including wearing a face covering, maintaining social and physical distance, frequent hand washing, and staying home from work if you show any signs of illness.

    By encouraging employers to make it a habit to include these reminders in pre-shift or other team meetings and communications, you can help lower the risk of having an employee introduce COVID-19 into the workplace, and the resulting toll it takes on everyone.

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    The rules and regulations related to COVID-19 recovery seem to change almost daily for destinations and their constituents. Amidst restrictions that seem to ebb and flow with county, state, and national case numbers, it seems as though the only constant in life these days is change.

    As an agency that works with destinations across five western states including California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana, it can be difficult to keep track of what county let alone what state is in what phase, where case numbers are increasing or decreasing (which is easier now when cases are generally increasing across the board), restrictions on indoor vs. outdoor business operations, face covering and other mandates, allowable gathering sizes, travel restrictions and advisories, and many more variables.

    The amount of information we have consumed over the past four months might be enough to fill a hall at the Library of Congress. If it were open. It’s our job to take in all of the information available to us, sift through and distill it, and develop meaningful and actionable marketing recommendations during the most critical of times. Somewhere along the way, all of this information overload has made us, by default, an authority on the subject of marketing destinations through a pandemic. 

    What we have learned, and what we are working hard to apply, is this very principle that the only constant in life, indeed, is change. And the better prepared we are – and by we I mean the destinations we represent – the more successful “we” will be when those inevitable changes come.

    And when change is constant, it is paramount, as most destinations are finding out firsthand, to be nimble. Nimble happens to be one of our agency’s core philosophies, which is both a testament to the all-senior staff we employ as well as our approach to planning, executing, and adapting marketing strategies quickly and efficiently. In the current climate, and as it pertains specifically to destinations, nimble refers largely to the following:

    Forming short-, mid-, and long-range recovery plans with the ability to expedite or delay tactics as conditions and restrictions warrant.

    Planning and committing to campaigns on very short terms, and being prepared to quickly pivot and make weekly or even daily changes to align with changing regulations.

    Developing situation-specific messaging, visuals, and other assets such as portraying masked employees and visitors in imagery, as well as representing diversity and people of color in creative.

    More frequent if not ongoing monitoring and optimization of campaign performance across digital and social media platforms.

    Communicating all of the above, plus other timely information, to members, constituents, public officials, and tourism partners on at least a weekly basis.

    In addition to adapting to current changes as they happen, we can also expect to see many long-term changes as a result of COVID-19. Much like school shootings have forever changed the environment in which our children learn, this pandemic will forever change human and traveler behavior, and the ways and the extent to which our nation responds to future pandemics and other global health threats. 

    While we are still dealing with the first phase of the first wave of the virus, and the situation will continue to change with regard to the current threat and related restrictions, we can assure you that public officials and health experts will want to take every precaution to avoid a similar outcome in the future. 

    As a result, we can expect to see permanent changes that will be implemented at the first sign of future health emergencies. These changes may include preemptive face covering mandates, more frequent and shorter-term incidences of stay-at-home orders, short-term closures of public spaces, greater restrictions on public and social gatherings, and more. Not only are these and other tactics likely to become more commonplace in our future, we can also expect these measures to be implemented more quickly and more universally than the COVID-19 response has been. 

    While we are still very much in the throes of providing triage related to COVID-19, the destinations that emerge most successful will likely be those with the greatest ability to evolve and adapt. And the destinations that stand the greatest chance of long-term success, even in light of future health threats, will be those with the foresight to anticipate, plan, prepare, and accept that the only constant in life is change.

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    We have talked extensively in this newsletter about the importance of taking both visitors and residents into consideration when it comes to tourism and recovery, including this story about the interdependence economy in our May 11 edition, and this one about solving the visitor/resident dichotomy from our June 1 edition.

