• 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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  • 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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