It’s a difficult but important question. In an extremely competitive tourism industry, differentiation is vital as destinations envision a valuable end-to-end experience for their visitors.

Frank Cuypers offered a bold vision for the future of destination marketing (along with some important and sometimes existential questions) at the Social Media Tourism Symposium held in New Orleans in 2015. He spoke about transforming a destination marketing organization (DMO) to meet that future with a simple, specific, and holistic strategy that encompasses brand, product and stakeholders.

Watch the full presentation or read below for some of his key insights:

8 essential steps toward transforming a DMO

1) Focus on product: When designing a destination brand, place product has a key role near the heart of your marketing efforts. Product development and promotion go hand in hand here, so develop what you promote and promote what you develop.

2) Tell unique, personal and distinct stories: This is all about sharing the experiences that enhance your brand. Be social and develop a clear tone of voice and a visual world that reflect your destination in simple and subtle ways.

3) Embrace your distinct reputation: Draw out the unique attributes of your destination. For example, when Destination Cleveland decided to embrace the city’s gritty reputation, it put the people of Cleveland at the heart of their marketing by collaborating with the community. The result? A more authentic brand that draws on residents’ genuine passions.

4) Keep your story simple: Embrace the clichés of your destination. For example, Holland promotes uses tulips, wooden shoes, and cheese in its promotional efforts. Everyone knows these stereotypes, but they resonate.

5) Create symbolic actions: Meaningful, symbolic experiences have an inherent communicative power and will boost niche community engagement. For example, cycling enthusiasts visit Flanders, Belgium to cycle the same paths as professional athletes. This key experience creates a strong relationship between the destination and visitors or potential visitors.

6) Organize according to projects: The future of marketing will bring a need for agile organizations with more project-based teams. To meet this need, DMOs should develop a flexible budget, a flatter organizational structure and a focus on matching people with their strengths according to their projects.

7) Empower your people: How can a DMO focus on people? By empowering its staff and giving them freedom. Take your potential candidate’s attitude into consideration when recruiting. Remember that your staff’s skills are always variable, whereas attitudes are likely to stay consistent.

8) Use personalization: Designing the destination’s experience through niche marketing creates more opportunities for personalization that will give visitors a more valuable experience.

Your destination’s end-to-end experience is the sum of its product. This is shaped by both the external stakeholders that design the services, and the internal stakeholders who are ideally treated well and empowered by their DMO. The experiences you enable will determine the result you get as you seek to attract visitors to your destination.

Related reading: The end-to-end customer experience for destinations


Is the vision for your destination shifting? The destination marketing industry discussed their greatest challenges at Destination Think Forum 2016. Download the “Leading your destination into the future” whitepaper for strategic insights on the role of the DMO.

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