    Now, the folks at Crowdriff are holding a live Q&A on Thursday, July 30 at noon PDT to talk about and answer questions related to satisfying the needs of both audiences while also protecting their health and safety. Titled “Balancing Local and Visitor Messaging as Your Destination Reopens,” the webinar features presenters from Visit Seattle, Wyoming Office of Tourism, Visit South Bend Mishawaka, and Crowdriff, who will discuss the following topics:

    • – How DMOs are approaching messaging campaigns right now to adhere to health and safety protocols
    • – How different DMOs are working with partners to support their business and amplify their message
    • – How DMOs are building trust with locals and visitors alike to ensure a safe and sustainable re-open

    The event is free and you can register HERE. If you can’t attend, registering will still give you access to a recording of the webinar to view when it’s convenient.

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    Recent News

    Family travel during coronavirus – Conde Nast Traveler

    Longer, Slower, Farther: Savoring the Prospects of Future Trips – The New York Times

    Americans’ wanderlust is stronger than ever – New York Post

    Where to travel now? We’re all just guessing – Wall Street Journal

    Useful Links

    Key Survey Findings – Week of July 27 – Destination Analysts

    US Travel Forecast – US Travel Association

    The Drivers of Uncertainty in the Travel Outlook – Tourism Economics

    Travel Insight Report – July 20 – MMGY Global

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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.


    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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    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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    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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    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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  • DMO Insights – July 14

    In this edition:

    Where do we go from here? Back on June 8 we wrote that “More COVID-19 cases do not equal panic…yet” and while most states and destinations haven’t pulled the ripcord yet, they are at least holding it in their hand as the further tightening of restrictions, possible rollbacks into previous phases, and a slowing of reopening progress is already occurring.

    These weekly DMO insights were never intended to look at travel through rose-colored glasses. Rather they are meant to help keep you informed and aware of the key impacts COVID-19 is having on tourism, and to present that information – the good, the bad, and sometimes even the ugly – in a manner that is quick, easy, and insightful. 

    Unless or until states take formal action to further restrict movement, people will continue to make individual decisions about travel based on factors including their personal beliefs and concerns, the situation in their own community vs. other communities, and an assessment of the risk/reward of staying at home vs. hitting the road.

    Travel is an experience, and ‘experiences’ often trump ‘things’ when it comes to the happiness we derive from both. And who couldn’t use a little extra happiness in their life right now?

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


    There’s a mix of good and bad in this week’s survey findings from Destination Analysts. As the number of cases continues to rise, more than 41 percent of travelers now say they have no trip plans for the rest of the year. At the same time, 35.7 percent expect to be traveling by fall. Amid all the uncertainty, these numbers are extremely volatile and can (and likely will) continue to yo-yo from week to week. 

    The optimism gap is officially a chasm: The chart says it all here. We are back to late March/early April numbers with regard to the number of travelers who believe the situation will get better or worse in the next month. The good news is that the gap only grew by 0.4% this week. The bad news? The numbers started heading in opposite directions about two weeks after Memorial Day weekend and the related physical distancing indiscretions, and we are still waiting to see what impacts July 4 weekend has on the number of cases.

    Short-term opportunities: Planning and booking windows are among the shortest they have ever been as most people take a ‘wait and see’ approach before making last-minute decisions about where to travel, or whether to travel at all. The number of travelers who are likely or very likely to take a trip in the next three months if the right opportunity presented itself stands at 35.3 percent, about the same as those who are unlikely or very unlikely to do so (36.7%). The actions of the middle ground – those who are neutral (28%) – will likely be determined by what takes place over the next month and their swing one way or the other will have a big impact on remaining summer travel volume.

    Getting away from it all – literally: Not surprisingly, camping and RV trips sit atop of the list of activities that travelers feel are safest right now. Three weeks ago we suggested that “destinations should start preparing for an influx of RV travelers”, and these numbers appear to support that claim. What’s surprising? Given the amount of negative publicity that beaches have received recently – largely due to Florida’s current outbreak – beach vacations still came in at #3 on the list.

