Destination Marketing Organization Content Strategy
Each year, over $4 billion is spent globally to fund and finance DMOs, with each $1 spent estimated to generate approximately $38 in visitor spending. In terms of the competition for share of voice of DMOs, we found the following trends; the overall availability of information and data has increased to a level that overwhelms potential travelers, for-profit travel companies such as hosting sites like AirBnb or booking sites have begun to create competition within the travel content space, travel bloggers and travel content sites also create competition for DMO share of voice, and the competitive use of social media for DMOs and travel content has increased.
Related to this topic, we also found that successful DMOs will find ways to collaborate with, rather than compete with, content creators and travel marketers, which we elaborate on in the attached DMO Best Practices report.
Overall Travel Information Availability
- The increased amount of online content as a whole impacts DMOs' ability to have a share of voice, with more people than ever before creating web content for both commercial use, such as ad content and paid social media, and personal use, such as blog and social media content.
- Specifically, travel related content available has increased significantly, and comes from many sources, making destination related content increasingly overwhelming for potential travelers.
- One source notes of the many sources of data that “travelers now have instantaneous access to information across the web such as Buzzfeed guides, TripAdvisor reviews, and travelers’ Instagram photos depicting their latest vacations.”
- In fact, 55% of travelers feel they have checked too many sources of travel information by the time they make a decision.
- Because of the staggering amount of information available, the median click-through-rate for organic search has declined 37% over the past two years, making gaining share of voice increasingly competitive.
Increased Competition From For-Profit Travel Companies
- In the past, DMOs' key competition for share of voice was primarily from other cities, regions, and states.
- However, as the travel market and online space has grown, challenges from for-profit companies has increased.
- For example, hospitality companies like AirBnb and hotel chains are increasingly using content marketing related to destinations as a strategy, potentially decreasing share of voice for DMOs.
- Booking platforms have also begun to offer destination information and content as a strategy to increase monetization.
Travel Blogging Content
- Independent travel content sites and personal travel blogs have also created an increased competition for share of voice for DMOs.
- In fact, one source notes that when planning trips, 49% of people use travel content sites or blogs as a source of information.
- The competition created by this is tremendous given the amount of blogs, with 500 million blogs currently existing, and a great share of these related at least somewhat to travel or destinations.
Increased DMO Social Media Presence
- Social media has become increasingly flooded with both travel content from DMOs and from other sources.
- In 2018, 79% of travel marketers used Facebook Ads.
- Social media content spend is also increasing in the space, with 65% of travel marketers planning to spend more on social media in 2019 than in 2018.
- Global travel marketers listed Facebook and Instagram, Amazon, and Google Ads as the platforms most likely to disrupt the travel market industry in the next five years.
- Over 50% of travelers rely on social media for travel tips, and travel brands have followed suit with increased content on these platforms.
Trends in Differentiating DMO Messaging
One industry report notes that marketers in the travel space, including DMOs, are currently often facing overwhelm and exhaustion as they attempt to adjust their strategies to continue to provide relevant content in a rapidly evolving space, where consumers are changing the way they discover and purchase travel experiences. Several ways that DMOs are differentiating content in an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing space include creating content with goals that vary from for-profit content, effective use of Google Posts, sharing event based content, and creating content that aligns with mobile first strategies.
Authentic Content Goals
- It's noted that one key way DMOs can stand out from for-profit content competition is by differentiating the goals of their content.
- For example, for-profit travel related organizations are more likely to sacrifice user experience when a sale is likely.
- DMOs, on the other hand, can focus on storytelling and genuine travel experience, standing out from other similar content via their human appeal.
- It is noted that travelers seek out authentic content over content that is clearly ad based, and doing so can capture a much larger share of voice and drive visitors to a destination.
Event Based Content
- Events are noted to be one of the largest drivers for destination visitation.
- Thus, if DMOs utilize posts related to events, it's noted they can stand out from other similar content, and be more likely to drive visitors.
- Event marketing for DMOs should focus on an attendee's experience during and after the event, and focus on dining or entertainment that complements the event.
- "Bleisure" travel, the combination of business events and leisure trips, are another way to use events to stand out as a DMO, by featuring destinations associated with or near to key professional events.
