CVB Marketing Tactics and Challenges
Case Studies of DMOs or CVBs Building Awareness or Driving Tourism
Provided below are details of how Visit Fort Wayne, Visit Saint Paul, and Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) are building awareness and/or driving tourism during this COVID-19 pandemic. Recent actions of DMOs or CVBs, not just these three, suggest there is an increased focus on locals and leisure and a decreased focus on meetings and out-of-town visitors among destination marketing organizations (DMOs) or CVBs. Visit Fort Wayne, Visit Saint Paul, and Greater Palm Springs CVB were chosen not just because of the effectiveness of their marketing initiatives but because of their relatively smaller size as well.
Greater Palm Springs CVB — Oasis at Home
- The Greater Palm Springs CVB, the official CVB for California's Greater Palm Springs area, has been leveraging videos and virtual technology to promote virtual tourism and build brand awareness amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Colleen Pace, the chief sales and marketing officer at the CVB, shared that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they were devastated because 20% of jobs in their area were supported by tourism.
- She added that as a result of the pandemic, their focus as a CVB became local, and they funneled their resources to completing their Oasis at Home portal, a portal that curates virtual walkthroughs of attractions in the Greater Palm Springs area.
- In its Oasis at Home portal, the CVB wrote the following message: "Stay home, stay safe, and stay with us."
- The CVB also organized a whole week of virtual events, including yoga classes and professional development sessions, to which meeting planners and hotel partners were invited.
- For Pace, the virtual events were "an opportunity to go beyond selling the destination" and start helping the community of meeting professionals they work with.
- According to Pace, the virtual events were well-received, and Greater Palm Springs CVB even got a new contact and lead.
- Encouraged by the success of the virtual events. the CVB also made plans to launch "GPS Reboot, a VirtuWELL Series," a wellness series designed to help hotel partners and meeting planners learn more about community connection, exercise, nutrition, sleep, and stress management.
- There was news that the CVB also rolled out the "Safer Together, Greater Together" Pledge, which was meant to encourage adherence to safety protocols and to demonstrate to visitors that the area is taking the matter of safety seriously.
Visit Fort Wayne — Summer Edition of Savor Fort Wayne
- Last summer, Visit Fort Wayne, the official DMO for Fort Wayne in Indiana, decided to organize a special summer version of its yearly Savor Fort Wayne event to promote local tourism among residents and help distressed restaurants in its community.
- It typically holds Savor Fort Wayne every January, but given the COVID-19 pandemic, it decided to hold a similar event last summer. The goal was to encourage as many residents as possible to support local restaurants and the local economy without sacrificing safety.
- Dan O'Connell, the president and chief executive officer of Visit Fort Wayne, explained that "although Savor Fort Wayne is traditionally held in January, [they] wanted to encourage residents to support local restaurants during this challenging time."
- The summer event was similar to past Savor Fort Wayne events except for a few modifications to ensure the health and safety of customers and restaurant staff.
- Unlike past Savor Fort Wayne events, this summer event highlighted restaurants offering outdoor seating and/or carry-out options. The carry-out options were for customers who were not yet comfortable eating out.
- The event, which was held from August 5 to August 16 and promoted by the DMO and several local news outlets, had over 30 participating restaurants that "each offered a three-course, value-priced meal."
- A number of statistics indicate the success of this event. Burger Bar, one of the participating restaurants, reported an increase of 15% in its daily number of new customers. Visit Fort Wayne also reported that its landing page for the event received over 165,000 visits in the duration of the event.
- Visit Fort Wayne began promoting the event in July. Apart from promoting the event on its social media accounts (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) through posts, contests, and giveaways, it had a page on its website dedicated to the event.
- Below are examples of what Visit Fort Wayne posted to promote the event. As can be seen in the image below, Visit Fort Wayne ran a contest where the prize was a Savor Fort Wayne Foodie Getaway, inclusive of gift cards from a number of participating restaurants, a Vera Bradley tote, passes to five attractions, and two kayak rentals. The DMO also encouraged residents to post photos of themselves enjoying Savor Fort Wayne on Instagram by giving away dining gift cards.
Visit Saint Paul — "Uplifting Updates from Saint Paul" Blog
- Similar to many other DMOs or CVBs, Visit Saint Paul, the official CVB of Saint Paul in Minnesota, is indirectly building brand awareness by taking care of its locals or residents.
- It is gathering and curating heartwarming news from in and around Saint Paul in a blog to inspire locals and make them smile, and bring positivity to the city.