    Local advertising sentiment remains low: Despite the importance of tourism to a community’s recovery, which we touch on in greater detail below, less than 40 percent said that seeing an ad encouraging people to visit their community when it is safe would make them feel happy or very happy. This further supports the need for ongoing messaging and education with regard to face coverings, physical distancing, and other personal safety precautions for both residents and visitors alike.

    A travel tax credit might help: Although it is a long way from becoming reality, the proposed idea of a federal travel tax credit of $4,000 per American not surprisingly seems to have the support of travelers. Almost 45 percent of respondents indicated that the travel tax credit would increase their likelihood of taking a trip they had not previously considered.


    Will the meetings, conferences, and conventions industry rebound in 2021? The answer is most likely yes. And no. Or maybe, depending on who you ask. 

    While larger conferences and conventions such as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas face huge obstacles as outlined in this Forbes article titled “Will business travelers still flock to tradeshow and conventions despite COVID-19?”, there remains optimism that the industry – through a combination of downsizing, adapting to changing conditions, and evolving to meet shifting demand – is already recovering as demand increases for 2021. 

    If COVID-19 has taught us anything (it has taught us many things) about the way the economy functions, it is that with some exceptions it’s possible and even productive to conduct business in a remote or virtual environment. That being said, while group events are on hold for the time being there still exists a need and a desire for them to take place as soon as it is safe and acceptable to do so.

    If your destination is not already planning, selling, and booking group business for 2021, it’s not too late but it’s definitely time to start doing so.

    Yes, there is uncertainty and there are still a lot of things that need to take place before the group sales industry rebounds from COVID-19. Permission for large gatherings, expansion of currently reduced airline schedules, major overhauls to conference and convention venue operations, corporate permission to travel and attend large gatherings, and individual comfort with business travel are just a few of them. 

    But if history is any indication, those cards will fall into place over the remainder of 2020 and a new model for group meetings, conferences, and conventions will emerge. While that model will likely be different for large cities and those with massive investments in convention infrastructure, smaller second- or third-tier destinations are well-positioned to reap the benefits.

    A few things to keep in mind when selling your destination in the current (and foreseeable) climate:

    1. Smaller is better: Large scale conventions and conferences are unlikely to return to their pre-COVID levels in 2021. Not only does smaller (likely >50 people but potentially >100) apply to the size of meetings that should be targeted through sales efforts, it also applies to the smaller markets and destinations that are likely to be more appealing to meeting planners. 

    2. Think regional: Organizations and industries that have traditionally held a single annual conference or convention will be more likely to parse them into regional events in the interest of keeping group size smaller and manageable.

    3. Go back to the well: Events that have historically rotated from one destination to another from year to year will be more likely to return to one they are familiar with. In reaching out to past clients, chances are you will find that they are more receptive to the idea and more interested in returning than you thought they might be.

    4. Lead with your trump card: Smaller communities. Outdoor recreation. Within driving distance (>8 hours). Open spaces and venues. Committed to visitor health and safety. These are just a few of the trends that will continue to be prevalent in 2021. If any (or all) of them apply to your destination, then, by all means, tout them. 

    5. Demonstrate flexibility: Nobody is going to want to attend indoor meetings and work sessions all day, or stroll the aisles of a convention hall for hours on end, only to attend indoor cocktail receptions and dinners in the evening. Mixing in some outdoor or alternative meeting, activity, and social options, while always important to hosting a successful event, will be more important in 2021. They also give venues a chance to “turn over” (air circulation, cleaning, etc.) meeting spaces at various times throughout the day.

    6. Invest in technology: For those who are uncomfortable with travel or are not allowed to travel, having the technology assets to pull off a hybrid in-person/virtual event could mean the difference between winning business and losing it. Virtual attendance can still be monetized to the benefit of the destination, allowing it to capture some of that revenue while still providing overall cost savings to the attendee or employer.