Mobile First Content
- Given 40% of online travel bookings are now made via mobile devices, a mobile first content strategy is key for DMOs who want to stand out.
- The average travel company spends approximately 44% of their digital marketing budget on mobile content.
- 41% of travel marketers surveyed noted they also planned on integrating content with SMS and messaging apps.
- It's suggested that the best practice is to have both a site and external content that are optimized for mobile.
- Specifically, mobile optimized destination content will be easy to read on a phone, shorter and easier to share via mobile social media apps.
- One source notes that DMOs who are successful at standing out in the space often have an updated Google strategy, which includes Google Posts, which allow the right messages to be targeted to their audience.
- Google Posts allow destinations to share content from their Google My Business profile, and can be used to target potential visitors with content that creates a call to action.
- One's strategy with Google Posts shouldn't replace website or original content on that website, but rather be another platform to supplement this.
- This strategy will also most effectively allow DMOs to gain strong SERP results, thus standing out amongst similar content.
Trends In Content "Burn Out"
Given the staggering amount of information online as a whole, the attention span and memory of the average internet user has declined significantly. In addition, those seeking travel and destination information online are increasingly suspicious of influencer and social media marketing, are burnt out on for-profit travel content, and have a desire to avoid destinations they perceive as having too much online exposure.
Social Media Oversaturation Creates Distrust
- Influencer use in the travel and destination marketing has become the norm rather than a way to stand out, and the public is increasingly suspicious of the flood of influencer content.
- In fact, about a third of DMOs surveyed had used influencers for their campaigns.
- While 38% of active Instagrammers use the app to discover travel content, 45% of users find sponsored content to be annoying.
- This increasingly negative perception of influencer marketing is related to a flood of posts "cramming social sites".
- Engagement rates for sponsored posts fell to 2.4% in 2019 from 4% in 2016.
- Millennials increasingly note having a lack of trust in influencer content, as they become more aware of "astroturfing", marketing that is designed to look authentic but is actually aimed to sell a product or service.
- While there was no statistic available on the percentage of consumers that trust influencers for destination based content, 52% of Millennials surveyed don't trust influencers in general.
For Profit Travel Content "Burn Out"
- Curated content from for-profit companies is increasingly becoming less prioritized compared to peer and travel expert content.
- The amount of information and content available when a consumer begins travel planning is considered a headache, with 79% surveyed noting they feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they find online when booking a holiday.
- 49% feel that travel planning is more of a headache than enjoyable due to information overload.
- 52% say they are unsure of which sites, reviews, and data to trust when booking a trip.
- Travelers are increasingly relying on content from trusted sources such as friends and non for profit travel content sites.
'Over Tourism' Creates Desire for Unique Over Popular
- Because so many popular destinations have been flooded with over tourism, travelers are seeking more unique and authentic experiences.
- In fact, a 2019 survey found that seeking authentic experiences is one of the top five travel motivations, with fewer people visiting 'bucket list' destinations and more seeking destinations that fit their unique interests and lifestyle.
- Not wanting to visit 'touristy' spots has become increasingly common as travel becomes more accessible overall.
- However, 'unique' destinations vary from person to person, so DMOs are encouraged to "carefully consider the traveler’s experiences, interests, lifestyle and goals—and how such factors can relate to the specific destinations they’ll be visiting on their trip".
- One source notes that authentic experiences could range from anything from "the best food truck in Portland to the hidden beaches of Madagascar to textile weaving classes in Peru."
- Travel marketers who tap into passion and interests are likely to reach this audience most effectively.
Other Key Trends in DMO Content Marketing
In addition to trends in content saturation, increased competition, and the requirement of effective differentiation for DMOs, several key trends shaping the space include the rise of the "Experience Economy", an increased interest of travelers in the environmental impact of their trips and destinations, and the increased demand for ChatBots and messaging as part of the travel planning process.
The Experience Economy
- One trend impacting DMO content marketing is the recently coined "Experience Economy".
- The trend refers to the idea that rather than seeking products and packaged services subjectively, consumers are more driven to make purchases that lead to memorable and meaningful experiences.