- The blog, updated weekly and entitled "Uplifting Updates from Saint Paul," features uplifiting stories such as the story of how Minnesota United fans made masks from team jerseys and donated them to the city's Emergency Operations Center, the story of how residents have been lighting luminaries on their front steps as a sign of support for frontliners, the story of how Minnesota Public Radio is organizing weekly singalongs, and the story of how Black Dog Cafe introduced a pay-it-forward program that provides meals to people in need.
- In introducing the blog, the CVB wrote the following: "We've pulled together a collection of uplifting stories happening throughout our community during this difficult time to bring light to some of the positive things in the midst of the challenges."
- Locals are encouraged to submit stories so they can be considered for future posts on the website. Blog posts are shared on the CVB's social media pages as well.
- Dan Holowack, the chief executive officer at CrowdRiff, a visual content marketing software provider, said the blog was something the locals truly appreciated.
- Visit Saint Paul was one of the few great examples Holowack gave when asked about DMOs and tourism brands that are marketing to locals in light of the pandemic. Holowack described the blog as "something more uncommon but very special."
- According to Holowack, there is increased focus on locals among DMOs because DMOs are seeing how distressed their local partners are and DMOs are realizing the role that locals will play in the recovery of tourism. "DMOs understood that locals would be the first ones to kickstart the early phases of tourism recovery," Holowack explained.
- According to Lysa Lewin, former senior vice president for sales at San Francisco Travel, CVBs or DMOs know that "the local community is what’s keeping restaurants and catering companies alive during a difficult time."
Key Challenges of DMOs or CVBs of Small Towns
The lack of budget and other resources, the tight campaign turnaround times and safety issues, and the possibility of overcrowding or unsustainable tourism are three of the primary challenges small towns like Denton, Texas have with establishing themselves as a weekend getaway destination or an ideal destination for a conference or corporate event. The first two are a direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the third one is a challenge that existed prior the pandemic.
Lack of Budget and Other Resources
- Prior the COVID-19 pandemic, DMOs or CVBs relied mainly on lodging taxes or bed taxes as their source of revenue.
- Because of the government-enforced lockdowns, however, they lost this primary revenue stream overnight. The majority of DMOs or CVBs saw their budgets dwindle by as much as 60%.
- Coastal Mississippi lost almost $1 million in bed taxes since March, according to chief executive officer Milton Segarra, who highlighted that the loss had a substantial effect on the DMO given its small size.
- The DMO had to lay off people, decrease salaries, and cancel service contracts just to survive. It is left with so little money and very few resources to work with.
- The significant decrease in budget and resources is pushing DMOs or CVBs to reassess their business models, pursue emergency funding, find alternative revenue streams, and turn to locals and local businesses as their alternative source of revenue.
- It appears attracting out-of-town or out-of-city visitors is not the priority of most DMOs or CVBs right now.
Tight Campaign Turnaround Times and Safety Issues
- DMOs or CVBs, small and large alike, now face tighter time constraints in developing marketing campaigns.
- They used to have several weeks to develop engaging content, but now they have to work with tighter turnaround times and ever-changing safety guidelines and news about the pandemic.
- They have to continually adjust their messaging about staged reopenings and safety guidelines.
- One DMO shared that they find it difficult to do the following: "trying to be as current as possible with information on the status of operations for all partners in the community and keeping meeting planners, visitors and partners informed on how and if they can meet, visit or remain open during the crisis."
- Tourism marketing firm Herrmann Global recommends that DMOs or CVBs leverage social media and newsletters and manage public relations more effectively to cope with this challenge.
- An article shows that CVBs such as the Southland CVB in Chicago, the Walnut Creek CVB in California, and the Huntsville/Madison County CVB in Alabama are all taking pains to ensure they are communicating the latest safety guidelines and cleanliness protocols effectively and accurately.
- Based on this same article, it appears some CVBs are pursuing GBAC STAR accreditation so they could highlight this in their communications to meeting planners and appease these meeting planners' fears about safety.
Possibility of Overcrowding or Mass Tourism
- Mass tourism or overcrowding was a problem for some DMOs or CVBs prior the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a problem that was often discussed with sustainable tourism.
- One would think that small towns would be exempt from overcrowding, but small towns, especially those that are popular for their natural beauty and outdoor experiences, are not immune to this problem.
- Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the DMO for Jackson Hole in Wyoming, for example, had to deal with the Instagram effect or the phenomenon where stunning social media images result in unprecedented crowds that, in turn, have the potential to damage ecosystems.
- To address this challenge and preserve the beauty of Jackson Hole, it introduced the campaign "Tag Responsibly, Keep Jackson Hole Wild," which highlights conservation and asks both visitors and locals to use geotagging responsibly or use the recommended general tag instead.