    As the world’s largest online travel agency, Expedia should know a thing or two about forecasting trends and demand for leisure travel. In their recent 2020 Summer Travel Report, which included mining their own search and demand data as well as polling more than 1,000 Americans, Expedia was able to draw numerous conclusions. Among them were increased interest in same-state stays, road trips, and flexible travel plans. 

    While that’s not breaking news, perhaps the most notable finding in their report was this fact:

    85 percent of U.S. travelers are planning or likely to take a road trip this summer.

    That’s a huge number, and one that should create a sense of optimism among DMOs near and far. Adding to that news, year-over-year interest in summer domestic stays is up 10 percent, accounting for nearly 85 percent of hotel searches in June. Again, not surprising given the restrictions and uncertainty surrounding international travel, but good news nonetheless.

    A few other notable highlights from the report, a summary of which is available at the link above, include:

    1. Demand for staycations is on the rise: Nearly 85 percent of hotel searches on the site in June were for accommodations located within the U.S., and almost a quarter of June bookings were for same-state stays.

    2. Last-minute getaways: More travelers are booking trips 0-7 days out this summer than in previous years according to the report, another indication that forecasting travel will be difficult with changing restrictions and consumer uncertainty and hesitation.

    3. Flexibility is important: 97 percent of stays booked in June were refundable rates – a 20 percent increase year-over-year

    4. Staying safe: Health, safety, and the avoidance of crowds are being prioritized over price point when it comes to travel. 72 percent of survey respondents said they’re opting for a road trip this summer because it feels safer than flying, and more people listed health and safety (72%) and avoiding crowds (68%) as top concerns over budget (60%).In fact, some travelers are even using price point as a means to avoid crowds by opting for privacy and exclusivity.

    5. Fresh air & a change of scenery: Among the 85 percent of survey respondents who said they are planning or likely to take a road trip this summer, a change of scenery (43%) and the desire to enjoy the outdoors (36%) were among the top motivations mentioned.

    6. Be prepared: Survey respondents suggested having a detailed travel plan (and a backup plan), knowing where to stay, doing vehicle maintenance, downloading apps, carrying cash, and packing the essentials including extra masks, food, water, toilet paper, sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes.

    Data for the report was based on interest or demand on Expedia.com during June 2020 for travel between June 1 and September 7, 2020, compared to the same time periods in 2019. The consumer survey was commissioned by Expedia and conducted by Survey Monkey, polling 1,077 respondents, aged 18+, located in the U.S.


    When it comes to our own safety and the safety of our families, we have said all along that we would rather be too cautious and look back thinking we could have been less careful, than be less careful and look back wishing we had been more cautious.

    It’s the old “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” adage, and unfortunately, many states, counties, and individuals are learning that lesson the hard way right now while the number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. skyrockets as seen in the chart below.

    So, what happened? How did flattening the curve work, and then break, and what can be done to fix it?

    Well, flattening the curve worked for obvious reasons. We shut down. We stayed at home. We watched, and we waited. That patience, and those sacrifices, were evident in the number of new cases, which spiked in early April before starting to slowly taper. Pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a socially distant high five. And reward yourself by getting together with 10 of your closest friends to celebrate at a nearby bar.

    Which is exactly what leads us to what broke.

    We grew weary, tired, frustrated, caged. And the minute the first restrictions were lifted, it felt as though we had all been paroled. Gatherings were held. Face coverings were not worn. Life resumed. And many of us – despite strong warnings to the contrary from health officials – declared ourselves ‘winners’ in the fight against COVID-19. 

    Shortly afterward came Memorial Day Weekend, which should have been (and was, for many) an early indication that things were about to get worse, not better. The number of confirmed new cases started rising sharply in mid-June, which not coincidentally came as expected about two weeks after Memorial Day. They have continued rising steadily ever since, with record numbers being reported in many states and as a country overall while the toll from Fourth of July Weekend remains to be seen. Look for those numbers to start showing up around July 20.