- In the travel space, this looks like a focus on rejuvenation, adventure, fulfillment, and learning new skills rather than on booking luxury resorts or checking off a list of places visited.
- "Experiential travel" is slowly replacing traditional tourism, where travelers seek outdoor activities, rich cultural experiences, and adventure.
- Similarly, traveling families are seeking out highly memorable experiences such as whale watching, or a family trek, over comfort and relaxation.
- One company who has capitalized on this recently is AirBnb, who designed their experiences offerings to reflect this demand.
Increased Interest in Environmental Impact
- Travelers are also increasingly interested in understanding their impact environmentally, and more likely to travel to destinations that allow them to be environmentally conscious.
- 87% of travelers surveyed want more sustainable options.
- They are also willing to spend more to be environmentally conscious - 67% of travelers surveyed would spend at least 5% more on travel if they can reduce their environmental impact.
- Content that reflects these values is helpful for marketers who want to "create a loyal base of green travelers".
- Chatbots that allow consumers to use text messages and instant messaging to explore a destination are trending.
- The key reason for the growth of use of chatbots by DMOs is that the technology to design them is now easier and more affordable to implement in the past.
- Chatbots can be created in a matter of days, and programmed to answer basic questions about a destination, and tied into existing content on a destination website.
- 55% of consumers are interested in interacting with a business via a messaging app or chatbot.
DMO Best Practices
While the DMO space is rapidly evolving, facing fierce content competition, and struggling with oversaturation, there are several best practices suggested for most effectively reaching an audience. These include optimizing key platforms rather than attempting to compete on all of them, using marketing alliances to pool resources, and applying an 'always on' marketing approach.
Optimize Key Platforms
- It's noted that DMOs that are most successful focus on optimizing key platforms and channels instead of trying to compete on all of them.
- Another source notes that destinations that overperform tend to prioritize channels and stages of the travel journey they are most likely to dominate.
- For example, destinations who focus on excelling at providing high quality frequent content on either Instagram or Pinterest or Facebook are more likely to drive interest than those that try to split their efforts between many platforms at once.
- Destinations that focus on understanding how users of a platform engage throughout the planning stages of the journey and mirror it have greater success, with those stages typically thought to be "where are we now, where do we want to be, how do we get there."
Pool Resources Through Marketing Alliances
- Rather than perceiving other similar content and tourism companies as competition, DMOs that understand them as potential collaboration are likely to thrive.
- Tourism marketing alliances can be formalized by DMOs and other related tourism businesses to boost content and complement one another, rather than vie for consumer attention.
- Stakeholders in area tourism can be great supports, and DMOs may wish to also create alliances with hotels, booking agencies, and travel organizations to grow their resources.
- One study shows that loose association between DMOs, local tourism associations and other marketing alliances can boost impact significantly.
- It's noted that "with pooled resources, the DMO is able to raise awareness of what the region has to offer, which brings in more visitors who will utilize the individual travel businesses in the area".
"Always On" Marketing Approach
- It's noted that modern travelers aren't booking in key moments, but rather always connected and always planning their next trip, and that marketing approaches should reflect an awareness of this.
- An always-on strategy requires the use of live data to create a sense of urgency, as well as the ability to dynamically segment and target audiences.
- Data should be used to drive rapidly adapting campaigns that provide relevant information to customers whenever the time is right.
- While seasonal destination campaigns can be effective, because travelers are bookmarking future travel throughout the year, it becomes more important to offer content that compliments this seasonal approach and is relevant at any time.
- In fact, one source even notes that basing a marketing approach around myths of seasonal booking peaks is likely to miss entire segments of the travel audience who book far in advance, or who are exploring destinations constantly via their mobile device and social media.
In order to provide information on the impact of increased competition between DMOs for share of voice, information with regard to several DMOs all writing on the same topics and targeting the same audience, evidence of burn out of appeal of the tactic of content marketing, and details on the use, effectiveness, and efficiency of content marketing by travel and tourism organizations, as well as provide 2-3 best practices that DMOs in the U.S. used to promote tourism in their areas, we consulted industry reports in both the travel and the marketing space, relevant news sources, and journals, supplementing this information with relevant marketing statistics and quantitative data.