    Until then, here we are with more than 3 million documented cases of COVID-19 in our rearview mirror. To put that number into perspective, it took just over three months for the U.S. to reach 1 million cases on April 28. It took about half that time, 44 days, to get to 2 million cases on June 11. And it took only 26 days to reach 3 million cases on July 8. At that rate, we could very well reach 4 million cases as soon as July 22. Over that time, the average age of COVID-19 patients has dropped by 15 years, a further indication that the individuals who tend to be least compliant are also becoming the biggest spreaders, even if unknowingly at the time.

    And if we could go back we would probably do things differently. Or maybe we wouldn’t. Here are a few of the things we may have done differently if given the opportunity today:

    1. Allowing individual states to govern their own pandemic-related mandates, closures, orders, restrictions, and reopening processes.

    2. Not implementing a national face covering mandate particularly after it became clear that, as reported in The Washington Post on June 5, “social distancing is over.” 

    3. Beginning to reopen the country prior to two major holiday weekends, Memorial Day and Fourth of July.

    Hindsight is 20/20, but what we can do, and what we are seeing now, are states taking aggressive steps to counter the increase by mandating the use of face coverings indoors and outdoors, reducing gathering sizes, closing indoor dining and bars, and on the verge of returning to even stronger sanctions. It’s a bit of closing the barn door after the horses are out, but in a society where it seems to be easier to throw resources at a problem rather than change the behavior that is causing it, it’s a step in the right direction while we hobble along waiting for the silver bullet in the form of a vaccine.

    Recent News

    The travel industry is turning to private jets to spark its recovery – Forbes – July 8

    After months of telling people to stay away, some big cities need new ways to bring tourists back – NBC News – July 9

    Bike Touring may be the perfect way to travel this summer – Treehugger – July 13

    Marriott CEO on the future of the hospitality industry – Forbes – July 13

    Best guess on when business travel will recover? It could be years – NY Times – July 13

    Useful Links

    Key Survey Findings – Week of July 12 – Destination Analysts

    Expedia 2020 Summer Travel Report – Expedia, July 8

    AirDNA Covid-19 Data Center – AirDNA – ongoing

    Guidance for promoting the health & safety of all travelers – U.S. Travel

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  • DMO Insights – July 7

    In this edition:

    “Comply or go elsewhere.” Those were the first four words of a press release I wrote for a DMO client of ours last week, imploring people to be prepared to visit on the destination’s terms or make other travel plans for the July 4 weekend. How effective that direct message truly was remains to be seen, but the July 4 holiday weekend came and went in that particular DMO and across the country with a simultaneous whimper – and a bang. 

    The whimper came from canceled or scaled back fireworks shows, parades, BBQs, and other annual traditions – although Joey Chestnut still managed to consume a world record 75 hot dogs in less than 10 minutes at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, which was held without spectators and moved from its traditional Coney Island stage to an undisclosed indoor location.

    The bang came not from fireworks, but from more stories, images, and video of crowded beaches, packed parties, and other examples of virtually non-existent social distancing, as well as more explosive increases in COVID-19 cases in the U.S., which added another 145,980 positive results over the three-day weekend. 

    While tightening restrictions including closures of more businesses and mask mandates in many states – the Governor of New Jersey is lobbying hard for a federal mandate – we will hopefully see pockets of progress when it comes to slowing the spread a second time. But in general, we can expect confirmed cases to continue to increase as we look at the data two weeks from now, and as more infected people are infecting more people.

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


    When compared to travel over the Memorial Day Weekend, more than twice as many people took trips for the Fourth of July weekend. And those who traveled skewed younger and male, and were more likely to be urban city dwellers with higher household incomes. In this week’s findings from Destination Analysts, we learn a little more about who is traveling at the moment, what types of destinations they are visiting or planning to visit, and what their fears and concerns are about traveling to certain communities right now.

    Optimism gap (still) growing: Exactly one month ago, the gap between the number of American travelers who believe the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. will get “better” or “much better” over the next month, and the number of those who think it will get “worse” or “much worse,” was in the single digits. Today, that gap stands at 48.5 points, up another 2.9 points from last week as almost 63 percent of American travelers now believe the situation will get “worse” or “much worse” over the next month.

    Memorial Day Weekend x2: Despite this significant increase in the optimism gap since late May, more than twice as many Americans (16.5%) took a trip over the July 4 holiday compared to Memorial Day Weekend (5.9%). The answer to why may be found in the “Why poor risk assessment is human nature” story that follows below.

    Young affluent males escaping the city: No big surprise here, as the demographic widely considered to contain the majority of “early adopters” was at the forefront of July 4 holiday travel. This segment was predominantly male, more likely to be millennials, largely urban dwellers, and affluent. Side note: while the current urban environment has spurred people to travel outside their home city, this will likely be a long-term trend that results in permanent relocation for many of these individuals and even families who seek the attractive qualities of quieter, safer, slower, and more rural communities.

    Situational avoidance: The number of Americans who said they will avoid certain destinations they might otherwise consider increased 7.7 percent over last week. This is due largely to factors such as increasing case numbers, the community’s pandemic response, the behavior of other visitors as well as locals, and unfavorable media coverage of the destination.


    With budget shortfalls and reduced funding becoming the rule rather than the exception among DMOs for at least the next 12-24 months, and with many destinations starting up their new fiscal budget cycles as of July 1, we are all charged with the difficult task of finding ways to do more with less at a time when tourism marketing and promotion is needed most. As one of the hardest hit industries, not to mention one of the most critical to the success and prosperity of small businesses that rely on tourism (as we discussed in a previous newsletter article about the ‘Interdependence Economy’ which you can revisit HERE), leisure travel has taken an unfair share of the blows from COVID-19. 

    Now is not the time for DMOs – or the public agencies that govern them – to abandon marketing or make hasty decisions with regard to funding, as we previously stated almost three months ago:

    “The roles, responsibilities, and pressures on DMOs have never been greater than they are right now. Summer travel is right around the corner. Uncertainty abounds with regard to travel restrictions nationwide. DMO budgets are being closely scrutinized and re-forecasted across the board as revenues fall far short of projections. But if history is any indication of COVID-19 recovery for destinations, those DMOs who continue to make investments in marketing, even if the purpose of those dollars shifts from media spend to strategic planning, will benefit most in the months and even years that follow. Having a sound recovery strategy that starts now with pre-recovery planning and continues well into the foreseeable future is critical to the path to recovery for all destinations regardless of size, location, budget, or audience.”

    As predicted back in mid-April, we are seeing this scenario play itself out among our clients and at other destinations throughout the West and across the country. But as is the case with most challenges, there are some silver linings to be found that can help position destinations for success. So just how does this happen, and what should destinations be doing differently to market themselves at a time when there is no definitive end in sight short of a COVID-19 vaccine?

    In this case, a reassessment and reprioritization of everything from funding mechanisms and staffing, to goals, measurement, and individual tactics is needed. While there are many different solutions, and every destination is unique in its challenges, here are a few simple things that can be done now:

    Trim the fat: Look for areas of overspending or “luxury” marketing, including financial and/or human resource intensive efforts such as long format video, event or venue sponsorships, original programming, etc. Even the elimination of a printed visitor guide – which holds less value particularly right now at a time when the shelf-life of content is so short and changes so rapidly – may be an opportunity to trim tens of thousands of dollars from a budget.

    Narrow focus: A marketing plan that may have previously included numerous marketing channels like print, digital, social, search, out-of-home, and more, needs to be pared down to the tactics that have the greatest likelihood for increasing awareness, perception, and hopefully conversion.

    Reassess KPIs: Traditionally, KPIs have been centered around metrics that can be easily measured and monetized, such as goal conversions (i.e. clicks to book), occupancy rates, and room tax collections. With the visitation bar reset in the current climate, and likely to remain low for some time, it isn’t possible to evaluate MoM and YoY numbers and derive any sort of realistic (or accurate) success or failure measurement. 

    Research: If you don’t already have current qualitative or quantitative data available for your destination, or are operating off of hunches, assumptions, and a “this is what we’ve always done” mentality, now might be the time to invest in some formal research. While the upfront costs can be substantial, the efficiencies and savings that are created on the back end – not to mention the insights gained from the data and cross tabs – can more than pay for themselves in short order by the clarity they bring to the overall marketing effort. And you might even be surprised by what you learn.

    Public Relations: From an ROI standpoint alone, earned media generated through public relations and influencer outreach can pay for itself many times over. Consider that a single editorial feature in a magazine such as Sunset can carry a value of more than $3.5 million, and it’s easy to see why many destinations are placing a greater priority on PR. Not to mention that right now, travelers are increasingly looking for information and suggestions from independent and trusted sources such as print, broadcast, and digital media outlets, as well as influencers.

    Consider outside help: The thought of spending money to hire an outside consultant such as an ad agency or public relations firm – or both – might seem counterintuitive at a time when cost savings are a priority. But the experience, insights, and objective perspective they bring to the table can be invaluable. Again, another example where at a time when DMOs may be taking on more responsibilities than usual, finding ways to outsource some of the work to the right marketing partners can pay dividends in both the short- and long-term. And make you look good in the process.


    On Memorial Day, there were 1,720,152 confirmed cases in the U.S. Two weeks later, on June 8, that number had grown to 2,028,208, an increase of 18 percent. As of yesterday, there were 2,982,928 confirmed cases in the country, a 73 percent increase over Memorial Day and a 47 percent increase over June 8. 

    In a June 30 article titled “Why You’re Probably Not So Great at Risk Assessment,” the New York Times focused on five key factors that contribute to our ability (or inability) to process risk: optimistic bias, exposure therapy, confirmation bias, false sense of control, and unclear cultural cues.

    The basic principle that “I don’t think my risk is as great as your risk” is known as optimistic bias. It’s why I have no qualms with sending a quick text message while driving, yet I look down upon others when I see them doing the same thing in the lane next to me. And while it thrives in communities throughout the world, it is most prevalent in highly individualistic countries and cultures such as the United States.

    Most commonly used to help people overcome major fears or anxieties in their lives, exposure therapy works off the principle that the more you are exposed to your fears, the more desensitized you become to them. The mere act of living through the current pandemic is, in itself, a sort of exposure therapy as we all become less nervous and fearful through prolonged exposure to the situation. 

    At its core, confirmation bias is the behavior whereby we seek out the answers we want to hear to the questions we have, as opposed to hearing both sides of the explanation or answer. With regard to face coverings, this could mean searching for “do face coverings protect me from getting coronavirus?” as opposed to asking the more appropriate question of “do face coverings make everyone safer from the spread of coronavirus.” With confirmation bias, we know the answer we want to hear so we ask a loaded question, as opposed to rephrasing the question so the answer is actually what we need to hear.

    The more control people have, the safer they feel, and this false sense of control is a strong contributing factor to the spread of COVID-19. The article points out that people who have an irrational fear of flying are more likely to drive somewhere if it means avoiding an airplane, even though 36,560 Americans died in car crashes in 2018 as opposed to 381 in aviation accidents. Mask wearing is a great example of a false sense of control, as simply donning a mask does not keep you from coming into contact with the virus and must be combined with other measures such as frequent hand washing and sanitizing, as well as continued social distancing. 

    Our President is most often seen not wearing a face covering. Public officials and even leading health experts are inconsistent with their recommendations and guidance. And we don’t have any history to learn from with regard to dealing with a pandemic of this magnitude. These unclear cultural cues make it difficult for us to follow the lead and direction of others in the present or from a historical perspective, and we are often left drawing our own conclusions or formulating our own opinions and beliefs from the broad spectrum of information that is available to us.

    While the increase in new cases we are seeing (it should be noted that while total case numbers are increasing, the number of deaths is decreasing) can be attributed to many things, most of them point back to our relative inability as human beings to properly and logically assess and respond to risk. Whether we see large gatherings of people without proper social distancing, a single shopper in a store not wearing a face covering, diners without face coverings or proper physical distancing, or all of the above, most of those behaviors can be traced back to one or more of the five factors mentioned above. Maybe this is partly in defiance, partly due to entitlement, or the result of a lack of information, but it is likely due in large part to our poor ability as humans and as a society of individuals to properly evaluate and assess risk.


    Their presence is unmistakable. Large, luxurious motor coaches with heavily tinted windows roll into town during the morning, offload guests, and park around the corner while their passengers spend time and money at shops, restaurants, and other local businesses. 

    Whether they are taking travelers on a pre- or post- cruise shore excursion, transporting groups to and through National Parks, or running ‘leaf peeping’ tours in the northeast and other popular fall foliage destinations, Group Tour Operators are a critical link in the travel and tourism food chain. And unfortunately for them, much like the cruise industry itself, almost nobody wants to travel in a confined motorcoach for hours or days with upwards of 50 strangers right now. And financial incentives, enhanced safety measures including lower capacity, and even no questions asked cancellation policies don’t seem to be moving the needle for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.

    Just as their presence is unmistakable, so too is their absence. According to the American Bus Association, which collects data on bus tours, more than 6 million people go on such trips every year in the United States, spending an estimated 80 million nights in hotels and creating 2 million jobs.

    As a result, traditional group tours will likely be replaced, at least in the short-term, by one or both of the following formats. 

    Private tours: In our April 27 Weekly DMO COVID-19 Update newsletter we identified Private Travel as one of four key trends to watch (the others being slow travel, wellness, and staycations) during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Now is the time for DMOs to cozy up to private travel operators to cross promote the convenience of accommodating and catering to the needs of small groups, and the relative safety that comes with touring privately. While the private travel trend applies to everything from private jets and private islands, to private cabanas and private dining, private tours and itineraries in support of them should not be overlooked as a means to attract small groups who are looking to avoid crowds and minimize risk of exposure.

    ‘Individual’ group tours: While it may sound like an oxymoron, the number of people who have had group tour excursions cancelled, rescheduled, or otherwise displaced by COVID-19 is in the millions. For these people and many others like them, the options are limited: reschedule for next year or beyond, or take to the road in the privacy, comfort, and safety of their own vehicle and take an “individual group tour” in lieu of a traditional group tour. With demand for road trips (and RV travel, as discussed HERE) surging, destinations would be well advised to repurpose or even develop group tour itineraries and activities that can be adapted for individual travelers, including downloadable guides, route maps, highlights, and suggested itineraries.

    Until such time as the group tour industry recovers, and travelers feel safe and comfortable with the notion of traveling en masse with people outside of their own circles, group tours as we knew them are likely to remain on indefinite hold with very few exceptions. And not only will the businesses and individuals who rely on their existence for a paycheck take a hit, so too will the communities they visit. Being prepared for their absence, and nimble in finding alternative solutions, will help soften the blow to destinations who rely heavily on group tours and travel. 

    Recent News

    AAA says coronavirus will dent summer travel, but not road trips – USA Today

    Refusing to wear a mask is like driving drunk – NY Times – July 1

    Summer travel: Out with planes, in with rural getaways – NBC News – July 5

    Tourism marketers map out reopening campaigns – The Drum – July 1

    Gen Z and Millennials are key to travel industry’s recovery – Travel Pulse – July 4

    How the pandemic affects the future of Gen Z travel – USA Today – July 6

    Useful Links

    Key Survey Findings – Week of July 6 – Destination Analysts

    How DMO social media drives travel decisions – Destination Analysts

    AirDNA Covid-19 Data Center – AirDNA – ongoing

    Guidance for promoting the health & safety of all travelers – U.S. Travel

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